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Mobile apps, educational software take top prizes at Startup Weekend Athens competition

ATHENS, Ohio (Jan. 28, 2013)—Three teams of aspiring entrepreneurs who created mobile apps and software for education, entertainment and marketing purposes took the top prizes at the second annual Startup Weekend Athens competition Sunday.

Two dozen participants, including current and former students of Ohio University and other regional educational institutions, organized into six teams over the weekend to develop new business products and companies. Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event that offers entrepreneurs a chance to pitch an idea, develop partnerships and gain expert coaching and advice from seasoned professionals. Hundreds of Startup Weekend events are held around the globe each year.

The weekend’s top prize went to RapChat, a new mobile app that allows users to record and exchange musical raps with friends. Developers Seth Miller and Brandon Logan told judges that learning to rap is one of the top “how to” Google searches. College student focus groups expressed high interest in the proposed product. The team took home $1,000 in prizes.

Second place went to LiveIn, a mobile app that allows users to find and share local events, as well as create virtual and hard copy posters to further promote such events on social media and in the community. The team of Sicong Li, Erica Staeuble and Ben Weibel pitched the product as “Instagram for Events” and took home $750 in prizes.

A new educational software system called Lydria took third place honors. The team led by Matt Spolar pitched the product as an alternative to software such as Blackboard and Moodle that allows university professors and students to virtually interface. Lydria intends to overcome the limitations of those programs to create a more effective educational communication tool, Spolar said. The team took home $500 in prizes. Members of the team included Daniel Williams, Sam Pattantyus, Jenny Wu, John Herbert, Annie Gullo and Jimmy Clark.

The winning teams will receive gift cards to purchase additional products and services that can help advance their business concepts.

Other products developed over the weekend include an online magazine kiosk that allows users to purchase the products in magazine advertisements, a mobile campus marketplace and a website that allows users to find and organize online information by interest.

The Startup Weekend event is an effective way to introduce aspiring entrepreneurs to what it takes to develop a product concept and business plan, said Jennifer Simon, director of Ohio University’s Innovation Center and an organizer of the event.

“It’s not just about the idea—it’s about the team. Startup Weekend is hands down the best way to find someone you can actually launch a startup with,” she said. “By spending a weekend working to build scalable companies that solve real-world problems, participants can build long-lasting relationships and possibly walk away with a job or even an investor.”

On average, half of Startup Weekend’s attendees have technical or design backgrounds, and the other half have business backgrounds.

Startup Weekend, powered by the Kauffman Foundation, supports competitions around the globe to foster entrepreneurship and new business creation. More than 36 percent of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after three months, and roughly 80 percent of participants plan on continuing working with their team or startup after the weekend. The program has more than 45,000 alumni worldwide.

The sponsors of Startup Weekend Athens, Ohio are Athens County Business Remixed, TechGROWTH Ohio, Athens Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio University Innovation Center, Vice President for Research and Creative Activity and Center for Entrepreneurship.


Contacts: Jennifer Simon, (740) 593-1803,; Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166,



Jan 25
  • Registration Starts at 242 Baker Center
  • Dinner & Networking
  • Welcome & Speakers
  • Pitches Start
  • Attendees vote for the top ideas
  • Teams start forming and discussing ideas and move to Innovation Center, 340 W State Street, Athens, OH
  • Teams Arrive at Innovation Center
  • Building closes, but you can take the fun somewhere else


Jan 26
  • Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  • Teams should be hard at work
  • Announcements/Coaches Arrive
  • Lunch
  • Call for needs and skills
  • Dinner
  • Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
  • Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow
  • Building Closes, but you can take the fun somewhere else.


Jan 27
  • Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  • Coaches arrive… ASK QUESTIONS
  • Grab boxed lunch and continue working
  • Start prepping for presentations
  • Move back to Baker Center Room 242 to get set up for presentaions
  • Judging, Dinner & Awards
  • Item
  • Go Home!

Brian Zuercher

CEO Venueseen

Brian Zuercher is the CEO and cofounder of Venueseen, a social media management platform and Instagram campaigns tool helping brands build relationships with their customers through visual marketing. Venueseen was recognized as the “Innovation Game Changer” at the 2012 Ohio Interactive Awards. Actively involved in the local startup community, Brian is a Startup Weekend Columbus host and MC at the monthly morning pitch event for entrepreneurs, WakeUp StartUp. Additionally, he has an extensive background in building and launching consumer products, including both Venueseen and FlyMuch, a tool focused on discovering and sharing recommendations at restaurants and attractions. Brian holds a BS in Marketing from Butler University and an MBA in Technology Commercialization from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Zuercher is an alumnus of Columbus 2008 Startup Weekend, where he and Steve Krause launched Clearwish, a social e-commerce tool. He has been a Startup Weekend organizer, mentor and speaker.

Zuercher will be the featured speaker Friday evening.


Robert Silva Jr.

Silva is director of the Technology Transfer Office at Ohio University. He works with faculty and staff to identify inventions and technologies that have market potential, manages the university’s patent portfolio and develops licensing agreements with companies that can commercialize university innovations.

Prior to joining Ohio University, he worked for 10 years as technology commercialization manager for Battelle/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington. He has extensive experience in energy, electrochemistry, carbon management, information technology and bioscience issues. Silva received his MBA from the University of Dallas.

Kyle Perkins

From my earliest days crushing goombas, playing MUDs, and frequenting roleplaying forums, I have been captured by digital worlds. Like a Master Ball, the hold a well-developed fictional world can have on me is invariable. Though I flirted with Physics as a freshman, I quickly found my true calling, and in 2010 I graduated from the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College with a Digital Media degree and a desire to immerse people in worlds that I create.

That same year, I founded Lightborne Lore, and 5 students embarked on the adventure of running a business. My current activities for the company consist of: running the day-to-day operations of the company, being a project lead on four titles spanning three media types, designing two of those titles, and generally putting on whatever hat I need to wear at the time.

My first game was either Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES, or Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Simulator on a 486 PC. My favorite game is probably Final Fantasy VIII…but that’s a tough question.

Don Flournoy


Professor Flournoy teaches the new media and communication technologies, global media systems, satellite communication, Internet communication, and information and communication technologies and development. His research focuses on the application of media and communication technologies to the solution of human problems and the establishment of public policy that facilitates free and open public access to broadband communication networks.

Dr. Flournoy is the author of eight books and numerous scholarly and professional articles. He is the Editor of the Online Journal of Space Communication (, sponsored by the Society of Satellite Professionals International ( He is the Director of SunSat Design, a 2010-2013 international competition to design a satellite that will collect energy in space and deliver it to earth as electricity. He serves on the Board of Advisors of the Intelligent Community Forum ( He was Project Manager in a series of experiments conducted aboard NASA's Advanced Communication Satellite. ACTS was the first all-digital spacecraft featuring on-board data processing and switching, hopping spot beams, frequency re-use and opening of the Ka spectrum band.

He holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from the University of Texas and an Associateship from the University of London. He has served as Dean at Ohio University, Associate Dean, State University of New York/Buffalo

Sara Marrs

Marrs is director of the Athens County Economic Development Council, a champion of business in Southeast Ohio. We are a public-private partnership committed to increasing economic opportunity in Athens County by encouraging entrepreneurship, recruiting new businesses, & helping existing businesses grow & expand.

Our mission is to be a catalyst for quality jobs & progress in the county and throughout the region by creating a seamless network of economic development resources through partnerships with government, business & nonprofit organizations.

Mary Strother


With Athenian Venture Partners, a venture capital firm founded in 1997 with a presence in California, Massachusetts and Ohio, Ms. Strother is a managing director with responsibility for Investor Relations, leading firm initiatives with respect to fundraising, marketing, investor communications and public relations. Having joined the firm in 2007, Ms. Strother also works broadly across Athenian’s investment management business, participating in deal sourcing, deal flow, investment screening, and the due diligence process. Athenian spans the most interesting technology and healthcare communities to create new investment opportunities others may miss.

Ms. Strother’s prior professional career spans 15 years of financial sales and marketing experience and 17 years of institutional and high-net-worth-individual investor relations and fundraising experience in senior leadership positions with two publicly traded companies, First Commerce Corp. and Aetna, and with a university foundation endowment, Ohio University.

In addition, Ms. Strother has consulted with early stage businesses with patented IP, leading broad go-to-market efforts and seeking and negotiating deal terms with angel investors. She has been published in private equity, technology, and commercial banking publications, and has received numerous performance-related awards in finance, sales, and public speaking. She is a licensed private pilot and an accomplished equestrian.

Ms. Strother holds a BA in International Politics and English Literature from the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”), attended the University of Mississippi School of Law, and received an MBA from the University of New Orleans.


John Bowditch

John Bowditch is the Director and co-founder of the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University ( The GRID Lab was founded in 2004 with a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. In 2011, a commercial wing of the GRID Lab was formed with TechGROWTH Ohio and the Ohio University Innovation Center to foster digital media focused startup companies founded by current and former students. As of 2012, four companies have joined this digital media incubator.

John completed his undergraduate and graduate work in film, video, and multimedia at Ohio University’s School of Media Arts and Studies (School of Telecommunications at the time). John has produced several award winning films, animations, games, and simulations over the last decade.

Professional Research highlights include funded projects from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Labor, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Ohio Board of Regents, and other private entities. In 2008, John was the lead designer and inventor of the Immersive Video Intel Network (IVIN), a multi-tiered imaging technology that has patents pending ( In 2011, IVIN received money from TechGROWTH Ohio spinout of the university. While not integral to the day to day operations of IVIN3D, John has a super- shareholder stake in the company.

In addition to IVIN3D, other privately owned startups founded by John include the high-end multimedia studio Kosada, Inc. with Steve Mokris in 2004, and defense games and simulations studio Ludobase Limited in 2008.

John is also the lead game design and development instructor in the School of Media Arts and Studies Games and Animation program. He has held this position since 2007.

Ben Lachman

Ben Lachman has started a new venture with Nice Mohawk and has an extensive background in building and developing beta prototypes. He was responsible for principle, mac and iphone software development at Acacia Tree Software from May 2006 to the Present. His other ventures include working as an Engineering Assistant at Sunpower, Inc., freelancing as a mac software developer and becoming a serial entrepreneur. He is also a graduate of Ohio University, receiving his B.S. in Computer Science.

Ben Lagemann

Lageman is vice president for Fast Switch, Ltd. He joined the company in 2011 to head its corporate venture investment and entrepreneurial services arm. Previous to this he managed investment and entrepreneurship programs at the Ohio Department of Development with the Ohio Third Frontier and Ohio Venture Capital Authority.
Ben enjoys helping new entrepreneurs and brings experience in startups, technology commercialization, information technology, law and business. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Ohio State University in 2000 along with a Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration from the University of Akron in 2007.

Bethany George

Bethany George joined the Innovation Center team as Executive-in-Residence (EIR) in July of 2011. Ms. George is a native of Lancaster, Ohio, and earned a master's degree in business, economics, and political science from Ohio University. She also serves on Ohio University's Global Leadership Center Advisory Board.

Prior to her role as EIR, Ms. George served as a business advisory consultant for Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and the TechGROWTH Ohio program since 2006. She worked with pre-revenue/early-stage technology inventors and entrepreneurs, as well as lifestyle businesses. George also was responsible for managing teams of Ohio University's MBA and Center for Entrepreneurship students, guiding them through strategy consulting engagements with clients.

Jeff Wiseman

Edison Biotechnology Institute Executive in Residence Jeffery Wiseman is responsible for advancing life sciences technologies in southeastern. Dr. Wiseman has 30 years' experience in drug discovery research in the pharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining Ohio University, he was Chief Technology Officer at the biotechnology company Locus Pharmaceuticals, where he participated in raising $32 MM in financing and established research collaborations valued at $60 MM. Prior to joining Locus, Dr. Wiseman led drug discovery departments in biochemistry and the therapeutic area for Inflammatory Diseases at GlaxoSmithKline. In 1994, Dr. Wiseman created the discipline of chemical informatics and the next year was appointed to Glaxo's worldwide Research Executive council. Dr. Wiseman serves on the boards of TechGROWTH client companies Sanuthera and Promiliad, Ohio-based medical device and drug discovery companies, respectively, and is CEO of Pharmatrope, a drug discovery software company. He holds a B.S. degree, summa cum laude, in chemistry from Ohio University and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University.

Dennis Irwin

Irwin is the dean of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University.

Faith Knutsen

TechGROWTH Associate Director of Operations Faith Knutsen has served the Voinovich School in that capacity since 2008. She is also a member of the Center for Entrepreneurship staff. Previously, Ms. Knutsen worked for twelve years in an executive operations role at Sunpower, Inc., an Athens Ohio-based, 90-employee R&D engineering firm founded and owned by her family. Ms. Knutsen's earlier career in international development began with a tour as a Peace Corps volunteer in francophone Central Africa, segued into consulting throughout Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America, and led to her Masters' thesis on microenterprise in Central Africa. Born and raised in Athens, Ohio, Ms. Knutsen is active in the local community with Board positions in several not-for-profits. Ms. Knutsen holds a BA from Oberlin College, an MA from Ohio University, and an MA Certificate in federal government contracting from George Washington University.

John Glazer

TechGROWTH Director John Glazer strong has overseen TechGROWTH program planning and implementation since 2008. He serves as the TechGROWTH Board representative on two portfolio companies. Mr. Glazer is a recognized professional in technology-focused entrepreneurialism, with a career dedication to economic development in underdeveloped regions of the US and abroad. Mr. Glazer began as a university lecturer, then segued to the private sector, eventually becoming President and CEO of Little Professor Book Centers, Inc., a national bookstore franchising company. He was the founder and CEO of four additional startup companies, one international. He has been an instigator of, and advisor to, numerous technology economic development projects in the Detroit area and internationally, working with founders and entrepreneurs to start up and finance enterprises and initiate the training, marketing, and service programs to help them succeed. In addition to his role with TechGROWTH, Mr. Glazer currently serves as President of New Work Enterprises and as Director for Lift Africa Technologies, based in South Africa. Mr. Glazer holds an MA and ABD Ph.D. from the University of Michigan where he taught in the Philosophy, English, and Anthropology departments as well as the Honors College.

Christopher Keesey


Christopher Keesey has over 13 years experience leading projects, teams and organizations. His focus has been on improving organizational performance and efficiencies through innovative training and learning experiences. As an independent consultant, Christopher has worked with the US State Department, USAID, Ohio University, Indiana University, Chemonics International, Arthur D. Little, Academy of Educational Development, The Doctor's Company and Sogeti (A division of Cap Gemini) amongst others.

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