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The Techstars Startup Weekend, hosted by the Lowder Center for Entrepreneurship and
Family Business at Auburn, provides a welcoming forum for aspiring entrepreneurs to
experience start-up life by developing a business idea with like-minded individuals.
The Harbert College of Business Lowder Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business hosted its second-annual Techstars Startup Weekend March 24-26 at Auburn University, providing a welcoming forum for aspiring entrepreneurs to experience start-up life by developing a business idea with like-minded individuals.
Thirty-two students and community members participated in the 54-hour event, which involved a business pitch exercise, networking to form teams around a specific business idea, developing a working demo or prototype, and presenting to a panel of judges. In addition, the participants received coaching advice and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs like Harbert alumna and successful entrepreneur Linda Rebrovick.
The winning team, which included Auburn students Bennett Horton and Wesley Lowman and University of Alabama-Birmingham business management student Xavier Green, pitched an app to save college students money on groceries.
Known as PriceScout, the app would allow users to input a grocery list and find out which store in Auburn could fulfill their order for the least amount of money. The team conducted interviews with students to see if there was a need for their app, fulfilling the validation step of the start-up process.
(Left to right) Auburn students Wesley Lowman (CS) and Bennett Horton (Info Systems
Management) and UAB student Xavier Green won the competition with their business idea
for an app that saves college students money on groceries. Photo credit: Oaks Agency
They then designed a prototype app that used publicly available application programming interfaces (APIs) to automatically search products and pricing at four local Auburn grocery stores. Like the other six teams, they presented their results to the judges Sunday evening, explaining how they would monetize the app.
According to Horton, a senior in information systems management, the whole event was worthwhile.
“You get to network with like-minded entrepreneurial people and it’s helpful to be around those people if that’s what you’re passionate about,” he said. “It’s fun to bounce ideas off them and learn what it really takes to start a business.”
His teammate Green agreed. “I learned a lot this weekend,” he said, noting that at times he felt in over his head. “But that was the best part about it because it allowed me to learn and grow.”
Lowman, who handled the software coding aspect of the project, found the interactions with his business counterparts particularly productive.
“There’s a whole other aspect to [tech development] when it comes to bringing something to market,” said Lowman, a junior in computer science. “There’s the entire business side of things, so really thinking about a revenue build, cost structure, what your total addressable market is—it was really valuable for me to supplement this business side. It’s a process that strengthens you not only from a critical thinking standpoint, but from a professional standpoint, as well.”
As the first-place finishers, the PriceScout trio won access to co-working space at the New Venture Accelerator (NVA), which is part Auburn’s broader ecosystem of support for entrepreneurs. NVA assists student-entrepreneurs, faculty and staff start-ups, and early-stage commercial ventures with their business ideas and development.
Josh Sahib, director of the Lowder Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business, encouraged the participants to continue exploring their entrepreneurial interests through additional programs run through the Harbert College of Business.
Sahib’s advice to the participants: keep building.
“You have made a substantial amount of progress in one weekend,” he said. “This weekend…was about seeing how far you can take an idea, and I saw potential in what every single team did. Win, lose, or draw, keep working, continue building and I really hope to see you again next year.”
This event was made possible by the support of the following individuals and organizations, said Sahib, expressing his thanks to Emily Sahib from the Innovation and Research Commons at Auburn’s Ralph Brown Draughon Library (I&RC at RBD Library), the Oaks Agency, Meredith Grace Lynch, Brittany Dement, and all the coaches and judges.