By Dana Sparks The Register-Guard The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In the end, "SuperShroom" a vegetarian-friendly snack was crowned the winner at "Techstars Startup Weekend." The 54-hour competition is a super-charged networking and development event, where participants create a product and within one weekend deliver a pitch and business plan by Sunday night.
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.
Over the weekend, five teams of local entrepreneurs put their food-related innovations to the test in a 54-hour start-up competition.
Techstars Startup Weekend is a super-charged networking and development event, throwing together new participants that often have never met before to collaborate to develop and deliver a comprehensive pitch and business plan Sunday evening.
The groups began with food and icebreakers on Friday evening and ended Sunday at Oregon Wine Lab to present to a panel of judges -- each chosen for their expertise in startups.
"(Startup Weekend) really pulled a wide range of judges, coaches and mentors that control different roles throughout the process," Slavka Eberthart-Garah, a mentor representing Drawn Agency in Eugene, said Sunday. "For the participants that are interested in starting their own businesses, this was a fantastic way to start learning about if they're going to launch for real."
The weekend coordinated more than 30 mentors and coaches with four judges. The main goal of the event was to kick start collaboration, connecting individuals with the drive to do more with their ideas based on how their skill sets interlock. The mentors and coaches were able to offer experience relevant to their project -- answering participants' questions to bridge a new understanding of business.
Eberthart-Garah's team SuperShroom was announced as the winning team at Sunday's closing event. SpaceKitchen placed second for their idea of an AirBnB-like solution to solve the supply issue regarding commercial kitchen demand in the area. Second Harvest Feed Company placed third after pitching a local, organic, non-GMO chicken feed that sources spent grains from local breweries.
"I feel the most challenging part was coming in and working with those four capable, strong-minded individuals with very good ideas on the table -- convincing them that what (they're) saying is actually a good idea," Eberthart-Garah said.
"I kept pushing them and pushing them because I didn't really know how prepared their competition would be."
The pressure really paid off.
SuperShroom is the brain child of Emma Powers, Jack Richardson, Geoff Falkenberg and Connor Nolan. The group has a range of experience from project management, sustainable business practices, farming and real estate development. Falkenberg is actually the man behind the mushroom.
"Mushrooms are something I've been working with for a few years," Falkenberg said.
The four met on Friday and bounced around product ideas on how to create a snack with mushrooms, sugar beets or kelp -- the three ingredients they focused on during brainstorming were contributed by different members. They tried jigsawing the three ingredients together. In the end, they decided on a mushroom-only jerky consisting of cordyceps, lion's mane and shiitake to produce a vegetarian-friendly, performance-enhancing snack. They decided if SuperShroom were really developed, sugar beets and kelp would be used for other snack products later.
In the 54 hours allotted, they were able to cultivate specific market research, calculate their startup costs and create a biodegradable packaging for their snack prototype with mock labeling -- and they gained two interested retailers.
Interestingly enough, they indicated needing access to an industrial kitchen space during their pitch, sparking comment from the judges that they might work with SpaceKitchen to solve that problem.
"The individuals in this group are maybe bigger than just the ideas," said Richardson, of Organic Redneck Growers and SuperShroom team member. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.