Elon students place in Silicon Valley startup competition
As part of the “Innovation in America” course, students participated in Startup Weekend Bay Area, gaining insight into what it takes to turn ideas into reality.
Five Elon University students were part of the top three teams in Startup Weekend Bay Area, a 54-hour startup accelerator event focused on augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies.
Jacob Wiedeman ’20 was a member of the first-place team, Jack Johnson ’20 was part of the second-place team, and the team of Olivia Mavromates ’20, Courtney Chambers ’20 and Saaj Patel ’20 tied for third place.
The students plus 14 other Elon students joined about 100 entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs for the Jan. 13-15 event held at the Kapor Center for Social Impact in Oakland, California. The competition involved pitching ideas, and working in teams to develop a venture and create a basic prototype. Throughout the weekend, teams received feedback from coaches who are experts in the virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence fields. The event culminated with teams demonstrating their prototypes to a panel of investors.
“This event taught me so much about marketing, and creating and designing a product,” Wiedeman said. “I can apply my experiences to future projects and classes.”
The students were in the San Francisco Bay area as part of the Winter Term “Innovation in America” course. Taught by Scott Kelly, assistant director of the Doherty Center of Entrepreneurial Leadership and instructor in entrepreneurship, the course prepares students to solve problems systematically and provides opportunities to engage innovators in Silicon Valley who are tackling big issues.
“It’s difficult to teach drive, passion and grit, but the high expectations of Startup Weekend helped students understand that it takes extreme amounts of energy and focus to tackle big problems,” Kelly said.
Team dynamics due to the diverse ages and backgrounds of the participants, along with the limited amount of time teams were given, created a challenging and memorable experience for the students. “Between the complex content, complicated dynamics and immense pressure, you feel like you won’t succeed,” Johnson said. “However, when you finally throw it all together, it is a feeling like none other. This has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I’ve had.”
While in California, the students also visited Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla/Firefox, Tesla, Uber, Unity, OpenTable, DodoCase, and GoAhead Ventures, and networked with Elon alumni during a reception hosted by the Elon San Francisco Alumni Club.