Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of ambitious entrepreneurial minds and various skill sets who are looking to practice and learn the basics of founding and launching a startup venture successfully. This past weekend, Venture Strategy Solutions, a student-run consulting group at UC Berkeley for high-growth startups brought Startup Weekend back to Berkeley after many years of hiatus.

Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through team formation, business plan development, and prototype creation, Startup Weekend culminates on Sunday night with final demos and presentations. Participants create working startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of their daily networks. During the weekend, teams also get to meet with industry leaders, local entrepreneurs and mentors to receive valuable feedbacks. The weekend is centered around action, innovation, and education.

Participants ranging from undergrads and MBAs, to working professionals were given 54 hours to pitch industry-changing ideas, which were judged on market validation (in very limited time), business model, viability, execution & design. Two prizes were at stakes this weekend; winners were gifted up to 8 weeks to work with The Batchery, an incubator in Oakland and runners-up gets to work with Poindevster, a product team for developing startups.

Over 40 participants proposed innovative ideas, which were narrowed down to 14 teams. Through all this, the winning team was BeatRoot, ‘the GitHub and Facebook for young artists,’ which allows amateur musicians to share and collaborate music. Closely followed was FlipMeSilly, a micro-investing application ($50-$500) for individuals with little capital, to invest in local car flippers. Another notable team included PathFinder, a homeless navigation social-service based idea. As noted, the startups focused on a number of industries, with college/ roommate solutions, SME-focused solutions, healthcare for the inaccessible, and security dominating.
Having spent 3 months organizing the event, which included 7 fully catered meals and 80+ participants from the Bay Area, UC Berkeley and other foreign visiting universities, one member of VSS shared with the center their experience and learning.

Cheryl Yang, one of the lead organizers of the event, and a student of SCET, attributed the success of the weekend to the community support for entrepreneurial activity. Not only did local incubators such as the The House offer venue space and prizes, local food vendors also supported with generous donations. As the past winner of the Startup Weekend Bay Area, Cheryl understood the value such a weekend can bring to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Having participated Startup Weekend before, I know how much learning and networking can occur in 52 hours and this is one of the main reasons VSS wanted to bring it back to Berkeley. Typically VSS focuses on semester long consulting projects for fast growing startups, so this is a great opportunity for us to be at the beginning of the ecosystem and encourage new entrepreneurs to begin their journey. This is an ideal space for individuals to validate their ideas and understand the endeavor it takes to bring ideas into reality. With that said, the success of the event was also so gratifying for the VSS team to see their hard work transform into reality.”
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