Start-Up Spirit Is Alive in Santa Barbara

Dunn School Student-Teacher Team Wins Weekend Competition

For every 100 ideas you have, one has a shot of making it.

That was one of the messages at Startup Weekend Santa Barbara, where a teacher-student team from Dunn School won first place in the third annual event. Spanish teacher Alex Kehaya — who also teaches an entrepreneurship class at the private school in Los Olivos — and sophomore Abe Storey impressed the judges with their future business, Next Mover. Their entire team beat 17 other teams and raked in $55,000 in investments from audience members.

Next Mover is an app-to-be that connects peoples who need help moving with people who want to get paid for their services. The business platform also incorporates a screening process, insurance coverage, and a user rating system.

The 54-hour event kicked off Friday night in the Funk Zone at Avelina Wine Company, where participants pitched ideas. After a weekend of sharing ideas and collaborating, teams took the first steps to launch their business. The event ended on Sunday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Paseo Nuevo shopping center, where several judges decided which companies were most viable.

Max James, a designer; Sterling Montes, a marketer; and Mike Hopkins, a coder, also contributed to the team’s win. Storey, the only high school student to enter the competition, said one of the biggest things he learned was that he works well under pressure. “It was awesome to use my skills with other teammates who had other skills, and together we got it done,” Storey said.

Kehaya started an entrepreneurship class called Earwig Inc. at Dunn School. His students learn Lean LaunchPad, a model developed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank that helps validate or invalidate potential businesses. Talking to potential customers and incorporating immediate feedback is also a large component. “The spirit of entrepreneurship has existed [at Dunn] for a long time,” Storey added, explaining that the class grew out of a club that has existed at Dunn for many years.

Kehaya explained the vibrant start-up community in Santa Barbara provides an opportunity for people to be mentored by those who have succeeded in a difficult industry. The event coincided with similar ones across the globe intended to inspire and empower start-up wonks and their communities. An array of business gurus attended and mentored teams throughout the weekend.

“It’s a lot of entrepreneurs who are trying to grow and are helping each other out,” Kehaya said. “It’s all about community; we wouldn’t be where we are without Startup Weekend in Santa Barbara.”

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