Startup Weekend ignites possibilities

Student entrepreneurs pitch ideas in competition for funding

From software that helps detect invasive species to an artificial intelligence learning platform, University of Cincinnati students pitched an array of innovative ideas at the inaugural UC Startup Weekend in January.

The three-day competition was open to students from all colleges, majors and degree levels. It was held at the UC 1819 Innovation Hub, where teams could access resources including the Groundfloor Makerspace.

“It was incredible to see 13 interdisciplinary student teams collaborate over a weekend to solve real-world business challenges and identify exciting new opportunities,” said Josie Dalton, assistant director of the UC Center for Entrepreneurship, who organized the competition. “We are especially thankful to the mentors from the Cincinnati startup community who volunteered their time and expertise on Saturday to assist the participants."

Launching a new generation of innovators

The competition's goal was to encourage and support an entrepreneurial mindset for students. Over 50 prospective entrepreneurs from five colleges participated. Students assembled into 13 teams, where 20 Startup Cincy entrepreneurs and volunteer mentors from the business and startup communities provided feedback to help sharpen pitch techniques and business development plans.

Value of competition

Dalton said there are several benefits for students who participate in an immersion startup competition:

  • Networking to meet and connect with successful entrepreneurs, investors and other industry professionals who can provide valuable guidance and mentorship
  • Funding through prize money to help launch their idea
  • Visibility for a student's business, which can help attract partners and investors
A Startup Weekend student pitches at the 1819 Innovation Hub.

A Startup Weekend student pitches at the 1819 Innovation Hub. Photo/Noelle Scheper

The pitch

Students competed against one another to see how far they could take their startup idea.

A prize package totaling $5,000 for use in their venture development was at stake. Students pitched their ideas in a sprint-style format to the judges during the final competition on Sunday afternoon.

Participants were evaluated on the strength of their value proposition, the ability to collect customer discovery data to validate the venture idea and the business model the team was able to build over the weekend.

The panel of judges included:

  • Alexis Schrimpf, vice president of design, skin and personal care, co-founder and chief design officer for SeeMe Beauty at Procter & Gamble, UC College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) alumna
  • Tim Metzner co-founder of Coterie, UC Lindner College of Business alumnus

The deciding vote

Judges present award to one of the top winning teams during Startup Weekend.

Judges present award to one of the top winning teams during Startup Weekend. Photo/Noelle Scheper

Two teams took first place ($2,000 each):

  • i-Survey — a software that detects invasive species to minimize the cost to agriculture   
  • Project Ponics — hydroponics in a box, an affordable and sustainable fresh produce alternative

Two teams were second place winners ($500 each):

  • The Remake Project — connecting the maker community with bulk textiles offering a sustainable alternative to the landfill deposit
  • PhizziO — an app that improves the physical therapy process for users

Honorable mention recipients were:

  • Master.AI — a ChatGPT learning platform that provides content based on the users' knowledge and skill level of the material
  • Zippy — a grocery store app that sources the best deals and coupons

"The event was a success, and the center is thrilled to continue supporting these student founders as we grow the Startup Weekend program for aspiring entrepreneurs," Dalton said.

The Remote Project student team is all smiles as they pose with their check .

The Remote Project student team is all smiles as they pose with their check . Photo/Noelle Scheper

Featured image at top: Patty Moser welcomes students to Startup Weekend at the 1819 Innovation Hub. Photo/Noelle Scheper

UC Center for Entrepreneurship

Learn more about the UC Center for Entrepreneurship.

Do you have an idea you would like to explore? Visit Resources | UC Center for Entrepreneurship (

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