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Paul Flessland, Published March 04 2013

Startup Weekend showcases entrepreneurial spirit

FARGO – Startup Weekend comes to Fargo on Friday with a 54-hour event that has a goal of sparking Fargo’s entrepreneurial spirit and possibly launching a new business.

“We’ve got to bring one of these to Fargo,” said Andy Christensen, an organizer of the local event and an associate of Arthur Ventures. His inspiration came from attending a Startup Weekend in Minneapolis in November.

“There’s definitely an appetite for one in Fargo,” he said.

Fargo’s Startup Weekend is one of many around the world that hope to inspire young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams.

The weekend kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Friday at ecce, 216 Broadway, with pitches, followed by teams forming around the best ideas. Teams then brainstorm, develop a business plan and create a basic prototype at the newly remodeled Loretta Building, 208 Broadway.

The weekend concludes at 5 p.m. Sunday with judging of demonstrations and presentations at the Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway. This portion will be open to the public.

“You could see a business come out of this,” said Lisa Gulland-Nelson, one of the event’s co-organizers.

Participants register for one of three roles: technical, non-technical and designer. The price is $75, with discounts being offered to students. Christensen hopes to attract 20 of each.

Gulland-Nelson, manager of marketing and public relations for the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., has been trying to get the word out about Startup Weekend.

As one of the sponsors and a part of the planning committee, the development group has been using social media such as blogging and Twitter to build excitement, emphasizing that no experience is required to participate.

Non-technical tickets, catering to those with marketing and public relations skills, were sold out almost instantly.

“A lot of people in the community are looking for something like this,” Christensen said.

Gulland-Nelson believes Fargo is the perfect audience for a Startup Weekend, noting that the city was founded by entrepreneurs. Even if a business is not started, valuable skills and connections will be developed.

Friday night’s keynote speaker is Phil Soran. Soran is the founder, president and CEO of Compellent Technologies, one of the fastest-growing data storage companies in the world before its acquisition by Dell in 2011.

Christensen said Soran was chosen because of his “cool entrepreneurship story” and his ability to motivate. Soran was a junior high math teacher before going into information technology.

Heather McDougall, CEO of Bogobrush, will speak about the social entrepreneurship side of starting a business. Christensen expects the Jamestown native’s story will be especially inspiring to the young participants because social media has played a key role in Bogobrush’s success.

If you go

What: Startup Weekend Fargo

When: Friday at 6:30 p.m. through Sunday

Where: Downtown Fargo

Info: fargo.startupweekend.org

Readers can reach Forum reporter Paul Flessland at (701) 241-5502