Adam Parish, 17, plans to start and run a successful company someday. Startup Weekend Spokane is part of that plan.
A few years ago, the high school senior was shy, lacking in poise and cautious about expressing his opinions in front of strangers.
Parish said he’s changed, largely because he has taken part in two previous Startup Weekends and taken courses in the Mead School District’s Riverpoint Academy.
“I’ve seen a shift in myself. I’m starting to figure out my passions and realize I can be who I want to be,” Parish said.
On Friday evening, the first day of Startup Weekend, Parish and a few dozen others will pitch their business ideas to judges. The first two times, Parish’s concepts, built around social media Web apps, didn’t make it through the thumbs-up vote that decides which 10 ideas will go on and compete for awards Saturday and Sunday.
Even if his idea doesn’t move on, Parish will join one of the competing teams, offering ideas, contributing graphic design concepts and trying to move the team to the winner’s circle.
This year, he’ll be there with roughly two dozen other Riverpoint Academy students. Parish, because of his experience, will serve as an unofficial coach for first-time participants.
Regan Drew, an instructor at Riverpoint Academy, has been a spark plug and advocate for students taking part in an activity mostly dominated by adults. The academy in north Spokane was started last year as the Mead district’s immersive program in science, technology, engineering and math.
All four of Spokane’s Startup Weekend competitions have been organized by Spokane resident Brett Noyes, and all follow the trademarked formula developed by a Seattle company that licenses the name to local organizers.
During the weekend’s 54 hours, startup enthusiasts form teams and develop prototypes or demos of a business idea. On Sunday, judges will review the final presentations and pick the winners.
The ideas can range from complex tech gadgets to simple innovations; one Spokane Startup Weekend winner in March was a simpler way for plumbers to remove toilet bolts.
This year’s event, at the McKinstry Innovation Center, has 92 registered participants so far, Noyes said.
This year’s top two winners will get the chance to make presentations at a Seattle venture capital conference. The top three teams will also get the option of free downtown office space in Steam Plant Center if they want to develop their ideas.
The Startup Weekend system – with an emphasis on collaboration – has made a difference in students who’ve taken part, said Drew, of Riverpoint Academy.
“One thing Adam has learned is how to network. Now, he knows how to reach out and find answers from people,” she said.
Drew has watched Parish in his previous two Startup Weekend pitches. He was raw, nervous and uncertain of himself at first. “He’s a very quiet, private person. But he’s gotten better every time” he’s taken part, she said.
On Wednesday, Drew had Parish talk at the academy to the students getting ready for their first Startup Weekend. “I just told them to be themselves. Don’t be afraid to speak up, and the other people there will help you out,” he said.
After his first weekend, Parish said he wanted to get more involved. He became a volunteer, helping Noyes organize this week’s undertaking.
“That first weekend opened me up, and I wanted to stay involved in that group,” Parish said. “I really like being around people who want to do cool things, who take risks and aren’t afraid to fail.”
Parish isn’t certain of what he’ll do after high school. He hopes to attend a college that offers programs focused on entrepreneurs. He’s likely to be attracted to technology, but he’s mostly just interested in learning more about how businesses grow and what his strengths are, he said.
Looking back, Parish realizes he had the instincts of a businessman even as young as 8 or 9.
“I read about guys making a lot of money developing cool things. I thought, ‘Who wouldn’t want to be that guy?’ ”
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