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May 8, 2013

OSU Athletics to Host Start-Up Weekend

Oregon State will do something this weekend that no other athletic department in the country has ever attempted - host a Startup Weekend on campus.

Designed mainly to enhance student-athlete development and improve their entrepreneurship skills, the three-day, 54-hour event scheduled to begin Friday night on the club level of Reser Stadium is open to everybody and the price for tickets includes seven meals.

Beavers head coach Mike Riley, the longest tenured head coach in the Pac-12, will kick off Startup Weekend with opening remarks on Friday night.

This is the first time a Startup Weekend event has been held on a college campus in conjunction with a school's athletic department.

"This sounds like a really great opportunity for our athletes," Riley said in a press release. "It's so much about setting goals and executing, which everyone in athletics understands. I'm looking forward to this."

The driving forces behind bringing Startup Weekend to the Oregon State campus were OSU senior associate athletics director Marianne Vydra and former OSU executive associate athletic director Todd Stansbury, who left Corvallis in March of 2012 to become the athletics director at Central Florida.

Akili King, managing director of the OSU Athletics Leadership Institute, an entity best known for the popular Beavers Without Borders program, maintained this should be the first of many Startup Weekend type events in the State of Oregon.

"This is going to be a process. This is only the first one," King told Beaver Blitz. "We're probably going to have two a year, one in Corvallis and one in Portland in the fall during the bye week. That will expose our athletes to a newer network. The best part of Startup Weekend besides learning the fundamentals of starting a business is the people you meet."

King, who attended West Point for three years prior to transferring to Oregon State, often relies on his own athletic experiences (cut by San Francisco 49ers) in dealing with Beaver athletes on a day-to-day basis. He is the lead organizer for Startup Weekend.

"With Startup Weekend, I saw an opportunity to introduce business model thinking to athletes before they get close (to graduating)," King said. "But it's more of a subtle approach because it's hard to ask an athlete for his backup plan."

When King was greenlighted by Vydra to bring Startup Weekend to the Oregon State campus, he quickly started planning and developing the event, which seeks to connect with the rest of the university through a non-sports occasion.

"Our message for athletes and non-athletes is your ideas can change the world," King said. "Athletes are more than just their sport. So, we pushed ahead. We have lots of athletes with ideas and we included the student body as well, which is very important."

One participating group led by an Oregon State wrestler will present a math application for cellphones. Several football players will also bring their ideas to the forum, King said.

"We have some football players doing some awesome things off the field," King said. "Now we've given them the opportunity to showcase that as Startup Weekend."

King has worked closely with Jay Locey, formerly an assistant coach with Oregon State football and now the program's Chief of Staff. Among his numerous roles is, in his words, the "mentorship of young men" and aiding in the transition from the gridiron to the real world.

Startup Weekend squarely fits that objective.

"From our perspective, it's beautiful in terms of what we're trying to accomplish," Locey told Beaver Blitz. "It's exposure to other things besides football and classwork. It's exposure to the real world. It's an opportunity to be coached up by proven business people and use those skills learned in football and transform those into the work setting. It's exactly what we're talking about and trying to create here.

"I always thought football with the preparation and training was a great classroom in terms of learning how to work with each other, overcoming setbacks, setting goals and being competitive driven."

Three former OSU football players - Len Holmes, Craig Spielgelberg and David Chin - are serving as coaches for Startup Weekend.

Holmes, managing director of The Lakewood Group based in Lakewood, WA, was an All Pac-10 defensive back during his playing days with the Beavers. Spielgelberg has more than 25 years of experience in the telecommunication industry as an executive and consultant.

About 10 current football players are signed up to participate in the event, which concludes Sunday night, Locey said.

"I've been encouraging kids to take part in it," Locey said. "I've been working to get our guys involved."

King said Locey has been instrumental in identifying athletes interested in growing different business ideas.

"Coach Locey has done an unbelievable job with a comprehensive approach to athlete development," King said. "Why not try to get ahead of the curve?"

Over the course of three intensive days, participants will collaborate with fellow team members to build potential business ventures. Along the way, they will be guided by coaches as they bring their ideas to life.

Ultimately, their final product will be evaluated by an expert panel of judges featuring top leadership and business executives and entrepreneurs from around the Pacific Northwest.

The winning team at Startup Weekend gains 'access' to the Oregon State Venture Accelerator, a new initiative designed to identify ideas or research innovation that might form the basis for profitable companies, then streamline their development by providing analytical, technological, legal, marketing, financial and mentoring resources.

"That's a pretty big deal for our first Startup Weekend," King said. "So, this isn't just show up Friday night and come play. You can actually take your idea to the next level."

Startup Weekend, a non-profit organization headquartered in Seattle, is described as a "global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures."

Startup Weekend organizer Anthony Casson views the event as an opportunity to take the Athletics Leadership Institute in a new direction.

"It touches on a new phase of the Leadership Institute," Casson told Beaver Blitz. "The Leadership Institute wants to add some new programs for the future. Right now, they're in an exploratory phase looking for different opportunities to broaden the score of their student-athletes in all sports, not just football."

Casson said Startup Weekend has generated significant interest on the OSU campus.

"What's the worse thing that can happen? You come in, you get food and drinks for the whole weekend and you meet a group of people who may help you come up with a long-term business idea," Casson said. "At the very least, you can make a lot of very good connections because you're out there thinking and problem solving."

CAPSULE:
What: Startup Weekend
Where: Club Level, Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
When: Friday, May 10-Sunday, May 12.
Cost: $40.00 for students; $75.00 for non-students.
Registration: Closes Friday, May 10 at 5 p.m. PT.
Website: http://oregonstate.startupweekend.org/


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