Young entrepreneur, DJ wants to inspire at Startup Weekend

It didn’t take long for Reese Kelsey to catch the startup bug after attending her first Startup Weekend in October.

Now, four Startup Weekend events later, the 23-year-old DJ from Windermere has become a staple at the weekend-long business-building events.

She will attend her fourth in roughly six months this weekend on the campus of Rollins College in Winter Park.

Reese Kelsey, DJ

“It’s not easy to meet people my age demographic who are interested in entrepreneurship and tech,” she said. “This draws them out.”

Startup Weekend starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park.

Startup Weekend events have become synonymous with startup culture around the world ever since they debuted in Boulder, Col., about 17 years ago.

Reese Kelsey, entrepreneur

For years, launching a locally led Startup Weekend event meant a healthy community that supported new business growth.

In Orlando, Startup Weekend has become a vehicle for creation that launches businesses twice a year.

For people like Kelsey, it has meant another outlet for her competitive but collaborative spirit.

“I love to work hard and do my best to try to win something,” she said. “But the conversations and innovation and the level of thinking it requires makes it so, by the end of it, I’m better off as an entrepreneur.”

New to this upcoming Startup Weekend is the support of internationally renowned speaker and entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman, the founder of, who will serve as one of the judges.

Beyond that, mentors with highly diverse backgrounds will pop in throughout the weekend to guide the new companies.

“Mentors are crucial to the process,” local organizer Rajiv Menon, noting that this weekend’s event will have between 16 and 20 mentors. “They bring in different perspectives and give the teams more options on how to proceed with thorny problems.”

“It is a special kind of person who gives up their weekend to participate in an event like this,” said Cassie Muffley, acting program director for the Defense Innovation OnRamp Hub program who will be a mentor. “They are hungry for a challenge and growth.”

Muffley helps lead the National Security Innovation Network, a series of innovation hubs. She is based in Orlando.

“I love learning about new ideas and watching how they change over a weekend,” she said. “My favorite part is helping teams prepare their pitches. You can have a truly transformative idea but it goes nowhere if you don’t know how to articulate it.”

As Kelsey has become interested in entrepreneurship, she has taken the same approach to networking that she did when she started to DJ several years ago.


To reach more people then, she started hanging out at nightclubs, immersing herself in the community to get a feel for it and network.

Startup Weekend events and other so-called hackathons have become her night club to build a network in entrepreneurship, she said.

“It’s about meeting people and getting my foot in the door,” Kelsey said. “I am not someone who will wait back and wait for an opportunity. I want to go out there and do what I have to do to get where I want to go.”

As she does, she said she also wants others in her age group to look at her as an example.

“I want to inspire others to get into entrepreneurship,” she said. “It’s not easy but it’s enjoyable, it’s fulfilling.”