Seven students and one faculty member from Ft. Lewis College made the trek to Telluride for Startup Weekend Dec. 2-4 and Roofdog, led by FLC Engineering student Airrick Hix won the event! Fifty-one people came from as far away as CA, AZ and Boulder as well as all over the WestSlope for this intensive weekend long exercise in starting a business.
About Startup Weekend: At Startup Weekend (SW), participants are immersed in the ideal environment for startup magic to happen. Surrounded by smart, passionate people and with the best tools and approaches at their disposal, participants take giant leaps toward creating a business, becoming a founder, and connecting with the right people and resources. In just 54 hours, participants experience the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life at a startup. They learn how to create a real company, meet the very best mentors, investors, cofounders, and sponsors all ready to help participants get started. SW is in 150 countries with over 193k alumni worldwide.
Ft. Lewis was well represented with 5 Engineering, 1 Anthropology, and 1 Business major and a faculty member from Engineering as well. The winning team -- Roofdog was led by Airrick Hix, Engineering as CEO. Also participating on Roofdog was James Schneider and Physics Professor Randy Palmer, Ph.D. Airrick’s reaction to winning, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I couldn't believe it! the judge said, ‘This team accomplished a great deal over the weekend and had an excellent presentation and pitch, ROOF DOGS!!!’. I looked around the room and saw James just pointing at me, Dr. Palmer speechless, and the rest of the team laughing and smiling. I always new I had an idea that would sell, but being an engineer I have been focusing on science and mathematics, mainly the automation of robots. It was an amazing experience to work on an idea I had with my good buddy James and a great physics professor, Randy Palmer. I can in no way, shape or form take credit for winning the competition. The entire team came through.”
And when asked, how did he come up with the idea? Airrick replied, “I came up with the idea during my years as a framer, the idea hit me about 4 years ago. I noticed a task that needed a tool that was not currently available or even invented. I started making these tools out of wood and began using them. I knew it was a good idea because it made a two-person job a one-person job and also decreased the time and energy spent on that task. I would make them for other workers on the job and the boss would always say, ‘Damn it Airrick, you’re gonna make a million bucks!’ I would laugh and brush it off but deep down I wanted to take the idea further some day.”
Bailey Lammon is graduating in 17 days with a degree in Anthropology. She describes the experience as follows, “I would describe the experience as an exhilarating and educational experience unlike any other. It was extremely difficult and totally exhausting but the amount of knowledge you gain and the amount of fun you have makes is all worth it.” She participated on team Samplify. Also on team Samplify helping to match emerging micro-producers of food products with ambassadors, was the organizer of the Ft Lewis contingent, Charlie Shew, an officer with the Physics and Engineering Club. Charlie describes the experience; “No barriers to entering this kind of community. It was both exhilarating to witness a process for engaging in entrepreneurial activity and gratifying to see such a diverse group of people embracing that process. I caught the bug, and I can’t wait for more community organizing, entrepreneurship learning, and world-problem solving to come.” Mac Greene, Engineering major, led team Skitobirrito, an app designed to deliver burritos on the mountain thus not slowing you down on a powder day - a real problem! Also on SkitoBirrito was Robert Rothschild, Engineering. Receiving recognition for most “pivots” was team Geartopia with Sean Huber from the Business School participating. In all cases, Ft Lewis students played leadership roles and contributed significantly to their teams. Ft. Lewis was joined by 4 students from Western State in Gunnison with 11 of the 51 overall participants being from our Western Colorado colleges.
Ft. Lewis students' participation was supported by the Southwest Innovation Corridor (SWIC) - a cooperative initiative with Ft. Lewis Physics and Engineering Department and the Telluride Foundation, SWIC is also leading efforts on campus to provide Innovation Internships for Ft. Lewis students, available on the Skyhawks portal, and providing innovation programming and support in cooperation with the Physics and Engineering Department. Ryan Haaland, Chair of the Department describes the opportunity afforded the students. “Our students are bright, hard-working and innovative, but heavy course loads don’t always allow for a creative outlet. Our collaboration with the Telluride Foundation provides just that opportunity and generates a lot of excitement amongst all of our students. We hope this is just the beginning of long relationship that leads to innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities for our students and the region.”
About SWIC: The mission of the Southwest Innovation Corridor (SWIC) is to bring together loosely connected efforts in entrepreneurism and commercialization to create a purposeful strategy for moving ideas from consideration and development to fundable companies, creating jobs and sustained economic activity in a geographically dispersed rural area. Funded through an i6 challenge grant from the Economic Development Commission, an Advanced Industries infrastructure grant from the State of Colorado and a family foundation, SWIC primarily works in the 8 county area from Delta to Cortez, the Utah border to Ouray. Leveraging the success of the Telluride Venture Accelerator, SWIC is building on the vast mentor network and active investor community in order to jump start the ecosystems in the larger region to support the launch and growth of innovation-based companies. SWIC seeks to inspire ideas, encourage networking and collaboration and support creation and growth of companies.