The First-Ever Free Techstars Startup Weekend Remote USA

Results from 54 hours of business development regarding Covid-19 relief

From 24 to 26 April, global investment platform Techstars (a certified B Corporation that aims to support entrepreneurs through mentorships, events and accelerators) brought their contributions and capabilities to a new level. With their first-ever free, national Startup Weekend Remote USA—a development born from their highly sought-after 54-hour weekend incubator—dozens of successful founders and C-suite mentors signed on to mobilize tech entrepreneurs in the fight against Covid-19. Entirely digital and distributed across the country, the event’s top 20 ideas—which could address health, vulnerable populations, communities and more—and the teams behind them, secured an opportunity at a business bootcamp (the next stage in idea advancement).

Roughly 3400 start-up weekends crop up globally each year. It’s no small feat to bring one—that stretches the USA—online. “During the event, we watched people from all different types of professional backgrounds and walks of life unite around the common goal of innovating for the future,” national organizer Jaclyn Marshall shares with us. “We observed everyone working together to overcome the learning curve in order to contribute.”

Mirroring such an effort, the top three finalists proposed solutions to immediate problems. From the east region, third place start-up COVIDX presented a citizen science app, wherein users of health-tech wearables can share their data and alert doctors if there’s a sustained elevated heart rate (which may telegraph the presence of the novel coronavirus 48 hours before the onset of other symptoms).

In second place, from the west region, MedFoyer proposed a virtual doctor’s office waiting room (part app, part platform), built through geolocation data, wherein patients can await their assessment appointment in their car. Clearly, this reduces the risks (for patients and staff) of close-proximity check-in.

First-place winner, Varna, pitched wearables paired with an AI-powered bio-senseing tool to monitor nurses’ symptoms in real time. Varna’s team is composed of engineers with AI backgrounds and their mission includes making thermal cameras more affordable.

With “giving first” as a core value of Techstars, perhaps even more than knowledge-sharing, the organization tapped Custom Ink for a collection of clothing and accessories that would function two-fold. It would act as a commemorative unifier for those who attended the event; and it would offer an opportunity to support a charity. Mark Katz, co-founder and CEO of Custom Ink (as well as a Startup Weekend mentor), Zoomed in from McLean, Virginia to explain that they chose to focus their efforts on children’s educational and mental health needs.

“We wanted to do something that would focus on this neglected group, all of these kids stuck inside, without necessary tools, being deprived of education,” Katz tells us. “We also thought that was fitting with Techstars, as an organization focused on using technology to solve problems.” Moreover, Katz explains that mental health became a natural extension, as children in these circumstances may face isolation, lack of safety and more.

To facilitate the donations, Charleston, South Carolina-based local organizer Stacey Segal—partner at BrightVine Solutions, who works with non-profits needing tech guidance; and founder of the non-profit Charleston Startup and STEM Foundation—stepped in. Segal’s organization will “select charities in different areas of the US and grant money to them, and work with Techstars to define the criteria to select these organizations,” she explains to us. In addition to securing transparency, they’ll handle reporting. Ultimately, their goal will be to enable responsible charities to acquire educational tablets, equipped with learning applications and mental health support. It’s one continual act of goodness from a weekend dedicated to helping others.

Images courtesy of Techstars