By: Lexie Newhouse
March 8-10, 2019 | The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute supported students with the opportunity to attend TechStars Startup Weekend, a 54-hour competition where participants build a startup from scratch.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Jamila Velez-Khader. I’m a Finance and Entrepreneurship double major graduating in December 2020. I’m involved with Delta Zeta and Model Arab League. I actually went to Morocco last year and I am the National Chair for the Palestinian Affairs Committee this year for Model Arab League. I was just accepted to LaunchGSU too.
The weekend kicked off with minute long pitches. Care to share about your experience pitching?
I pitched an idea about an interactive city guide. For example, you would visit tourist destinations like CNN or the Georgia Aquarium and unlock discounts and other features through the app. The idea was in the back of my head. I was walking downtown with a friend on day, and we were like, “It’s so beautiful out. Why aren’t there more people around the city walking and doing things?” We were both out-of-state students, so we asked ourselves, “What can we do to get to know our city better?” That’s how the idea came about.
For people pitching, what’s one piece of advice you would offer?
I wasn’t even going to pitch at all. I asked Qazi [fellow GSU student] if I should even pitch the idea. He hit me with the “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” quote. The facilitator, Anne Marie announced the last chance to pitch, so I realized it was now or never. I went up and pitched. It’s definitely nerve-wracking because you don’t know how people are going to receive it. Just do it! Stay true to your idea and let it speak for itself.
What startup idea did you build over the course of the weekend?
Our company was called NewCity. It essentially was a SaaS platform that functioned as a customizable map tailored to your needs when moving to a new city. We recognized that there was a pain for people moving into unfamiliar places, not knowing how they are going to acclimate. Some people may find it important to have a gym, others it may be a park. So our software personalizes everything they want and calculates this map that identifies those facilities and communities based on their preferences.
What was the biggest challenge in creating a business in 54 hours?
We pivoted a lot. I was lucky with my team because we all got along. We had a diverse skillset from UX design to engineering and program development. The most challenging thing was pivoting though. Finding that specific target customer. We had identified several potential customers – the government, corporations, the users themselves.
What was your favorite part of the weekend?
Meeting new people. It was comforting and exhilarating at the same time. It was a collection of people from so many different backgrounds with so many different experiences, passions and dreams. Being in a room of people that I probably never would have never met otherwise – meeting and working with them – especially in such a short time span.
Why would you encourage fellow Georgia State students to participate in future Startup Weekends?
Everything I learned in my Entrepreneurship classes, I used throughout Startup Weekend. It relates back to a conversation I had with a fellow Entrepreneurship student at State. He was having doubts about entrepreneurship. People says things like “You’re not taught to be an entrepreneur. You have to be born one.” The program itself gives you the foundation to successfully launch any type of venture that interests you. It gives you the background and the experiences. You just need to take advantage of opportunities like Startup Weekend to gain exposure and meet new people. You never know when, how or where you will meet your next co-founder. Get yourself out the door. Those opportunities won’t come to you. You have to go and do it yourself. That starts here at Georgia State.
What’s one word you would use to describe Startup Weekend?
Inspiring. The opportunities are limitless. Right now is the best time to be an entrepreneur. Startup Weekend solidified that for me. That notion of “your time is now.” It’s the best time to fail, pick yourself back up and keep going. You are not going to succeed the first time. You just have to apply what you learn and make it better.