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Sunday, 22 July 2012 01:08

Competition pairs designers, entrepreneurs to launch projects

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GRAND RAPIDS — A new startup competition linking entrepreneurs and designers will see which team can quickly and inexpensively come up with the best business idea.

The goal: to get past over-thinking ideas by rapidly prototyping them, getting them into the customers' hands and learning quickly from mistakes or missteps.

The creators of the entrepreneurial launch pad Start Garden have teamed up with the West Michigan Chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, to host "Think. Make. Start." beginning Aug. 3.

Described as an Iron Chef approach to creating a business, Think. Make. Start. pits teams comprised of both designers and entrepreneurs against one another in a competition to see which team, over four weeks, can generate the most revenue with their startup, design the best business model and have the highest potential for growth and future profitability.

According to organizers, the event is about trying to challenge the perception of starting a business. Instead of putting countless hours of time, money and energy into product research marketing, prototyping and other traditional startup practices, Think. Make. Start. creators want the competition to challenge designers and entrepreneurs to get into the market fast.

Kevin Budelmann, former chair of AIGA West Michigan and president of PeopleDesign Inc., said that the idea behind the event is interesting and that the philosophy of what the creators are trying to do makes a lot of sense.

"What's is interesting about the confluence of these two things, the role designers and entrepreneurial startups, is that it highlights the area of web 2.0 startups started by designers moving into the product space," he said. "I see it as a way to generate ideas and leverage design talent here West Michigan."

With a growing interest in AIGA in recent years, Budelmann said the idea is a kind of microcosm of a macro process in getting people together to advocate a culture of innovation.

The "Pitch & Prototype" phase of the competition begins at a location announced a week before the event and involves a daylong workshop where teams learn what tools they can access for the competition. The second phase, "Make It Happen," runs from Aug. 3 to Aug. 30 with teams working out of The Factory at 38 West Fulton in Grand Rapids. The organizers will give the teams an allowance and access to a fabricator to help with prototyping the product. A "Report Back" phase happens in the evening on Aug. 30, where a winning team is chosen at a public event. Start Garden will invest $5,000 into the team that covers the most ground in the four-week window, given that the team wishes to continue.

Start Garden's Paul Moore said the competition is in part a spin-off of what the group had been doing with Momentum, a seed accelerator that hosted a 12-week, lean startup boot camp for new Internet technology start-ups.

The concept behind the Think. Make. Start. model is to get ideas into the market as quickly as possible and to test their viability early on, rather than take months or even years to build and research a product or service. Moore said the program serves as a kind of reverse engineering process to doing product development.

People often associate entrepreneurship with mobile or web-based businesses, Moore said. With a deep talent pool of designers in the West Michigan region — the Design West Michigan organization has more than 700 members, for example — Moore said the Start Garden group wanted to create an event to engage designers so they could experience what it's like to be an entrepreneur for a month.

"The long and short of it is there are a lot of mental barriers between what it means to be an entrepreneur and what it takes," he said. "This way, people can get into something that is more like a game that has a creative means and finite end."

Even if none of the ideas gets established, Budelmann said he believes the competition will have a positive impact on how people think about their work.

The entry fee for the competition is $35 dollars for AIGA members and $50 for non-members.

Read 1667 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 August 2012 15:24

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