the women’s startup weekend

startherenow 2018

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

$10k first prize. $65k+ in prizes. 

StartHereNow 2018 was September 29 and 30, 2018. See below for highlights & sign up for 2019.


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 16, $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!



We will be awarding more than $50,000 in cash and in-kind prizes


Cash Prizes

  • $10,000 Silicon Valley Bank Grand Prize: $10,000 cash prize to the winning team

  • $2,500 Quorum Software Prize: $2,500 cash prize to the first runner up team

  • $1,250 Chevron 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 Farid Ventures Software Developer Prize: $500 cash prize to a second developer

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 Carbono App Design Concept Prize: Carbono, the Early-Stage Digital Product Development Firm, will provide an App Design Concept Prize to help the winner’s idea be a step closer to reality. The App Design Concept Prize consists of the general design concept of the application, the basic design guidelines, and up to three screens of interface design assets.

  • The Carbono MVP Consultation: For the two runner-ups, Carbono will provide a 1-hour MVP consultation to help align the digital product strategy with the business objectives of the startup.

  • 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!

  • The Fifteen Media Public Relations Prize for the Winning Team: Public relations expert and entrepreneur Rebekah Epstein from Fifteen Media will provide a PR strategy package to the winning team, including a 30-minute strategy consultation, two press pitches, and a media list appropriate for the winner’s business.

  • The Fifteen Media Public Relations Prize for the Runner-Up Team: Public relations expert and entrepreneur Rebekah Epstein from Fifteen Media will also provide a PR strategy package to the runner-up team.

  • The Strahan Cain Founder’s Package: Thanks to the team at Strahan Cain, we are also awarding a Founder’s Package to one team of the judge’s choice.

  • The Strahan Cain Legal Services Packages (two!): The judges will also be awarding two prizes of legal services from Strahan Cain, each worth $1,500, which can be used towards contracts, trademarks/IP licensing, formation - whatever your startup needs.

  • 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.


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 Alan 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 a $500 Rice Alliance Software Developer prize or the $500 Farid Ventures Software Developer Prize.

  • 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.

  • Bonanza Marketing Course: Create smart marketing strategies, plans and tactics that deliver revenues through one of Bonanza Marketing’s 4-week courses.  Popular courses include Marketing Strategy, Marketing Planning, Ideal Buyers and more.  Winners can choose the course that best fits their business needs.

  • The Strahan Cain Legal Services Package (one): For our individual team members, we have a legal services pacakge from Strahan Cain, worth $1,500, which can be used towards contracts, trademarks/IP licensing, formation - whatever your startup needs.

  • The Growthli Prize Package: For our individual team members, a 12-month Membership Bundle sponsored by Growthli enabling discounted access to office space, printing, and other office services and participation in the monthly coaching program offered at Growthlii.



Sponsors + Supporters


Thank you to our 2018 sponsors! Please click here for the 2018 Sponsorship Guide.


2018 Judges


Barbara Burger

President, Chevron Technology Ventures

Gabriella Rowe

Managing Director, Station Houston

Amanda Edwards

Houston City Council, At-Large Position 4

Diana Murakhovskaya

Co-Founder at Monarq / Investor / Advisor / Entrepreneur

Stephanie Campbell

Managing Director, Houston Angel Network

Juliana Garaizar

TMC Fund Investment Committee, Kaufman Fellow, Houston Exponential, Board Member @ Angel Committee Association

Samina Farid

Entrepreneur & Investor


Leadership Team

StartHereNow was founded by Allison Lami Sawyer and Roy Johnston and is run by an energetic volunteer leadership team. Our 2018 StartHereNow Director is Erin O'Brien Gilbert.


Allison Lami Sawyer

Co-founder, StartHereNow. Co-founder @ Rebellion Photonics


Roy Johnston

Co-founder @ StartHereNow. Principal @ Orange River


Erin O'Brien Gilbert

2018 Competition Director. Ph.D. @ Lonza Biotech.

  • Erin O’Brien Gilbert | 2018 StartHereNow Competition Director | 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

  • Fabiana Toro | Candidate for Master in Environmental Analysis & Decision-Making, Rice University

  • Tyler Gillespie | Founder + Guide Through Wonderland, Madhatter Coalition Venture Studio

  • Elizabeth Serrurier | 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