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Startups Launched Last Weekend at Awesome Inc.

By Kakie Urch

Dude in Louisville gets a Tweet.

He clicks and signs up for the Startup Weekend event at Awesome, Inc. 

At about 6 p.m. Friday, he walks into the business incubator space on East Main Street in Lexington, pitches to a bunch of perfect strangers, sits down with four of them and forms a “startup.” 

By 4:40 p.m. Sunday, they have a functional iPhone app that is, essentially,  a Web 2.0 solution to the “disposable cameras on each table” at weddings: it turns each phone at the wedding into an “instant camera” for the event. 

The app is linked to a Web site that’s been designed, registered and tested on Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome.  It will let you project the instant snaps in real time at the reception. And, you can, of course, personalize it .

It will be in available for users by the holidays. 

Robert Strojan, 26, of Louisville,  didn’t exactly invent Facebook in 24 hours with the Wedding Memories group at the Startup Weekend, but he’s certainly got a great idea and a strong startup in 48. 

When creating iPhone applications like Hip Hop Producer and Duo—some of the titles his company, Blackout Labs,  already has at the App Store—Strojan, an electrical engineering graduate of University of Louisville, can work on his own. 

“This was more than an app. I needed help for that,” he said.

“We accomplished all of our goals, “ he said, with 20 free minutes to go before making the final presentation. 

Startups Launched Last Weekend at Awesome Inc.

Digital Daddy – a brand for role model Dad’s that will include content such as videos, audio podcasts, and more

Wedding Memories – a smart phone wedding photography system that turns your wedding guests into your photographers

Local Resource Finder – a website that will provide city newcomers or visitors with a plethora of information on local restaurants, shops, bars, and more.  User reviews and user driven content included.

Heated keyboard –  Don’t worry about your hands getting cold in the office anymore.  Keep them on these fancy keyboards to keep them warm.

Uvestor Ambassador – Viral campaign creation for Uvestor, a real estate entity.

Better Capper – A more efficient tool for bottling your home brewed beer.

Hole Punch Man Card – Do something unmanly, get your man card punched.  By the end of the weekend you should be able to order your personalized man card online.

In the Wedding Memories startup, Strojan worked with Wes Brooks, a graphic designer, Nathan McConathy, Elliot Sweat, and Thom Hehl throughout the weekend. 

They did seek some outside help from “female consultants” – only one man on the team is married. 

Maybe not so ironically, they used CakePHP to code some of the site’s functionality and worked with basic CSS and html styling for the other elements.

How did the team do? 

“The pitches went great. The top pitches were Wedding Memories and Uvestor,” he said, though there was no formal process of selecting the best, said Brian Raney, who, along with Luke Murray, is one of Awesome Inc.’s principals and a coordinator of the weekend. 

Lexington’s Startup Weekend was one of seven such events held around the world last weekend as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Others took place in New York, Cleveland, Mountain View, Dallas, Los Angeles and London. 

Along the way, one of the great ideas went down to that age-old problem: someone else—several someone elses—had beaten them to it. The idea for a heated keyboard to keep digital workers fingers warm in chilled offices has already been fully developed. So that group learned a key lesson: Your killer app may be dead on arrival. 

Participants learned about the event through a variety of means: Awesome Inc.  presentations to University of Kentucky classes, Tom Eblen’s column in the Herald-Leader, through Twitter, or, through an e-mail blast that went to the Geeks Night Out group. 

“I’m part of a group that worked this weekend to make a local resource for Lexington – specifically focused on restaurants and bars,” said Sarah Frank, 23, a graduate in public administration from Calvin College in Michigan. She has known Luke Murray, one of the founders of Awesome, Inc. for about three years and

“Moving here from Grand Rapids, I didn’t know what there was to do here in Lexington,” Frank said. I tried to go to the Web to look for something and couldn’t find anything,” she said. 

Frank’s group, which included her co-worker Ryan Bright, and Patrick Kelly, Kathy Jacobsen, Sarah Frank and Katie Weizel, all of Lexington. 

They did hands-on research – meeting at Alfalfa’s downtown for breakfast – as they worked out solutions for user generated content and restaurant and bar participation in a truly local site. 

Frank said her group wanted to move beyond the “OurTown.com – Slash – Lexington” information aggregators and pointed to a site called GRNow.com that she used in Grand Rapids. 

In addition to a creative atmosphere painted bright green and a weekend fueled by pizza, wings and Twizzlers, the startups got some key advice from Ken Sagan of Stites and Harbison, who spoke to the group about the different types of legal business entities they might consider and other proprietary factors. 

Frank said that the weekend was a great way to make friendships and built relationships with people who have a variety of skill sets and that in turn,  helps startups barter. “That’s cool because a lot of that’s been lost and it helps foster creativity too,” she said. 

Patrick Kelly, 24, a programmer and Web designer, who will soon graduate from UK’s computer science program, brought both digital and small business skills to the local resource group. 

He did some art work in Illustrator and Photoshop, some programming in php and html. 

“I was glad to connect with these people,” Kelly said. “I have an affinity for small business.”  Kelly said his family owns Bib’s Barbeque and PetButler and had been a longtime owner of the PopALock business in Lexington. 

He also does much of the Web marketing for his wife’s business, That Winsome Girl Jewelry. 

Kelly noted that during a recessionary time, small business owners, with less traffic, have both the time and the energy to devote to increased marketing, producing content and information for sites like the one the group is developing in order to get the word out on their products and services.

Strojan, whose iPhone apps include Duo, an application that allows users to update their Facebook and Twitter statuses simultaneously from their phones,  was modest about his accomplishments. 

“Yeah, I have some apps. But not any of the ones that are making $20,000 a day.” 


Kakie Urch is an assistant professor of multimedia in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at University of Kentucky.

See more images and video from the http://lexington.startupweekend.org.
See some of the iPhone apps by Robert Strojan http://www.blackoutlabs.com
Learn more about Awesome Inc. http://awesomeinc.org/