1) Describe something(s) about your Track that you are particularly proud of.
I think the Pitch Competition is one of the foundational events of Startup Week, and I’m proud of how it’s grown since BSW started in 2016. Two years ago, there was no pitch competition. Last year, Will Fowler (Director at the Idaho SBDC) and I essentially built it from scratch. Will provided pitch workshops during Startup Week to all of our participants, which drastically improved their pitches in a short amount of time. This year, we’ve partnered with VentureCapital.org to provide even more mentorship: all of our participants are receiving several weeks of pre-competition guidance. And thanks to our sponsors, we’re also able to offer $10,000 in no-strings-attached prize money to this year’s winner.
I also think our Founder War Stories event is a special part of Boise Startup Week. Created mainly by Jeff Reynolds, FWS gives local entrepreneurs a platform to share some of the difficult things they went through while building their companies. It cuts through the hype around startups and provides a very real, relatable touchpoint for our community.
2) Describe something(s) interesting about your Track that might not be immediately apparent to the average attendee.
The Pitch Competition received an impressive amount of quality applications this year. I think it speaks to the growing entrepreneurial culture here in Idaho, which I attribute to both Idaho’s ability to attract and retain external talent, and the efforts of a handful of generous mentors to nurture this ecosystem.
Also, we got a late addition to the Track, which I’m really excited about: Mark Solon’s talk on the SendGrid story. SendGrid was a TechStars graduate shortly before I worked with TechStars in Boulder, so I’m eager to hear about their journey. Interestingly, news also just broke that SendGrid has been acquired by Twilio (another TechStars investment).
3) Describe some way(s) your Track sponsors have added significant value to your Track.
Our sponsors have been huge this year (again). They really do care about the quality of the programming, and they contribute with more than just money. VentureCapital.org is providing invaluable mentorship to our participants, Stoel Rives gave us enough budget to be comfortable with our venue selection and a judge (Partner Nick Taylor) for our Pitch Competition, and we even landed an anonymous donor this year to contribute the $10,000 pitch competition prize. There are a lot of stakeholders involved here who genuinely want this event to be as impactful as possible.