College of Charleston senior Venessa Johansen-Barrera is ecstatic about her plans for the weekend of September 12, 2014. Her plans don’t include the beach or a party. Instead, the computer science major is attending the first-ever StartUp Weekend to take place in Charleston.
“I’ll get real-world experience while learning how to pitch ideas and make them a reality,” Johansen-Barrera says.
During StartUp Weekend Charleston, entrepreneurs make one-minute pitches to convince people – like Johansen-Barrera – to join them in creating start-up companies by the end of the weekend. Attending the event is a requirement for all students in professor Jim Bowring’s software engineering classes. These courses are all about getting working experience with real projects.
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“I believe that by throwing them in the deep end and telling them to swim, they’ll see what they’re capable of,” says Jim Bowring, computer science professor.
College sophomore Ian Dilling knew the event was coming to Charleston and was thrilled to hear the College would pay for him to go.
“I have done hackathons before,” Dilling says. “But this is different. I’ll probably be coding, but there will be a business focus, too. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty.”
Startup Weekend Charleston takes place within biking distance of the College of Charleston campus at 1002 King Street (Lowcountry Tech Academy). For 54 hours, the teams work together, focusing on customer development, validating their ideas and building a prototype.
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Startup Weekend is an international organization that lists Google as a sponsor and has a record of producing successful companies including the Foodspotting app bought by Open Table for $10 million. In addition to sending students, the College of Charleston is also a sponsor of the Charleston event.
Charleston has a growing reputation as a prime place for tech enterprise, earning the nickname Silicon Harbor and being named one of the top tech hubs in the country by a national magazine.