Spartanburg will host Startup Weekend in February

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Aspiring entrepreneurs in the Upstate will have an opportunity next month to turn their startup business ideas into real ventures in just 54 hours.

For the second time, Startup Weekend, a three-day entrepreneurial experience that allows participants to pitch their ideas, vote for the best ones and then work with a team under the tutelage of a business coach to create a new venture, is coming to Spartanburg.

Startup Weekend Spartanburg will be held Feb. 24 through 26 at the University of South Carolina Upstate’s George Dean Johnson Jr. College of Business and Economics, nicknamed “the George,” at 160 E. St. John St. in downtown.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Brian Brady, director of the GreenHouse Business Incubator at the George. “When I started [at the GreenHouse in mid-2016], this was one of the things I wanted to do… We’re really hoping to pull in entrepreneurs from across the Upstate, not just Spartanburg.”

The last Startup Weekend, which is named after the Seattle-based nonprofit that founded what has become a global phenomenon in 2007, was held at The Iron Yard in downtown in 2014.

Brady said the upcoming Startup Weekend is a new effort that grew out of his friendship with Parker Baxter, a tire design engineering manager for Greenville-based Michelin North America.

He and Baxter met at OpenWorks, a co-work space in downtown Greenville. Baxter previously participated in a Startup Weekend in Greenville and visited another in Columbia.

“We kicked around the idea,” Brady said. “We wanted to do something that would highlight what’s going in Spartanburg and at the GreenHouse. We also wanted to do something that would link the Upstate.”

Brady and Baxter have formed an organizing committee and are in the process of seeking out sponsorships, coaches, judges and possibly a prominent entrepreneur from Spartanburg to serve as a keynote speaker.

They said their goal is to have 100 entrepreneurs signed up to participate in the event.

The judges so far include Elizabeth Smith, area manager of the Spartanburg SmallBusiness Development Center, and Spartanburg entrepreneur John Bauknight.

Coaches committed to participating as of Friday include Keith Shields and Josh Tucker, who are partners at the Greenville-based software development company Designli; Design Strategist Drew Stanley; Gil Vassoly, executive vice president and chief operations and financial officer at Spartanburg-based Gibbs International; Katherine Wakefield, a teacher and head of the all-women coding group Web Code Chicks; and Alexandra Eby, a leadership and organizational development specialist.

Platinum sponsors include Spartanburg-based American Credit Acceptance and the George. The Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce is a gold sponsor and the S.C. Research Authority is a silver sponsor.

“Startup Weekend completely changed the way I think and interact with people,” Baxter said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about what it takes to be an entrepreneur… The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Spartanburg. We’re very excited.”

Brady said the event is open to entrepreneurs of all ages. It’s also open to business ideas that are both “tech,” or related to technology, and “non-tech.” There is no theme for the event, he said.

The cost of participation ranges from $20 for students up to $75 for entrepreneurs. Those interested can enroll online via the event’s website.

Brady and Baxter said they hope to make Startup Weekend Spartanburg an annual event. 4

Participants will be able to share photos, video and other posts via social media by using the hashtag #SWSpartanburg17.

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