I had brunch with one of my coworkers from my 10 year tour with FP 500 Company, Lexmark. He keeps up on the news and was lamenting the recent stumbles of RIM and the purchases of the other Canadian tech companies. I had told him not to fear as there were a great number of other companies coming through being created by entrepreneurs all across Ontario. A great example of this is Startup Weekend Toronto.
The work starts several months in advance with Chris Eben and a team organizing the massive event. The weekend officially starts on Friday with people pitching their ideas. This year in Toronto, there were almost 90 ideas pitched. These ideas are voted on and approximately 20 ideas are selected. The 300 people then pick teams and form a company. The teams seemed to range from three people to just under 20 people.
This is hardly just an academic exercise with hypothetical business, but these groups become real companies for all intents and purposes. Surveys are created and users are contacted to refine the solutions. Functioning websites created with alphas and then beta versions. Users are signed up through social media, networking, and even cold calls. One of the companies, HeroBox the eventual winner, created a funnel with over $20,000 in revenue through a number of opportunities. I had the honour of being involved by providing a few hours of mentoring to teams on Saturday during the day. After almost two days of creating, the companies pitched to an impressive panel made mostly of VC firms.
Congrats to all those involved including the top three teams Code with Friends, Unbox, and the winner Herobox.
For other views on Startup Weekend Toronto, check out Mark Evans from the Globe and Matt Braga from the National Post. To get a good feel for the event, spend 17 minutes and watch a video created by Eighteen Eighty following two companies from Startup Weekend in Toronto from 2010.
It was a great weekend and a truly uplifting experience, even just being involved with a few hours of mentoring. For the 2012 edition, VA Partners plans to be more involved by making more time available for mentoring and pursuing a sponsorship arrangement. Don’t forget to check our monthly events blog to see what is taking place in your area.