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Needserve Wins Startup Weekend: Social Entrepreneurship

This past weekend aspiring entrepreneurs (and a few seasoned starters) gathered at Rollins College in Winter Park for our area’s first social entrepreneurship- themed Startup Weekend. Teams worked to identify a problem, determine their user, validate, research their competitive landscape, boil down their solution, find their advantage, target their customer, create a minimum viable product, and refine their business model, all in 52 hours. The winner of the event was needserve, a location-based volunteer/needs pairing app.

The needserve team was led by Stephen Bowles, cofounder of local company Shoflo, who also won the most recent VenturePitch competition.

The Team

  • Stephen Bowles  (team leader / entrepreneur)
  • David Glinski   (social media)
  • Sunay Lalchandani    (marketing)
  • Ryan Carter   (designer)
  • Manuel Arredondo    (iOS developer)
  • Jason Wade   (customer validation)
  • Kevin Dupree   (iOS / Android developer)
  • Ankit Patel  (business development)
  • Dusan Kuzmanovic  (html developer)

In addition to providing business development experience, Startup Weekend is a chance for participants to gain experience in working with a team. The demanding timeline and supportive, collaborative environment are designed to bring groups closer together. This team dynamic element was key to needserve’s success.

“This team is one that has serious chemistry. My experience is worth its weight in gold because of the skills learned and of the connections that will hopefully last a lifetime. I am excited to see where we will go!” – David Glinski (social media)

“The team experience was awesome.  We had a well-rounded team and everyone brought something unique to the table and we had a good even mix of designers, developers, and business people.  The connections and people I met and worked with were the best part of the event.” – Ryan Carter (designer)

“The enthusiasm and energy of this team was contagious from the start. Without even realizing it everyone had organically built a streamlined process to create our vision!” -Manuel Arredondo (iOS developer)

Pulled together by a desire to build a product with real social impact, the group worked hard all weekend to develop the needserve mobile app. With needserve, the user opens the app and simply chooses whether or not they have a need, or would like to serve. A need could be anything from help with job training for a career switch to participation in food bank activities. Individuals who might like to serve include students with a volunteer requirement, employees whose companies give them time off for service projects, or someone in the community with an interest in getting involved.

“My local church, Summit, runs a big volunteer and local service day several times a year. When signing up last year I just felt strongly that this should be available for anyone all the time and I wanted to be able to track my volunteer hours. I thought… there should be an app for that!,” said founder Stephen Bowles.

The idea went through a number of pivots in the course of the weekend. According to Stephen, “About seven times! We started out focused on individuals focusing on service projects. At one point Saturday, we were scaling to a commercial platform servicing fortune 100 companies and requiring a global sales force. We really found our focus when we started talking about people who ‘need to serve’- high schools students looking for projects and to show hours, court ordered community service and others.”

Needserve plans to continue building their nonprofit and developing the mobile application beyond Startup Weekend. “As we learned this weekend, customer validation never ends. The good news is that we now have a team that is passionate, an initial business model, killer visuals, and a story to go out and share! We are looking for help from anyone in the community that has experience identifying grants / partnerships in getting platforms like needserve built and off the ground.”

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