On November 18th-20th, the community came together to participate in the second Startup Weekend OC this year. Held at the Cove, the event was jointly hosted by UCI Applied Innovation and The Vine OC. Additional community partners such as Techstars and Google for Entrepreneurs also helped make the event possible. Starting with the kick-off event on Friday evening, participants were given 54 hours to form a team, develop a startup idea, engage in market validation, and craft a compelling pitch to present by Sunday evening. Winners of the competition were provided a suite of services and resources to help develop their startup idea further. Judges of the competition included Ash Kumra, Co-Founder of Youngry, Jeff Greenberg, Managing Director of Techcoast Works, Lee Decker, Chief Marketing Officer of Conservaco, Peter Dickinson, CEO and Co-Founder of WeGreenlight, and Tracy Kwiker, Cove Expert-in-Residence and Principal of Illumitiv.
The event kicked off with an initial networking session, followed by opening remarks by Joshua Johnson, a renowned business owner and investor who has helped launch over 100 companies over the past 7 years.. Afterward, Salina Mendoza, founder of Socialomical and Dell Scholar from Chapman University, spoke about her projects and past internships before she founded her start up. “Startup Weekend is about building relationships,” said Mendoza. Participants then assembled into teams and began working on their startups for the remainder of the weekend. Once teams developed their idea, defined their unique selling proposition, and communicated with their potential market, startups presented their finalized pitches to the judges. This year’s winning team was Bonfire, an edtech platform. The team was comprised of two tenth grade high school students from SAGE Hill from Newport Beach among other other diverse contributors from the community. Kumra commented that he was impressed by the Bonfire team’s presentation in terms of design and clarity of pitch.
Participants all shared enthusiasm and gratitude for the Startup Weekend experience. The Bonfire team expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the event as, “entrepreneurship has always been something they’ve thought about, and after coming to the Cove and really seeing this space, it has made it more tangible and real. It was an unbelievable experience.” Other participating startups such as Certan Health, found the event to be invaluable for their future growth strategy. Andre Clark, Founder of Certan, felt the weekend was, “a very educational experience. I received some great insights from local business people that really pointed me in a good direction moving forward.”
Hai contributes to the Cove as a content writer for both the Currents newsletter and blog. As an alumnus of UCI with a degree in English and a co-founder of a local creative agency, Hai's focus is centered on spotlighting events, stories, and startups within the Orange County community. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and has participated in fast-pitch competitions through the UCI Antrepreneur Center and has co-organized local business and startup groups such as 1 Million Cups and Orange County Young Entrepreneurs.