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Startup Weekend winners develop more than just new business ideas

The winning team from a recent Startup Weekend event at New Mexico State University?s Arrowhead Center is working to make its project, an organizational mobile application, a reality ? but team leader Kenneth Jacobs said the value of Startup Weekend is about much more than any one business launch.


All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: Anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it?s a 54-hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation. The weekend culminates with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

Jacobs has attended several Startup Weekend events, including the first to be held in Las Cruces last fall. He said he keeps attending because he finds the format ? getting people together and turning them loose to see what happens ? inspiring.

?I love meeting other people who are passionate about making things happen,? said Jacobs, who graduated from NMSU in 2012 with a degree in business management. ?It?s refreshing to meet people like me who are also driven to be entrepreneurs.?

Jacobs, who works as a leasing manager for the federal General Services Administration, describes himself as an idea guy and a jack-of-all-trades in his personal projects. It was his idea for an app to help people organize and visualize their lists that drew teammates Vinney Kelly and Christopher Barentine into the project, which they?re initially calling Uber List.

?I went with a very simple idea, because going in, you don?t know who will be there and what will work,? Jacobs said. ?They took the idea and ran with it. Vinney and Chris worked really hard.

?I wanted to develop something that was achievable quickly, and technology like this is a natural choice for a short, intense launch,? Jacobs added. ?You can succeed or fail quickly.?

The team is working to add unique features to the app, hoping to set it apart from similar organizational utilities by adding visuals and an interface that allows users to see their projects at a glance.

Jacobs acknowledged that only a small percentage of entrepreneurial ideas go on to develop into full-fledged businesses, but as a person who expects to one day work for himself, he said the experience has been valuable.

?To succeed, you have to put yourself in a place where opportunities for fulfillment can arise,? he said.

Out of a dozen business idea pitches, a total of four teams formed during October?s Startup Weekend event in Las Cruces. El Paso venture capitalist Beto Pallares, a member of the Arrowhead Innovation Network and a judge for the event, said Jacobs? idea stood out because it meets a need and has the most potential for immediate growth.

?Data is becoming more visual,? Pallares said, ?and users need to represent information in a variety of formats. Uber List has the potential to be more than a list; it has the potential to be the only list you need to make.?

Uber List was awarded membership in Arrowhead Technology Incubator and legal services from Peacock Myers, a patent and intellectual property law firm in Albuquerque.

Startup Weekend organizer Zetdi Sloan, director of the Arrowhead Technology Incubator, said the event?s second year drew a smaller crowd of entrepreneurs than the inaugural weekend, but the group generated exciting ideas and took advantage of the unique networking opportunities that Startup Weekend presents.

?Many people want to know if they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur,? Sloan said. ?You really don't know until try, and Startup Weekend gives you the opportunity.?

The Arrowhead Technology Incubator provides technology-based companies connections to the resources they need to grow into thriving, sustainable ventures. ATI and other Arrowhead Center programs are supported by an i6 Challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce?s Economic Development Administration.

For more information about Arrowhead Center at NMSU, visit http://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu.