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August 28, 2014

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High-tech developers flock to Startup Weekend with visions of funding in mind

Startup Weekend in Las Vegas begins Friday, with the winner having the chance of presenting his or her new business idea to the hordes of tech gurus at the Consumer Electronics Show that begins Tuesday.

Shavonnah Tièra, who helped found the Las Vegas Startup Weekend — this will be the fourth gathering; they happen about every six months — called it an “exciting” process that gives coders and others with ideas a large dose of feedback from peers and consumers about “what works and what doesn’t work” with their ideas.

She said between 50 and 80 participants are expected.

Then, within 54 hours, budding entrepreneurs — about half typically have design or technical backgrounds; the other half have business backgrounds — take their ideas from concept to product.

The Startup Weekend website describes it like this: open mic pitches on Friday, hoping to inspire others to join their team, and development on Saturday and Sunday culminating in a Sunday night demo, feedback and judging.

“Over 36 percent of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after three months,” the website says. “Roughly 80 percent ... plan on continuing working with their team or startup after the weekend.”

The winner of last year’s Las Vegas Startup Weekend in July has since garnered funding from downtown’s Vegas Tech Fund and InNEVation, among others, to get LaunchKey off the ground. LaunchKey is an application that allows users to “say goodbye to passwords,” its site says.

Before LaunchKey, Rumgr, an app that makes it ridiculously easy to sell household items with a smartphone, won the competition and received funding from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and others. Both companies were started by Las Vegas residents, some of whom had formerly worked for Zappos.

This year’s judges are Alex Lawrence, vice provost of Weber State University; investor Terrence Young; and Leslie Bocskor, a Las Vegas resident and president of Venture Catalyst, First Friday Foundation board member and Las Vegas Halloween Parade chairman.

The cost to attend Startup Weekend is $99 per person, plus another $15 to watch the Friday night open mic presentations.

Speakers are Thomas Knoll, founder of clipppr.com, a startup adviser; Janet Runge, who designed and directs the UNLV College of Business scholarship program; Adam Rogas, CEO at Catch5 Medica; Doug Geinzer, CEO of the Southern Nevada Medical Industry Coalition; and Gina Bongiovi, an attorney who works with small businesses.

This year, Startup Weekend is at the InNEVation Center, 6795 Edmond St. It starts at 6 p.m. Friday and ends at 5 p.m. Sunday. See lasvegas.startupweekend.org for more information.

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