Startups take center stage at weekend workshop (updated)

Second annual ‘Startup Weekend Vancouver’ will take place Feb. 3-5 at Clark College’s Foster Hall

Dave Barcos

Update: Startup Weekend Vancouver has been postponed until early summer in an effort to increase registrations.

Passion, optimism and energy typically overflow from aspiring entrepreneurs with an idea for a new product or service that might bring them fame and fortune.

But, says Dave Barcos, they often have no idea how to move their ideas forward.

And that’s what the second annual “Startup Weekend Vancouver” Feb. 3-5 at Clark College’s Foster Hall is all about.

“It’s a compressed, informal, but focused weekend that will help people find out whether their tech idea might actually become a viable business,” says Barcos, who is the volunteer organizer of the nonprofit workshop. “The basic idea is to encourage, empower and educate anyone with an idea that they would like to turn into a business.

The workshop is sponsored by Workforce Southwest Washington, TiE Oregon, KIND Snacks, iQ Credit Union, Clark College and Techstars.

“We bring in expert mentors and founders from the area to help participants build their ideas,” added Barcos. “Through the weekend, we counsel and guide people – to validate and craft their ideas.”

Not a bed of roses

At the same time, Barcos says, Startup Weekend doesn’t exist to paint a rosy picture of launching a new kind of business from scratch. Plenty of startup ideas aren’t ready for prime time.

“Startups are incredibly difficult,” Barcos said. “The good news is about 12 percent of founders continue developing their businesses after Startup Weekends, according to TechStars statistics.”

Startup Weekends in cities across the United States and in at least 135 countries are under the umbrella of Techstars, founded in 2006 in Boulder, Colo.

Here’s how it works

The cost of the Feb. 3-5 Vancouver workshop, spread over 54 hours, is $100 per participant. All meals are included, along with the experience of testing ideas and learning from local professionals and other experienced volunteers.

Participants will start Friday night, Feb. 3. Any attendee may pitch his or her idea to all participants, who will vote for the top 8 to 10 ideas. Then all attendees will join a small team of other participants to work through the weekend with one of the 8-10 ideas.

Through the course of the weekend local mentors will advise each of the groups on how to refine and improve their ideas and their final presentations. On Sunday afternoon, guest judges will select two teams as winners.

In 2016, the top two teams were a computer application (app) for a dating service aimed at connecting marijuana users, and an internet of things (IoT) device that, with the push of a button, would engage or disengage child-resistant latches on household cabinets and drawers. The later market, Barcos said, would be grandparents or others who regularly – but not 24/7 – have children visiting or being cared for in the house.

To Barcos’ knowledge, based partly on what the founders of those proposals learned at the Startup Weekend, neither idea came to fruition.

Interest has been growing in this event since 2015 when the first effort was rescheduled for six months due to lack of registrations. The 2016 event drew two dozen would-be startup entrepreneurs.

“This year,” Barcos said, “we hope to have more attendees to create a better event for everyone.”

For more information, visit or email Barcos at

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