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Startup Weekend Santa Cruz Seeks 100 Social Entrepreneurs

UC Santa Cruz alums are launching Startup Weekend Santa Cruz with a focus on sustainable solutions and social impact.

by Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif. / October 11, 2016
Downtown Santa Cruz, Calif. Flickr/Ricardo Velasquez

(TNS) -- SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- Tom Beckett ran a successful $82,000 Kickstarter campaign for Makesmith before he got his degree at UC Santa Cruz. Then he left to complete a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. After organizing a successful Startup Weekend in his hometown, Santa Clarita, this millennial entrepreneur is back with a big project.

He’s working with fellow UCSC alums to launch Startup Weekend Santa Cruz Nov. 18-20 for 100 people with a focus on sustainable solutions and social impact.

Beckett, 25, said the theme came from fellow organizers Hasti Afsarifard and Melissa Ott.

He knew Afsarifard because they were in a technology class together and he knew Ott because they both had done experiential leadership through the recreation department.

As a student, Afsarifard worked at a startup that built the first 3-D printer in space, a dream come true for the young woman who appreciates being able to bring a different perspective to a project.

Ott bikes to work at UCSC, where she is events coordinator at the Sustainability Office, and writes the Green Gal blog, which she started while in high school.

“We figured anything that pushes for the benefit of humans in some capacity would be very fitting for Santa Cruz,” Beckett said.

Ott recruited UCSC alum Katie Roper, who co-founded the Watsonville Film Festival and runs UCSC’s Everett Program, an interdisciplinary social innovation lab.

Jeffrey Priebe, web development lead at Parachute Web Design and co-organizer of Santa Cruz JavaScript Meetup, offered to help promote the event in the developer community.

Current UCSC students are involved as well.

In Santa Clarita, the tech community did not have a hub to bring people together, according to Beckett, who said the startup weekend “roped everyone in” and led to creation of a tech entrepreneurship meetup and a push for a much-needed co-working space.

Beckett said the Santa Cruz tech community is “more developed,” with NextSpace and Cruzio offering co-working and the Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp being the eighth largest new tech meetup in the world.

He’s already talked to Janneke Lang, the UCSC alum who started The Inspiring Enterprise social entrepreneurship competition, about the startup weekend’s potential to feed into that contest.

Startup weekend ticket prices are $66 for designers and software developers and $85 for entrepreneurs, change agents and people in marketing.

For students, “it’s a large ask,” Beckett said, but he noted 90 percent of the cost is for food during the weekend. “We have to communicate the value of attending.”

His experience is that most ticket sales happen in the two weeks before the event, which he admits is nerve-wracking for the organizers.

The biggest tech event of the year is coming up, when tech evangelist and author Guy Kawasaki speaks to the Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp Nov. 2 at the Del Mar Theatre.

“If we could announce at the Guy Kawasaki event, that would be the event of the year to make an announcement,” Beckett said.


What: Three-day competition to build a social enterprise focusing on sustainable solutions and social impact in areas such as food, water, housing, health, energy, transportation and waste.

Where: NextSpace, 101 Cooper St., downtown Santa Cruz.

When: Nov. 18-20; attendees vote for favorites at Friday night pitch event; teams form and build prototypes Saturday, give presentations Sunday.

Cost: $66 for designers and software developers, $85 for entrepreneurs, change makers, nonprofits, people in marketing and public relations.


Information:, and

©2016 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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