New Hackathon-Style Event Built In Ann Arbor

By Benjamin Seidman on February 1st, 2016 / Comments

IgniteIt was sparked from Startup Weekend, a global entrepreneurship community event that helps launch successful ventures. Under the Google For Entrepreneurs umbrella, it was operated on the University of Michigan’s MPowered. It’s a lot, I know. But this is where it gets awesome.

Sandeep Siva and Ilan Siegel were leading Startup Weekend’s efforts on campus. Over time, they began to notice, “the event shifting to a slightly different identity.” Looking around the on campus startup ecosystem, they saw a need for students to “understand the key steps in the startup creation process, and be able to validate and refine their startup vision.” This is when they decided to revamp, renaming the event and pivoting away from the Google for Entrepreneurs model.

At first, it was just a team of two. Sandeep Siva, a junior studying Mechanical Engineering with hopes to advance the biomedical engineering industry. And Ilan Siegel, a sophomore studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, who has been on the entrepreneurial grind since high school. Siva’s entrepreneurial drive comes from creating a positive impact in the community. Sandeep wants to see more problems solved, and more people positively influenced by the ideas sitting in the back of people’s heads. Ilan has been surrounded by startups, tech and entrepreneurship his entire life in Palo Alto. He fell in love with the culture, quirkiness and high pace action of the startup world and believes that University of Michigan is his sandbox, a place for creating.

After four months of ideation and planning from afar (video calls from Cleveland and Palo Alto) over the summer of 2015, Siva and Siegel began the Fall Term by recruiting 5 eager students from an astounding 100 students showed interest in IgniteIt.

“With this team, the IgniteIt vision has been even further developed,” says Siva. “The IgniteIt Weekend talent team has been my first real exposure to entrepreneurship and what it’s about. There’s an amazing sense of potential, and yet at the same time there are no promises of success. I have grown exponentially working on the IgniteIt team.”

The University of Michigan is one of the nation’s leaders in entrepreneurship, but the team felt like something was missing to help students learn by doing it. 

Siva and Siegel created the type of event that dedicated a large block of time to create develop the foundation for a potential startup had yet to exist on campus. With this premise, Ignite founders explained, “to get down in the nitty gritty of their idea and extensively develop and validate it.” Around them, they saw many programs with weekly meetings where students would get lost and disengage or others where they did not focus on the foundation and validate it first.

At IgniteIt, students dedicate 48 hours to non-stop working on an idea.

“We are creating a stimulating and nurturing environment for students, that allows them to perform market research and build a pitch, get guidance from mentors, interact with startup founders and Venture Capital firms, and begin to understand a basic roadmap for what is required to start a company, all in one weekend,” says Siva.

Attendees can expect to be pushed outside their comfort zone, Ignite says. Most of all, they want you to realize how much potential each attendee has to innovate.

“We expect students and the IgniteIt team to walk out of this weekend with a different mindset, a better understanding of what entrepreneurship and startup creation really is, and what it might take,” Siva said.

Some might build a startup foundation, and some may realize their idea needs a serious pivot. In summary, IgniteIt Weekend is a weekend long, marathon-style event focused on helping student participants refine their startup idea, expand their founding team, and establish an entrepreneurial support network. With the guidance of mentors, students will delve into market research, intellectual property, and front-end development, and more.

IgniteIt is just getting started but they have long term vision as well. They hope to see participation skyrocket, and see its presence on other University campuses across the midwest. Their goal as well is to coordinate with other entrepreneurial events to create a better roadmap for ambitious students. While their goal for participation at this year’s event at 200, next year their hope and dream is to have 1000 students attend.

“We hope to expand IgniteIt Weekend to Michigan State’s campus next year and begin to expand outwards from there, implementing it at Northwestern, CMU and beyond,” he said.

Learn more about IgniteIt at


About the Author

Benjamin Seidman

Benjamin Seidman

Michipreneur Influencer at @michipreneur. Director of Business Development at @SPLT. Executive Team at @detroityp. Core Team at @Urbanei1. Tweeting my photography @bigseido and Instagram @seido_photography. Almost forgot, Go Blue!