It wasn’t just positive feedback from last year’s 3-Day Startup (3DS) that motivated Heider College of Business senior Brian Boerner to join Blake Anderson as co-coordinator of the event this year; it was superlative feedback. Participants told Boerner 3DS was “the most educational and practical program they had done in college,” he says. “I wanted to make that happen for others again.”
3DS is a weekend entrepreneurial boot camp that brings together students from varying backgrounds – computer science, business, law, graphic design, advertising, PR – to learn what it takes to establish their own business. Now in its fifth year, the event was held at The Startup Collaborative on Nov. 10-12. It is open to students from other universities and drew students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Minnesota.
“This program allows for people to think outside the box and is not just for business majors,” says Matthew O’Dea, a sophomore marketing and pre-law double major from Lino Lakes, Minnesota. “It really shows anyone that they can be an entrepreneur.”
The weekend begins with participants learning about the Lean Canvas method of creating a startup, brainstorming everyday problems, and then pitching solutions to these problems. The group selects the top five ideas, which ran the gamut for creating a high heel that can convert into flats, increasing alertness in the office with blue lighting, using rain-sensing technology to improve golf course irrigation, repurposing old t-shirts into dog toys and pet accessories, and implementing augmented reality to assist baseball umpires determining between strikes and balls.
After developing a rudimentary business plan, participants conducted market research, which was most challenging for O’Dea and his team since many people were unwilling to talk to them. But this is all part of the process, says fellow participant Duke Mailolo, a freshman neuroscience major from Honolulu, Hawaii. His team’s business was a smart sprinkler system designed to conserve water usage. Feedback from prospective customers forced his team to narrow the scope of their original audience to golf courses primarily.
“Some people honestly did not have a need for our product,” Mailolo discovered. “However, it was a very good learning experience, and we were able to adapt our product to our specific market.”
Sunday is pitch day, with teams finalizing their business models before presenting to a panel of judges from the Omaha startup community. This year’s judges were Allie Esch of Dundee Venture Capital, Nathan Preheim from The Startup Collaborative and Flywheel’s Nathan Bliss. Boerner says they were “blown away” that students tackled complex problems with wider appeal than the average college concern of selling back books or finding a ride home for break.
Some concepts are best learned by doing, says Boerner, who believes 3DS “allows students to learn in a true experiential way what it means to start a business that will help them in any field they choose to enter.”
“I think events like 3DS are vital because they not only show students their strengths, which could help them identify possible careers, but also help students apply aspects they have learned in class, making their textbooks come alive,” says marketing and business intelligence and analytics double major Betsy Tanner.
Collaboration is key, the freshman from Sacramento, California discovered. Every team member has a talent to contribute to the group. Listening to all input is necessary for creating the best product possible. “I really enjoyed the creative freedom” of the weekend, says Tanner, who worked on the two-in-one shoe idea. She learned not to give up on a seemingly crazy idea but to figure out how to make an idea she believed in work.
“This is an experience I would recommend to all students at Creighton, even if they don’t think they have an entrepreneurial mind,” Tanner says. “3DS challenges you to think in a different way but gives you the skills to do so.”
Arts and Sciences student Mailolo agrees. “My favorite part of the weekend was meeting colleagues who were also interested in pushing the boundaries of our imagination to develop a solution that would address the needs of our community,” he says.