Summer is fast approaching and so is Startup Weekend Toronto 2018. A few days ago, I had the chance to chat with previous SW6ix winner, Jill Javier. In 2016, her team took home 1st place with an educational product for children. Jill’s most recent venture, BitCity Group, recently signed a multi-year power deal with TransAlta to build a cryptocurrency mining facility.
Jill and I had a quick Q&A session about her experience at Startup Weekend Toronto.
Jill, what made you want to go to Startup Weekend?
I grew up with an entrepreneurial mindset thanks to my parents, but had been working at large Fortune 500 companies for the past 15 years. I had built a solid brand in project management launching other people’s ideas. I was comfortable and it was fun, but I reached a point when I needed to break out of it. After completing my MBA, I was exploring doing my own venture.
Around the same time, one of my close mentors at Capital One had left to set-up his own start-up. Together with my business school buddies, I started attending the entrepreneurship program which they used to have every Wednesdays at MaRS.
I didn’t have an idea for a startup yet, but I wanted to be exposed to the community. I knew a lot of the “theory” by then, but going to Startup Weekend in April 2016 was the perfect opportunity for me to break out of my comfort zone and learn hands-on.
Tell me about your experience during the weekend.
I arrived early when the doors weren’t open yet, and while waiting outside, I struck a conversation with a programmer named Rob who was also early. He had a great idea for kids. Kids these days are always in front of a screen, but are not learning how to build things with their hands anymore. He wanted to build a subscription box called MakerCat focused on solving this problem – each box would give kids the materials and instructions to build their own wearable or own robot. I pitched an idea that weekend as well, but liked MakerCat so much I later decided to join his team. We went out and did customer interviews, then I led the creation of the storyline and pitch deck. We ended up winning that weekend.
After that weekend, I introduced Rob to my mentor, and they ended up working together on my mentor’s start-up. I took MakerCat through the Founder Institute program.
Startup Weekend exposed me to so many talented people from different careers, and you never know what could come out of the connections you make. It was definitely a turning point for me, and I decided to do my own venture a few months later.
How do you avoid the trap of building the next “Uber of…” or the “Tinder for…”?
Stay away from the obvious – start to really force yourself to look beyond your own world by talking to people you would otherwise never talk to. Adopt a problem solver mentality.
54 hours is a demanding time frame to build a startup within. What’s the first thing you tackle?
Focus on the Sunday pitch and forgo any other noise. For us, there were two things we needed: a kick-ass story and a kick-ass deck. You can take forever trying to build the perfect product. Don’t let this be you. Deliver something and learn to tell the story.
What would you say to someone who’s on the fence about going to Startup Weekend?
Ask yourself: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Go ahead and take that one weekend that could change the rest of your life. It’s an investment in yourself. Listen to that pull inside. You have to just take that risk and see for yourself.
– – –
Startup Weekend Toronto 2018 is going to be taking place at Ryerson’s DMZ. DMZ was just named the world’s #1 university business incubator. What better place to experiment with your startup idea?
Get your tickets for #SW6ix today: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/techstars-startup-weekend-toronto-june-22-24-tickets-43404558202