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"Ready, set, go with Startup Buffalo"


For 54 hours straight, students will pitch, plan and design. Some will succeed and some will break under the pressure, all in hopes of winning first prize from a group of successful entrepreneurs - the very people they one day hope to join.

Buffalo's Startup Weekend 2012 is a 54-hour event that starts on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and will end on Sunday at Medaille College. The event is a part of a worldwide initiative started in 2007 by Andrew Hyde.

"It's really a way for people with ideas and those who want to start companies - such as software companies - to get together with engineers and designers to go from an idea to a prototype and see if they can build a team or a company from there," said Dan Magnuszewski, a UB alumnus and coordinator for Buffalo's Startup Weekend.

This year's Startup Weekend is the first one to take place in Buffalo. It is sponsored by the UB School of Management and coincides with UB's Entrepreneurship Week, which allows UB students the opportunity to participate in the weeklong event that ultimately leads up to the 54-hour showdown.

The first event in 2007 was hosted in Boulder, Colo., according to Steve Poland, one of Startup Weekend's coordinators and the creator of Buffalo Open Coffee club. Poland also organized the first Buffalo Barcamp. Each of these events were designed to allow "techies to come together and connect in order to create the companies needed for the future of Buffalo," Poland said. A "techie" is another name for a programmer, designer or business owner, according to Poland.

Startup Weekend has been hosted in cities such as Rochester, Ithaca and Syracuse, usually once or twice a year, as a way for "techies" in the industry to come together in one place to do one thing: create, according to Poland.

Some of the primary events include speed networking, as well as entrepreneur guest speakers who will discuss their experiences with starting a company. One speaker will be Eric Reich, president and co-founder of Campus Labs, a company that is the "only specialized, comprehensive assessment program that combines data collection, reporting, organization, and campus-wide integration", according to its website.

First-place winners of Startup Weekend will receive $3,000, $1,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place. Other benefits of the event include winning opportunities to work with some of the companies at Startup Weekend after the event, according to Magnuszewski.

"For the entire 54 hours, it's just a controlled chaos to build a minimum viable product, which is a simple form of a product that works," Poland said. "The main goal is to be able to launch something on Sunday."

Students, industry employees and academics will be in teams that will present their ideas - one example being a cell phone application - to a panel of judges who are business owners and entrepreneurs. The top ideas will get voted on, and from there, team members will work with their choice of companies on coding, developing and bringing their vision to life with a prototype, according to Magnuszewski.

"A lot of these ideas and products won't continue after Sunday," Poland said. "But there are some teams that will like what they create and are going to continue after Sunday. That's what I'm looking forward to seeing."

Judges include Jordan Levy from SoftBank Capital N.Y. and Seed Capital Partners, George Chamoun from Synacor, Teo Balbach from Mercury Capital Partners and Andrew Mager from Spotify, according to Magnuszewski.

The competitors will be able to see what it's like to start a company, Magnuszewski said. They will also obtain first-hand experience on how to start a company - the inner workings and skills necessary.

"Most importantly, [the event will] show that creating a software company is not as daunting as it seems and it's something that can be done," Magnuszewski said. "It's about getting a team together and putting some time into it, but it's not impossible to do."

Entrepreneurship is "a greater good," he said. It creates jobs while also developing the economy both nationally and locally. Instead of students leaving college and expecting jobs to be waiting for them, Magnuszewski hopes to see more UB students focused on entrepreneurship and realize that it is a valid career path.

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