Guts, glory and charity: Here's what to expect at this year's Austin Startup Games

by Kelly O'Halloran
January 19, 2017

Now in its sixth year running, the Austin Startup Games will feature over 400 competitors across 16 local tech teams battling it out for gold — and charity. 

The first, second and third place finishers in each of the eleven events earn points for their team, and the team that scores the most overall points earns the right to donate money to the charity of their choosing. Last year, uShip took home the title and donated $20,000 to Communites in Schools

This year's event begins at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21 at Fair Market on E. 5th Street. It is open to the public with a suggested $10 donation at the door.  

We caught up with some of the teams participating this year to learn what causes they're competing for and more heading into the big day. Good luck to all!

 

Kedzie Teller is Outbound Engine's brand strategist.

What charity will your team be playing for?
SAFE Alliance

What are your team's strongest events going into this year?
As the returning champions in flip cup, our team is excited to go back out there and reaffirm our dominance. That being said, we fell one place short of medaling in a lot of events last year, and our Enginites want to redeem those near misses. Teams can expect us to put up a challenge in every event.

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
OutboundEngine has a culture built on teamwork with a touch of friendly competition, so year round we encourage Enginites to take part in extracurricular activities together. From bowling and basketball leagues to trivia groups and game nights, our Enginites spend a lot of time building chemistry outside of their daily jobs. Pair that with the event-specific practice we've had going on, our athletes should be very well prepared.

What in particular are y'all most looking forward to?
Any time the city can bring together passionate, intelligent and hardworking members of the startup force, it's a guaranteed good time. Yes, the games will be exciting and the competition will be fierce, but building relationships with others in the Austin startup community is the real highlight here.

 

James Perkins is the human resources generalist for Resignation Media.

What charity will you be playing for?
Our very own, Chive Charities!

What are your team's strongest events going into this year?
Our team is excited about our strong presence in flip cup. We spent some time over the last few weeks getting together the best team out there. We've never placed, but that will change this year!

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
theCHIVE has had several team building events throughout 2016 that has strengthened our culture and provided a ton of fun! We are excited to bring this excitement that we've developed to the SUG's! We hosted in-house try-outs after the Christmas break that provided us with the foundation to build a killer Startup Games team.

What in particular are y'all most looking forward to?
Competing for The Underdogs. Chive Charities is passionate about championing the underdogs, being able to provide a "megaphone" for those who can't. We are extremely excited to bring this passion and excitement for our Charity to the games. 

 

Yvette Velasco is the executive assistant to Headspring's CEO Dustin Wells.

What charity is Headspring playing for?
Do It For The Love Foundation

What are your team's strongest events going into this year?
Ping pong has always been our strongest event since we have a “pro” on our payroll. Eduardo is top notch, but there is a small chance that he may not make it into town for it because of a scheduling conflict that we’re hoping to clear in time, fingers crossed.

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
We don’t prep as far in advance as most other companies, but we will be having some tryouts and warm up sessions the week of.

What in particular are y'all most looking forward to?
The mystery event is always the talk around the office. The “unknown” keeps us all on our toes and in constant suspense.

Are there any team traditions before an event that we should keep an eye out for the day of the event?
We get really involved with our costumes and this year may be our best ever, so keep your eyes on the catwalk as we load in!

 

Damian Borichevsky is the vice president of client services at OneSpot.

What charity is OneSpot playing for?
Without Regrets

What are your team's strongest events going into this year? 
We are pretty excited about this year. Some of our new hires have a good track record at the Startup Games and we think we should be pretty competitive in darts, Mario Kart, pop-a-shot and ping pong. We've traditionally done well in Connect 4 and trivia, so we hope to keep that success going as well. We have also turned over our flip cup team to our New York-based sales director who spends lots of time on the Jersey Shore honing her skills, so we could be a dark horse there as well.   

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
We've got a pretty competitive ping pong and Mario Kart series going in the office and we have started asking about Startup Games skills during interviews. For example, I won't hire anyone who can't flip a cup on their first try.  

Are there any team traditions before an event that we should keep an eye out for the day of the event?
Last year, we were completely unprepared and had to build our team flag from an exhibit table cover and a broom that we found in the maintenance closet of the venue. Hopefully, this year we'll make a better entrance!

 

Justin Papermaster is sales manager at TrendKite.

What charity is TrendKite playing for? 
JDRF Diabetes Foundation

What are your team's strongest events going into this year?
We are bringing the heat in ping pong this year. Last year Kellen Damico on our sales team (and former Junior Wimbledon Champion) narrowly lost out in the championship. You can bet he is out for revenge.

Who is your biggest rival, and why?
SpareFoot and Capital Factory are both right across the street from us on Brazos... I'm not saying we will be wearing our victory medals to work every day to rub it in, but I'm not saying we won't, either. 

What in particular are y'all most looking forward to?
Startup Games is one of our company's favorite events of the year. It is where we started our RAGE hat tradition. We love the camaraderie and opportunity to hang out with our sister/brother startups in Austin. 

 

Angelek Marler is the office manager at OwnLocal.

Who is OwnLocal playing for this year?
Austin Bat Cave

What are your team's strongest events going into this year?
We plan on emerging victorious in any and all endeavors of athleticism or beer guzzling. However, I will say our CFO, Larry, is very serious about Connect 4. He's been practicing at home for a while now and we rarely see him anymore. And ping pong — the OwnLocal ping pong tournaments are serious. 

Who is your biggest rival, and why?
SpareFoot. Isn't SpareFoot everyone's biggest rival? They always win, and that hurts us. 

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
We all underwent a medical procedure, overseen by the military, that turned our weak, normal human bones into vastly superior super-human rods of unbreakable steel. We're basically all Bruce Willis in Unbreakable now. But without the train wreck or the strained marriage.

That, plus a few after work trips to Buffalo Billiards and some in-office practice sessions using our branded beer pong tables has been helpful. And of course, office strength training is a must. 

What in particular are y'all most looking forward to?

Winning at everything and being super aggressive. No, no, we're really looking forward to hanging out with our other startup friends. We love being a part of this industry, a part of this city, and part of the greater mission to give back to the community that has been so generous to us. 

 

RJ Gossett is the co-captain for SpareFoot's team and Chuck Gordon is CEO.

What charity will your team be playing for?
Kure It

What are your team's strongest events going into this year? "Trivia and Mario Kart. The core of our previously successful trivia teams is still here and we've supplemented that with some high-performing new SpareFooters. And let's just say the lunch hour has become the Mario Kart hour. The participants on the team this year definitely earned their spot." — RJ Gossett

Who is your biggest rival, and why?
"I'd have to say uShip. They are the only other team that has found themselves at the top of the leaderboard in the history of the games. They'll be looking to extend their streak this year, while we'll be looking to start a new one." — RJ Gossett

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
"The same as we do every year. Practice, practice, and more practice. We've ensured that each event is playable somewhere in the office. Some teams even started tryouts as far back as November to ensure the best selections were made for each event." — RJ Gossett

What in particular are y'all most looking forward to?
"Watching the final events — I love the energy!" — Chuck Gordon

Are there any team traditions before an event that we should keep an eye out for the day of the event?
"The Women of SpareFoot are looking forward to hosting a happy hour for all women from Startup Games companies on Tuesday, Jan. 17. The event promoted networking with women in the Austin startup industry and to make some friendly connections before the games this Saturday." — Chuck Gordon

 

Andrew Gabbard is a senior sales engineer at ShippingEasy.

What charity will your team be playing for?
Caritas of Austin

What are your team's strongest events?
Ping pong is definitely THE event we’re most excited to compete in. Our team’s star player, Travis, absolutely crushes it. He is a seasoned pong player and has won several office tournaments. We have a ping pong table in the sales area that gets daily use to both de-stress and reinvigorate the team.

Who is your biggest rival, and why?
Since this is ShippingEasy's first year participating, it’s tough to pinpoint one specific rival. Rumor has it SpareFoot and uShip are the teams to beat this year. While uShip is not in the same "industry" as ShippingEasy, naturally we'd like to beat them and hold the shipping title for Austin! Being an underdog doesn’t bother us and we hope to come in and take the Rookie of the Year award!

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
We’re taking preparation seriously by holding in-office tournaments and game days after working hours. Each participant is focusing on a specific game; however, we are providing a fun atmosphere in the office and encouraging everyone to practice and play any game they'd like. 

Are there any team traditions before an event that we should keep an eye out for the day of the event?
Jack Ship is the ShippingEasy mascot, and has been known to make appearances at events with our team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him watching a few of our events or taking part in random cheer circles that break out during the games.

 

Wade McMahon is sales order coordinator for Boundless and this year's team captain.

What charity will your team be playing for?
Meal on Wheels

What are your team's strongest events?
Beer pong, shuffleboard, darts, trivia, ping pong, shot put, Mario Kart, flip cup, foosball, Jenga, and corn hole just to name a few. Basically, anything that involves drinking as we over at Boundless get a lot of practice!

Who is your biggest rival, and why?
Our rival is probably SpareFoot! Although we never really get beat by any opponent, we more or less defeat ourselves if we do lose.

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
We have had a lot of drinking practice throughout this year. Whether it be our boat trips to Lake Travis playing cornhole on party barges or the ample happy hours where flip cup and beer pong is always an option! We have also held tryouts for the events. The best of the best won and they will be representing Boundless accordingly!

 

Armin Gafurovic is the growth and community outreach coordinator at LawnStarter.

What charity is LawnStarter playing for?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness

What are your team's strongest events going into this year?
Our strongest events would have to be beer pong and Mario Kart.

Who is your biggest rival, and why?
We don't really have any rivals, our main focus is to win. After getting 3rd place last year, we are looking to improve on that placement. 

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
Tryouts were the first things we did once the event list came out. Since the tryouts, we've been practicing to best position ourselves for success. 

What in particular are y'all most looking forward to?
We're looking forward to the competition. It's always a fun time when you get all of the startups under one roof.

 

Chris Marsh is PR and social manager for Modernize

What charity is Modernize playing for?
Girlstart

What are your team's strongest events going into this year?
All of them

Who is your biggest rival, and why?
Anyone without a Modernize shirt on. Because competition.

How has your team prepared for this year's games?
I can't disclose that information.

What in particular are y'all most looking forward to?
Winning.

 

Some responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Images via featured companies.

Have a news tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Tell us or tweet @BuiltInAustin.

 

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