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Startup Weekend grows our future business leaders

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Calling all aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners, folks wondering if their idea is good enough to build a business on or anyone simply interested in learning about startups in Alaska.

Are you looking for a fun and rewarding way to fill the first weekend of November? Sure, you could watch some movies, get started on shoveling snow this winter, or maybe finish that thousand-piece puzzle. But what if, when someone asks the following Monday, “what did you do this weekend,” instead of answering with some version of “stuff” you get to say, “I stress-tested a business idea!” or “I developed a prototype!” or “I launched a startup!”

Thanks to the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, UAF’s Center for Innovation Entrepreneurship & Commercialization (Center ICE) and Alaska EPSCoR, and numerous statewide partners, in just a few days you’ll have the opportunity to do just that — by joining in on the 54-hour thrill that is Startup Weekend Alaska. This 100% virtual statewide event will kick off Friday, Nov. 5 and end with a pitch competition and celebration on Sunday, Nov. 7.

For those unfamiliar with them, Startup Weekends are events designed to provide seasoned and un-seasoned entrepreneurs alike with the opportunity to learn, think, network and work with a team to lay the groundwork for a startup business. To that end, the events are centered around action, innovation and education. Participants are challenged to connect and collaborate with like-minded individuals to move through the “lean launch” process to find and plant the seed of a functional startup businesses — all in three days.

Participants in the Startup Weekend come from all over the professional spectrum, including developers, designers, tinkerers, artists, marketers, students, financiers, business strategists and lots more. But not only do Startup Weekends bring together great participants, this year’s virtual statewide event will bring together Alaska’s best mentors, investors, co-founders and sponsors as well.

As noted above, Startup Weekends are about: education — building new skills and strategies and testing them as you go; networking — connecting with creative, driven, like-minded people; and launching a businesses — testing a concept or product for viability and then taking the first steps toward making it a reality.

They are, obviously, a lot of fun (just ask anyone who’s participated in one) but Startup Weekends are also practical and do in fact lead to business startups. Just in Fairbanks, past Startup Weekends led to the establishment of two successful enterprises: Attently and Fairbikes. And elsewhere in Alaska, Startup Weekends served as the launch point for notable businesses like Pandere Shoes and 60Hertz.

No, not all Startup Weekend teams create a scalable, successful business “by Sunday,” but even those that don’t come away with something valuable: be it learning a new skill, a new way of thinking, a few connections that can help them advance another idea in the future, or simply a story about how they almost opened a “Cat Café.”

For more information on Alaska Startup Weekend Online, you can visit the Fairbanks Economic Development Website (www.investfairbanks.com), visit the Facebook event page, or go directly to the registration page at event.techstars.com/event/InjBWAXiyE. Since the 2021 Startup Weekend is a statewide, online event, and there will be activities leading up to the Weekend itself to get everyone prepared, we are asking that registrations be submitted by close of Sunday, Oct. 31. To help defray costs, there is a fee for participation but please know there are also reduced rates available for students, military and other groups.

So, Nov. 5-7, join in the fun of the 2021 Statewide Startup Weekend. Meet new people, learn new skills, test new or innovative ideas, have a memorable weekend and maybe even start your own business — and do it all from the comfort of your own home but with fellow entrepreneurs from throughout our community and across our great state.

Renee Linton and Evan Wilken are project managers at the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation.

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