Elm City Entrepreneurs Say They Want To Start Something

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" ">Batt, Koenisberg and BerezaA missed opportunity turned into a business bonanza for Alex Koenisberg, whose team won first place in the Startup Weekend New Haven competition last month.

“I wanted "http://traclabs.com/psd/buy//#here">here go to a Warrior Dash,” recounts Koenisberg, referring to an obstacle race that has attracted fans and participants at sites throughout the country. Koenisberg, who lives in Coventry and works in Hartford, wanted to know when an "/#buy__no_prescription" online discount for a WD event in his area would be offered.

“I kept checking and checking,” he says. He ended up missing it. That’s when the light bulb went on.

“I realized there was no one offering an alert” for similar special discounts, says Koenisberg. He saw an entrepreneurial opportunity that led to the creation of SnagIt Deals, which alerts users daily to deals in their region.

The idea — which came to fruition over a flurried weekend of planning, projecting and presenting a variety of business concepts — was the one judges considered the best.

“I’m enthralled by it — it was a rush,” said Koenisberg shortly after the win was announced at Gateway Community College. An event coordinator for the MetroHartford Alliance’s HYPE Initiative, Koenisberg has “always been fascinated by entrepreneurship” but didn’t think he’d embark on his own business venture quite so soon. Startup Weekend was an unexpected catalyst for Koenisberg and teammates Marina Batt and Nick Bereza.

“Startup Weekend is a great avenue,” Koenisberg says. “It really pushes you into taking that next step.”

The second place winner was A Good First Step, which provides access to those in need of legal information and services. Taking third-place honors was Musicians Vault, which facilitates virtual collaborations among musicians. Among the prizes were free legal and auditing services.

This is the second year for Startup Weekend New Haven, the local arm of a global effort that seeks to support and develop entrepreneurship. The nonprofit Startup Weekend organization is headquartered in Seattle.

“It’s a great opportunity to go forward,” notes Batt.

That holds even for those who don’t win.

“We were looking for progressive people. We wanted to [have] a better chance of finding the technical people we needed,” said Michael Abernathy about the reason he came all the way from St. Louis to participate in New Haven’s Startup Weekend. Even though his team and their product — a system Abernathy developed to detect fraudulent checks at the time of deposit — didn’t win first, second or third place, Abernathy said the event was worth it.

Teammate Hasan Ansari, a first-year MBA student at Yale, agreed.

“This entire weekend was not about winning,” Ansari said before the judges’ decisions were announced. “It was about becoming friends and working together. We believe this is a model that can work. If we don’t win, we can refine it more. It doesn’t die here.”


— Felicia Hunter
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