UO Startup Week focuses on ways to disrupt the food industry

Startup Week event

Startup Week 2019 launches Nov. 8 with an intensive weekend workshop, followed by networking events, mentorship matchmaking, information sessions about Knight Library resources and pitch competitions with prizes of up to $1,000.

Organized by the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship in the Lundquist College of Business, Startup Week is a way to create opportunities on campus to practice the entrepreneurship process. This year’s startup weekend theme, “Eugene Food,” will challenge participants to come up with marketable solutions to disrupt the food industry.

“We’ll be thinking beyond consumer household food, thinking through food production industries, how grocery stores and inventory systems work,” said Kate Harmon, Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship director for cross-campus engagement. “We want to think about how larger organizations like the military operate and how we could design processes that could help them be more sustainable. These are the lenses through which we’ll challenge our participants to approach the food industry,”

Local food industry innovators will be on hand to mentor Startup Week participants throughout the process, including Coconut Bliss global marketing director Darcy Howard, Revolution Design Group’s Jennifer Levale, and Raj Vable, a UO environmental studies alum who founded Young Mountain Tea, a company that promotes development via fair trade practices among tea-growing communities in the Himalayas. 

Micah Elconin, a UO alum and director of the area’s food industry guild, Eugene’s Table, said the UO’s Startup Weekend 2019, which will be Nov. 8, 9 and 10, will be the first of its kind on the West Coast to address food-themed innovations. With more than 170 food and beverage manufacturing companies in the greater Eugene area, entrepreneurs who explore the way we eat have a supportive industry cluster.

Startup Weekend is open to anyone. Harmon said students can get in touch with her for a discount code to register, and she encouraged people of diverse disciplines to attend.

“It’s more about the process, so even for people who feel like they don’t have the skills to contribute to the entrepreneurship aspect, they’ll find a role as a contributor and will learn a lot,” she said.

For those who cannot attend the weekend-long intensive program, Startup Week continues on Monday, Nov. 11, with a founder networking meetup for entrepreneurs to discuss ideas with local business leaders in a more informal setting. They’ll also have the opportunity to train for Thursday’s pitch competition.

On Nov. 14, Coast to Crest Fund Managing directors Shane Johnson and Joe Maruschak will share their insights into how to get funding for startups at “Funding Perspectives for Early-Stage Founders,” at 5 p.m. in the Gerlinger Alumni Lounge. Following their talk, eight students will compete for $1,000 in the annual UO elevator pitch competition. 

The Knight Library will celebrate the grand opening of its entrepreneurship-focused Innovate, Design, Educate, Aspire Space, known as the IDEA Space, on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 2 p.m., then hold a training session at 4 p.m. to showcase the library’s subscription to the PitchBook database. The Knight Library will have an information session on Thursday, Nov. 14, to help entrepreneurs manage market research resources.

For entrepreneurs interested in learning about the law, the UO’s Innovation Partnership Services is hosting a “Legal Fundamentals for Founders” discussion with business lawyers. The talk is Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in Room 440, Lillis Hall.

On Wednesday, Nov. 13, the UO Duck Store is presenting its Oregon Incubator partnership, which works with the UO Department of Brand Management and Trademark Licensing to license university merchandise. 

The creative-thinking challenges continue Wednesday evening, with Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship’s Dropshipping Competition. Competitors will compete for cash prizes to innovate the best drop shipping company. Drop shipping is a business model that helps online retailers manage and send products without maintaining a warehouse inventory.

Finally, Startup Week’s entrepreneur-in-residence, John Dimmer, will hold office hours Friday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to noon to help prospective entrepreneurs process and formalize everything they’ve been learning. Dimmer is a UO alumnus, serves on the boards of multiple trusts and holdings firms, and has worked with UO business students in a mentorship capacity for the last 15 years.

For more details and the full schedule of events, go to the Startup Week website. Students interested in participating or who have any other questions can contact Harmon at kharmon2@uoregon.edu.

—By Adam Spencer, Innovation Partnership Services