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The Innovation Center

Ever wondered what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

The professional and personal challenges, the high and lows, the failures and the success?

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014.

The non-profit organization is headquartered in Seattle, Washington but Startup Weekend organizers and facilitators can be found in over 200 cities around the world. From Mongolia to South Africa to London to Brazil, people around the globe are coming together for weekend long workshops to pitch ideas, form teams, and start companies.

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups. If you want to put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur, register now for the best weekend of your life!



Aug 23
  • Registration Starts
  • Dinner & Networking
  • Welcome & Speakers
  • Pitches Start
  • Attendees vote for the top ideas
  • Teams start forming and discussing ideas
  • Start to formalize teams and take an inventory of skills. Be honest, and direct about what resources and skills are needed for the weekend. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow


Aug 24
  • Team building (optional) Walk on Water Bridgewalk
  • Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  • Teams formed and setting up workspace for the weekend
  • Lunch
  • Call for needs & skills
  • Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!
  • Dinner
  • Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
  • Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow


Aug 25
  • Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  • Call for help (this is self motivated, so don’t be shy)
  • Lunch
  • Coaches arrive… ASK QUESTIONS
  • Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
  • Dinner
  • Judging & awards
  • Wrapup
  • Go home!
Tier 1 Sponsors

Bud Jones

AGJ Systems

Bud Jones serves as the CEO of AGJ Systems & Networks, Inc., and is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and management of the business. Bud attended USM where he majored in Geographical Information Systems and History. After college, Bud served in the US Navy for six years before returning to the Civilian world where he found work as a consultant headquartered out of Atlanta, Georgia. Past work includes duties as a Design Analyst at Hartsfield International Airport and System Engineer for the State of Maine responsible for the design and implementation of its Statewide electronic medical document system.

In 2002, he along with his partners Brian Alford and Ryan Giles formed AGJ Systems & Networks and opened an office in the Gulf Coast Business Technology Center (now the Innovation Center). AGJ has received numerous awards and recognition at the Local, State and National levels and has quickly grew to be one of the largest information technology companies on the Coast. AGJ past honors include being selected as the Harrison County Development Commission’s Commercial Small Business of the Year for 2004, the Mississippi Business Journal’s Commercial Small Business of the Year for 2005, The Southern District Mississippi Governor’s Cup winner in 2006 and the Gulf Coast’s Chambers Tapestry Technology Award winner for 2005 and 2006. In 2010 AGJ was name one of Harrison County’s fastest growing businesses. AGJ Systems and Networks has been featured in “US News & World Report” in the Money & Business section as an example of small business success in a sluggish US market as well as in Success Magazine as an example of an American Comeback story in the post Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Today AGJ has over 700 clients throughout the Gulf Coast, United States, Europe and Australia.

In 2008 AGJ left the Innovation Center and moved into its own purpose-built 9000 square foot facility located in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Bud currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for the South Mississippi Contract Procurement Center and is a member if the Executive Board for the Greater Biloxi Economic Development Foundation. He is a member of Biloxi Centurions, Gulf Coast Business Council, Gulf Coast Junior College Web Curriculum Advisory board, and has served as the VP of Community Affairs and VP of Military Affairs for the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the Harrison-Stone County Master Plan focus group and the Biloxi Renaissance Committee. He has coached youth Baseball, Soccer, and Softball. Mr. Jones was named as one of the top ten business leaders under forty by the Sun Herald and one of the top forty Businessmen under forty by the Mississippi Business Journal. In 2011, Bud was spotlighted as the “Entrepreneurial Warrior of the Week” on George Jarkesy’s nationally syndicated radio show. Currently Bud is part of the GCBC 2013 Masters Class that is focused on how to best leverage the Science and Military Assets here on the Gulf Coast.

Dr. Lou Finkle

Entrepreneur /Angel Investor

Stephen O'Mara

Renaissance Corporation

Sher Graham

Chief Energy Officer, OSBI/SYNERGY, Inc.   |   LinkedInGoogle+

Sher Graham is an entrepreneur and known as “Dr. Mom.” For her, each day is full of challenging opportunities to serve others and build peace within her community. As Chief Knowledge & Energy Officer for OSBI/SYNERGY, Inc. Graham has fun in directing her team in creating solutions for business client challenges. They believe in cost-effective small tactics that create successful results.

Sher is an international speaker, published author, journalist, business consultant and publisher. She was a published national anthology writer at age 6, and has been writing, speaking and sharing her knowledge since then. SYNERGY is the publisher of Sea Oats Writers newsletter and will launch “CW” –Coastal Woman digital magazine in October 2013. She serves as Vice President of Education & Public Relations for the Downtown Mobile Toastmasters Club, Safe Kids Now, Inc. Board Member, Gulf Coast Director for The Peace Alliance, a member of eWomenNetwork and a SCORE Mississippi online counselor. She spends her volunteer time involved in the Bowl, NFL SuperBowl, PGA Championship Tour, Special Olympics and Tri-Coastal Community Outreach, Inc. – that is, when she is not cheering on her favorite sports team – the San Francisco 49ers!


Ryan Giles

Founding Partner – Chief Financial Officer, AGJ Systems & Networks Inc.

Ryan Giles is the Founding Partner and Chief Financial Officer of AGJ Systems & Networks Inc. in Gulfport, Mississippi. He is responsible for managing day-to-day business operations including: Human Resources, Sales/Marketing, and Finance. Design, implement, and support internal accounting, HR, and scheduling solutions for AGJ Team.
With Ryan's leadership, AGJ has reached a goal of $1M in total sales – FY 2006. He has Increased revenue by 791% from May 2002 through December 2005 and Increased technical staff by 267% from 2002 through August 2006 while increasing customer base by 736% in the same period. He has also secured business in over 24 states, Australia, and Poland, as well as secured partnerships with Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Cybernet, CDW, Symantec, and Micron. AGJ Systems has been featured in Success Magazine. In his personal time, Ryan has served as a Leadership Gulf Coast member, Boys and Girls Clubs – Stake and Steak Chairman, and was named as one of South Mississippi’s Top 10 Business Leaders Under 40 in 2007.

Mark Henderson

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company

Mark Henderson is a native Mississippian. He graduated high school from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science and then earned a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University. He moved to Hancock County in 1999 to work with a defense contractor in Long Beach, MS. He holds patents in acoustic and RADAR sensors. Since starting Lazy Magnolia, Mark has been involved heavily in automating functions at the brewery and building the facility. In addition to the practical side, he is also heavily engaged in the strategic vision of the company including financing, capital acquisition, and new business development. In 2010, Mark started LLG, an engineering firm devoted to RADAR development. In addition to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Mark has and continues to serve on a variety of community boards and is actively engaged in the future of Hancock County.

Matthew McLaughlin

Balch & Bingham

Matthew P. McLaughlin is a partner in the Jackson office. Matthew has broad experience in innovative commercial financing transactions that include federal and state tax credits, more particularly low income housing tax credits, renewable energy tax credits, new markets tax credits, historic tax credits and advanced coal project credits. Matthew concentrates much of his practice addressing federal and state tax issues in the context of business formation, planning, capitalization and operation. He has advised clients in asset and stock acquisitions, as well as all aspects of due diligence required there under. Matthew has served on the board and chairman of finance for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Mississippi, has been a member of the Campaign Cabinet for the United Way and volunteers for the American Heart Association. He has served on a educational program committee administered by the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce and has assisted in the implementation of the Save Your Heart Campaign for the American Heart Association. Matthew has served on the board of the Young Professionals, the Belhaven Improvement Association and was a founding member and director of the Phoenix Club of Jackson. He was recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal as one of Mississippi's 2008 "Top 40 Under 40."

Kathleen Chapman

Patent Attorney

John Shinn

President, PPS Software

John Shinn is President of PPS Plus Software, based in Biloxi, MS. Mr. Shinn founded the company in 1996 after serving as the administrator of the Kare Center Skilled Nursing Center for seven years. He started his company in the Biloxi Innovation Center and graduated in 2003. PPS Plus Software – Home Health Edition is the leading clinical OASIS analysis software available for home health agencies. PPS Plus Software is presently used by more than 750 home health agencies in over forty states. The company presently employs 30 professionals including programmers, nurses, and marketing experts. Mr. Shinn received a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Tulane University. He is a licensed nursing home administrator.

Cathye Ross

Independent Marketing Consultant

Charlie Beasley


Tony Jeff

President and CEO, Innovate Mississippi

Tony Jeff serves as the president and CEO for Innovate Mississippi.

Most recently, he served as Innovate Mississippi's vice-president and COO and the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation where he coordinated Innovate Mississippi’s work with entrepreneurs to bring their innovations successfully to market. In this position, he coached more than 400 entrepreneurial ventures and consulted with companies that successfully raised more than $125 million in private equity financing. Previously, he held the positions of director of the Mississippi Alternative Energy Enterprise and director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Mississippi (

Prior to joining Innovate Mississippi in 2002, Tony had corporate experience leading teams in finance, sales, engineering and operations. While working for Florida Power & Light, General Motors and Delphi Automotive Systems, Tony successfully led a variety of cross-disciplinary teams in finance and sales for a multi-billion dollar product line. He also successfully negotiated new business contracts in excess of $1 billion. When he was promoted to finance manager for North American Programs at age 30, he was the youngest senior manager in the $4.3 billion, 140,000 employee division. Tony left that position in 2002 to return to his home state of Mississippi and accept a position with Innovate Mississippi.

In addition to his corporate experience, Tony has started two businesses – one around a patent he co-invented and successfully brought to market. He was also a student of Japanese language and a member of the Foreign Teaching Staff of AEON Corporation in Tokyo, Japan. Tony earned a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from Mississippi State University. He received an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and a Masters of Engineering from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University through the Masters of Management and Manufacturing Program.

Tony is a technology evangelist who speaks regularly on emerging trends and strategies in technology and innovation commercialization.

Tony is married to the former Sheila Kalka, a family medicine physician. They reside in Madison with their sons, James and Joshua.

Tier 4 Sponsors
Tasha Bibb
Tiffany Langlinais
Stephen Whitt
Patty Usry

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