The Startup Blitz is a fast-paced, day-long competition designed to foster new startup teams, build experience with startup creation and help get new ideas off the ground. Students from all over the University are invited to come and find a team to work with: grad and undergrad, engineers, financiers, scientists, mathematicians—unique skill sets are welcome. All that the Innovation Institute asks is that you be ready for a high-energy day of cooperation and collaboration, food and fun.
The Blitz takes place over two days: 5 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Friday kicks off with the pitching round. Everyone who shows up with an idea is welcomed up to the stage to give a short pitch for it. There’s no barrier for entry, and many students don’t have an idea to pitch.You can just come and look for a team to join.
After the pitching round, the student participants vote on which ideas they like the best to narrow teams down about 10.. Then the teams form, usually between people who hardly know each other. Startup Blitz is known for sparking team chemistry, and there’s even a love story—Nicole Zhu and John Fraser, former grad students who now operate the translation services company uTranslated, met at a Blitz and just got married.
Don’t set your expectations that high, of course, but this is a great opportunity to meet students from all over Pitt who have an interest in entrepreneurship. If you already have a team formed, you’re welcome to bring them to the Blitz, too, and if you want to find one ahead of time, the Innovation Institute has a tool called TeamFinder, available at http://www.innovation.pitt.edu/students/teamfinder/, to recruit new team members.
Once you and your team have an idea to work on, you’ll be given space and time in the O’Hara Student Center ballroom to fine tune it. There are a lot of resources available to help, most importantly a group of successful entrepreneurs available to coach your team through the essentials you’ll need to understand in order to put together a successful pitch by the end of the Blitz. Every part of this event is devoted to getting ideas “out of your head” and into the real world, where you can see people’s reactions and test the water.
After you and your team have flushed out your concept by talking with some potential customers and working with your mentor, you’ll give your final presentation on Saturday between 1 and 3 p.m. The presentations will be assessed by a team of judges made up of people from Pittsburgh’s startup scene, including business incubators and investment firms. The first-place team will be awarded $1,500 in prize money, and second and third place get $1,000 and fourth place gets $500. All we ask from you for a shot at the gold is a day of your time and a team spirit. Past Blitz successes have included Suitable, Marc Visco’s workplace preparation company; UTranslated; and FoodChain, a restaurant reviewing app.
If your mouth isn’t watering yet, you should also know that Startup Blitz isn’t designed as one-off event. Teams that form at the Blitz and find success are well prepared to move on to bigger competitions, with bigger prizes, like the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, another Innovation Institute competition which has $100,000 to give out. Look for applications later in the semester. The Startup Blitz is a perfect way to see what it takes to compete in a startup competition, to put together a good team, and to really get your feet wet in the entrepreneurial world. There’s open signup available on the internet at http://go.innovation.pitt.edu/startup-blitz-fall2017, but if you haven’t registered by the date of the competition, Oct. 6, you’re still welcome to just show up and participate.