We just put on an amazing event this last weekend–the Global Startup Weekend Sustainable Revolution. It was some of the most fun you can have while making a difference. Startup Weekend is a 54 hour business plan competition and the focus this time was on creating businesses that contribute to sustainability.  In all we had over 75 people contributing to this event. We also held the event at the Atrium–a local art and sustainability co-working space and event center. 

We started on Friday night, with a talk by Julia Burrows, the Senior Policy Advisor for sustainability for the Mayor of Sacramento. She challenged us to make a difference in everything we do on earth. Then our facilitator Michael Norton got everyone going in a game called “Half-Baked”,  where teams attempt practice pitching companies based on randomly submitted words. After dinner 40 attendees pitched ideas from a vegan restaurant to desalination with tidal power. After that attendees voted and formed teams. Then it was off to the races.

Five 5 teams emerged on Saturday and jumped right in to customer validation. Throughout the weekend teams worked on their ideas, met with mentors and continually reformulated their ideas. The teams used the “Lean Start Up” business canvas model approach.  It involves collecting information very quickly and answering 9 key questions. The first ones were on defining a value proposition, a “minimum viable product”, and getting validation of the idea by going out and interviewing complete strangers whether they saw the products as valuable.  Eventually, the teams needed to come up with revenue and profit projections, comparisons to competing products, and listing key unknowns. Throughout the weekend, a rotating set of 16 mentors worked with each team to offer advice and to challenge their thinking.

This process usually leads to teams completely revising their ideas to get down to something which made sense, and this weekend was no exception.  One team first identified end of day restaurant food waste as their problem statement. After talking with restaurants they discovered their wasn’t much waste there, but they did discover that the down times at restaurants between regular meals had energy and staff waste. So they pivoted to connecting people with restaurants during non-peak times. Another team switched from sustainable centerpieces, to business practices, and finally to an energy park.


Throughout, we tried to remain true to the theme of making things more sustainable. The organizers worked on eliminating waste, upcycling, recycling, and making better food choices. There were no single use plastic drinks at the event. We rolled up our sleeves and washed dishes after every meal, we cleaned out all recyclables before we put them in the proper bins, we offered healthy food choices, and I personally made sure I ate all the extra food.  We did have single use utensils, but only because an artist from the Atrium wanted to upcycle them into art. 

Towards the end of the 54 hours teams worked on putting together pitches to present to five judges that would evaluate their work.  The weekend ended with 5 minute pitches with 5 minutes of feedback from the panel of judges. We recorded all the pitches. Check them out here!

The Final teams were: 

  • WeVoPlatform: Civic engagement platform to reduce risk & waste in city development.
  • Spotter: An app to connect consumers with deals at restaurants during slow times.
  • Energy Park: Designing a park for communities with renewable energy & storage.
  • eeBox:  A pickup and upcycle service that diverts cardboard waste to recycled packing material rather than ending up as landfill
  • Zinder:  An app designed to connect seniors with civic-minded volunteer opportunities in their community

WeVo took First Place, Spotter took Second, and Energy Park was third. WeVo will now go on to the global competition when they submit a one minute video of their pitch. They also won headshots from Shira Lane at the Atrium, a 2 minute video from Terzo Power and were accepted directly into the CEO Crash Course from CleanStart and BTV to be held in August. We have invited them all to pitch at the meetup tonight. 

Also, the fun doesn’t stop there.  Teams that didn’t place first don’t disappear after startup weekend. They take the energy from the event and keep going.  Just this last Tuesday, Energy Park pitched their idea to the City of Sacramento and got positive feedback. They now have their sights on bringing their idea to a park in Sacramento. 

All of this fun was made possible by the support the community has shown CleanStart and by the Sponsors of the Event. The participants were really jazzed about what they learned and how they did so much in such a short time.  It was so much fun, we are going to put it on again. 

Thomas Hall


Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.


RiverCity Bank

Weintraub | Tobin, Revrnt, Moss Adams, PowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig