Who is best positioned to solve the world’s environmental problems? Big energy companies? The world’s top scientists? The U.S. Government? According to 3 Day Startup Project Manager Maia Donohue, it might just be a small tech startup.
“When you look at the biggest challenges in environmentalism, there are generally not major players that have dominated the market…and there is room for innovation where big companies are not willing to take risks,” Donohue said. “This is where startups can play a huge role in environmentalism. They’re willing to try anything – and they kind of have to because you can’t play it safe and expect to compete with a giant company.”
Event space at the new Geekdom location in the Rand Building is still under construction.
The first 3DS of its type, Green Tech will focus on business models and technology that seek to improve water and resource conservation, sustainable energy, and waste reduction. Unlike previous 3DS events, the program only takes applicants who are specifically interested in creating or working on a sustainable green technology-based company.
Once chosen, a group of about 45 entrepreneurs will spend the weekend learning by doing in the established 3DS entrepreneur education process. Friday will start them off on a brainstorming session where they will pitch their initial ideas and divide into teams. Saturday will be spent doing market research and refining their product, and Sunday they will fine tune their business pitch so they can reach out to investors.
Finally, the teams will pitch their new products to a panel of udges at 7 p.m. on Sunday. The panel will include Rackspace Director of Sustainability Melissa Gray, St. Mary’s University Professor Suz Burroughs, San Antonio Chief Sustainability Officer Douglas Melnick, and San Antonio Clean Energy Incubator Executive Director Andrew Trickett.
The ultimate goal of the 3DS program is to quickly produce viable startup companies that know how to pitch to investors, quickly find paying customers, and get into tech incubators to grow quickly. The 3DS will also have plenty of mentors on hand including Elequa Co-founder Ryan Beltrán, Sammis and Ochoa co-owner Mario Ochoa, and Trickett.
For the first time, employees from several San Antonio nonprofits will go though the program. According to Donohue, many nonprofits are less entrepreneurial than they should be and are more prone to gimmicky revenue models, such as selling t-shirts and mugs, than serious products that create a customer base. He hopes to turn that trend around.
“It’s kind of for getting them out of the asking-for-grants mode and more into providing a service that people will pay for,” Donohue said. “We want them to focus on things that people actually want.”
The nonprofits will go thought the program separately from the individual entrepreneurs, though there will be a few sessions where the two groups work together – listening to each other’s ideas and offering feedback from different perspectives.
3DS Green Tech was specifically scheduled for this weekend as a natural stepping stone to the Cleantech Open Competition – a clean technology startup accelerator and competition based out of Silicon Valley. Mentor Ryan Beltrán, also the Cleantech Open San Antonio Metro Director, hopes to help any exiting green tech startups to prepare for the South Central Cleantech Open Competition before the May 1 registration deadline.
[Read more: Cleantech Open Supports Innovative, Green Startups]
“One of my goals is to be the connector to the next step which is, if they want to continue and pursue the startup in 3 Day Startup, the Cleantech Open is the natural next step,” Beltrán said.
The 3 Day Startup program was originally created at the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 as a way to kick-start student startup companies and develop entrepreneurial skills. It has since inspired over 100 3DS events on five continents – including 10 which have been hosted in San Antonio. According to Beltrán, the event is a great way to bring together smart people to work on big environmental problems.
“San Antonio is a huge city and there is a lot of things going on. In the universities and other areas a lot of similar things are going on, and sometimes they don’t know that the other one is even happening,” Beltrán said. “I like these sort of programs, the 3DS and Cleantech Open, that will make a place for everybody to come together and help each other out.”
*Featured/top image: Participants in a previous 3 Day Startup event. Photo courtesy of 3DS.