Hartford's more known for corporate giants than computer-programming startups, but organizers of Connecticut's first ever Startup Weekend found there's more of a hunger for brainstorming about new companies than they believed.
John Shemo, vice president of MetroHartford Alliance's economic development, said the "stretch goal" was 75 attendees, and they had 80 people show up.
More than 40 people pitched ideas for websites or mobile phone applications, and the group voted on the strongest ideas, and formed 11 teams around those proposals.
Ian Drake, whose idea for a women's shoe "hot-or-not" style game was one of those 11 semi-finalists, was delighted by the sense of community he found in the marathon brainstorming sessions and advice from startup mentors that began Friday and continued through Sunday night.
"I love this," said Drake, who works on entrepreneurial ideas when he's not working part-time as a software consultant at Hartford-area corporations. He was amazed that 80 people came to the event. "The startup weekend is awesome. I have such a hard time meeting people with this mindset."
Some of the attendees are not planning to go to work for themselves, but they still were pleased by the experience.
Aasta Frascati-Robinson, who works in software for Travelers, came to get experience speaking in front of a crowd, because she would like to work as an adjunct professor once she completes her PhD in IT education.
She helped with design of a website that would allow future brides to request bids for flowers, photography and other services all in one place. She hadn't done that kind of work since her undergraduate days, and was enjoying it.
The winning proposal at the end of the weekend was a mobile phone app called SmallTalk, which would give conversation starters to people at a networking event or conference, by scraping information from attendees' social network profiles.
Ryan Rose had the idea, and he was assisted during the weekend by Eric Rogers, Michael Szubka, Igor Anismov, Andrew Evarts, Christopher Czarnowski and Lumarie Negron.
New Haven will have a Startup Weekend November 11. Visit http://www.newhaven.startupweekend.org for information on how to register.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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