USI hosts successful Evansville startup weekend


“Your success is the city of Evansville’s success,” said Mayor Lloyd Winnecke during the kickoff of the first ever Evansville Startup Weekend hosted February 24-26 at the University of Southern Indiana College of Business.

The 54-hour event where developers, designers, marketers, product managers, and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups, was a success from start to finish.

More than 40 pitches from would be entrepreneurs started the action on Friday evening, and by the end of the night, 10 ideas had emerged as winners. An investment and wealth production company, a coffee shop, an Evansville nightlife website, web and mobile apps, hybrid fitness equipment, and even a carbon emissions filtration system for automobiles were among the selected startup ideas.

More than 70 participants formed ten teams that worked feverishly through the weekend to develop their ideas and to come up with a five minute presentation that would wow a panel of local judges including Dr. Drew Peyronnin, angel investor; Luke J. Yaeger, Evansville Commerce Bank; Douglas K Wurmnest, B2B CFO; Linda E White, president and CEO Deaconess Health System; Joe Trendowski, Schroeder Family School of Business Administration; Courtney Mickel, Berry Plastics Corporation; and Tony Schy, founder and CEO, P-Stim USA.

Over the course of the weekend, teams had access to resources and mentors and listened to advice from guest speakers.

When the dust had settled on Sunday evening, three winners emerged with the top prize going to the including team leader, Michael Patzer, a 2009 graduate of the USI College of Business and owner of Orange Apps; Andrew Heil of Ariens Co.; and Andy Markle, of Auto Trader Monthly magazine.

Furnish is an augmented reality app for iPhone or android devices that allows you to walk into a room and place furniture around the room virtually. The app was targeted toward interior designers and furniture companies.

“I’ve spent time in Silicon Valley and there are a lot of these types of events out there,” said Patzer. “It’s awesome that this is here in my home town of Evansville and at my university, USI. I never thought we’d have anything like this here, and I hope that we have more events like this in the future.”

The team received a prize package from local businesses including three months of office space at Innovation Point donated by GAGE (Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville).

Second place was awarded to team ICUC, which developed a business model that provides eye care diagnosis and treatment for patients in third world countries.

Third place went to the GoNoGoApp team who developed an aggregated information application that would not only provide answers to consumers with questions, but also provide businesses with valuable market research data.

“I’m a strong believer that good ideas, or what we deem innovative ideas, are not that until they are put out in public and vetted, touched, seen, experienced, and intersected with,” said Bryan Bourdeau, instructor in business and co-event organizer. “This event allows people to come together with similar mindsets, and the College of Business was designed for communication and ideas like this to happen.

“I can assure you that the entrepreneurial “flywheel” is in motion and will continue to stay in motion. USI and the College of Business are being realized and acknowledge as leaders in the identification and development of our local and regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Event organizers, in addition to Bourdeau, included Dana Nelson, a social strategist with Out Cloud, attorney Doug Briody, Michael Effron and Janet L. Effron of Four Rivers Group LLC and Andrew Heil of Ariens Co.

Core local sponsors for the Evansville Startup Weekend included GAGE, the USI College of Business and WEVV-CBS 44, with support from the Kansas City, Missouri-based Kauffman Foundation.