Startup Launch Competition at University of Florida

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

We are thrilled to announce the Startup Launch Competition, hosted by OneSixOne Ventures in partnership with the UF Warrington Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center! The 10-week program will include weekly lectures on relevant topics such as building your product, getting your first 10 users, and how to pitch your startup to investors to raise capital. In addition to lectures, all participants will set weekly goals and track progress. At the end of the 10-weeks, the top startups will be selected to pitch for a grand prize of $10,000. In addition, the top 3 teams will be granted admission to the OneSixOne Ventures Spring ‘22 Founder’s Program.


Can I join the Startup Launch Competition if I don’t have an idea for a company?

Absolutely! Most successful startups are started by 2 or 3 co-founders. You will have the opportunity to hear about some of the other ideas in the room and you can choose a team to join.

What kinds of companies can participate in the Startup Launch Competition? What companies do not qualify for the program? The program is open to companies across any industry. However, it needs to be something scalable, something that has the potential to grow very large in a relatively short period of time. Software & mobile apps tend to be very scalable, but it certainly does not have to be limited to those. It can even be a physical product or consumer good, but it cannot be a different version of something that is already on the market, unless it is significantly better than the competition. Random examples: You cannot enter with an apparel company just because you think your swag is “cooler” than what’s out there, unless you have a unique twist such as apparel that tracks data and integrates with fitness trackers like a fitbit (or something different like the example given). Small businesses such as restaurants, marketing agencies, law & accounting firms, etc. do not qualify. If I currently have a small business or side-hustle but still want to participate in the competition, what should I do?

See what the other teams are working on and see if any of them sounds interesting to you, if so you can join their team. You can also come up with a new idea to enter the competition with. Email Pablo or Justis ( or if you would like help coming up with a startup idea to participate in the program with.

Where and when will the sessions be held?

We will lead the sessions from 6:30-8:00pm every Wednesday, starting September 22nd and ending on December 1st. The only Wednesday we will skip will be Thanksgiving week (November 24th). The sessions will be held in the Bryan Hall 130 lecture hall.

Do I have to attend every single session?

While we do take attendance, nobody will force you to attend every session. We will not kick anybody out of the competition for now showing up, but you will be at a large disadvantage if you miss sessions. The curriculum we designed is based on some of the top programs in the world and each session is critical in some way.

Will sessions be recorded?

While we would like to record each session, as of right now we cannot promise that they will be recorded and uploaded. We will keep everyone updated if anything changes.

Do I have to be a student to participate?

No you do not have to be a student to participate.

What does OneSixOne stand for?

The golden ratio (Fibonacci Sequence) is ~1.61… It is a naturally occurring ratio observed in plants, animals and even patterns in nature. Naturalists argue that it is the most efficient ratio for growth to occur. Our goal at OneSixOne Ventures is to build an ecosystem where founders grow organically.

Who will be teaching the lectures and what are their qualifications?

Justis Mendez and Pablo Casilimas, the co-founders of OneSixOne Ventures will be teaching the sessions. Together they run the OneSixOne Founder’s Program, a 10-week accelerator program (similar to startup launch competition) where they have now helped over 30 startups, with founders from NYU, Yale, Harvard, Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley and of course, UF. Justis is an alumni of the UC Berkeley Venture Capital University program. Pablo was selected to be one of the first scouts for FloridaFunders, the most active venture capital firm in the state.

How will the lectures be structured?

Each lecture will cover a group of topics that are tied together (mostly). During each lecture, we will sprinkle case studies from some very successful startups that you have all heard of. We will also try to incorporate some video clips from other successful founders. If time permits, we will take questions at the end of each session.

How long are the sessions?

They are from 6:30-8:00pm, so 90 minutes. However, we expect many of them to end far before the 90-minute mark.

What criteria will be used to evaluate the top companies that are selected to pitch for the grand prize?

We are using the same criteria that we would use if we were evaluating companies to invest in. The biggest factors are the team and the product. Here’s what we look for: Team

Starting a startup is incredibly challenging and almost every successful startup founder has had to endure some pretty dark times. This is why resilience is one of the most important traits we look for in founders. If you’ve been through something really difficult in your life, or have already done something really challenging in your life, then you might have what it takes to pull off starting a startup. The best founders execute and the ones who are not so good tend to always have excuses for why no progress has been made. We’re looking for teams that are setting weekly goals and hitting those goals most of the time. We look for founders who are coachable and self-motivated. The ideal team has 1 technical founder and 1 non-technical founder, that way 1 person can build the product while the other can focus on raising capital and selling/marketing the product.


While 10 weeks is not a lot of time to build a completely refined project, it is definitely more than enough to build a product and have at least a few users. We don’t care how nice the product looks, what we care about is summed up by this question: Does this product solve somebody’s problem? In 10-weeks, the best products will have at least a handful of people who use it regularly. For products that take longer than 10-weeks to develop (hardware, biotech, deep-tech, etc.), some strong early signs of market validation are important, such as pre-orders, LOIs (letters of intent) or a wait-list. In general, it’s better to have a small number of users that really love your product, than to have over a thousand users who just like it.

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