Startup Weekend Jackson

    Friday, April 20 - 22, 2018

  1. Overview
  2. Schedule
  3. Speakers
  4. Judges
  5. Coaches and Mentors
  6. Sponsors
  7. Organizing Team
  8. Blog
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Startup Weekend Jackson

Friday, April 20 - 22, 2018

Friday, April 20 - 22, 2018
Event starts at 5:30 pm

109 N. State Street
Jackson, Mississippi 39201

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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!

No talk, all action!


Friday April 20th

5:30 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

6:20 pm
Welcome & Speakers
Review agenda for the weekend and introduce speakers, coaches, and community leaders

6:50 pm
Pitches Start
Optionally line up to give your pitch

8:00 pm
Attendees vote for the top pitches

8:15 pm
Form Teams
Teams start forming and discussing ideas

9:00 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. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow

Saturday April 21st

9:00 am
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

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

12:00 pm

1:00 pm
After-lunch check-in, status reports, call for help

2:00 pm
Coach Meetings
Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!

4:00 pm
Technical Mentors Arrive
Get your technical questions answered during this time.

5:30 pm

7:30 pm
After-dinner check-in, status reports, call for help

10:00 pm
Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow

Sunday April 22nd

9:00 am
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

10:00 am
Coaches arrive. Final opportunity to ask questions

12:00 pm

12:30 pm
Coach Meetings
Coaches arrive… ASK QUESTIONS

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

5:00 pm
Final Presentations

6:00 pm

7:30 pm
Judging & Awards

8:30 pm

9:00 pm
Go Home!


Chris Meaux

Over the last 23 years, I have been part of or co-founded five startups. These have run the gamut from personal computers, application software, internet software, internet satellite hardware, and restaurants. (McAfee Software, Business Web, Comercis, Databahn ). My current company,Waitr, is a technology startup offering a new order submission and customer management application for restaurants and their patrons, and was the Winner of the Startup Weekend Gainesville Florida this fall. 

Early in my career I worked for Silicon Valley PC maker Hyundai Electronics America and software company McAfee where I helped build successful operating units for both companies including spending two years in Europe developing McAfee’s retail and distribution business into a $100 million a year business. I moved to Lake Charles in 2011 after 20 years in the Dallas / Fort Worth and Silicon Valley areas.

Event Judges

Nashlie Sephus
Chief Technology Officer

Dr. Nashlie H. Sephus leads the Amazon/A9 visual search tech team, which recently launched visual search for replacement parts on the Amazon Shopping app. This technology was a result of former startup Partpic (Atlanta) being acquired by Amazon, for which she was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Prior to working at Partpic, She received her PhD from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014 and worked for a year with Exponent technical consulting firm in New York City. Her core research areas were digital signal processing, machine learning, and computer engineering. She received her B.S. in Computer Engineering from Mississippi State University (2007).   Dr. Sephus is a native of Jackson, Mississippi and a 2003 graduate of Murrah High School/Power Academic and Performing Arts Complex (APAC). She's had several internships and research experiences worldwide with companies such as IBM, Delphi, University of California at Berkeley, GE Research Center, GE Energy, Miller Transporters, and Kwangwoon University in Seoul, South Korea. Recently, Dr. Sephus became founder and CEO of The Bean Path non-profit organization based in Jackson, MS assisting individuals with technical expertise and guidance. During her leisure time, she enjoys playing tennis, playing the piano, listening to music, bargain hunting, biking, and working on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects at home.  

Mike Morgan
Finance Professor

Mike Morgan is currently a Professor of Practice in the Department of Finance in the School of Business at the University of Southern Mississippi.  Prior to joining USM, Mike served as President of Bomgar Corporation, a software development company in Ridgeland, Mississippi.  Mike spent 8 years at Bomgar Corporation, having joined as Chief Financial Officer when the company was in the start-up stage.  At the time of Bomgar’s sale to TA Associates in early 2014, Bomgar had offices world-wide and its award-winning software was being used by many of the most recognizable names in technology.  Prior to joining Bomgar, Mike served as Chief Financial Officer of several technology companies including American Healthtech, Trinsic, Inc. and Touch 1 Communications.  Mike is a CPA, having started his career in public accounting at Arthur Andersen & Company.  He has advised multiple start-up companies both as an investor and as a mentor.   

David Pharr
Business Attorney

David K. Pharr practices with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings’ Litigation Practice Group, focusing on commercial litigation, including insurance coverage disputes and intellectual property litigation. David also has significant experience handling litigation involving personal injury, construction, employment disputes, real estate, and environmental matters. He has developed extensive knowledge in all phases of civil litigation. David's diverse trial and pre-trial work includes representation of clients sued under state and federal commercial statutes and common law theories of negligence and fraud. He has won cases by dispositive motion and/or been a member of successful trial teams in employment, highway construction, and negligence cases. David has litigated procedural issues related to jurisdiction, removal of cases to federal court, and judicial recusal. He has also represented clients in a variety of mass tort cases.

Ivan Walker
Software Development Engineer

Ivan Walker is a software development engineer (SDE) with the Amazon/A9 visual search team based in Atlanta, GA. He put his PhD studies on hold to assist startup company Partpic build out their platform for visual search for replacement parts. Partpic’s success in this space led to their acquisition by Amazon. He recently lead the infrastructure effort for his team to launch their fastener recognition service within the Amazon mobile app. As a doctoral student at Georgia Tech, Ivan split his time between researcher and instructor. As an instructor, Ivan was consistently highly rated by his students. Ivan’s research topic was developing paradigms to utilize neural interfaces (non-invasive EEG) to assist athletes in achieving optimal performance. Ivan holds a B.S./M.S. in Computer Engineering from Jackson State University. His previous work and research experiences includes Intel (GEM Sponsor), IBM, Raytheon, Army Research Laboratory, and Air Force Research Laboratory. His research interests are in cognitive science, machine learning, software engineering, and education. Ivan played collegiate tennis while at JSU and is still very active in the sport. His doubles team was recently runner-up for City (Atlanta) Champs in their division. He also enjoys bowling, ping pong, water activities that don’t require swimming and inspiring his 20+ nieces and nephews.

Paul Jones
President + Engineer

  Paul Jones is President and shareholder of Multicraft Ventures, a subsidiary of Multicraft International which is a full service supplier providing world class products since 1978 to OEM customers in the automotive, outdoor power, hvac, industrial, and consumer industries.  Multicraft’s Ventures division offers engineering solutions in design and manufacturing, business consulting and concept realization, and capital formation and strategy.    Mr. Jones began his career with Multicraft as a Research and Development Engineer in 1996.  Mr. Jones has developed multiple products for the automotive industry for companies including Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors.  Mr. Jones led Multicraft’s expansion into the Outdoor Power Equipment industry in 1997 and since that time, he has been involved in all aspects of the highly competitive components manufacturing business developing expertise in Operational and Engineering Management.    Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Mississippi State University in Electrical Engineering, is a recipient of the 2008 Mississippi Business Journal Top 40 Under 40 award and is an alumni of the MEC Mississippi Leadership Class of 2015.  He and his wife, Stephanie, live in Madison, Mississippi and have three children.   Mr. Jones serves on the Madison County Business League & Foundation Government Relations Committee and is a Board member with Mississippi Manufacturers Association. 

Todd Stauffer
Publisher + Entrepreneur

Todd Stauffer is the publisher and co-founder of the Jackson Free Press and BOOM Jackson magazine. In the past, Todd Stauffer has worked as a technical writer and book author, magazine writer and TV/radio host. He grew up in Dallas, Texas, and current resides in Belhaven with Donna Ladd and her cats. He attended Texas A&M University.

Coaches and Mentors

Hagan Walker
Entrepreneur + Engineer

Hagan Walker graduated from Columbus High School in 2011, before attending Mississippi State University in the fall. During his undergraduate studies, Hagan served the university as an Alumni Delegate and as the Team Leader for the EcoCar2 program. In the summer of 2014, he worked as a Hardware Engineering intern for Dspace, Inc. in Wixom, Michigan. The following summer, he worked for Tesla Motors in Palo Alto, California, as a body controls engineer. After returning from his internship there,  Hagan was offered a full-time position at Tesla Motors, which he declined in order to pursue his own company, Vibe, LLC, co-founded with fellow student, Kaylie Mitchell. Vibe, created at the MSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, makes a patented product called Glo, a liquid-activated beverage enhancer. Since its founding at MSU, Glo been seen by more than 10 million viewers on social media and has sold over half a million units in 34 countries.  

Whit Rayner
Business Attorney

Whit Rayner is a partner in the firm's Business & Commercial Litigation Practice Group in the Jackson office, and he is the leader of the Intellectual Property team. His practice focus is in the areas of copyright and trademark registration and protection, software licensing, and intellectual property litigation and prosecution. He also represents financial institutions in commercial litigation and contract disputes.

Mr. Rayner is a member of The Mississippi Bar and former chair of the Intellectual Property Section. He is also past chairman of the Model State Trademark Bill Subcommittee of the International Trademark Association and a former member of the International Trademark Association/CPR Panel of Neutrals.
Mr. Rayner is the author of the Intellectual Property Section of West Publishing's Encyclopedia of Mississippi Law, and is the Mississippi editor of State Trademark and Unfair Competition Law.

Theresa Kennedy
Senior Marketing Advisor

 The Moss Point native attributes her success to her parents, Willie and Barbara Kennedy. Her mother, a teacher, taught her to work selflessly. Her father instilled in her a diligent attitude, sociable nature and an unwillingness to accept mediocrity. She is a graduate of Moss Point High School. Theresa is a proud alumna of the Alcorn State University, where she was apart of the 2001 SWAC Women’s Tennis Champion team and initiated into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Master’s in Agricultural Economics from Alcorn State University, Theresa has worked in the area of agriculture, entrepreneurship, banking, political campaigns, small business consulting, city government, community outreach and marketing. Each experience has been a blessing.  
A trailblazer in her own right. She started Red August, an online retail site, in 2010 before many ever considered this avenue of entrepreneurship. She believes in women supporting other women and knew of the difficulty of marketing an online business, so she started hosting pop-up shops events called Six In The City. It was an opportunity for other women-owned businesses to gain exposure and build their business.  
Her passion for serving continued on as she named Deputy Director of Marketing for the City of Jackson and created the city’s first magazine, WE ARE JACKSON. Theresa was intricate in establishing, providing the content, and maintaining the social media presence for the city. Through being able to connect with others and her love for Jackson, she worked tirelessly to build relationships with all the departments and those organizations connected to the city. She assisted with developing the marketing plan for the city of Jackson. She served the citizens of Jackson with honesty and integrity.    
Theresa is a 2015 graduate of Leadership Greater Jackson, active in the Metro Jackson Alcorn Alumni chapter as Fundraising Chair, a Board member of Jackson Professional Group (A Young Professionals organization), a member of TEAM JXN’s Steering committee, and a member of New Jerusalem Church. Also, she is a member of Women For Progress of MS, Inc. and a regular guest hosts WFP Radio Show on WMPR 90.1 on Thursday. She has been an active tennis player in the local tennis league for over 10 years. She was named JFP Person of the Day twice in 2010 and 2017. 
Although she was unsuccessful in her recent run for state office, Theresa has shared that because of her positive experience that she may give it another try. 
Recently, she served as the Director of the Women Business Center of Mississippi, an organization that assists women entrepreneurs and small business owners with starting and/or growing their businesses. She was honored to impact the lives of women across the state.  
With much dedication, Theresa has moved full-steam ahead with her public relations, marketing and brand/business development agency, fifty-five │twenty, LLC, which was founded in 2012. Her clients  include: small businesses to non profits. She is continuing to let her light shine and 
helping others do so as she serves as Senior Advisor and making a difference in the bottom line of her clients.  

J. C. Hiatt
Software Developer + Consultant

Hi. I’m J.C., and I'm on a mission to help developers live healthier lives with my new company, DevLifts. I also still work as a software consultant while DevLifts grows. :-)

For DevLifts, I'm available for: Fitness Coaching, On-Site Seminars, Speaking

For Hiatt Consulting, I'm available for: web development, mobile development, projects using React, React Native, Ruby on Rails, or WordPress

Craig Kinsley
Web and Digital Marketing Specialist

Experienced Startup Founder skilled in Advertising, Sales, Entrepreneurship, Strategic Planning, and Marketing Strategy. Strong entrepreneurship professional with over a decade of public speaking experience.

J.J. Townsend

JJ is the Founder and CEO of Citizenville, a Jackson-based crowdfunding platform for civic projects. The nonprofit makes ideas accessible and sparks action by connecting community projects to grant-makers, businesses, and people who want to fund them. He is always looking for ways to give people power and opportunities and has a keen eye for projects that push the boundaries or make a big impact in communities.Citizenville also organizes JXN Gumbo, a micro-granting dinner where neighbors talk about the city and vote on community project ideas to make it better. The platform is helping to deliver a diverse mix of projects across the Mississippi - from a homeless assistance "pop-up" to an education currency that incentives good behavior and academics.A Teach for America alumni, he taught 5th grade in Jackson Public Schools where he secured more than $10,000 in grant funds and served as a lead teacher in writing instruction.JJ received his bachelors in Business Marketing and Managerial Finance at the University of Mississippi where he founded a student-led business consulting agency, Ole miss Marketing Agency. He is currently completing a masters in Education Leadership.

Tim Mask
VP of Brand Planning & Development, Maris West & Baker

Mask, who will be the fifth president, is a nearly 19-year veteran of the Mississippi-based agency, which he joined in 1999. Peter Marks, who has served as CEO and President of the agency since 2006, will continue in the role of CEO. “In his time here at our agency, Mask has very quickly risen up the ranks from a PR intern to an account executive, marketing strategist, and agency partner,” said Marks. “His keen insight into brand strategy and his deep knowledge of new and emerging marketing platforms and tactics will serve us well in years to come.”One of Mask’s proudest achievements at MWB was championing the agency’s #CreateForGood initiative, which reflects the agency’s mission to attract clients that have a positive impact on health, the economy, and quality of life. “Here in Mississippi, there are many opportunities for us to use our creativity to inspire positive changes to the world around us,” said Mask. “You can do good work and good works.”In addition to his agency responsibilities, Mask is the founder of the Fast Forward Mississippi Initiative, a benefit organization focused on reversing Mississippi’s “brain drain,” the outmigration of knowledge worker talent. In 2014, he co-founded one of Fast Forward Mississippi’s best-known initiatives, Kids Code Mississippi, with MWB Partner and Creative Director, Randy Lynn, to advocate for K-12 computer science education in Mississippi.
While serving as agency president, Mask will maintain his supervisory role on MWB clients, including the Mississippi State Department of Health, Entergy Nuclear, the Mississippi Development Authority and the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau.Maris, West & Baker is idea + creative content company focused on creating positive social impact and helping partners maximize brand visibility.

Janet Parker
Director, Business Development

Previously, Janet was vice president of public relations for Maris, West & Baker Advertising. Prior to that, she served as a business consultant and worked with Fortune 500 clients in the United States, Canada and Trinidad specializing in speaker development for executives, leadership coaching, communication skill development and training, media coaching and meeting moderation.Specializing in addressing communication competencies, Janet has trained and coached top level international executives, supervisors, mid-level managers and support staff. She has also worked extensively as a meeting moderator and has led peer discussions in more than 55 cities nationwide.Janet spent 11 years as an award-winning pharmaceutical sales representative, working with one of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the world. She was also the host of the Emmy award-winning and #1 locally produced television show in Mississippi, “Mississippi Outdoors.” Janet has represented products and services for many companies and industries, with clients including Bancorp South, Southern Farm Bureau, the ESPN radio local affiliate, Skinner’s GM Superstore and many more. She has also appeared in numerous television commercials, radio advertisements and print materials.Janet was named among the Top 10 Business Women in Mississippi in 2012 by the Mississippi Business Journal. Janet holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

Tony Jeff
President, Innovate Mississippi

Tony Jeff serves as the president and CEO for Innovate Mississippi. He previously served as Innovate Mississippi’s vice-president and COO and the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation where he coordinated Innovate Mississippi’s work with entrepreneurs to bring their innovations successfully to market. In this position, he coached more than 800 entrepreneurial ventures and consulted with companies that successfully raised more than $130 million in private equity financing. He also previously held the positions of director of the Mississippi Alternative Energy Enterprise and director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Mississippi (  Prior to joining Innovate Mississippi in 2002, Tony had corporate experience leading teams in finance, sales, engineering and operations. In addition to his corporate experience, Tony has started two businesses – one around a patent he co-invented and successfully brought to market. 

Event Sponsors, and Partners

The Startup Weekend Jackson 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.

Signature Sponsors


Cafe Sponsorship

Food Sponsor


Organizing Team

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

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Sibi Murugesan
Program Director @ gener8tor

Sibi has been building companies and supporting entrepreneurs for years. After helping lead Co-lab, a nationally-recognized startup incubator for students, Sibi became a 
Startup Mentor for Junior Achievement, a global entrepreneurship program for students K - 12.  

In a corporate setting, he served as the youngest Senior Strategy Development Analyst within Best Buy's Strategic Growth Office, where he identified, built and launched $1B growth strategies for the Fortune 100 technology retailer. 

At his day job, he is currently the Program Director for gener8tor, a nationally-ranked startup accelerator, where his portfolio companies achieve ~9 months of growth in just 12 weeks. And on the weekends? He's a Program Facilitator for Startup Weekend, traveling the country helping talented entrepreneurs build businesses in just 54 hours!

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