Lundquist College: What’s the most important thing people should know about this year’s Ducks Disrupt innovation boot camp?
Rachel Todd: There are so many things we are excited about. This year's theme is truly thought-provoking. We are asking participants to help find solutions for the challenges the region currently faces in the Covid-19 era. And it’s not just about fixing things—I have a feeling that participants will also find some of the hidden business opportunities inherent in this unusual time. This is a change from last year’s event, which focused on health care. Of course, we will still welcome projects that tackle health care—but this is no longer a requirement.
Paul Allen: Another standout feature of this year’s event is the lineup of judges, speakers, and panelists. Seven of these are CEOs and all of them bring so much expertise. (See below for a gallery featuring event personnel.)
RT: We are also thrilled to have the Lundquist College's very own Andrew Nelson facilitate this year's event. Andrew has already done so much to connect us with even more of the Pacific Northwest's entrepreneurial eco-system. Recent graduates and current students know Andrew from his creative, high-energy courses. And of course, he is the faculty member who introduces the Oregon Executive MBA program's first-year students to business case methodology during the program's orientation each September.
LC: Who are you hoping will participate in the boot camp?
PA: We are looking for graduate students and professionals from around the region. In fact, because this year’s event will be entirely virtual, we’ll welcome participants from anywhere in the world. It’s a great opportunity for anyone who has ever wanted to get a taste of what it takes to get a venture off the ground from start to finish.
LC: So, this event is not exclusively for students and alumni of the Oregon Executive MBA?
PA: That’s correct. It’s for professionals and also students from any institution. Last year, the members of one of our winning teams were medical residents from OHSU. I've also been encouraging prospective students to sign up, because it's a great way for them to get a taste of what it's like to be in the program. And of course we also expect that many of our alumni and students will get involved, too.
LC: Do participants need to have prior experience with entrepreneurship?
RT: No prior experience is required. In fact, we encourage newcomers to get involved. Ducks Disrupt is all about teaching entrepreneurship essentials. But the idea behind the event is that participants will finish with a hands-on understanding of everything from identifying market needs, through building a team, to raising venture capital, and beyond.
LC: Do participants need to already have startup concepts in mind before they begin?
PA: It is absolutely fine to get involved in the event without startup concept of your own. Because participants work in teams, there is plenty of room for different roles. During the first day of the event, potential team leaders seek team members by pitching their concepts. Participants will vote with their feet, so to speak, joining the team whose idea resonates with them the most. That said, if you already have an idea for a startup, Ducks Disrupt is a great place to take it for a test run.
LC: Can you give some details about how the event works and what the time commitment is?
PA: The kickoff evening on Saturday, February 27, is all about getting into the entrepreneurial mindset and forming teams. We're also excited that the University of Oregon President Michael Schill and the Lundquist College's Dean Sarah E. Nutter will be there to launch the festivities.
RT: The following day, Sunday, February 28, starts bright and early with an immersion into innovation essentials. Around lunchtime, participants will hear Wheyward Spirit founder and CEO Emily Darchuk talk about her experience with mentorship and how it helped her grow her own company. This is the lead-in to the teams' meeting with their own mentors.
PA: Because we know Zoom fatigue is real, we're keeping the Sunday session short and sweet, with events wrapping up at 1:00 p.m.
RT: In the weeks leading up to the event finale on Sunday, March 21, team members will work together to develop their concepts and refine their pitches. They'll meet at least twice with their mentors, too.
LC: What happens with the team projects after Ducks Disrupt wraps up in March?
RT: Great question. It really all depends on what the team members decide to do. I know that at least three of last year's teams have continued to pursue their ventures, so I think it's likely we'll see something similar this year.
LC: What would you tell someone who was considering signing up for this year's innovation boot camp?
PA: It's an incredible opportunity to get world-class training, meet new people, and connect with some of the region's top entrepreneurs and business leaders. All for just $20.00.
RT: Plus you get to work on meaningful projects that could really make a difference to our region's comeback. Just do it!