Boise’s annual startup pitch competitions are evolving this year, with goals of a 50% participation increase and doubling of prize money — but this year’s event signifies more than its five years of success.
Following last year’s theme of being resilient, Boise Startup Week this year promises to continue poignantly underscoring traits of strength within the startup community.
“As a greater community, we have faced adversity; we are rebuilding,” said BSW co-chair Tiam Rastegar, also executive director of Trailhead Boise. “If you just play that logic out linearly, the next thing is to fully thrive, pedal to the metal. And that’s why I think this year is the best year: because, with that adversity, challenge brings opportunity. There are a lot of opportunities this year.”
Event organizers are ready to rally in-person for the sixth annual Boise Startup Week, which this year promises to advance for a wider audience of the entrepreneurial community. The intentions are to up this year’s participation to 6,000 people (up from 4,000 in recent years) and to offer over $100,000 in prize money for competitors pitching food innovations (for Trailmix) and more. Events are free to attend.
“I think it’s extremely important that people know that we are taking growth very seriously and evolving very fast,” said BSW co-chair Dan Berger. “Having an entrepreneurial spirit, that is very unique to Idaho. We hope that people who are entrepreneurs, or thinking of entrepreneurship, or want to get involved with new companies or makers and creators consider taking some time away from their day to day and join us.”
Sponsors and volunteers have a crucial task of offering their expertise through committee leadership as the pandemic is ongoing. There is a unique opportunity of assisting in the navigation of ongoing changes (such as supporting in-person and virtual platforms) and physically growing the event across new and returning stakeholder demographics, including high school and college students pursuing opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Our support and involvement in Boise Startup Week is really focused on showing students the available career options in the state and connecting them with potential employers so they can continue on a STEM career or pathway to career,” said Kaitlin Maguire, interim executive director for the Idaho STEM Action Center.
“There is no better year to decide to invest in your community,” said BSW co-chair Nick Crabbs, also a partner at Vynyl. “If you’re going to write a check, if you’re going to volunteer, if you’re going to think about ways to make the world a better place for people around you, this is THE BEST year to do that, because … there’s an opportunity right now for people to come out of the back end of the pandemic in a stronger spot than they were before they went in. And if you play your cards, right, as an ecosystem, that will pay dividends for generations.”
Entrepreneurship is positioned to be a key ingredient in our recovery, small and large scale, Rastegar added, because whether the adversity faced comes from economic, social or another set back, entrepreneurs are problem solvers, and that is why it is worth investing in them.
“Entrepreneurship is like the act of running toward a problem … and there’s plenty of opportunity to solve problems right now,” Rastegar said, “not just the immediate ones that are facing us, but the ones that are going to be consequential over the next decade or two. The more people we can equip with that mindset, methodology and skill set, and the more people that are a part of and in that tent, the better we will position our community here to reach its full potential.”
Boise Startup Week leaders invite sponsors, volunteers and other entrepreneur supporters to join in the event’s community conference and kickoff 4:30 p.m. May 26 at Trailhead Basecamp. The kickoff event will be accessible virtually as well.
“We enjoy being a sponsor of Boise Startup Week because it really connects students to potential careers and raises awareness of those careers,” Maguire said. “The energy around it, all the partners coming together to showcase and support the potential of what we have in the state, it’s a wonderful program to be part of.”
“I think the event is probably most of our attendees’ first time attending a conference; as people progress in their professional career, conferences could become a key pillar of their business, whether it’s to do their job, or to meet new people, to get a new job (or) to get inspired,” Berger said. “Having (these events) in person is huge because it just opens up the possibilities of what can happen. That being said, I think there’s the right way to leverage online in order to increase the value … whether it’s building a future audience who will attend in person; whether it’s (providing) ways for people who can’t attend or thinking about moving here; to be a part of anything, that’s really special.”
Boise Startup Week is completely supported by the generous financial and volunteer contributions of the Idaho community. This kickoff event is a chance for returning sponsors and volunteers to offer their commitments.
“We want to be a voice that’s very welcoming to our city and our state. And we believe that the problems are best solved, in our world, when a diverse set of people work on them,” Crabbs said. “We live in a place that cares, that cares to be part of this conversation. We’re regularly humbled by how much our community cares, and that goes across the board, from local government to industry to entrepreneurs themselves. We have students that come in and volunteer, and that certainly gives me a lot of drive to come back and do it every year. I’m regularly excited to work with the stakeholders that we have coming in to work with us.”