Startup Weekend Jackson

    Friday, March 1 - 3, 2019

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

Friday, March 1 - 3, 2019

Friday, March 1 - 3, 2019
Event starts at 5:30 pm

Coalesce Jxn
109 North State Street
Jackson, Mississippi 39201

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Accelerate 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!

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Friday March 1st

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

6:30 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

10:00 pm
Kickoff Party
Enjoy drinks and treats on the rooftop, as you get to know your fellow participants!

Saturday March 2nd

9:00 am
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

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

12:00 pm

12:30 pm
Coaches/Mentors Arrive
Idea/Marketing Development Coaches

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

4:00 pm
Coach Meetings
Technical Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!

5:00 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 March 3rd

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

6:30 pm
Judging & Awards

7:30 pm
Wrap-Up & Go Home!


Bruce Deer
Advisor, Entrepreneur, Engineer

Visionary and progressive executive for companies with national and international operations with a focus on emerging business opportunities. Extensive experience in strategic planning, business development, product development, technical operations, engineering, software and systems development, management consulting, and development of consumer products and services.

Specialties: Strategic Planning, Business Development and Product Development 
Network Design, Deployment, and Operations
Applications Development and Support
Telecommunications & Wireless Communications Systems
Mobile device development
GPS navigation products

Event Judges

Terrance Hibbert
Director of the Health Information and Transformation Center

Terrence is the founding Director of the Health Innovation and Transformation (HIT) Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The Center supports health innovators at the University and throughout the state. The Center also explores and develops new technologies with a goal to improving quality and reducing cost for the academic medical center. Prior to this role, Terrence served as a Senior Director of Information Systems at the University, he was responsible for all administrative and academic systems, including the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Student Information Systems (SIS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS), among others. Additionally Terrence was responsible for web development, mobile app development and custom application development. Terrence brings over 15 years of strategy execution, enterprise performance management (EPM), and process development experience. He has worked with executives in a range of companies from the Fortune 500 to startups and micro businesses.

Kristen Ley
Founder, Thimblepress

Kristen Ley is the founder, owner and creative director of Thimblepress®. Founded in a garage back in 2012, Thimblepress® is a design & lifestyle company aiming to create products that make people happy. Each product is designed by Kristen and filled with loads of love & color. Thimblepress® is sold in over 1500 retail shops internationally and her products are also available on Thimblepress has worked and collaborated with Target, Hallmark, Moon & Lola, Glitter Guide, Throw Pillow, Speak Wines, June & January,  Keds. In January 2019, Thimblepress launched a thirty¬three product collection with Eccolo and a 12 greeting card collection with Calypso Cards. Thimblepress® loves unique products that help elevate & showcase personal style be it on a desk, in hands or on walls. Thimblepress® creates products that help create memories, fill a room with color, bring a smile to a face & make you feel unique & special. 

Kristen also runs where she focuses her efforts on mentoring and creative consulting with individuals and brands. One of Kristen’s biggest passions is  encouraging other’s to see their potential and chase after dreams. Kristen offers monthly mentoring, weekend workshops and creative calls to help an individual or brand take next steps, develop products and/or marketing plans and work to achieve goals. In Kristen’s free time, she enjoys painting, traveling, perusing the local flea markets & hanging out with her two Goldendoodles, Willow & Henry!

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.  

Rich Sun
Investor, Co-Founder, Advisor

• Investor, adviser, senior executive or board member in over 30 start-up and early stage high-potential companies, lead investor or senior executive in nine of them.
• As Chair of Innovate Mississippi, led a Strategic Rethink that added initiatives such as Entrepreneur-in-Residence, expanded the mentor network, and co-founded Mississippi Coding Academies.
• Invested over $230 million of institutional private equity in early stage companies, 85% of which were successful and invested through Sun & Co. in eleven start up and early stage companies.
• Originated and led over 100 private financings and advisories (worth over $11 billion); many were “first of their kind”, “largest” or “fastest” and required unusual levels of creativity, intelligence and tenacity
• Internationally experienced in a wide range of industries.

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.

Charles Weir
Innovative Ventures Managing Principal

My mission is to serve others who serve others. Specialties: Program Development and Management, Federal Grant Writing and Management, Business Development and Management

Coaches and Mentors

Theresa Kennedy
Senior Marketing Advisor

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. 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 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. 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.  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.

Harper Maddox
Software Engineer and Technology Executive

Harper has been programming since he picked up a graphing calculator in Junior High and has served as the Chief Technology Officer for EdgeTheory and Trinity Apparel Group. He is experienced at product management and getting a startup off the ground, plus he's successfully built engineering teams and designed recruiting programs at multiple companies.   He has a Computer Science degree from Georgia Tech and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.  He planned billion dollar budgets as a financial analyst at the department of defense and also worked in product management at Dell. He has expertise in financial modeling, product marketing, analytics, and forecasting.  

Michele Morton
Entrepreneur, God's Way Enterprises, The MaxBit

In 2001, Michele established a corporation, God’s Way Enterprises, Inc. to run projects, raise funding for non-profits, and promote an invention through four windows; ministry, missions, education, and resources. Michele holds a patent on a powered garden tool, branded and Trademarked THE MAXBIT. This aspect of GWE, Inc. is a 3-year-old startup and is set to do over $200,000 in sales in 2019.   Educated with a BS from USM, a MA E from ORU, and an ED D from Mississippi College, her educational background includes public and private school experience both in the US and abroad.   Michele is married to Max Morton and they are both ordained ministers through World Ministry Fellowship in Dallas, Texas. Their blended family consists of six children. They live in Jackson, MS.

Bilal Qizilbash
Entrepreneur, EasyKale

When Bilal Qizilbash discovered that juiced leafy kale would selectively kill melanoma cancer cells in vitro while leaving non-cancerous cells alone, he’d had a breakthrough... and a realization. The breakthrough led to a U.S. patent and continued laboratory studies.

The realization was that Bilal could help humanity with a product—Bilal’s EasyKale—that makes it easy for people to add #dailykale to their diets. 
  Bilal is now CEO and chief scientist for EasyKale Labs, LLC. His company pledges 2.5% of net profits to feeding the homeless, something Bilal does every Friday in Jackson, Miss., alongside volunteers for his Draw-a-Smile non-profit foundation. Another 2.5% goes to the Mississippi Coding Academies, helping kids build technology careers.

Jeff Smith

Experienced Senior Mortgage Banker with a demonstrated history of working in the financial services industry. Skilled in Construction Loans, Commercial Lending, Banking, Credit Analysis, and U.S. FHA Financing. Strong finance professional with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) focused in Speech Communication and Rhetoric from Louisiana Tech University.

Michael Williams
Intellectual Property Attorney

Michael Williams represents clients in a broad range of civil litigation matters, including product liability litigation, mass tort litigation, and employment litigation in both state and federal court. In addition to handling various general litigation matters, Michael also serves clients' intellectual property needs by assisting in the protection and use of their intellectual property rights.
Michael joined the firm's Jackson office in the summer of 2015. Michael received his undergraduate degree from Mississippi State University in Biological Engineering with a concentration in Biomedical Engineering and earned his J.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Law. In law school, Michael served as an associate notes and comments editor on the Mississippi Law Journal, vice president of the Black Law Student Association, was a member of the University of Mississippi Moot Court Board, and was voted as the Member of the Year for his accomplishments as a member of the University of Mississippi Trial Advocacy Board. 

Bryan Carter
President, ThinkWebstore

Bryan Carter is president of Think Webstore, a media production and integrated marketing agency, based in Ridgeland, Mississippi, focused on helping mindful companies realize marketing, branding, social, and online strategies.

Carter holds degrees in Computer Science and Instructional Technology and earned recognition as an interactive media designer and usability engineer early in his career. Prior to founding Think Webstore, Carter served as a director for two internet companies and as a vice president for a nationally recognized advertising agency. He has worked for IBM, AT&T, and NCR in multimedia, interactive learning, and organization development, and has consulted with multiple Fortune 500 companies, including Home Depot, ETS, and Citigroup in the areas of e-commerce, e-learning, and e-business transformation. Carter has also worked with hundreds of small to mid-sized businesses in the areas of online presence, marketing, and business strategy.

A recognized industry author, Carter is an invited speaker on a range of topics including intrinsic motivation, interactive media strategies, user experience engineering, organization development, marketing, and advertising.

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.

Sumesh Arora
Director, Energy Division-Mississippi Development Authority

Dr. Sumesh Arora is the director of the Energy & Natural Resources Division of the Mississippi Development Authority which is the state energy office.  Since assuming this position in November 2016, Sumesh has reorganized this office to focus on four areas: energy efficiency programs, energy education and workforce development, energy projects and policy development, and energy data and security.Previously, Sumesh served as vice president of Innovate Mississippi, director of the Strategic Biomass Solutions, and the Energy-Economy-Environment (E3) program manager for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Mississippi.  He has led programs in cleantech commercialization, combined heat and power, innovation strategy development, STEM education, and technology-based entrepreneurship.  Prior to that, he worked for 13 years as a researcher and product development engineer in the chemical fertilizer industry.Sumesh is the co-inventor of a patented technology to convert poultry litter into bioenergy and testified before the United States Senate in 2014 to lend support for advanced biofuels technologies.  He has over 125 presentations and publications including two book chapters.Sumesh received his PhD in international development from the University of Southern Mississippi where he also teaches as an adjunct faculty in the College of Business.  He received his BS and MS degrees in engineering from the University of Central Florida.  Sumesh is a graduate of Leadership Mississippi and serves on the advisory boards of several organizations.  Sumesh is a charter member of the Capital Area Sunset Rotary Club and is married and has a son and a daughter.

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

As Mississippi’s lead economic development agency, MDA’s coordinated efforts help move the state’s economy forward. Our organization is committed to increasing the quality of life in Mississippi, whether it is through job creation, business expansion, promoting our creative culture or improving infrastructure in cities

Visit Website



Organizing Team

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

  • Tasha
  • Janet
  • Crystal


Grant Carlile
Managing Director, The Mountains

Grant thrives on curiosity, coffee, and office supplies.
Drawing on my experience growing three businesses, building out content strategies, coaching teams in multiple capacities across multiple industries for 12+ years, and creating relationships with personnel of many walks of life, I thrive on curiosity, coffee, and office supplies.

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