Businesses look to fundraise for charity in friendly competition

For four years, the Startup Games, a competition that raises money for local charities has been helping Austin startups give back while having fun.

Last year, the event’s organizers created a spinoff called Startup Games: Level Up for businesses that have broken out of the startup phase but want to keep alive a spirit of charitable giving in their employees.

This Saturday, 10 businesses will compete in the second annual Startup Games: Level Up, where they will face off in games like ping pong, dodgeball, trivia, Mario Kart and Jenga, all while competing to raise money for charity.

“Imagine a day of 10 different games played in an Olympic-style event,” said Sara Levy, executive director of the Startup Games. “It’s a high-energy networking opportunity but it’s really an opportunity for companies to build culture and give back.’

Startup Games is its own nonprofit run out of Dan and Lisa Graham’s Notley Fund for philanthropic giving. An earlier Startup Games event in January raised more than $57,000, and the event’s organizers hope to bring the nonprofit’s total annual giving to $100,000 by the end of the the Level Up event, Levy said.

If that goal is reached, Levy said, it would bring the Startup Games nonprofit’s total giving to $265,000 over four years.

Participating businesses will represent the nonprofit of their choice and compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in 10 events, accumulating points for an overall score throughout the day. The team with the most total points at the end of the day will win the largest donation for the charity of its choice.

And things can get very competitive.

“The companies have a lot of bragging rights that come with winning,” Levy said. “They take it very seriously. They practice, they do tryouts, it’s a very exciting time for them.”

The BuildASign team, for example, has set up Mario Kart in its break room for team members to practice and put on two ping pong tournaments to select their competitors for the event.

“We have been working on Startup Games for months now,” said Laura Clagett, the BuildASign team captain.

And the team, which is the event’s defending champion, has extra motivation this year. They will be competing for the Lung Cancer Alliance, in honor of a colleague who recently died from the disease.

“It’s been personal in the past, but this year it’s going to be even more personal with the opportunity to represent something like that,” Clagett said.

The event at Fair Market on 1100 E. Fifth Street is open to the public with a suggested $10 donation. Doors will open at noon.

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