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Zejoop, an event-planning app, takes first-place prize at event

Posted: October 10, 2012 5:29 p.m.
Updated: October 10, 2012 5:29 p.m.

Of the some 25 to 30 business pitches that were made at Startup Weekend Santa Clarita on Friday night, eight business ideas were selected and teams formed to focus on customer development, validating ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building basic viable products.

By Sunday evening, the teams rolled out their prototypes and received feedback from a panel of experts. Of the teams that launched a company, the judges said they found it difficult to choose a winner, said Eric Arndt, co-organizer of the event and founder of SCV Startup.

Zejoop, an event planner app, was selected as the first-place winner by an impressive group of judges, experienced in the business startups, said Eric Arndt, co-organizer of the event.

Zejoop, the idea of Michael LaRue, won a free consulting service from Fortis General Counsel and Clearstone Ventures.

“Michael LaRue was one of the original members of the SCV Startup group,” said Brian Tippy, co-organizer of the event. “That was good because it showcased the local talent that exists.”

As a former aerospace engineer who is retooling his skills to compete in the modern economy, SCV Startup Weekend gave LaRue the chance to test a theory of his, he said.  

LaRue hoped that by tailoring his traditional systems engineering skills and applying them to a startup business model, that he could produce good results.

“After starting out with a solid project idea, and having been blessed with a top-notch team, all that was left was hard work, dedication, and the ability to work well under pressure,” LaRue said. “Team Zejoop is extremely happy to have taken first place.”

Securing second and third place were ventures DemandedSpace and Earlybrd, respectively.

DemandedSpace designed a “retail-on-demand” mobile app that allows the public to choose the type of business they would like to see in an empty retail space. Via a QR code placed in the window of an empty storefront, people can share their ideas with a property management firm. The judges really liked the idea, Arndt said.

“The judges all seemed to think none had seen an app like that one and really recommended the team pursue it further,” said Calvin Hedman, president of Hedman Partners.

Earlybrd designed a mobile app matching up a person’s calendar with Google traffic, alerting the user to negative traffic conditions that might affect their travel schedule. The app allows the user to plan a new route or to leave at a different time to arrive on time at a planned meeting, interview or event, Arndt said.

While most participants expected the weekend event to be more “Survivor-esque,” they came away feeling it was a “hands-on, intensive MBA course on business and technology, Arndt said.


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