Startup Weekend Twin Cities 4: speakers, judges and mentors


Startup Weekend Twin Cities 4

Startup Weekend Twin Cities 4 is coming together again on November 2-4 at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. Time to make, do and create.

“Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups.”

Early bird registration is open through October 1; tickets for Sunday night networking, keynote and demo’s are limited. Thanks to the following speakers, mentors, judges, sponsors and supporters for reinvesting into the Minnesota tech community:

Community speakers:

Community mentors:

  • Jeremy Haberman – Software Developer; SWTC2 vet
  • Sarah Young – Co founder, Rock Your Block; SWTC2 runner-up
  • Scott Davis – Co founder, QONQR; SWTC1 winner
  • Neal Tovsen – Founder, TelemetryWeb
  • Robert Befidi – Partner, Kibora
  • Inquire about mentoring

Community judges:

Community sponsors:

Community supporters: 


  • Mark Gritter

    There’s a lot to like in that lineup— I know several of the people and consider some of them friends. But, when I look at the companies represented in the mentors and speakers, I see mainly “promise” and not a proven track record of success. Qonqr, Wahooly, and TelemetryWeb are all companies that have seen some revenue but haven’t proven they can grow and remain viable long-term. It would be nice to get perspective from more established players as well— not just W3i, but companies like Digital River or Compellent. (Or LSC, but that’s more than a bit dated.)

    But I realize that this is heavily dependent on who volunteers to show up. :)

    • Clay Collins

      I think this is a fair critique.

      I’m grateful for startup weekend, and grateful to the organizers . . .

      . . . AND I’d like to see more proven experience in the lineup.

      Of the 18 people in the lineup, my guess is that around 4 have actually founded a product-based software startup that’s done 7 figures or more in annual revenue.

      Again, I’m grateful to everyone. And I think Startup Weekend could be taken to the next level if we had a few more successful tech entrepreneurs helping out.

      I think it’s great to hear from (a) folks with academic backgrounds in entrepreneurship, (b) investors, and (c) folks in executive leadership positions at pro-tech organizations.

      But it’s also nice to hear from folks who’ve “been there, done that” (i.e. founded a successful product-based tech startup that’s resulted in a significant acquisition, IPO, or sustained growth over the long haul).

      There’s lots to learn from everyone, of course. This is just preference to include a couple more successful entrepreneurs.

      Warm regards,

    • Casey Allen

      Duly noted.

      I am one of those involved as a judge who, although I’ve “done it” a few times and built each startup profitably (my biggest being mid 6 figures rev run-rate), I never hit the home run. I never “did it big”. Never hit seven or eight figures, never sold any of my companies (I was young and dumb), never even hit 12 employees.

      Not taking sides (because that’s a really good point, Mark), but just to give an important, non-obvious perspective to the community:
      I’ve seen (and participated in) a ton of competitions, probably 40. Often larger company CEOs as judges or mentors give terrible feedback and ask totally unhelpful questions not well suited for a venue like this, almost as if they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be pre-launch. VCs are largely the same. Active angels are far better, but still hit or miss.

      Which means that the SWTC posse needs to pick mentors / judges who either give good, helpful, actionable advice, or have super-star power.

      It’s tough to find the combo of both.

      Many other cities’ SWs go for star power. I think largely that’s a dumb marketing tactic. SWTC is beyond that and no longer needs marketing tactics because our participation is through the roof.

      Lastly, Tony has worked with a ton of successful startps, Abir has “done it big” (with an exit last year), and Ben has “done it pretty big”, albeit consulting not product.

      Although I’d love to see one or two more early stage investors helping out for various reasons, I almost wonder if there’s a reason that you see
      other Startup Weekends also take “helpful” over “famous”, even with a plethora of big name tech startups at their disposal.

      • Clay Collins

        This is really great perspective, Casey. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad that you’re on the panel (and I think the judges panel looks solid).

      • Mark Gritter

        I’ve certainly experienced the dynamic you’ve talked about, where somebody who’s much further along the road doesn’t offer advice that’s relevant any more. But inviting your own alumni has a similar problem— you get a feedback cycle on “what it takes to be successful at Startup Weekend” rather than focus on the end goal. (Writers’ workshops and university departments sometimes embrace that dynamic and sometimes actively work to avoid it. So I can see the argument either way.)

        Your note about other startup weekends and the sort of mentoring that is helpful is on point. I’d love to have David Weekly (who I happen to know from Stanford) at such an event in preference to, say, Andy Bechtolsheim. Or even my current CEO. It’s a different sort of focus.

        My comment was driven more by a sense that the communities I interact with— Minne*, Project Skyway, even to some extent— don’t seem to overlap as much as they could with Minnesota’s tech success stories, particularly those from more than a few years back. For example, I met a storage startup veteran at a DTC event who had never heard of MinneBar, but has become a regular attendee after I introduced her. Is there some “community outreach” we could be doing to draw in startup expertise more broadly?

        • Clay Collins

          Good point:

          “My comment was driven more by a sense that the communities I interact with— Minne*, Project Skyway, even to some extent— don’t seem to overlap as much as they could with Minnesota’s tech success stories, particularly those from more than a few years back.”

      • B. Ess

        what startups did you do and build to profitability?

    • Dana Severson

      I think you make a fair point, Mark.

      In terms of Wahooly, we still have much to prove. While we haven’t yet proven long-term viability as a measure of success, we have had other successes along the way. It would be disingenuous to say that we have a proven formula for success at this point. However, my intention for the presentation was to share our experience raising money and getting attention from the media, which he have had success. I’m hoping that this will prove useful for some.

      I think that while many of us haven’t proven ourselves entirely, we still can offer relevant information/experiences that will directly apply to the early-stage entrepreneur.

  • Clay Collins

    I’ll be there as a competitor. Looking forward to it.

  • shanereiser

    All great points. Love to see the thought going into this.

    Based on my observations, the best panels for Startup Weekends tend to be a mixture of everything you guys are talking about. I like to see a small panel – 5 people max. Two entrepreneurs, one or two angels, one partner/analyst at a venture fund, and one person with a strong UX or product management background. If you can only get 3 people on the panel, I prefer the entrepreneurs. If you expand into 6 or 7, then I like to bring in folks from academia or large corps, not for their judging abilities but to include them in our community and expose them to our version of entrepreneurship that they tend to, for some reason, not be involved enough with.

    Startup Weekend is not just about helping the individuals who attend – it’s also about building the local startup community at large. I’m therefore pretty pleased with the lineup above because it’s a mixture of folks that have already judged a Startup Weekend (and did a good job of it) and some new folks. Startup Weekend is not just a gateway drug into startups for the attendees – it can also be a great way to get academia and big corps to start supporting the startup community at large.