The seventh iteration of Startup Weekend Louisville proved to be a historic occasion. Not only was it the most gender diverse of the seven events so far, but the three top prizes went to women-led companies, and the overall winner was a high school senior. Also, Humana made the largest corporate donation to date to support the event.
SWLou began at 6 p.m. on Friday when close to 50 participants gathered for dinner and networking at the Velocity building. The organizing team brought in Kit Mueller of Pittsburgh to facilitate the event. Mueller is the founder of several companies that had multi-million-dollar exits. He currently runs an organization called Fygment that supports Pittsburgh-area entrepreneurs and makers. Mueller also has facilitated 28 Startup Weekends around the country.
More than half of the participants gave a 60-second pitch for a company they wanted to build that weekend. The participants then voted for their favorites, and the top nine were selected to continue.
Over the course of the next two days, one team dropped out and a couple teams merged. All of the teams worked from Friday evening until 5 p.m. on Sunday when the pitch competition began. The teams went out into the city to do customer validation, and they met with a number of mentors including investor Bob Saunders; Charlie Mattingly, head of the Louisville Better Business Bureau; and Blackstone Media CEO Taylor Trusty.
The winning team was led by Abigail Griggs, a junior at Martha Layne Collins High School in Shelbyville. A few years ago, Griggs had acute acne and was on strong medication for it. But she read somewhere that changing her diet might help — she gave it a shot, and making the dietary changes helped. However, she found it difficult to navigate ingredient lists on store-bought items. Which of the unpronounceable ingredients would trigger her acne?
So she created the app Foodinary. The tagline for the company is: “Interpreter of food labels for those of us who only understand four letter words.” Griggs said that six out of 10 Americans have dietary restrictions. When her team went out and did customer discovery, they found 81 percent of the people they talked to would pay for the app.
Foodinary allows you to scan a barcode and get the ingredient list of the item. The app would then compare the ingredients to the ones on your “black list” and tell you if any triggering ingredients were in the food.
They talked to three local family physicians who said they’d recommend the app to their patients.
Riggs, daughter of El Toro CEO Stacy Griggs, wants to be a chemistry major.
Bodyguard was the second place team, led by a woman who is a computer science major at Berea College. The product is a campus safety app through which you build a personal profile and upload the info of up to five emergency contacts.
If you are in trouble, you push your phone’s power button three times, and it triggers the app. It turns on your alarm and flashlight, contacts campus security and your emergency contacts, and alerts other people in the surrounding area that there is danger.
The team spoke to the head of St. Louis University Student Affairs, who suggested they should charge six figures a year for a university-wide license.
Third place went to artiFACTS (which was originally called “Ship Happens”), a digital all-in-one solution for people who need to document items before shipping them. The app allows you to take a picture of the item — their first marketing push will be to art dealers — and use the app to note where on the item there is damage. This immediately creates a PDF file.
The company already has an art shipper who is willing to sign a six-month, $5,000 contract with them if they build out the app.
Special mention went to NeedIt, a company that pairs people needing something to be delivered to drivers in the area. The team members built a working app and made 43 deliveries during the weekend, mostly coffee runs. Wild Eggs agreed to work with them, and Starbucks gave them discounts all weekend. They made $252 in revenue over the weekend and plan on continuing to build the company.
The remaining companies were:
• BrewNet: A brew-of-the-month club where online members vote for their favorite recipes and receive custom-made beer. There was 17.6 percent growth in craft beer in 2014. The team also figured that if people are willing to pay 10 times more for customized M&M’s, they’d be willing to pay more for customized beer, so they also will brew special-order beers for weddings and parties.
• Pizza Hotline: The company negotiates with local pizza restaurants to get you a better deal than the online deal of the day. The delivery pizza market is $10 billion a year. Over the weekend, they negotiated a deal with Papa John’s and sold two pizzas. They plan on targeting universities and hotels.
• rigby: Originally called “Friendster 3.0,” rigby began as an app to help people fresh out of college find new friends, but the company evolved several times. They held a party at LouVino on Sunday morning to test a concept that was more like MeetUp. They negotiated a $2 discount on LouVino’s bottomless mimosas. They figure venues would pay them to hold events.
• Tutorit: The company wants to help address the fact that the U.S. ranks 17th in the world in getting people to graduate by getting more tutoring to more people. Tutorit has graduate assistants creating online videos and forums for individual classes. Students can log on and learn from the videos and get help from other students.
The judges were Cezary Wlodarczyk, president of Falls City Beer, 502 Winery and Over the 9; Dave Kennedy, president of MobileMedTek; and Rebecca Wheeling, CEO of Schedule It!
Graduates and students from Code Louisville were well represented at the event, as were Berea College students.
At the first Startup Weekend in Louisville, I was the only woman to attend (and my team won). This time, we had close to 40 percent women. The fact that all three of the top teams were women-led shows quite a bit of progress over the last three years.
Louisville’s startup community used to be very much of a boy’s club. It’s getting better.
Author’s note: I was on the organizing team for Startup Weekend.