By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor
By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor
Sergio P. Ferreira, one of the organizers of Providence Startup Weekend, as run a small family concrete subcontractor business for more than 20 years.
After attending Startup Weekend Boston in 2012 and winning the event with a solution to help subcontractors in his industry, he found himself in a tech startup called Subbids.com. Subbids.com allows contractors to send personalized bids to multiple general contractors and track the response.
With the success he found at Startup Weekend Boston, Ferreira decided to try to organize the Providence Startup weekend in order to â€śgive someone else the opportunity to do the same â€“ start a company in 54 hours.â€ť
Providence Startup Weekend is being held at the Johnson & Wales Universityâ€™s Wales Hall on Oct. 5. For more information, visit Providence.StartupWeekend.org.
PBN: What is Startup Weekend?
FERREIRA: Startup Weekends are weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if their startup ideas are viable. On average, half of Startup Weekendâ€™s attendees have technical or design backgrounds, the other half have business backgrounds. The event really takes entrepreneurs thru the sequence of events that any startup goes thru and compresses it into a weekend long event.
Beginning with open-mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. We encourage everyone who pitches on Friday, if there idea does not get selected, that they help another team with their skills.
Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts.
PBN: What kinds of workshops are open to these would-be entrepreneurs?
FERREIRA: The whole weekend is a large workshop, there will be coaches, and mentors who have been in startups and have a lot of experience in starting a new business, going around to all the teams helping them hone in on their idea and make it into a viable idea for Sundayâ€™s presentation. Having one on one with the teams creates long lasting relationships with the teams, to further their ideas even after the weekend is over.
PBN: What are the biggest problems facing new business owners and what can they do to mitigate them?
FERREIRA: Some people have an idea and donâ€™t know how to get it to fruition. What we try and do in the weekend is to help them work on the idea, validate it, and try and get some type of demo, or presentation built in the weekend long even.
Again, we would like to stress, even if there idea isnâ€™t chosen we encourage everyone to pick an idea that they like and think they can add value to.
By doing this not only do they help the team there working on but they might also pick up skills in the weekend that they might not of known. So the weekend not only helps the ideas to get built, but they also teach the participants skills that might not have and they get a crash course in any area all within 54 hours.
PBN: What stage should future entrepreneurs be in if they're thinking of attending Startup Weekend Providence? Is it for people in the idea stage as well as people who are genuinely ready to start a new business?
FERREIRA: This event is really about getting people from the idea stage to a valid business. We encourage everyone to come even if you donâ€™t have idea, and with any skill set. Every team needs people with different expertise; this makes the teams more robust and can attack a lot of problems at the same time.
This is a great place to network, create friendships, meet mentors who you might never of known, and also its generally a high level of excitement, with a lot of people with the same mind set, to get a business started.
PBN: What is the biggest tech-based problem entrepreneurs usually face and what advice do you have for would-be business owners who aren't necessarily tech-savvy?
FERREIRA: From what I see the biggest problem is that entrepreneurs donâ€™t have a good way to meet co-founders, people with different skill sets than their own.
An event like this brings together people that are maybe are very tech-savvy to find a business oriented co-founder, and vice versa. In order to make a business successful you need to get a well-rounded team together people who have different skills, from tech-savvy to business savvy.
Here in Rhode Island, we have a great amount of extremely smart, and talented people in all areas of business and tech, but there really isnâ€™t a good venue to get these people talking to each other in order to companies built. We hope that this event will kickstart Rhode Island in other events like these to join the community together in order to get business started.
Events like Startupweekend help everyone by introducing them to people who might not be in there network. For myself Startupweekend was a life changing event which got me about of my comfort zone as just a concrete contractor and started me on a path of not only a new startup in tech but also got me thinking that if I can do this anyone can.