Aspiring Entrepreneurs Pitch Ideas During The Venture Center’s Startup Weekend

Posted on April 19, 2023
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (April 18, 2023) — Over the weekend, aspiring entrepreneurs from Central Arkansas and beyond pitched their best business ideas to a panel of five judges during the Techstars Startup Weekend hosted by The Venture Center. Teams in various categories, including HealthTech, AgTech, EdTech, and community affairs, competed for first place which included a $2,500 cash prize. 


GuideOn, an EdTech business venture formed by Melanie D’Evelyn, Colorado Executive Director for One Million Degrees, Sam Precie, IT Acquisitions Analyst and US Navy Seabee Veteran, and Scott Shellabarger, a leader in business growth and improvement, claimed the top prize with their innovative idea to create a tech platform for developing student talent. 


According to GuideOn’s research, 40 percent of American high school seniors (2.25 million) lack a post-graduation plan while simultaneously high school counselors are vastly outnumbered. GuideOn would fill the gap by providing a technological solution with the help of AI and a corps of high-quality virtual counselors. 


“It’s thrilling to see what a room full of promising entrepreneurs can do in just 54 hours, and it affirms what we already know,” said Mimi San Pedro, chief strategy officer of The Venture Center. “There are savvy, committed innovators with their eye on Arkansas and who are eager to learn all they can to launch their business ideas. The Venture Center is proud to be a catalyst for their future success.” 


Hosted at the Little Rock Technology Park, the event was open to all and people with any level of experience in entrepreneurship were invited to join. Expert mentors and facilitators guided participants in developing business solutions helping them gain a deeper understanding of pitching, business model creation, prototyping, designing, and market validation. The panel of judges included:


  • Jeston George, Apptegy
  • Dr. Kevin W. Sexton, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences
  • Chad Brown, Circumference Group
  • Dr. Angela Kremers, University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College
  • Dr. Christine Cotton, University of Arkansas at Little Rock


Zapier, a workflow automation company in Columbia, Missouri, and EquipmentShare, a construction equipment rental agency in Little Rock, are both proven success stories and products of identical startup weekends. After an initial event in 2017, The Venture Center brought the startup weekend back to Central Arkansas for the second time in partnership with Startup Junkie and Techstars. 




About The Venture Center
The Venture Center is a globally recognized Arkansas-based Entrepreneurial Support Organization (ESO) that helps entrepreneurs turn their start-ups into viable, high-growth businesses. By leveraging the expertise of a world-class team of mentors, intensive programming, and introductions to the investor community, The Venture Center serves as an engine for economic growth in Arkansas and beyond.  Learn more at Follow The Venture Center on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter(@VentureCenter), and Instagram.

About Techstars Startup Weekend
Learn how to think, work and build like a startup. In 54 thrilling hours. Techstars Startup Weekend is an exciting and immersive foray into the world of startups. Over an action-packed three days, you’ll meet the very best mentors, investors, co-founders and sponsors to show you how to get more done faster — and, maybe even start that business.