Startup Weekend Iowa City 2018

    Friday, July 13 - 15, 2018

  1. Overview
  2. Schedule
  3. Judges
  4. Coaches and Mentors
  5. Sponsors
  6. Organizing Team
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Startup Weekend Iowa City 2018

Friday, July 13 - 15, 2018

Friday, July 13 - 15, 2018
Event starts at 5:00 pm

MERGE Iowa City
136 S. Dubuque St.
Iowa City, IA 52240

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Your idea in 54 hours

Do you have an idea you'd like to pursue or a problem you'd like to solve but don't know where to start or who to start with?

Techstars Startup Weekend is the place to look for a team, create a prototype of your idea, validate your business idea, and receive feedback from experienced entrepreneurs, all in one weekend.

What do you need to bring?

Lots of energy! You'll pitch your own idea or listen to others, then vote on the most interesting ideas and form teams with diverse skill sets. You can come with friends, but you’ll get the full experience if you participate in separate teams. Remember, it’s all about the team.

Your idea should be something you have not previously worked on. The idea you pitch and the problem you set out to solve can span social, educational, financial, environmental, or other issues. Over the course of the weekend you'll be challenged to create a prototype of your MVP, or minimum viable product, that fits the needs of your target customer. You'll get feedback, iterate, and likely pivot your approach entirely! Important: You cannot have worked previously on your idea.

Techstars Startup Weekend is a full weekend long experience. Your ticket includes:
  • 7 full (and delicious) meals over the course of the weekend
  • Benefits and discounts from our global partners
  • One-on-one time with amazing mentors
  • A new network of developers, designers, and entrepreneurs eager, like you, to change the world.
  • All the internet and coffee you can consume.

Watch the video below to see what you can expect, and if you’re feeling inspired click on the “Buy Ticket” button now!

Still have questions, feel free to reach us at “”.

Don’t wait any longer and join the Techstars Startup Weekend movement!

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Friday July 13th

5:00 pm
Arrive at the venue and get checked in

6:00 pm
Dinner & Networking
Eat food, share ideas, practice pitches, get to know fellow participants

6:15 pm
Welcome & Speakers
Review agenda for the weekend and introduce speakers, coaches, and community leaders

6:30 pm
Pitches Start
Optionally line up to give your pitch

8:00 pm
Attendees vote for the top pitches

8:30 pm
Form Teams
Teams start forming and discussing ideas

8:45 pm
Begin Work
Start to formalize teams and take an inventory of skills. Be honest, and direct about what resources and skills are needed for the weekend. MERGE will close for the day at 11 pm.

Saturday July 14th

9:00 am
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

9:15 am
Group Check-In
Short session on the Business Model Canvas and customer discovery.

9:30 am
Begin Work
Teams formed and setting up workspace for the weekend

12:00 pm

12:05 pm
Coach Meetings
Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help! Coaches will stick around most of the afternoon.

6:30 pm
Dinner and Status Report
Dinner together as a large group; no work allowed! We'll be going around the table checking in with each team.

10:00 pm
Finished for the day. MERGE will close for the day at 11 pm.

Sunday July 15th

9:00 am
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

9:15 am
Group Check-In
Short session on Pitch Decks and Sunday evening presentations.

9:30 am
Begin Work
Teams should be finishing any last customer discovery and be actively putting together pitches for judging Sunday afternoon.

12:00 pm

3:00 pm
Presentation Prep & Tech Check
Final hours of worktime should be focused on perfecting your presentation, tech-check for final presentations also takes place

4:00 pm
Final Presentations

6:00 pm
Judging & Awards

6:30 pm

7:00 pm
After Party
Location TBD

Event Judges

Andre Wright
Director of Entrepreneurial Advancement and Mentor Connections

Andre’ Wright is a highly acclaimed and widely sought after social entrepreneur specializing in fashion and connecting people.

After graduating with a BFA in graphic design from The University of Iowa Andre’ founded & started Hiphomic the first hip-hop comic to come out of Iowa, in continuing his passion for design he helped start Smart Design a design business to help companies enhance their visuals presence & expand marketing efforts.

Over the years after creating various design pieces for clients, Andre’ had a passion for t-shirts and clothing lines and help develop the popular tailgating brand Tailgatebarn and scaled his business to a national t-shirt brand. Now he has branded his self as the guru of fashion in Iowa and considered the leader of the new fashion industry. Andre’ has his own fashion label Born Leaders United. Andre’ feels everyone is a leader in something that they are passionate about. Andre’ himself is an outspoken leader and regularly gives back to schools and to the community and currently leads the Iowa City Area mentor program connecting every start up and entrepreneur in the city with a mentor in hopes to develop the #1 mentor resource center in the world, and grow the Iowa business eco-system. Two words describe Andre’ energetic & dedicated.

Robert Walker
Faculty, UI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center

Focuses on entrepreneurial finance and working with micro enterprises in developing nations. Is very involved in student organizations, international experiential learning, and enriching the education through active learning. Bob has 15 years of banking experience, 18 years of progressive growth in higher education, and has been an entrepreneur since the age of 10. Besides his responsibilities with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa, he is active in Walker Homestead, producing local food, wine and expanding agriculture education on his 85 acre farm, and an author of Personal Finance: Building Your Future, 2e, published by McGraw Hill.

Lee Ross

Blake Rupe
Founder & President

Blake Rupe’s journey began during the summer of 2013 when she was conducting research on the marine debris situation in Veracruz, Mexico.  She was driven to create Re-APP, and then Sift, after her experiences working with garbage in the beautiful, once pristine coral reef area of the Gulf of Mexico. After experiencing the devastation and frustration of witnessing recyclable materials being washed out to sea first hand, Blake became passionate about closing this major leak in the materials system. In January, 2014, after months of research and design, Blake founded Re-APP and sift with the goal of increasing recycling rates among the average American.  Blake is currently working on the newest version of the application with her team.  She is a motivated and passionate conservationist turned entrepreneur who loves dogs, ice cream, and the Midwest. 

Coaches and Mentors

Kerty Levy
Entrepreneur and Strategy Advisor

General manager, strategy advisor, brand and product developer, team builder. Functions:management, business development, marketing and organizational development

Mat Winegarden
Product Design Manager & UX Researcher at ConnectFive, Inc.

Marlo Higgins
Chief Inspirational Officer

Marlo knows success. As the corridor’s only Chief Inspirational Officer, Marlo started her
professional career in 1989 in the Human Resource field. She went on to serve for over a
decade in the field of non-profit community leadership.
In 2005 Marlo was asked to join a team of Executives, with the goal of launching and
managing a record-breaking sales team. She went in with a purpose of helping others
understand that it’s okay to just go for it, focusing on three key areas of Confidence,
Leadership and Performance. She backed her purpose with researched and vetted
business strategies, and within 36-months the team achieved multi-million-dollar sale
goals in 39 states and internationally.
Marlo’s approach to goal setting and achievement got noticed and soon she was recruited
to join another established sales firm and within the first 180 days increased profits by
225% superseding all company goals.
Marlo realized her unique combination of strategy and motivation could be utilized in a
wide variety of industries. In 2010 Marlo removed all product barriers, opening up her
market for greater impact.
Marlo’s been published in Forbes and has launched her book The Making of a Maverick,
Building Champions in Business and in Life in April 2018. In addition to coaching, she is
the host of the 22 Motivational Minutes with Marlo podcast and a keynote speaker,
speaking at corporate and private events. Marlo is currently speaking on a nationwide
platform and introducing SuccessboardingTM: The Power of Self-Recognition, to
individuals looking to gain confidence and move up in rank.
Whether you are on track to do BIG things or know what you want, but lack the
motivation to get there, Marlo has the tools and strategies to help you achieve more.

Jesse Lane
CEO at Agropolis, LLC

Julie Zielinski
VP of Marketing and Strategy, EDC

Marketing, New Product Development, and Strategy Executive experienced in driving profitable growth in both business and consumer markets. Passionate about identifying highest opportunity market strategies and unique value propositions, then translating those into strong and creative plans for growth. Experience leading cross-functional teams in product development and in all areas of marketing, as well as influencing clients through consulting.

Ben Snyder
Founder, Copper Black Services

Driven by your talents, I am excellent at recognizing trends in data and information to raise issues, identify opportunities, or offer solutions. I bring an added dimension to discussions by making sense out of seemingly unrelated information. I generate multiple plans of action before choosing the best one. I am viewed as an innovative and original thinker and help persuade others to see that 
there is more than one way to attain an objective. My nature is to pinpoint the core problems and identify the best solutions. I simplify complexity to others gain a clear understanding of what is happening and why it is happening. I identify ways to transform an obstacle into an opportunity.

Addison Mittelstaedt
Digital Media Coordinator, Think Iowa City

I am a recent graduate at the University of Iowa with a bachelors in Journalism and a certificate in entrepreneurship and event planning. I am the current Digital Media Coordinator for the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Here I run all the social media accounts for the CVB as well as all of the accounts affiliated with the CVB like Run CRANDIC, FRYfest, and the UWW Wrestling Championship. I also help on the backend of the website like scheduling events, events calendar, and partner updates.

Dan Smith
Director of Product and Operations, Suredbits

Accountable for the strategic direction of the Service Lifecycle including holistic business services, managing end-to-end services as perceived by the customer and ensuring service is delivered consistently across the organization. Own the technology product development and lifecycle for customer success capabilities. Anticipate and manages the risk of operating global services, serves as a point of contact for escalation for major incidents and ensures customer benefit is understood and measured. Create and maintain the Customer Care Service Roadmap, including ensuring alignment and integration strategies to provide the best customer experience aligned with ACT’s Customer Experience Strategy. Provide thought leadership in the definition of an excellent end to end customer experience, acting as an enabler for the delivery of the experience across services

Tyler Persinger
Founder, Bosscasters and Wacky Workbench

Serial entrepreneur and mentor.

Event Sponsors, and Partners

The Startup Weekend Iowa City 2018 team is grateful for the support of local community partners without whom this event would not be possible.
Learn how to become a sponsor here.

Bronze Sponsorship




Organizing Team

Techstars Startup Weekend Iowa City is 100% led by volunteer community leaders.
Learn how to get involved here

  • Ian
  • Mark
  • Jay


Ian Castillo

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