Ideas flourish during Startup Weekend Civic

This past Friday, the RE 360 LLC, 829 Industry St., was the hub that housed a gathering for young entrepreneurs who wanted to crate solutions.

Over 50 people attended opening night for Startup Weekend Civic Pittsburgh, which began at 6:30 p.m. and ran until 6 p.m. Sunday.

Startup Weekend’s are nothing new to Pittsburgh, as there have been over a dozen in the city thus far. The events are a global movement that brings together entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding and launching successful startup ventures.

The event was facilitated by Michael Norton, who guided individuals and teams during the weekend long workshop.

After food from Leon’s Caribbean and an icebreaker, over 10 people took the stage, one by one; to pitch their idea’s to potential teammates below. Out of those pitches, five teams were assembled and on Saturday morning they began to mold their ideas into reality.

During Saturday and Sunday, mentors with tech knowledge and neighborhood connections came in to assist different groups.

Marissa Fornaro, a senior and marketing major at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, participated in her first Startup Weekend and said it was a great opportunity and she learned a lot from the mentors.

“One mentor specifically that helped our team a lot of Don Morrison,” Fornaro said. “His guidance was super helpful because it gave my team and I other perspectives to contemplate when writing out business plan and making sure our concept was full proof.”

Fornaro’s team was dubbed The KindCard, which she said, “is a way to track random acts of kindness by a specific card number as well as a mobile friendly online site.”

The KindCard team came in third overall for the weekend, with Fulfilling The Promise coming in second and InvolveMINT taking home first. The winners were chosen Sunday night by a panel of six judges who were able to help participants make the right connections to keep their ideas rolling in the right direction.

Runner up, Fulfilling The Promise, was a mobile application created to help student’s stay on track with The Pittsburgh Promise. When students fall below the requirements of The Pittsburgh Promise, the app would send out notifications to the student’s parents and teachers who could then help the student and figure out why he or she is falling behind before it is too late.

InvolveMINT, which was the winner for this Startup Weekend, is a mobile application designed to increase the volunteer service space in the community among the millennial generation.

During the team’s presentation on Sunday night, Daniel Little explained, “there are 75 million Americans between 18-35, but currently they only volunteer at a rate of one out of five millennial’s.”

“If we can increase the service space among this generation, among this demographic, we can add the amount of skills that are volunteering on the projects going forward,” Little said.

He then explained that the way to get more people to volunteer is through time credits, and one hour of volunteer work equals one credit. The volunteer work can be done through different nonprofits, and then the time credits earned can be used at local and participating small businesses for rewards. Geo location and photo verification systems would also be used to ensure proper use of time credits.

Little then handed the microphone over to Steve, who explained that a challenge grant would need to be put forth by a participating corporate sponsor.

As an example, Steve said, “if a corporate sponsor wants to give $50,000 to a particular organization, they register and say that 1,000 hours of time must be spent cleaning up parts of Pittsburgh. If that happens we will donate that $50,000 through InvolveMINT to that organization.”

Steve then explained why corporations would do this.

“[The corporations donating to the nonprofits] post it through the InvolveMINT application to recruit volunteers, and when said volunteers show up at the event they then have to take a photo, thus the corporations donating the money through InvolveMINT can use the photos for public relations purposes,” Steve said.

The entire weekend was filled with great ideas, and Fornaro said she would recommend Startup Weekend to anyone who was interested in “learning from others, being part of a team and wanting to meet intelligent people.”

“Everyone was super helpful and ready to make an impact,” Fornaro said. “ All of the teams were rooting for each other.”