Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Philadelphia gears up for its first Startup Weekend

Entrepreneurs in other cities have used the 54-hour event to float ideas and even produce viable businesses after a weekend of teamwork.

Philadelphia gears up for its first Startup Weekend

Order the coffee and chill the energy drinks. Startup Weekend Philly is almost here.

Most small-business owners probably think every weekend is start-up weekend. But this 54-hour event at the University of the Arts’ Corzo Center on South Broad Street on Jan. 28-30 will be the first local version of a kind of hackathon held around the world since June 2007.

Organizer Brad Oyler assured me participants do get to sleep. These aren’t dance-marathon rules, after all. But if it follows the script of other Startup Weekends, the Philadelphia edition might just produce demo versions of products or services that form the basis of new companies.

Given the right collection of talent, 54 hours is enough time to pull together pieces to make a viable Web-based business, said Oyler, the cofounder of W3Gifts.com, a provider of gift-card services to retailers.

Internet tools and technology really are the key to lowering the cost and barriers to entry in many businesses. So you won’t be seeing restaurateurs, mechanical engineers, or biochemists at Startup Weekend Philadelphia.

“You’re not going to develop a pharmaceutical in a weekend. That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun anyway,” Oyler said.

Startup Weekend is a nonprofit organization based in Seattle that helps Oyler and others organize events. Oyler has been working on this one since last fall, and the concept has drawn the attention of Philadelphia’s tech community. About 110 people have signed up, paying $75 a pop, for the sold-out event.

Friday evening will be devoted to networking and ideas, while Saturday will be all work, with teams of seven or eight people working on the ideas shared by the attendees. About 4 p.m. Sunday, demos are expected to begin.

“That’s what’s amazing about a Web start-up: It is possible to build a working copy” of your business idea, Oyler said.

The website for Startup Weekend lists many of the companies formed during their events. Like the advice teachers give to young writers to “write what they know,” the list reads like a collection of things young entrepreneurs do.

There’s EveryCircle, conjured up in San Jose, Calif., at the May Startup Weekend. It’s a networking site for technology professionals and business owners aimed at connecting various circles of influence.

At the Minneapolis event in October, entrepreneurs spawned Sit For Something, which uses movie theaters to raise money for good causes.

And, yes, some of these companies do raise outside capital. Memolane, which describes itself as “your time machine for the Web,” was just an idea floated at the Copenhagen Startup Weekend in April. In September, it raised $2 million and moved part of its team to the San Francisco area.

So now, it will be Philadelphia’s turn to throw talented techies together and see what they come up with.

Rules of the road

In return for wiggle room on its financial situation, Tasty Baking Co. must show improving sales and earnings over the next six months, according to details of the amended credit lines reached last week and disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday.

A Securities and Exchange Commission document filed by Tasty Baking shows about $83.7 million was outstanding under its $100 million in credit lines as of Jan. 13.

The amended agreement with its lenders requires Tasty Baking to maintain certain levels of financial performance, including earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

For the three months ending March 26, the minimum amount of EBITDA required is $3.2 million. For the six months ending June 25, the company must have EBITDA of at least $9.3 million.

Tasty Baking must also maintain a minimum level of cumulative gross sales by certain dates. The schedule filed shows those sales, measured over 13-week periods, must be growing. For the 13 weeks ending March 26, gross sales must be at least $72.3 million.

Based on past performance, those numbers don’t look unattainable. Food producers face higher commodity and energy costs now than a year ago, so Tasty Baking remains under a lot of pressure to keep costs under control while trying to increase sales profitably.



Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
About this blog
Mike Armstrong blogs about Philadelphia corporations and business-related topics. Contact him at 215-854-2980. Reach Mike at marmstrong@phillynews.com.

Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
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