Calgary was hit by more than one storm this past weekend as sixty hackers, hipsters and hustlers gathered at the Global Business Centre to take part in a 54-hour marathon of start-up life. One of thirteen similar events held across the globe, Startup Weekend helps validate business ideas ranging from simplified cryptocurrency trading to sustainable honey production using blockchain technology.
“I had an idea, did the research to gain insight into the problem and knew how to solve it, but didn’t have the technical skills to build it,” says founder of MycoRemedy Kelcie Miller-Anderson. “I was amazed by what our team was able to build in a few days. A previous Startup Weekend also helped me find a technical co-founder!”
MycoRemedy was one of the top 10 companies showcased at Startup Calgary’s Launch Party in 2016. Miller-Anderson came to Startup Weekend looking for a way to advance her idea of using blockchain to hold honey producers accountable for sustainable production.
Twenty-six budding business owners like Miller-Anderson pitched their ideas to a group of over sixty entrepreneurs, building 11 teams ready to roll up their sleeves for two days to create a minimum viable product (MVP). The weekend was facilitated by Techstars and the Startup Calgary team, with coaching provided by mentors in the Startup community.
“I never thought I would be a business owner this early on, but I am because of Startup Weekend,” says Techstars Facilitator Claire Topalian, who along with colleague Mitchell Cuevas, got to experience the “aha” moments first-hand. “Some people walk in the door without any coding experience and, after working alongside a developer for the weekend, are now building their own site. It is a learning environment first and foremost.”
From serial entrepreneurs to fresh, young faces new to the community, Startup Weekend attracts people aged 16 to 60 who want to solve a problem or get one step closer to launching their big idea.
“I keep coming back to Startup Weekend to meet new people and build something new,” says 16-year old participant Faris Fizal who was first introduced to Startup Calgary at a high school hackathon. “I now know that ideas never stay the same, and that’s a good thing. I am still working on an app that my team started at the last Startup Weekend and am excited to see where that goes.”
Several success stories have emerged from previous Startup Weekends worldwide, including Overdose Response and Community Access (ORCA), an app developed by Calgary mentor Re Carlson this past September in response to an associate’s loss of their son to a fentanyl overdose. The solution is just days away from shipping to the app store.
“You leave the weekend on a high from getting things done and are ready to change the world, but that feeling can start to wane after a few weeks when you are back in your daily routine. If you meet with your team regularly and have a clear plan, it’s completely possible to maintain momentum and take your project to the next level after Startup Weekend,” says Carlson.
The judging panel included Vidya Crawley, Business Designer & Leader at ATB X, Court Ellingson, Vice President Research and Strategy at Calgary Economic Development, Sarah Morrill, Program Manager at Venture Mentoring Service Alberta and Jonathan Stiansen, Director of Engineering and Operations at Hobnob.
First place for the weekend was awarded to Re:Skill, a tool for helping people acquire the skills they need to land their dream job. Re:Skill will showcase at Launch Party 2018, receive complimentary tickets to participate in community programming, and access floating desks at Work Nicer for the next six months.
“If you aren’t part of this world it’s intimidating,” says Re:Skill team member Amrita Atwal. “Working with the coaches helped me overturn the misconception that launching a successful company happens overnight.”
Startup Weekend awards
1st place: Re:Skill - provides a singular focus to help people get the right skills for their future.
2nd place: Bitspread - simplifies cryptocurrency arbitrage by allowing people to execute profitable trades across multiple exchanges without setting up exchange accounts.
Honourable mention: The Haps App - helps AirBnb hosts provide a better and comprehensive guest experience
Honourable mention: Bumble Chain - stabilizes the global honey industry by creating trust and traceability through blockchain technology.
The next Startup Weekend Calgary is June 2 to 4, 2018. Join the startup community to hear about events, access resources and connect with other entrepreneurs.