Thursday March 21, 2013 | 07:10 AM

“Startup Weekend” is a global entrepreneurial program designed to get creative people to spend 54 hours together to launch a startup enterprise over the course of one weekend. This Friday, it’s coming to Portland’s Peloton Labs, and we’ll be live-blogging the 3-day event all weekend right here on the Commercial Confidential blog.

In late 2012, Elizabeth Trice, a co-founder of the Peloton Labs coworking space in Bramhall Square, attended a “Startup Weekend” in Boston.

“I joined a team working on a project we called Parking Pigeon — the idea was that people who have unused off-street parking spaces in a city can make them available to others over their phones,” said Trice.

Trice hasn't kept in touch with her Parking Pigeon team since then. Instead, she's been busy organizing a  Startup Weekend for Portlanders.

On Friday afternoon, the participants — designers, businesspeople, programmers, and tinkerers — will arrive and start pitching ideas to each other. By the end of the evening, popular votes will have whittled down the number of ideas to a handful, and participants will organize themselves to join the teams they find promising.

These teams will then spend the rest of the weekend fleshing out the business concept. A team of prominent business leaders – including business attorneys, CEOs, bank presidents, marketing pros, and board directors – will be on hand throughout Saturday and Sunday to coach the teams with free advice.

On Sunday afternoon and evening, teams will present their presentations and product prototypes to a panel of four judges (including Lisa DeSisto, the CEO of MaineToday Media, the Press Herald’s parent company).

“By Sunday night, you’ll see a a range from, at the very least, a very well developed pitch that could be funded by someone, to having a functioning product, or sales already made,” says Trice. “A lot of teams are building web-based businesses, but we also expect people with physical products or services.”

Trice expects about 70 participants at Portland’s first-ever Startup Weekend (there are still a few spots available – you can register online at portlandmaine.startupweekend.org).

One of the weekend’s participants is Brad Marin, a vice president for Jacobs Glass, a glazing subcontractor.

“I’m currently doing a lot of research in construction technology integration, and I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit, kind of trying to see how things are evolving in the industry,” says Marin. “I think I'll make a pitch to shoot some ideas out there… but I'm also interested in the networking opportunities.”

The networking opportunities may prove to be more valuable than the business concepts themselves, in the long run. The organizational effort has already produced better collaboration among Portland’s various economic development and professional groups, says Trice. The organizing team includes Don Gooding, Vice Chair of the Maine Angels private equity investors, Sonya Durney, the Portland Public Library’s business research librarian, Sean Wilkinson, president of AIGA Maine , and several other leaders of business and professional organizations.

“This group of people is already talking about working together more. We can provide a wraparound suite of services for new business ideas, so that everyone knows everything that's available for you, you won’t have to go door to door seeking different kinds of expertise,” says Trice.


I’ll be live-blogging the Portland Maine Startup Weekend right here on the Commercial Confidential blog all weekend, from the Friday’s pitches to the Sunday’s final presentation and prizes, and also tweeting from the event (follow @vigorousnorth for all the updates).

In the meantime, here’s a video overview of what Startup Weekend is all about:

Startup Weekend - Full from Eighteen Eighty on Vimeo.

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About the Author

I'm an economics wonk and an online content producer for the Portland Press Herald.

You can get in touch with me by emailing cmilneil [at] mainetoday.com, or by calling 791-6307, or by following @vigorousnorth. Also check out my business and economics list on Twitter.

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