Overnight success might be a pipe dream, but the University of New Orleans is hoping to make overnight entrepreneurship a reality. The Lakefront university will host a three-day entrepreneurship program at the end of which three to four new companies will have been created. The program, 3 Day Startup New Orleans, begins Friday and concludes Sunday.
“The main purpose of 3 Day Startup is to get more of the university students in southeast Louisiana to start their own technology companies,” said Jonathan Redmann, a UNO computer science student and one of the event coordinators. Redmann hopes it will be a catalyst in encouraging Louisiana college graduates to stick around after they’ve collected their diplomas. “We’ve got to change the perception that there is not opportunity for technology students here. While I don’t think that a bunch of students at UNO are going to change that by themselves or change it overnight, it can be done.”
The program will bring together 40 computer science, business and graphic design students from UNO, Loyola University, Tulane University and Southeastern Louisiana University as well as local venture capital investors and technology industry workers.
First, the students, who have already been selected, will have an opportunity to pitch each other on their own technology business ideas. Then the group will choose three or four of those ideas to move forward, with the 40 students split into one team for each idea.
Redmann said each team will include a mix of computer science, business and graphic design students. The teams are encouraged to work through the night, leaving the school only to shower as they prepare for a final pitch session Sunday evening.
“We’ve encouraged all the students to bring sleeping bags,” Redmann said.
Throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday they will meet with software developers and others from local technology firms who will guide them as they work. On Sunday the students have an hour to present a working prototype of and business plan for the website, mobile application or whatever product it is they’ve designed.
The pitches will be reviewed by a group of primarily local investors, including those who specialize in early stage capital investment.
There will be no winner at the end of the night as is the case with many business plan competitions. Instead, the hope is that the venture capitalists and others listening to the pitches will decide to invest.
“This is not an exercise or training program,” Redmann said. “This is going to be the students producing a product and business plan over the weekend.”
The 3 Day Startup program was launched in Austin in 2008 after a group of students decided to try to cultivate the talent around them and stop it from moving to Silicon Valley, California.
“In Austin we felt like students had ideas that were just as compelling,” said Jeremy Guillory, a co-founder of 3 Day Startup. “They just weren’t executing them.”
The reason, Guillory and his friends discovered, wasn’t that there wasn’t enough investment capital or education in Austin, but that proper networking was a problem. The people with ideas weren’t building lasting connections with other idea people and the people who could carry those ideas into reality, Guillory.
“We tried to devise this three day event where all of those obstacles and all of those problems that would prevent a student from running with their ideas is destroyed,” Guillory said.
After a few successful outs in Austin, Guillory and his classmates decided to turn the program into a nonprofit and take the show on the road. “We realized that there was actually a little bit of magic to what we were doing.”
So far, there have been 12 3 Day Startup events in the United States, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, according to the nonprofit’s website. Those events have created 14 companies that together have raised $4 million investment. “There’s a tremendous amount of success behind it,” Redmann said. “There’s a proof of concept behind the startups.”
Redmann is hoping the program will encourage graduates interested in working for or starting their own technology firms to do so and to do so in New Orleans.
“We’re really excited about what this can do for New Orleans and the technology community in New Orleans,” Redmann said. “So many students coming out of the technology programs in Louisiana feeling like they have to leave the state to find jobs. We’re hoping to change the mindset.”