Startup Weekend Iowa City is back, and registration is still open to anyone who has an idea they’ve never worked on before, organizer Jay Cooper said.

From July 13-15 at MERGE, Iowa City’s coworking lab, teams will start building on an idea for Sunday’s final pitch contest. Tickets are $20 at

“People show up with an idea. It can be any idea they’ve not worked on before, but they think, ‘oh, this might solve a problem I’m having,’ or this might be a cool thing to have,” Cooper said.

Participants have 60 seconds on Friday evening to pitch their idea to the audience, who then vote on which ideas will be focused on.

“If we have 30 participants, maybe we have 20 ideas, and five of those ideas go on [to] be worked on the entire weekend,” Cooper said. “People go through and fill out the business model canvas throughout the weekend: they do their customer discovery, they come up with their value proposition and an entire five to six minute pitch.”

By Sunday, those teams will return to the group audience and give a final five minute pitch to the crowd and a panel of judges. The final pitch is also open to the surrounding community – those interested in participating who did not register for Startup Weekend are asked to bring a non-perishable food item donation for a local food bank.

This year, Startup Weekend is returning to Iowa City after a break in programming for 2017. The event had major turnout of 80 people in 2015, Cooper said, but dropped to about 20 in 2016. After cancelling last year’s event, Cooper and his co-organizers Ian Castillo, Mark Hadley and David Miessler-Kubanek moved Startup Weekend from the autumn to the summer season, to cut down on competition against similar events from the University of Iowa and other regional organizers. As of the end of June, Startup Weekend had 30 registered attendees, and will continue ticket sales until July 13.

“I’ve participated in six other Startup Weekends, two in Iowa City and two in Cedar Rapids, one down in Fairfield, Iowa, and one in Decatur, Illinois,” Cooper said. “I loved the concept, I love being able to hang out for the weekend and build something really cool … The fun of building it, I think is the reason I keep going to events like this.”

“Iowa needs events like this to keep the wheels turning on getting more folks into the entrepreneurial community,” Cooper added.