I have this friend named Jimmy. Besides being an all-around cool guy, Jimmy is the big shot genomics entrepreneur behind the Rare Genomics Institute (one of 2e’s favorite client success stories). About a year ago, Jimmy and I were having lunch to celebrate his heading off to run the clinical genomics department at National Institutes of Health, and the conversation got to the subject of the blooming life science and healthcare industry in St. Louis.
“It’s amazing to see the new biotech companies coming out of St. Louis lately,” Jimmy said, blowing a cloud of steam from the surface of his noodle bowl. “It would be great if we could keep them here, instead of them heading to the coasts once they need capital.”
Besides being emotionally invested in the local science and healthcare ecosystem, Jimmy and I also both share a fascination with the universe of entrepreneurship in St. Louis. At 2e, we make a living helping companies tell new stories in unusual ways; so you can imagine how much I personally enjoy seeing new stories erupt from the fabric of innovation our city has created.
“So I have this idea,” he said, looking over at me as I gnawed my way though whatever heirloom-hipster-sandwich special the restaurant was serving that day. “You ever heard of Startup Weekend?”
“You should do it,” said Jimmy. “It’ll be fun.”
It’ll be fun.
Those three words kicked off one of the most intensely inspiring 54 hours of 2e Creative’s history.
Startup Weekend is a non-profit organization founded in 2007. The idea is pretty simple: lock a bunch of people in a room together for a weekend and see what fantastic ideas they come up with. Since ’07, Startup Weekend has grown to thousands of events held in over 100 countries around the world. Any given weekend, there are events happening all over the world.
The format of Startup Weekend is highly democratic. People show up and pitch ideas. Then everybody votes on the ideas they like. Winning ideas form companies, and everyone else joins whatever team they like or feel they can contribute to. As you can imagine, simpler ideas tend to survive this process. Fancy bottle openers. Mobile apps for dating real or imaginary humans. Simple stuff that a wide audience can dig into — not fertile ground for complex science and healthcare ideas. Those pitches rarely survived the first night.
So we reached out to Up Global, the parent organization, and pitched them on the idea of a Startup Weekend exclusively focused on the life science and healthcare vertical markets. I believe their response was something in the order of, “good luck.” And thus, the world’s first Startup Weekend:HEALTHbio was born, right here in St. Louis.
If that didn’t resonate, let me put it this way: The world’s first 54-hour entrepreneurial hackathon focused on life science and healthcare wasn’t held in Paris, Austin or San Francisco. It was here. In St. Louis.
Luckily, planning a Startup Weekend is designed to be a group effort (Author’s note: my children will have to inherit all event planning genes from my wife). In assembling an Organizing Committee, we made some great new friends (and enlisted some old ones). Besides running point on much of the coordination and logistics, 2e crafted an identity for the event, developed promotions and marketing materials, and led outreach efforts. We even designed the t-shirts.
The event was held at the @4240 building in the Cortex Innovation District — which is THE place to be of you’re launching a biotech startup in St. Louis — and it was a blast. I was in awe at the participation, energy, and the depth of the ideas that rose to the top. To add fuel to the fire, a team of passionate 2e-ers stepped up and pitched in as brand and positioning coaches throughout the weekend.
It all clicked for me how perfectly we’d reflected 2e Creative’s mission on the final night, when given the pick of free legal, accounting and a flurry of other valuable services, the event’s winning startup selected a partnership with 2e Creative as the top prize.
For you non-reading types (Editor’s note: But you’ve already come this far, no?), here’s video:
Huge thanks to our friends with the RCGA, Arch Grants, BioSTL and all the other sponsors and volunteers who helped make this thing sing. If you have an itch to get involved in the startup culture, I highly recommend you check out a Startup Weekend near you. And definitely reach out if you’re at all interested in Startup Weekend:HEALTHbio St. Louis, because I can guarantee that we’ll bring it back next year.