Newly hatched ad concept scores win at weekend camp

by: TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Claudia Bueermann, a Catlin Gabel sophomore, presents her team's concept 'Hangit,' a program for organizing wardrobes.Many would agree that a lot of product-pushing TV commercials seem ineffective or downright annoying.

During last weekend’s Startup Camp event at Catlin Gabel School, a group of student entrepreneurs decided to do something about it.

“We came up with the idea based on online advertising and how ineffective they are in getting our attention,” said Simon McMurchie, a Catlin Gabel junior and team co-leader for the newly created AdUp business.

That idea is a website where businesses post information about their brands, and fledgling filmmakers respond with creative ads designed to cleverly and effectively pitch the product directly to the intended demographic.

“We’d be sitting around with friends and ads would come on (TV or website feeds), but they don’t know how to reach us,” said team co-captain Elliott Lewis. “We thought we knew how to make the ads better and more interesting, and the core idea became AdUp.”

The group was rewarded for its efforts last weekend as the winning team at the school’s first Startup Camp event. Held Friday through Sunday at the private school’s campus on Northwest Barnes Road, Startup Camp brought together student teams from Catlin Gabel, Lincoln High School and Oregon Episcopal School.

Teams spent the weekend conceiving, shaping and ultimately launching startup businesses — ranging from new digital software and smartphone apps to innovations in ice cream cones — and turning their visions into reality. On Sunday night, student teams presented final pitches to a board of startup investors who served as judges.

McMurchie and Lewis, whose team is rounded out by Y Yen Gallup, Thomas Newlands, Annie Loduca, Ford Brown, Brendan Edelson, Holden Denson and Andrew Mark, conceived AdUp as a source for businesses to seek out for creatively developed, affordable ads. For a nominal premium of, say, $200, a business with $1,500 or so to spend on an ad campaign could find a solution while providing a young artist valuable experience.

“It’s designed to make marketing cheaper and more effective, while also creating opportunities for young creative filmmakers and animators,” Lewis said. “They will be able to put that on college and job applications and be able to say that’s useful experience. It helps both parties involved.”

With the concept solidified, the team — with the help of area entrepreneurs and businesspeople participating in the Startup Camp — secured four client investors before the end of the weekend, including Western Bikeworks, Ruby Jewel, WePost Media and Bank of America’s Merchants Services. All told, the team accumulated $3,000 in investments.

“It was really exciting,” Lewis said. “That was the first sign we got that we had a chance to make it. That really set us apart.”

Drew Bernard, a Southwest Portland-based entrepreneur who served as a Startup Camp judge, said it was tough to choose among the impressive projects, but the ambitiousness and whimsy in AdUp proved impossible to deny.

“They already had validated their concept and had customers and progress made over the weekend,” he said. “On par, it was possibly better than what I see from some adults.

I don’t know that older is necessarily wiser when it comes to startups.”

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