Student on Winning Team at Startup Weekend NJ

Freshman Altarik Banks (second from right) and members of his team work on their project.

Montclair State University freshman Altarik Banks was a member of the winning team at the recent Startup Weekend New Jersey, a 54-hour marathon over three days with the goal of creating a new company.

Banks, who is in the ENTR 201 "Entrepreneurial Mindset and Innovation" course, was one of three Montclair State students participating among 120 people at the March 28-30 event in Somerset. At 18 years old, Banks appeared to be the youngest participant among other students, entrepreneurs, developers and investors at the event. 

"It was great to be able to contribute to my team," said Banks.

The event ran from 6:00 p.m. to midnight Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturday and 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sunday. According to its website, all Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then the teams spend 54 hours creating a business model, coding, designing and performing market validation. The weekend culminates with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

Twenty teams formed, and 13 teams pitched their ideas on Sunday evening. Prizes for the two winning teams included semi-finalist status into TechLaunch, free office space at JuiceTank and other give-aways. Banks' team, ShopSmart, created a new shopping cart for grocery stores that had a technical component allowing shoppers to scan items and get coupons, recipes and other info.  

Two other students in the "Entrepreneurial Mindset and Innovation" course also participated in Startup Weekend New Jersey. Myla Ramirez, a senior molecular biology major, was on a team that disbanded Friday night because it did not have enough developer talent to be a viable team.

"We had a team of non-technical people that just didn't work," said Ramirez, who still found the event to be a learning experience. 

Sophomore English major Tim Kiss was at the event Friday evening, but did not commit to a team because he had an internship interview on Saturday (he got the internship). Ramirez and Kiss were back in Somerset Sunday evening to see the final presentations. Kiss said he returned to see how the ideas from Friday evening had evolved by Sunday evening.

"An idea can come from nothing and develop into something huge," Kiss said. 

There will likely be more Startup Weekends in Banks' future. 

"I just want to keep going back," said Banks.  

Banks, who has not declared a major yet, plans to study in India in the fall.

"I want to be an entrepreneur, doing something exciting, something I enjoy," Banks said about his long-term aspirations.