What happens when you place more than 80 passionate food enthusiasts in New Hope Network’s offices for 54 hours? A whole lot of creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and the invention of tasty comestibles such as lentil snacks and seaweed bars.
From Nov. 17-19, New Hope hosted Techstars Food+Tech Startup Weekend in Boulder, Colorado, an event designed to incubate new business ideas at breakneck speed from ideation through, in some cases, a working product prototype. The event started on Friday night, where food business concepts were rapidly pitched (60 seconds per pop!), teams were formed and fledgling startups were launched.
The rest of the weekend was a flurry of activity. Scores of groups ventured to downtown Pearl Street, where the last farmers market of the year was in full swing, to gain market validation for their ideas.
Would consumers use an app that connected locals, Meetup-style, for dinner? Would backpackers buy a dehydrated meal made from ugly fruits and vegetables? Would shoppers devour a nutrition bar infused with copious amounts of slimy, salty kelp? Would environmentalists taste a puffed snack made out of food waste? Via online and in-person interviews, groups garnered solid evidence that their food idea would succeed in the marketplace if released onto grocery store shelves (or the App Store). Mentors from Boulder’s vocal food community provided each team invaluable advice on branding, messaging and product development.
The event concluded on Sunday night, with each team procuring a 5 minute pitch in front of all attendees and, most important, to a trio of esteemed judges who scored the teams on market feasibility, preparation, branding, knowledge of potential consumers and more.
After a tense deliberation, the judges delivered the verdict on the winners (one of which went to yours truly). Startup Weekend ended with a jubilant toast of craft beer, pizza and sundaes before all attendees invariably went home to collapse into their beds, tummies full of ice cream and hearts swelling with inspiration.