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Students get opportunity to pursue business dreams with Syracuse’s Startup Weekend

Student entrepreneurs got closer to starting their dream companies this weekend.

On Friday, individual participants who had registered for Syracuse University’s Startup Weekend program went to the Technology Garden in downtown Syracuse with nothing more than their ideas for prospective startup businesses.

“It’s a cool thing. It’s great to see people become enthusiastic and pitch an idea,” said Mitchell Patterson, the organizer of this weekend’s event, which now takes place all over the country. “They pitch an idea for 60 seconds, and then they end up with a team of people they’ve never met before. And you’ll see them on Saturday and the whiteboards are covered.”

Patterson said he started working with Startup Weekend after Priceline co-founder Scott Case came to Syracuse. Case encouraged Patterson to bring the idea to the area.

On Sunday, teams gave presentations about marketing, business and information technology strategies for their startups. A variety of business plans were shared during the event.

Sam Patterson, a junior civil engineering major, and his team worked on a project to create a skateboarding app called SpotKing. The app that the team pitched helps users find urban places that are good for skating.

“When you’re at the spot, you can take a video or picture,” Patterson said. “And there’s a point structure for different tricks.”

At the beginning of the weekend, he said, the idea was nothing more than a thought. But by Sunday, the group was confident in its product.

“Now we have numbers, we have actual pieces of this thing,” Patterson said. “We have a mockup of this thing, and it’s pretty well fleshed out. It’s a pretty cool opportunity to give entrepreneurs a chance like this.”

Entrepreneurial hopeful Michael Smith, a graduate student in the entrepreneurship program at SU, also said the Startup Weekend program provides opportunities.

His group began creating a program called Centscere, which would round up credit card transactions toward the nearest dollar and donate the extra money to charity.

“I think there’s a lot of value in building something on your own,” Smith said. “Syracuse does a really good job of supporting this whole entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Smith also said that Startup Weekend gave him a practical learning experience outside the classroom because there is a lot of expertise. The program brings in successful and experienced entrepreneurs and investors to mentor teams as they develop and present their business plans.

Other students, like graduate student Dee Cater, worked toward starting their own businesses during the weekend.

Cater said she learned about business models. Her group’s initiative was to create a device that would alert someone playing video games when he or she receives a text or call. The device would be a piece of hardware so that it could be used on any platform.

Cater has created another business through a previous Startup Weekend. Though she knew the weekend would be taxing, she said, the process is great for those with an idea and a mind for business.

Said Cater: “There are obvious challenges to doing this so quickly, but I think the payoff is worth it.”

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