“A Weekend of Your Life That Could Change Your Life”– A Talk with Startup Weekend Toronto ’16s Winner

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

Pangolin takes the 1st place in Techstars Startup Weekend Toronto, powered by INFINITI.

54 hours of action took place during the weekend of October 20-22, in Workhaus Commerce Court in downtown Toronto. Participants from all over the Greater Toronto Area got together to pitch their ideas, form teams and take the first steps to launch their startups. The event was possible thanks to the support of INFINITI Canada, a company that empowers entrepreneurs in different stages, previously with their INFINITI LAB for later stage companies and now through Techstars Startup Weekend, the event where entrepreneurs go to ‘get their start’.  

On Friday night more than 24 ideas were shared in front of the audience, and out of those, 7 were chosen to be worked on by teams during the weekend. On Saturday, the teams were coached by mentors from all over Ontario, including mentors from the Toronto startup community like Oksana Salamaszek from The Working Group, Tariq Haddadin from Techstars Toronto, and Grant Brigden from the startup Rover, which won 1st place in the past edition of Toronto INFINITI LAB. The teams got advice from mentors from the INFINITI Canada team, including Julie Daigle Raphael Huegli and Chris Little. You can see the full list of mentors here.

Some of our Coaches and Jen Riedel, facilitator of the event.

On Sunday the teams presented a 5-minute pitch in front of a panel of 3 judges: Theresa Humphrey, Brand Manager for INFINITI, Angelo Del Duca, Angel Investor, and Sunil Sharma, Managing Director of the Techstars Toronto Accelerator Program.

The top 3 places went to the following teams:

1st Place: Pangolin –  Pangolin helps lower the premium for retailers by mitigating risks for insurance companies using smart IoT devices

2nd Place: Hybernate – Hybernate helps businesses decrease the expenses related to HVAC through IoT

3rd Place: GEM – GEM helps millenials be congruent with how they spend their money and what their values are, using a ‘GEM’ reward system.

Besides taking the top 3 places in the contest, one member of each of the winning teams got a full scholarship to join the January cohort of Founders Institute Toronto, so they can continue developing the skills needed to be great founders.

Techstars Startup Weekend was a great success. Thanks to our signature sponsor INFINITI, Workhaus for being great hosts, and to all the mentors, coaches and judges that helped empower this amazing group of entrepreneurs.

Stay connected to the Techstars Toronto community by following us on our Facebook page here. 

Thank you to our volunteers, mentors and judges!

Thank you to all of the volunteers, mentor and judges,Startup Weekend Toronto would not have been possible without you!

A list of mentors and judges is provided below.  If you are on this list, want something edited or deleted, or we have inadvertently missed someone, please let us know and we’ll fix it.  We have tried to include Twitter handles (@name), LinkedIn profiles, and other ways to connect but please do not spam them with unsolicited communications.


All of our participants benefit from your guidance and wise words of advice during the weekend.  Your feedback was incorporated into the final products and pitches.  We hope that you enjoyed mentoring Toronto’s future entrepreneurs.

Jason Pereira, Partner and Financial Consultant at Bennett March, www.linkedin.com/in/pereirajm

Rob Maurin, VP Brand Engagement at Wave, @robmaurin

Jason Moyse, Lawyer, www.linkedin.com/in/jasonmoyse, @jasonmoyse

Andrés Aquino, Partner at TWG, www.linkedin.com/in/andresaquino1, @eh_eh

Jay Vidyarthi, Senior Interaction Designer at InteraXon, www.jayvidyarthi.com, @jayvidyarthi, http://www.linkedin.com/in/jayvidyarthi”

Inbae Ahn, Managing Partner, CIO at Polyform Labs, ca.linkedin.com/in/inbae

Kristina Libby, @kristinalibby, www.linkedin.com/in/kristinalibby/

Rosy Rumpal       Startup Lawyer at DMZ, Fashion Zone & The Lean Lawyer, ca.linkedin.com/in/rosyrumpal

Daryna Kulya, Manager, Digital Innovation Lab at Deloitte, ca.linkedin.com/in/darynakulya/, @darynakulya

Mat Savulescu, Data Storyteller and Founder at Literally, www.literally.ca, www.linkedin.com/in/msavulescu, @LiterallyAgency

Marco Petkovski, Measurement & Analytics Lead at Teehan+Lax, www.linkedin.com/pub/marco-petkovski/23/abb/ab

Katie Hrycak, UX Designer at Wave, @khrycak

Mark Appleby, UX/Front-End Developer  at TWG, @themarkappleby, ca.linkedin.com/in/themarkappleby/

Mike Lovas, Chief Design Officer and Co-Founder of PUSH, trainwithPUSH.com, @mlovas, ca.linkedin.com/in/mlovas/

Robert Tu, Founder, MeU: Open Source Wearable LED Display, theMeU.net, @the_MeU_LED, ca.linkedin.com/in/robert1tu3

John Grant, Senior Mobile Developer at The Working Group, ca.linkedin.com/pub/john-grant/19/263/146/, @grantjk, www.grantjk.com

Dan Langer, Developer Team Lead at Wave, dan@waveapps.com, @dlanger, www.linkedin.com/in/daniellanger

Zak Homuth, Co-Founder & CEO at Upverter, @zakhomuth, zakhomuth.com, www.linkedin.com/in/zakhomuth

Michael Woodworth, Co-founder at Upverter, @mwoodworth33, ca.linkedin.com/in/michaelwoodworth1

Robleh Jama, Tiny Hearts, www.tinyhearts.com, @robjama, www.linkedin.com/in/robjama

Rajen Sanghvi,    COO @Shoplocket  and The BluePrint,  ca.linkedin.com/in/rajensanghvi, @RajenSanghvi, rajensanghvi.com

Bing Lin Senior, Project Manager at AutoDesk, www.linkedin.com/in/binglin

Nick Kuhne, iOS developer, ca.linkedin.com/pub/nick-kuhne/a9/259/597

Sharon Fan, Operations Lead at GestSure, www.gestsure.com, www.linkedin.com/in/sharonfan, @shfantastic

Anna Romanovska, User Experience Designer at Autodesk, ca.linkedin.com/pub/anna-romanovska/16/185/548

Jeremy Bell, Co-founder & CEO at Wattage, @jeremybell, www.linkedin.com/in/jeremybell, www.wattage.io

Jay Lorencz, Director of Client Services at Beyond Marketing Group, ca.linkedin.com/pub/jay-lorencz/2/883/53b, www.beyondmg.com

Mark Goh, Founder and CEO at ChargeSpot, www.linkedin.com/in/gohmark, @charge_spot

Mauricio Meza, Business Development at Komodo OpenLab , @sqr_m, ca.linkedin.com/in/mezamauricio/

Heather Tay, Interim Executive Director at Imagination Catalyst, OCAD, www.linkedin.com/in/heathertay, @hdatay

Calvin Chu, Founder at Palette, www.palettegear.com, @palettegear, @cchurun, ca.linkedin.com/in/calvinjchu

Shannon Fox, Co-Founder at Canopy.co, @shanndfox, ca.linkedin.com/in/shannondfox

Daniel Kaplan, Co-Founder, Canopy.co,  @okaykap, ca.linkedin.com/pub/daniel-kaplan/3b/38/953, danielkaplan.co


We were honoured to have such an experienced group of Internet of Things builders, entrepreneurs and investors.  Thanks for gracefully choosing the winners, which was really difficult given the talented teams who presented.

Natasha Baker, Founder at SnapEDA, @NatashaABaker, @Snap_EDA, www.snapeda.com, linkedin.com/in/natashaabaker

Matthew Leibowitz, Parter at Plazacorp   , @m_leibowitz, ca.linkedin.com/in/matthewleibowitz/

Karl Martin, CEO at Bionym, @KarlTheMartian, ca.linkedin.com/in/karlmartin0

Ian Collins, Founder and CEO at CrowdCare, @Wyrex95, ca.linkedin.com/in/wyrex

Vello wins Startup Weekend Toronto – Internet of Things Edition

(Reposted from the media release crafted by the talented Holly Knowlman)

A new wave of IoT companies got their start in Toronto this weekend at Startup Weekend Toronto: Internet of Things Edition.

The 54-hour event brought together makers, designers, developers and entrepreneurs to share ideas and launch new businesses. Teams spent the weekend talking to potential customers and building product prototypes before presenting to a panel of judges on Sunday afternoon.

Judge Natasha Baker, Founder of SnapEDA, spoke about the importance of events like Startup Weekend for fuelling innovation in the IoT space.

“By 2020 there will be over 50 billion connected devices as part of the Internet of Things,  and a lot of innovation in the space is coming from smaller companies and startups. Broader connectivity is the next wave of innovation in computing, following on from mobile. That makes events like Startup Weekend, which give entrepreneurs a platform to vet their ideas, so valuable.”

She was joined on the judging panel by Karl Martin, CEO & Co-Founder of Bionym, Matthew Leibowitz of Plaza Ventures and Ian Collins, Founder and CEO of Crowdcare Corporation.  

They selected Vello, creators of a smart vent to control temperature in the home, as the first place team. They impressed judges with their prototype for a simple, beautiful honeycomb vent that could be opened or closed via an iPhone app.

Joey Piro, who originally pitched the idea for Vello, stressed the importance of teamwork when launching new companies.

“This weekend I learned the importance of having faith in those around you to help you execute on your vision. Vello was only possible because of how well our team meshed and worked together as a unit.”

Second place was StoveAlert,  a lightweight smart device that detects stovetop temperatures and alerts you of changes before an accident occurs. myMouse, a custom-built ergonomic computer mouse designed to fit the hand of an individual user, took third place. 

Event sponsor VitaminWater awarded ExploreTO their special “doer” award, given to the team they thought worked the hardest over the weekend. ExploreTO is a curated, pre-paid subscription services for experiences that helps people try something new each month.

Startup Weekend Toronto is just one of 250 Startup Weekend events taking place during Global Entrepreneurship Week. Teams in Toronto will now go on to compete against entrepreneurs from other regions in the Global Startup Battle, the world’s biggest startup competition. Prizes for the champions include tickets and travel to GEC in Milan, LAUNCH in San Francisco and a media tour in New York City.

Toronto startups have an impressive track record in the Global Startup Battle, winning the competition in both 2013 and 2012. Last years winners, Pawly, created a robotic chew toy that gives dog owners a new way to interact with their pet. Pawly is currently preparing for the public launch of their product.

Startup Weekend Toronto Internet of Things Edition was presented by Ontario Centres of Excellence and took place at MakeWorks and The Shop this weekend. There, teams had access to 3D printers, laser cutters and other equipment for building hardware prototypes.

“I’m consistently impressed with the level of talent in the city. Startup Weekend has a great track record of launching amazing companies in Toronto and this event was no exception. Our participants, mentors and sponsors have all demonstrated that Toronto is a hotbed of talented when it comes to Internet of Things innovation.” – Lead organizer, Heather Simmonds

About Startup Weekend Toronto: Startup Weekend Toronto is an intense 54-hour event where local entrepreneurs, developers, designers, marketers, product managers, startup enthusiasts and anyone interested in building a business will come together to share ideas, form teams, and launch a startup. Startup Weekend Toronto Internet of Things Edition is presented by Ontario Centres for Excellence and sponsored by BDC Capital, Autodesk and Shopify.  For more information about Startup Weekend Toronto please visit swto.ca, email toronto@startupweekend.org or search Twitter hashtag #SWTO.

 About Startup Weekend: Startup Weekend™ supports the development and expansion of entrepreneurship through events worldwide that educate aspiring entrepreneurs by immersing them in the process of moving an idea to market. Startup Weekend has built a network of more than 55,000 alumni, thousands of volunteer organizers and 100 trained facilitators spread across more than 300 cities in 100 countries. Google, Coca-Cola, AWS and .Co are sponsors. For more information, visit www.startupweekend.org or follow us on Twitter @startupweekend.


Crossing the finish line: judging criteria for SWTO

You’re heads down and working hard, teams. Creating, validating, making, innovating… and for what? To help keep you on point while you drive your ideas to the finish line, here’s a reminder on the judging criteria. Remember, you’re competing for a host of rad prizes AND the chance to represent Toronto at Global Startup Battle: can we win a third a year in a row?!

The three key criteria are:


  • did your team get out and talk to customers?
  • are you actually solving a problem?
  • have you identified a specific target market?

Execution and Design

  • do you have an MVP or prototype?
  • how functional is your technical demo?
  • Design matters! How easy is your product to use?

Business Model

  • are you solving a problem? (value proposition)
  • is your idea unique?
  • how do you plan on making this a successful business?

Also, courtesy of our Global sponsor Coca-Cola, our friends at vitaminwater are sponsoring the vitaminwater do-er award! Here’s the details: 

Glaceau vitaminwater believes in the creators, the movers, the shakers, & the do-ers who are making things that help people rock their day like nobody’s business.  maybe it’s a breakthrough app that lets you play with your dog remotely while you’re at work and he’s at home (done!) or a chair that allows deaf people to feel sound so intimately they can hear it (happening!) and you – budding entrepreneurs who make the world go ‘round.

that’s why we are here, hydrating you through startup weekend and doing our part to help unleash the power of your idea. we want to acknowledge your hustle, your passion, your spirit by hydrating your team for a whole year and give you access to some of the resources we use that help us do what we do.  think of it as one way we’re trying to pay it forward. we were, after all, a start-up of our very own once.

vitaminwater and UP GLOBAL will be granting the vitaminwater do-er award to the team that best demonstrates their take-no-prisoners, hustle-their-hearts out, work-their-booties-off attitude.  so what if you don’t win startup weekend? we only care about the overall positive pursuit of your idea. 

for complete contest details click here

You’ve got your marching orders, SWTO teams. Dazzle us!




SWTO Teams: Meet the judges!

Wanna know who you’re presenting to tomorrow, teams? Here’s our fancy Internet of Things Edition Judge’s panel!

Natasha Baker is the founder of SnapEDA, a platform that accelerates the design and manufacturing of electronics. She is also a technology contributor to several publications including Reuters and Forbes. Natasha has a BASc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto, and has held technical and marketing roles within the electronics industry since 2006, working with companies such as National Instruments and Analog Devices.

SnapEDA is democratizing the development of electronics and fuelling the innovation of new gadgets, including wearable technology and Internet of Things devices, by providing the building blocks electronic designers need to design and manufacture products faster.

Karl Martin is the founder and CEO of Bionym, makers of the Nymi wristband which authenticates identity using the wearers cardiac rhythm. He has a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto, with expertise in biometrics, cryptography, and privacy. A builder at heart, he’s happiest when creating things (especially with blinky blinky lights).

Matthew Leibowitz joined Plaza Ventures as Partner in 2012. Throughout his career, Matthew has been involved in all aspects of the investment cycle having completed dozens of transactions of early stage technology companies. Matthew was formerly a Principal with an institutional investment firm in Toronto. Matthew focuses on origination, vetting, due diligence, negotiation and deal structuring of investments and private equity financing agreements across technology sectors, as well as the refining of business concepts, selecting appropriate business plans for investment and monitoring and enhancing the
performance of portfolio companies.

Ian Collins is the founder and CEO of the Crowdcare Corporation, building the next-generation of app based tech support platform that will enable regular people to quickly and easily solve their everyday problems with their smart devices. Ian is an entrepreneur and investor who has founded 6 tech companies in the last 18 years, while raising over $100 million in venture capital.

Volunteer at Startup Weekend Toronto

Want to get involved with the Toronto startup community, network with like minds, and participate in a highly-creative, energetic and fun weekend? Then, consider volunteering at Startup Weekend Toronto this weekend! Our theme is The Internet of Things. It’ll all go down at MakeWorks (1139 College Street).
Click here to learn what volunteering at a Startup Weekend is all about.
If you haven’t participated before, watch this video. Toronto’s got a pretty good track record; the last two SWTO winners went on to compete against hundreds of international teams, and won the Global Startup Battle. THAT’S TWO YEARS IN A ROW!
You can sign up to volunteer here. On top of supporting the development of new-born startups, you’ll get meals all weekend, cool SWTO swag, and a seat to watch the final pitches on Sunday. And don’t forget the after-party. There are a few spots left — so act quickly!
Feel free to reach out to irfan.pirbhai@gmail.com if you have any questions.
It’ll be cool to see some of you there. 🙂
The Organizing Team

Getting Ready for #SWTO

Startup Weekend Toronto is almost here!

The organzing team is pulling together all the details to make your weekend the best.  Get lots of rest, practice your one minute pitches and recruit your friends to join us.

Here are some Questions and Answers to help you prepare for the weekend:

Q. How do I get more information about the Weekend?

A. Follow us on twitter (@startupwkndTO), like us on Facebook (Startup Weekend Toronto) and watch the blog (SWTO.ca) for updates over the next few days for announcements.  You can also start practicing your tweeting for the event using hashtag #SWTO.

Q.  Are there any tickets left?
A. There are a very limited number of tickets left for designers, makers, and developers here.

Q. What should I bring?
A. Your laptop (optional but recommended), power cords, connectors to overhead projector, lots of enthuasism, mobile device for the global hashtag battle.

Q. What should I do to prepare?
A. Get lots of sleep, figure out what problem could be solved by the Internet of Things that you can pitch, practice your pitch, do a bit of research on your idea (are others already doing it? how big is the market?).  Check out this blog post for pitch tips.

Q. How do I get to the event? Is there parking, transit, and bike stands?
A. MakeWorks is as 1139 College Street, just west of Dufferin St., on the south side.  There is limited metered street parking, so you might want to park at the Dufferin Mall (about 3 blocks north) – but we can’t officially recommend this since you might get towed!  If you are taking the TTC try the 506 College streetcar or the 29 Dufferin bus (south from the Dufferin subway station or north from Exhibition Place).  There are a few city bike stands on the sidewalks outside MakeWorks.

Q. What supplies and gear is provided?
A. You’ll have access to 3D printers and a laser cutter, from our sponsor MAKELAB. On Saturday we can use the tools and space at The Shop. Plus we have a bunch of core components to build with. Check out this blog post for the full list.

Q. I have more questions.  How can I get them answered?
A. Post them on our Facebook page or tweet at us.

See you all on Friday!

What Can You Make With All Of This?

With Startup Weekend Toronto IOT Edition in just under a week, we thought you may want a glimpse of what building blocks and tools will be available to you.

First, there are the incredible tools available at MakeWorksCheck out the list here. Yes, there is a laser cutter. And we have 4 of MAKELAB’s bank of 3D printers ready to run overnight to help you get what’s in your head out into the real world. Not to be left out, on Saturday, you’ll have access to The Shop where you can use their tools to fashion wood, ceramics, and more to contain your creations.

On top of that, we’ve got a bunch of other core components to anchor your IoT startup. Here’s a list:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B Kits
  • Raspberry Pi Noir Cameras
  • PiTFTs
  • Arduino Uno Rev 3 Starter Packs
  • Adafruit ARDX – v1.3 Arduino Experimentation Kits
  • Arduino WiFi Shields
  • Qtechknow ArduSensor Learning Kits

On top of all that, $300 in credits for Google’s Cloud Platform, a $100 credit for Amazon’s AWS, and a free .co domain for your shiny new startup.

So with all of this, you’ve got a platform to build the IoT startup you’ve been dreaming about.

Tempted? Get your tickets here and we look forward to seeing what you can build!


Tips for Friday night pitches

Are you getting excited about Startup Weekend Toronto – Internet of Things Edition?

Here’s some links and tips for your pitch on Friday night. Components of a great pitch: Hi, I’m [name]! The problem solving is [problem]. My solution is [solution]. To do this, we’ll need [team]. Where [name] = [your real name OR nickname], [problem] = the thing that your are trying to solve AND who does it help], [solution] = [name of your solution AND why it is unique AND how it used IoT], if time permits [team] = [types of people who can help you solve the problem].

  • Who can make a pitch? Anyone who has a ticket to the Weekend (sorry volunteers, mentors, and judges – you’ll have to get a ticket to pitch!). All participants are encouraged to make a pitch!  It’s part of the fun of Startup Weekend.
  • How long are the pitches? No longer than 60 seconds.  There will be a timer and you’re time is up at exactly 1 minute.
  • How do I sign up to make a pitch? Just show up Friday night.  When it’s pitch time, put up your hand if you’d like to make a pitch – you’ll get a big piece of paper with a number.  Put the name of your idea on the top of the page.  We will call people up to pitch in order based on the number on your paper.
  • Can I use a slide presentation for the pitch? You can use props but no slides.  Remember, you only have 1 minute.
  • Can I pitch an idea I’ve already been working on? No!  Startup Weekend is all about meeting new people and creating innovative solutions to real problems TOGETHER.  You can research your idea ahead of time. If you come with an idea you’ve already worked on, it’s not fair to the other participants and teams.  Play fair – as a general guideline – if you’ve created code, a logo, snagged a domain name, or already sold something – then don’t pitch it during the weekend.  You will meet some amazing people who may be able to help you with your existing idea after the weekend.
  • How will the pitches be voted on? Each participant will get 3 Post-It Notes.  Each represents a vote.  The pitch ideas will be posted around the room. Place your votes on the ideas you like best.  You can vote for each idea once – so be prepared to pick your favourite 3 pitches.  You can vote for yourself – but only once!  The pitch ideas with the most votes will move on to form teams and build the idea during the weekend.
  • My pitch idea was not selected, can I still work on my idea during the weekend?  Yes, but you need to recruit at least two other participants to be on your team.  Also, maker supplies will first be distributed to teams that were voted in.  We’ll try our best to get you maker supplies but we can’t guarantee that there will be enough to go around.  Your best bet is to join another team.

Here are some other resources: