the women’s startup weekend

startherenow 2018

Go from idea to prototype at the premiere women's startup weekend.

September 29 and 30, 2018 | 2327 Commerce Street, Houston TX 


The Event

Part incubator, part pitch-day, brainstorming session, and hackathon, we help you Start your business. Here. Now.


Our mission


To create a collaborative environment where women can bring to life ideas that they are passionate about and build companies that solve big problems.

How does it work?

Founders submit their ideas and apply to lead a team. Passionate, interested women with diverse backgrounds apply to work on a team and bring an idea to life.

Who should apply?

Anyone is welcome. No prior experience or particular skills are needed. Past participants have been developers, designers, personal trainers, MBAs, moms, engineers, marketers, fashionistas, operations experts, data scientists, event planners ... if you're curious about entrepreneurship, this is for you!


How much does it cost?

$25/person for registrations before September 14, $35/person for registrations thereafter. Please apply and grab your ticket here. The registration fee covers the competition, eight meals, all refreshments, startherenow swag, the Preparation Party on September 19, all training & mentoring, and ... a whole lot of fun!  

Yes, I'd like to participate!




Thanks to the support of our fantastic sponsors, our 2018 Cash Prizes are six times larger than in 2017 and we have some outstanding In-Kind Prizes! Check back for updates as we add more prizes. Please subscribe to hear more or click here for the 2018 Sponsorship Guide.

Cash Prizes

  • $10,000 Silicon Valley Bank Grand Prize: $10,000 cash prize to the winning team
  • $2,500 Quorum Business Solutions Prize: $2,500 cash prize to the first runner up team
  • $1,250 Chevron Technology Ventures Prize: $1,250 cash prize to the second runner up team
  • $750 AECOM Director's Choice Prize: $750 cash prize to a deserving team
  • $750 OPEN Houston People's Choice Prize: $750 cash prize to the audience favorite on pitch day
  • $500 Rice Alliance Software Developer Prize: $500 cash prize to a developer team member
  • $500 Rice Alliance Software Developer Prize: $500 cash prize to a second developer
  • $500 Travel Voucher: $500 cash prize to a deserving team to cover travel expenses

Our 2018 prizes are being announced on a rolling basis. More to come! All cash prizes are cash only - no equity requirements.

In-Kind Prizes

As entrepreneurs ourselves, we know that cash prizes are fantastic and connections and good advice are worth their weight in gold. Thanks to our generous sponsors and supporters, we are excited to award the following in-kind prizes:

  • The Vela Wood Startup Incorporation Prize for the Winning Team: The expert attorneys at startup law firm Vela Wood will help the winning team incorporate into the right business entity - and will waive their fees to help you get started! (Winning team covers state and filing fees).
  • The Vela Wood Startup Incorporation Prize for the Runner-Up Team: The attorneys at Vela Wood  are going above and beyond and providing a second incorporation prize for the runner-up team.  Thank you Vela Wood!
  • Lunch with Juliana Garaizar, former Managing Director of Houston Angel Network and Senior Advisor, Rising Tide Fund
  • Lunch and Elevator Pitch Training with Allison Lami Sawyer, co-founder of Rebellion Photonics  
  • Kit Prize for the Best Elevator Pitch: the expert seamstresses at Houston's custom-clothing startup Kit will be making a custom-made blouse for the winner of Friday evening's elevator pitch competition

Our 2018 prizes are being announced on a rolling basis. More to come! 

Prizes and Benefits for Individual Team Members

For 2018, we're excited to announce prizes, swag, and other benefits for all participating team members to help you in your career and on your entrepreneurial journey. Thanks to our sponsors and supporters for making this possible! 

  • All team members will be able to have a professional profile picture taken by photographer Allen Nguyen - you'll be looking good!
  • Elevator Pitch Competition: If you have your own business and would like to practice and improve your pitch, participate in Friday night's Elevator Pitch Competition! You'll get practice, feedback, and the chance to win the KIT Prize for Best Elevator Pitch.
  • For our software developer team members, you have the opportunity to showcase your work and win one of two $500 Rice Alliance Software Developer prizes.
  • Power Lunch Raffle: To help you develop your business, we are holding raffles for power lunches with several of our judges, sponsors, mentors, and other connectors in the startup ecosystem. You'll be able to select which people you'd like to have lunch with and put your name in for the raffle.
  • Open Mentor "Ask Me Anything" Session: We will hold a short "Ask Me Anything" session with our mentors over lunch on Saturday. Participants will be able to ask the mentor's perspective on issues you face in your own business or career. 
  • Get to know the StartHereNow Tribe: Facilitated Networking: All participants will be able to meet 70+ other women entrepreneurs and share your experiences, energy, and areas where you need help.  To help make valuable connections over the weekend, we will be facilitating meaningful relationships through our StartHereNow Tribe Wall and Meet Your Tribe events on Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday. 


  • Goodie bags with a range of fun items and the StartHereNow 2018 Competition Hoodie 



Sponsors + Supporters


Sponsorships for StartHereNow 2018 are still open. Please click here for the 2018 Sponsorship Guide.


Leadership Team

StartHereNow was founded by Allison Lami Sawyer and Roy Johnston and is run by an energetic volunteer leadership team. 

  Allison Lami Sawyer,  co-founder, startherenow; co-founder @  Rebellion Photonics

Allison Lami Sawyer, co-founder, startherenow; co-founder @ Rebellion Photonics

  Roy Johnston , co-founder, startherenow; Principal @  Orange River

Roy Johnston, co-founder, startherenow; Principal @ Orange River

  • Erin O’Brien Gilbert | 2018 StartHereNow Finals Directors | Ph.D., Quality Control Assay Transfer and Qualification Specialist, Lonza Biotechnology
  • Lauren Miller | CEO & Co-founder, Aidant Brands
  • Merin Guthrie | CEO & Co-founder, Kit
  • Ellen Pizzuto | VP, Silicon Valley Bank
  • Leah Mayo | Co-founder, FOUND
  • Amy Prater | Ph.D. candidate, Rice University
  • Brittany Barreto | Ph.D., Co-founder & CEO, Pheramor
  • Fabiana Toro | Candidate for Master in Environmental Analysis & Decision-Making, Rice University
  • Tyler Gillespie | Founder + Guide Through Wonderland, Madhatter Coalition Venture Studio
  • Elizabeth Surrier | Candidate for Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, University of Houston
  • Abigail Gonzalez | Office of Business Opportunity, City of Houston
  • Gayathri Baburaj | Candidate for Master in Business Administration, University of Houston
  • Asma Mirza | Co-founder, Pheramor