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Trent Steen, Christian Ries, Tyler Rau, Sam Coome, and Garrison Collier
DSU students Trent Steen, Christian Ries, Tyler Rau, Sam Coome, and Garrison Collier, are the founders of a new organization called CEO.

New DSU organization hosting Startup Weekend

Academics, Admissions, Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences, College of Business and Information Systems

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.”

That advice from Behance co-founder Scott Belsky is something that several DSU students are taking to heart. Behance is an online platform where members can showcase and discover creative work.

Five students have created a new campus organization, the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization, or CEO. They are hosting a competition event on April 21-23 for students who want to make business ideas happen.

The weekend will be similar to the annual Global Game Jam event, said CEO co-founder Trent Steen, “but instead of one weekend to make a game, you make a business plan.”

Christian Ries, a cyber security major, is the original CEO founder. He was so impacted after attending a similar event in Colorado that “I figured something like that has to exist here on campus as well. It didn’t, so I figured I would just make one.”

He first took the idea to a few interested students. The group then had an opportunity to sit down with DSU’s president, Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, after the 2016 Homecoming parade. They shared their idea for a “technological entrepreneurship” organization, and she referred them to Tim Weelborg, Business Consultant with the South Dakota Small Business Development Center at the SDSU Research Park. That led to free tickets to an October entrepreneur event in Brookings, where the students were able to make other business connections.

This chain of events “really speaks to how accessible people are at this university, and how willing they are to work with students,” said Steen, a computer science major at DSU from Emery, S.D.

Dr. Kevin Streff, professor in the College of Computing helped the students connect with the Lake Area Improvement Corporation (LAIC), which has agreed to co-sponsor the startup event.

“The LAIC Board feels sponsoring Startup Weekend is a perfect way to support student entrepreneurs,” said Julie Gross, LAIC Executive Director, in hopes that “these students will want to stay in Madison and build and grow their business here.”

She listed other area businesses which were started by Madison individuals, including SBS Cybersecurity, InfoTech, Bulldog Media Group and FirstLine Funding Group. “All four have grown into extremely successful businesses providing job opportunities in technology-related fields.”

“DSU is experiencing growth in enrollment and is making significant capital investments on campus. It makes sense to focus on recruiting technology-based businesses, and to assist entrepreneurs and harness the talent of DSU students,” Gross said. 

This focus fits with Griffiths’ vision of research and economic development for the university, Streff said. He also pointed out the shortage of employees in IT and cyber security, and the state’s desire to “keep our best and brightest in our state.”

These interests converge into a “very fundable, supportable concept for our community and our university alike,” Streff said. “The need for what they’re doing is great now,” he said, and he predicts it will only grow in the future.

The Startup Weekend competition begins at noon on Friday, April 21 in the Habeger Science Center Auditorium. Speakers from the Small Business Administration will discuss the basics of starting a business; an attorney from Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith in Sioux Falls will discuss issues such as intellectual property rights and software trademarking. During work sessions, the students will create their business plans. The weekend will conclude at 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, when those plans will be assessed by judges from the area. The winner will receive a cash prize.

Interested undergraduate or graduate students wishing to compete may sign up here: https://goo.gl/forms/Ax7iEYWVeUvfvwmP2, or email Ries at cpries@pluto.dsu.edu.