Zachary Simons

Channeling the creative energy of entrepreneurs for 54 consecutive hours is only a part of what Startup Weekend Pitttsburgh is all about.


The global grassroots innovation fest will stage its fifth weekend in Pittsburgh March 28-30, empowering entrepreneurs and teaching them what it takes to launch a successful startup. The weekend parallels events taking place simultaneously in 580 cities around the world from South Africa and London to Pittsburgh, to name a few.


“We want to build on the success of the previous four startup weekends,” says Kit Mueller, co-organizer of the Pittsburgh weekend. “We want to be a driver of community and diversity and highlight Pittsburgh’s burgeoning startup ecosystems.”


The weekend begins with pitches from the audience on Friday night. A dozen ideas are then selected by the audience by popular vote. Teams organically form around the top ideas and sparks begin to fly.


For the next 54 hours, teams create business models and develop coding, designing and market validation for products and ideas while receiving guidance from mentors.  


The weekend culminates in presentations given before an illustrious panel of local entrepreneurs who offer suggestions Sharktank-like style.


While execution over the weekend is key, entrepreneurs are really learning how to put good design to work in their presentations and to build realistic business models, Mueller says.


“It’s a very condensed version of how a startup comes to market,” he adds.


Judges this year include Illana Diamond, director of AlphaLabGear, Rebecca Harris, director of Chatham’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship, Larry Weidman, executive in residence at Innovation Works and Denise DeSimone, founder of C-leveled.


Many of the region’s most successful early stage companies started out through the Startup Weekend challenge, including a number of AlphaLab and Thrill Mill startups. Among them were Treatspace and ProfilePasser, which was recently selected by Inc. as one of the “coolest college startups in the country.”


Google for Entrepreneurs is among the sponsors of Startup Weekend.


Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...