Jason Hung / Mustang News

Cal Poly students gathered at the Advanced Technology Labs on campus from Nov. 10–12 to participate in the sixth San Luis Obispo Startup Weekend.

The event offered students the opportunity to pitch an idea, then take that idea into an initial design and development phase in teams. At the end of the event, teams gave final presentations of their startups and were judged.

“One hundred twenty students will build startups from the ground up during the 54 hours,” Startup Weekend’s lead organizer Tim Elkana said prior to the beginning of the event.

Jason Hung / Mustang News

Students from all backgrounds were welcome to the Cal Poly Entrepreneurs event, with tickets priced from $60 to $100 available for developers, designers and non-technical roles.

Some ideas do not make it past the competition, but others have come into their own as new startup businesses.

PCkit is a startup company that began as a pitch by computer engineering senior Nick Verhage during the Startup Weekend in January 2016 and received an honorable mention from the judges at the event. Verhage’s business model is centered on providing customers with the computer components, tools and instruction they need to build their own gaming PC.

PCkit is currently run by three Cal Poly seniors, serving as an example of how students can use Startup Weekend as an opportunity to jumpstart their careers and gain valuable experience as entrepreneurs.

“Startup weekend is invaluable for Cal Poly students,” PCkit Public Relations Manager and business adminstration senior Kiley Becker said. “This event puts students in connection with other like-minded students and mentors who can really help the student pursue their dreams.”

Startup Weekend allows students to take their ideas and turn them into reality. However, it is largely up to them to continue to pursue their creations after the event.

“Startup Weekend for PCkit was really just a launching point to prove that this idea held weight,” Becker said. “Startup Weekend gave PCkit the confidence and connections we needed to continue to pursue this idea.”

After Startup Weekend, the founders of PCkit were accepted into the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Hatchery program. In May, their startup was selected to participate in the CIE’s SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program that provided startups with funding, resources and 13 weeks of training.

PCkit has big plans with goals of starting sales and partnering with local California schools and coding programs at the forefront.

This has not come without struggle, however.

“Since we are all still students at Cal Poly, we are balancing school and our startup,” Becker said. “The more you get into an idea … it isn’t just an idea anymore, it becomes reality with all the financial and legal concerns.”

The story of PCkit can offer guidance and optimism to those who have finished competing in this quarter’s Startup Weekend or to any ambitious student who is apprehensive about starting their own business.

“My advice for Cal Poly students … is to just sign up and throw yourself into it,” Becker said. “You don’t know unless you try. You can’t be afraid of failure; in fact, failure should be taken with optimism as it creates more opportunities and experiences to build upon. If you have customers that want your product and you work relentlessly, anything is possible!”

The next Startup Weekend will take place next fall quarter, though no dates have been determined yet.

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