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‘Banner year:’ Boise Startup Week plots expansion, with new name and amped up prize money

For 2021, Boise Startup Week will return to an in-person event — with a new name: Boise Entrepreneur Week.

“I would guess a banner year.With the name change, we are trying to widen the tentpoles,” event co-chair Nick Crabbs said. “Our content has always been very general entrepreneur content. This will make it obvious that lots of different pools of people are welcome.”

Last year, the event went all virtual – leaving behind many of the traditional networking aspects of a conference focused on Boise’s startup and entrepreneur ecosystems.

This year, Boise Entrepreneur Week will take place the week of October 18th.

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Increasing connection opportunities

Crabbs said they hope to increase the number of opportunities to connect – but not just in the traditional way of standing around with a drink in your hand.

“We are trying to rethink how a social event works and how you interact,” he said. “We are thinking about things like a mentor hike, or a group ride with the Boise Bicycle Project on the Greenbelt. Doing things that are fun and interesting, but you are also meeting people while you do it. We’ve all sat at home on our butts enough.”

Crabbs said with the growth of startups and other businesses in the area, plus the isolating effects of the pandemic, many haven’t met or made the connections they might have otherwise.

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“One of our goals is to help new people in our community connecting to the ecosystem,” he said. “They are trying to network, find a job or get their company started. We’re trying to accelerate that so they can be happy healthy members of our town.”

The popular annual dodgeball tournament will also return. The event brings together competitive teams to see who can win the schoolyard game of dodgeball.

The connections are designed to draw in the state’s college students, too.

College students from across the state will come to Boise. Crabbs said they will bus in 300-500 from every school but Boise State (which, is already here, of course).

“If you are a rural kid from Burley and you are going to UI there’s nothing to pull you to Boise,” he said. “So we are trying to address that – that these people have a connection to Boise and the ecosystem here. I like to say that Idaho is the only state that has three state capitals – Boise, Salt Lake, and Spokane. It’s on us to build the outreach – and help kids stay in Idaho.”

Pitch ‘insanity’

This year, Boise Entrepreneur Week hopes to give away $100,000 in prizes for various pitch competitions. The Trailmix contest will return, as well as the main stage pitch competition. In the past, that’s been known as the $20,000 pitch competition – but Crabbs says to expect a bigger pot.

Plus, the elevator pitch competition will return.

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“We do that with U of I,” he said. “It has 40 judges and 200 (participants). You literally have 90 seconds to tell the judge your idea. You try to see as many as you can in an hour and a half. At the end, you’ll have a stack of cards with a score.”

Other ideas include expanding the Hacking for Homebuilding effort, a pitch competition center on cybersecurity, and the Youth Innovation Challenge.

All the pitch competitions – and the $100,000 in prize money – will happen on one day.

“It’ll be one day of insanity,” Crabbs said with excitement.

Big week for Boise business

BEW will join with two other separate events with similar focuses – the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala, as well as the Idaho Technology Council’s Hall of Fame event.

Crabbs said they hope to put together a ticket that will include each of the events, what he called an “all city pass.”

Today, the Boise Chamber announced it would feature Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes as its keynote speaker for the October 19th gala.

Crabbs said he hopes the BEW event will be known as the ‘anti-conference.’

“Our culture and identity is that we are embracing being the anti-conference. We are trying to be different. It’s a place to learn, to meet people – but we are trying to celebrate here. A suit and tie would be out of place. We want to embrace Boise and all the neat things that are going on here and do that in as unique a way as we can.

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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