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Recap: Startup Weekend Conejo Valley 2023

Every year, Startup Weekend Conejo Valley seems to get bigger and better! We had such an incredible turnout for SWCV 2023!

Startup Weekend is a 3-day event where participants get a deep dive experience into the world of startups.

How it works: Participants form teams, develop a startup idea, build new skills, get inspired, and connect with other passionate individuals. On the final day, teams present their ideas to judges for feedback and the chance to win prizes.

Our attendees were local to Conejo Valley, in addition to those who came in from The Bay, Phoenix, and Goleta.

Want to learn more about Startup Weekend?

Check out this 1-minute video.

Day 1 (Friday):

Startup Weekend kicked off at 6PM at Hub101 with food (Chipotle) and networking. Our facilitator, Andre Farinazo, Jr., then welcomed everyone and gave an overview of the weekend.

Keynote Speakers

This year, we had the pleasure of welcoming our keynote speakers, Max Zadeh and Sarah Zavala, co-founders of LettuceSocial, which launched out of Startup Weekend Conejo Valley 2022 (SWCV).

Max and Sarah sitting in two brown leather chairs, speaking to an engaged audience.
LettuceSocial co-founders, Max Zadeh and Sarah Zavala, giving a keynote at Startup Weekend 2023

LettuceSocial is a marketplace designed to connect small businesses with local creators, enabling them to effectively promote their brands, attract customers, and increase both foot and online traffic. By fostering these collaborative partnerships, they aim to enhance sales and bolster the growth of local economies.

Max and Sarah shared an incredibly valuable and inspirational talk about their experience at Startup Weekend and how they used it as an opportunity to build a customer-centric solution that solved a real pain point for customers.

During SWCV 2022, the co-founders came up with the idea on Friday at 7PM, and made their first sale at noon on Saturday...they went from launch to revenue in 17 hours!

Max holding a cardboard sign that says "have IG? Want to make money?"
Max showing off the sign the LettuceSocial team used to recruit creators onto their platform. Their first stop was Cal Lutheran's campus.

Max and Sarah's approach to SWCV was intentional - their goal was to talk to customers and really focus on building a concierge-esque MVP, rather than sitting inside Hub101 and developing a prototype. This hyperfocus on customers enabled them to find early adopters and make their first sale.

LettuceSocial is now revenue-generating and has over 300 creators and 22 businesses on the platform. You can follow their journey on Instagram @LettuceSocial.

Startup Games

After the inspirational keynote, we launched into a startup game called Half-Baked, which is a fan-favorite of Startup Weekend.

Half-baked is a startup game where attendees shout out random words (any words!) that are written down on a big notepad. Then, participants are grouped into teams, and each team selects two words. The countdown starts and teams have 5 minutes to come up with a business idea using those two words.

We love this game because it proves that anyone can come up with a business idea. That doesn't necessarily mean the idea will be a successful, sustainable, or scalable business. But the exercise of coming up with a business is often the hardest part, and Half-Baked demonstrates that it's possible!

Some of this year's fun word combinations that morphed into stilly startup ideas included cactus finance, skateboard jeans, music AI, and 3D printing shoes.

Pitch Fire

Feeling creative and perhaps more confident in their ideas, the final part of the evening begins: Pitch Fire.

During Pitch Fire, people share the actual startup idea(s) they're interested in pursuing over the weekend. Individuals who have a startup idea, walk up to the mic and have 60 seconds to explain their idea and what qualities they need as team members. Everyone else listens to the ideas and makes note of which one sounds the best to work on.

We must have had a record-breaking number of people pitch ideas this weekend! We even had a few people go up multiple times and share multiple ideas!

Once everyone was done sharing their ideas, we gave everyone 3 Post-it notes. Each Post-it note represents one vote -- so all attendees get three votes to spend on their favorite ideas.

Organizers then tallied the votes and selected the top 6 ideas with the most votes, which then became the ideas people form teams around (though it's typical for ideas to change and teams to pivot over the course of the weekend!)

By the end of Friday night, people have formed their teams and started to work on their startup ideas...though it's just the start.

Day 2 (Saturday)

The Saturday of this SWCV felt different. Usually, Hub101 is full of teams camped out in their areas working away on their startups. However, this year, the teams didn't show up to Hub101 until later because they were out talking to customers!

One team, Bytesized (read more on them below), went to 24 Hour Fitness (before they got kicked out), Sprouts, and LA Fitness to talk to their target customers.

Our facilitator Andre hosted workshops on how to start a business, talk to customers, and create a pitch deck.

Our mentors also showed up to give feedback and guidance, and answer questions. Another big thank you to our mentors this year! 👏

While Saturday is mainly spent solidifying the business and getting customers, there are still plenty of laughs and a ton of food.

Day 3 (Sunday)

Sunday is crunch time, and you can definitely feel it! Teams continued to work on the final aspects of their business, including developing a pitch deck. Then, teams practiced their pitches in front of mentors for feedback.

Final presentations started at 5:30 PM and were open to the community.

We welcomed four incredible judges this year: Max Zadeh, Renee Rock, Tiffany Morse, and Tracy Nickl.

The Teams

This year's teams consisted of: Student Creative Collective, Bytesized, Senior Student Pair, Society App, and BrainFood AI.

Student Creative Collective

Team members: Carys Garvey (Cal Lutheran student), Nitin Gunduboina (Cal Lutheran Student), Jaelen Hsu, Alex Wulff

Student Creative Collection (SCC) is a non-profit with a mission to cultivate student creativity and entrepreneurship by providing an online platform for student artists to sell their work to members of their community.

Parents want to support students’ artistic talent in their community but lack a platform to purchase local student artwork. On the other side, student artists are interested in selling their artwork.

SCC bridges this gap by connecting parents directly to local student artists.

Student Creative Collection won the LettuceSocial Impact Award, given to a team that demonstrates deep community impact.


Team members: Jaivin Wylde (Hub101 member), Ben Van Dam, Ben Sottile (Cal Lutheran alum)

Many people want to track their calories and be healthy. They know it's important. But they are too overwhelmed by how tedious it is to track calories with current methods.

Bytesized makes nutrition tracking effortless with machine learning. Users submit a picture of their food, and Bytesized's technology recognizes the various ingredients and produces nutritional information, including calories, protein, carbs, and fat.

Bytesized won Best Execution & Design.

Bytesized's working MVP:

Senior Student Pair

Team members: Alejandra "Aly" Castillo (Cal Lutheran staff), Mahsa Ghaderpour (Cal Lutheran MBA student), Mayank "Mike" Vaswani

Senior Student Pair is tackling a two-sided problem: students, especially international students, face obstacles to finding housing, which can take 3-4 weeks to find, including financial resources.

On the other side, the elderly often live in their homes alone and need support for daily chores and companionship.

Senior Student Pair is a platform that connects students with elderly homeowners. The elderly receive companionship and light help with home tasks, and students receive affordable living (half the rent compared to local competition) and mentorship.

Senior Student Pair won Best Overall.

Society App

Team members: Giulianna Gasparotto, Connie "Tie" Gutierrez, Justin McCullough, and Irfan Khan (IdeaToDo member)

Guided Career pathways to transform society.

$120 million on average is spent (in addition to wasted time) on changing majors. There is a lack of student guidance/mentorship, and an overwhelming amount of information.

Society App aims to guide the change-makers of the future through personality assessment and guided AI to lead students both to effective career pathways and educational pathways.

Society App won the Social Impact Award.


Team members: Jamey Sinardi (Cal Lutheran student), Ron Smart, and Jesus Leos (Cal Lutheran alum)

BrainFood AI enables users to check interactions between their medications and food. Certain vitamins and minerals from food can help neurodivergent behaviors, and certain foods/ingredients can do the opposite.

BrainFood AI also provides a personalized health assistant to guide you through food choices, food suggestions to help increase your gut's biodiversity​, guidance on recipes, including how to prepare your food and what tools you will need for each meal​, and food delivery if you're unable to get out of bed or the house to get to the store.

BrainFood AI won Best Customer Validation.

Thank you to our Organizing team

Startup Weekend Conejo Valley wouldn't be possible without our incredible support staff and organizing team.

Startup Weekend Conejo Valley Sponsor

Startup Weekend Conejo Valley also wouldn't be possible without our incredible supporter:

The Steven Dorfman Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship ("The Center"):

The Dorfman Student Competition Fund enables us to host competitions like Startup Weekend and provide the best experience to participants, including food and prizes. This year, participants each received $50 cash prize for winning the various Startup Weekend awards.

Interested in joining our next Startup Weekend? Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date!

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