Almost two years after its grand opening, Insight Park continues its dedication to the survival and growth of startup companies and businesses by hosting Oxford’s first-ever Startup Weekend.
Startup Weekend is a national movement geared toward teaching participants the basics of how to develop ideas or products into successful endeavors or potential businesses. With Startup Weekend’s unique composition, young entrepreneurs have the ability to hear, learn and grow from powerful businesspeople.
“The weekend is not only an investment to the participant’s future but also a chance to lead to some immediate ventures,” said Lee Morris, event organizer and intern for Innovate Mississippi.
Morris believes Startup Weekend has the potential to be a career launcher for those who participate in the events.
Oxford’s Startup Weekend, hosted by the Innovation Hub at Insight Park, will kick off on Feb. 7 and end on Feb. 9.
“The 54-hour weekend event is designed to give participants a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with skilled business professionals who will give them tips for their business plans and encourage them as entrepreneurs,” said Blair Jackson, senior journalism student and Insight Park employee.
Those participating in the weekend’s events will start by pitching a business plan to a panel of judges. Based on the most popular ideas, teams of three or four contributors and one mentor are assembled to further enhance the original idea into a business plan and model. Finally, the teams will be asked to present their final creations in front of various Oxford locals in order to receive proper feedback.
Mentors and coaches from a wide array of entrepreneurial backgrounds are set to help teams during their business developments such as Josh Mabus, Bethany Cooper, Owens F. Alexander Jr., Joyce Freeland, John Brandon and Ashley Locke.
Insight Park was opened in April of 2012 with a mission to facilitate the growth of new enterprises while helping connect the university at large with private sectors. In order to make Startup Weekend possible, Insight Park has partnered with the Oxford-Lafayette County Entrepreneurial Alliance, Innovate Mississippi and The University of Mississippi School of Business Administration, according to Executive Director Rick Duke.
Duke said Insight Park is always looking for ways to create awareness about what exactly the research facility does and about entrepreneurialism, both for the Ole Miss community and the city of Oxford.
“It won’t surprise us to see some of the participants become tenants in The Innovation Hub’s incubator in the near future,” Duke said.
Both Morris and Duke believe Insight Park’s support of Startup Weekend has benefits beyond those that the participants can just take away.
“Obviously it helps Oxford from an economical standpoint by having everyone come and bring their dollars,” Morris said. “It also helps put Oxford on a map of being innovative and a cutting-edge city because it shows the fostering and encouraging of entrepreneurial growth.”
Duke believes the weekend will benefit not only Oxford but also surrounding areas.
“The weekend’s benefits will be felt around campus, in the Oxford-Lafayette County community and North Mississippi, including part of the Delta region,” Duke said. “Any new enterprise ideas brought to Startup Weekend and turned into viable businesses will have positive impacts in each of those areas.”
According to Morris, there is a limit of 50 participants, and as of now there are only 15 registered. Students, faculty members and all residents of the Oxford community are encouraged to contribute to Oxford’s Startup Weekend. Those wishing to participate must register and purchase a ticket for $50. To register and find out more about the event, visit www.oxford.startupweekend.org or www.startupweekend.org.