Chapel Hill's Triangle Startup Weekend Has More Than Good Looks - 1

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Chapel Hill's Triangle Startup Weekend Has More Than Good Looks - 1
Triangle Startup Weekend has been making rounds throughout the Triangle for a while, but Friday, Saturday, and Sunday marked the event's first stop in Chapel Hill.

Many of us were wondering how it would turn out.

To start, I can say that it looked good when I walked in on Saturday night.

After much consideration, the organizers, led by Avanhi Parekh, Nick Troxel, and Datt Patel, decided to hold the event at the recently renovated Frank Porter Graham Student Union on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus.

The Student Union is a large, attractive space fitted with good technology.

So that was nice.

But what about the startups that were produced after a weekend of modeling, coding, and customer discovery?

I was impressed there, too.

The event had 86 participants, with developers being sparser than usual (likely due to a hackathon also being held last weekend at Duke). Eleven teams gave final pitches.

July's Triangle Startup Weekend, which was held in Durham, had 125 attendees and 14 final pitches.

The Chapel Hill iteration, then, was smaller, which was to be expected, but the quality of the work done was as good as I've ever seen at a Startup Weekend.

Before I get into that, though, let me go back to the last good-looking startup milestone I saw in Chapel Hill: the opening of Launch Chapel Hill. As I wrote in May, the opening of the venture lab was attended by a sea of suits. It wasn't what you'd expect at a startup event, but it was positive reflection of the city's and the university's investment in developing a startup community.

And as I said then, while entrepreneurs are obviously the most important players, this investment from the university and city is needed to help create an environment that cultivates a Chapel Hill startup community.

So it was great to again see that support from UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill at Triangle Startup Weekend.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was at the event all day on Sunday. Ted Zoller, UNC-Chapel Hill Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, was a judge. Judith Cone, special assistant to the chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship, and Alec Guettel, co-founder of Sungevity and Axiom Law and a Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UNC, were speakers.

And as Lance Cassidy, a three-time Startup Weekend attendee, told me, "There were a lot more MBA's at this one."

The mix worked.

Several of the startups that formed have serious potential to go on beyond the event and despite the developer shortage, most teams created prototypes. They wanted to get it done.

The team that won, Let's Chip In, made tremendous progress over the weekend. Their idea was a gift crowdfunding platform and between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, they developed a working prototype and acquired paying customers.

Jeff Henriod led the company's pitch, explaining that he is a UNC student whose wife, Kelly, is pregnant. They need a crib, but likely won't get one at a baby shower because a crib is too pricey for one person to cover. So they created a Let's Chip In page and used the platform to crowdsource crib payment.

By the time Let's Chip In pitched, a dozen family members and friends had donated $272 toward the cost of the crib on Jeff and Kelly's page. By the time I wrote this article (11:30 pm Sunday night), the crib was fully funded.

So team Let's Chip In not only got a win at Triangle Startup Weekend, Jeff and his wife, Kelly, got the money for a crib. And Chapel Hill took a step forward in developing a startup community.