It’s 10:30 on Friday night. While most people have gone home for the weekend, the Communitech Hub is noisy, packed with entrepreneurs, and their work is just beginning. For 105 participants, in 12 newly formed teams, their weekend will be filled with long hours, big challenges and one main goal: be ready to demo a prototype Sunday night in front of a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs.
Welcome to Startup Weekend Kitchener-Waterloo.
Startup Weekends are weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if their best ideas could become viable businesses.
Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. We were excited to have 44 pitches on Friday. Ideas ranged from an app to help gamers with an on-demand server solution to a LinkedIn for professional athletes. The attendees quickly narrowed down the pitches to their 12 favourites. Competition was tough as teams bartered and bribed to build the most dynamic and comprehensive skill sets possible. Developers, designers, marketers and business leaders were traded with the same cut-throat energy as seen during an NHL draft.
Then the work really started. Over Saturday and Sunday, teams focused on customer development, idea validation, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies, and building a minimal viable product. Teams were spotted out on the streets of Kitchener and Waterloo talking to strangers to gather market research. To get the information they needed to build out their ideas, teams even posted ads on Kijiji and Craigslist around the world.
During the weekend, teams were able to book meetings with a range of high-profile mentors who volunteered their time to help develop and refine ideas.
On Sunday evening at 5pm sharp, the Hub suddenly quieted. All of the work, stress, and development was over. All that was left was for the teams to demo their prototypes in a five-minute pitch. The judging panel asked tough questions and provided valuable feedback.
While all 12 teams presented well, the judges picked their top three based on a variety of criteria including how solid the pitch was, the viability of the business model, and whether or not they were able to build a minimum viable product.
The third place winner was ZEROWAITTHIRTY, who intrigued the judges with their B2B app intending to reduce walkaways at restaurants and allow hostesses to manage wait times and customer expectations.
In second place was Fides, a social media analytic company that aimed to turn data into meaningful insights that would allow social media manager to learn from their audience and followers to predict what their audience wants and needs.
The winner of the first Startup Weekend Kitchener Waterloo was HomeFed who pitched a platform to connect travellers with home-cooked and authentic foods wherever they are, by matching them with enthusiastic local hosts who will cook for them.
All 12 teams indicated they were planning on continuing their business beyond the weekend. This is rare, notes Sally Ng, the Startup Weekend Global Facilitator who oversaw the weekend. However Ng noted that Waterloo Region is special. She says, “the question normally is, what happens to companies on Monday? Here there is a really well built ecosystem. The specific structure of having the Hub [and its program] is crucial to the success of these companies.”
A huge thank to everyone who participated in the first Startup Weekend Kitchener-Waterloo. Thanks to your energy and dedication we know it won’t be the last!