Local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts will have an opportunity to have their startup ideas evaluated and guided by experts this July at Techstars Startup Weekend Hudson Valley, a three-day event organized by the co-working venue Barnfox and held at its Uptown Kingston lounge and workspace.
“Learn how to think, work and build like a startup,” reads the summary of the event, scheduled for Friday, July 9 through Sunday, July 11. “Techstars Startup Weekend is an exciting and immersive foray into the world of startups. Over an action-packed three days, you’ll meet the very best mentors, investors, co-founders and sponsors to show you how to get more done faster — and, maybe even start that business.”
Frederick Pikovsky, co-founder and CEO of Barnfox, said the event was a natural fit for its location.
“In a co-working space, you get a lot of people who are building startups,” Pikovsky said. “We had a lot of people who are freelancers or a lot of people who are not just working for companies remotely, but are trying to launch their own thing. And I thought this would be one of the most helpful things we can do, not just for our members, but for the community at large.”
At the event, participants will pitch their idea, or join others to form a startup team, then build that idea with help from industry-leading mentors and advisors. Finally, they’ll pitch and launch their company before investors and a pair of judges, including Steve Schiffman, former CEO at Calvin Klein; and Dennis Crowley, co-founder and executive chairman at Foursquare, and co-founder and chairman of Kingston Stockade FC, a semi-pro soccer team that plays at Dietz Stadium.
Crowley said the judges haven’t been given any specific guidance on what to look for, an approach he prefers.
“I’ve done a bunch of these judging things before, and I always think it’s better to kind of go in blind and you kind of listen to it get prepped in the same way that the audience gets prepped,” he said. “Ultimately, you want to hear the pitch for the first time, like you’re on Shark Tank or something.”
The weekend begins on Friday, July 9 with an industry mixer, preliminary pitches, and a vote from among attendees on the top pitches. The following day involves the formation of teams and setting up workspaces, optional workshops, mentoring sessions, and the start of work. On Sunday, teams will have time to prep pitches and rehearse, as well as check any associated tech prior to a final presentation in the late afternoon. The weekend will end with dinner and judging.
Pikovsky said participants were encouraged to go in any direction they please, but he added that many of the mentors and advisors were particularly interested in agriculture.
“We’re leaving it open to really any idea, but there’s a lot of interest around regenerative agriculture, and agricultural technology has been a big topic in the area. So we’re starting to get more and more people in that world who want to jump on board as mentors and advisors. And either way, hopefully there’s plenty of people in the upstate region that are starting to work on something, and this would be the perfect catalyst for them to really just turbo boost it from where they are to the next level within a very short period of time.”
Pikovsky and Crowley said the pandemic exodus from urban areas has increased the number of local techies.
“Over the last year, you’ve had a lot more people move upstate, and there’s a lot of heavy hitters that were completely based in the city, and they might’ve had their weekend house they’d come up to once in a while, but they’re up here more full time now,” Pikovsky said, adding that investors are beginning to come out of the COVID fog as well. “Obviously things got very quiet in the venture world after this last year, but there’s a lot of capital out there to invest in new technologies and all the new ways that this post-pandemic world is shaping up to be. My passion for starting Barnfox was that I wanted to spend more time away from the city. I felt like remote working was on the rise. And I think that’s the same reason why you’re seeing venture capital and startups and tech move into these regions as well. There are more people that are able to work more fluidly remotely away from city centers.”
Crowley said some of the experiences of newer visitors to the Hudson Valley mirror his own from years ago.
“When I first started coming up to Kingston, it was like a nice retreat from the city,” he said. “And it was maybe like six months until I met Kale Kaposhilin, who runs the Hudson Valley Tech Meetup. And I went to one of the events and there were like 300 people there. And there’s a big tech scene up here. I was rather surprised to see it, but then once you see it, you kind of see it everywhere, and you see all the things that people are doing, which I think is great.”
Mentors for the Techstars Startup Weekend Hudson Valley include Oliver Plunkett (Wordcraft), Johnny LeHane (Hudson Valley Startup Fund), Cedric Cogell (Patch), Tevis Trower (Balance Integration Corporation), Kunyi Li (self-employed seed investor), Keith Zaltzberg (Regenerative Design Group), Cat Dawson (Diver Collective) and Eric De Feo (Made X Hudson).
Registration is $30/$20 for students. Visit event.techstars.com/event/zH4Eeu2RuJ for more info.