Startup Weekend Vancouver
January 29th, 2016
Startup Weekend is amazing marathon event where participants build teams, business and futures all over the course of a weekend. For those of you who don’t haven’t heard about it before: imagine 54 hours of running with an idea further than ever before—with food, community, and mentoring.
Owning your own business and starting something great is a dream for millions of people across the country. To support this, UP global and Techstars have created an unusually hands-on startup workshop event that has spread around the globe. Startup Weekend collects amazing local mentors, entrepreneurs, and participants and says:
“Build a Business in a weekend!”
The participants come in three types: Hackers (technical), Hipsters (designers) and Hustlers (business), but there is space for everyone in the community to participate. Anyone can pitch a business idea on Friday night. When everyone who wants to pitch is done all the attendees vote on the best ideas. The top 8-10 ideas form teams from all the remaining people – so even if your idea isn’t picked you get to pick a great idea and a team you want to support for the rest of the weekend.
And that is where the fun begins!
Then – it’s a frantic race to the finish. You are competing on Sunday evening for the best Business Model, Best Design/Execution, and the Best Validation. It may sound daunting but that is exactly why we invite amazing business mentors, from marketing, business, finance, legal (and more!) to help guide you to make the business the best success it can be.
Building a business is hard work—and to squeeze the most out of every second of the weekend, we bring all of the meals and drinks so you can remain on site and with your team. Yeah—that’s 7 meals included in the registration fee!
We do this because we believe in you and helping you launch your idea. Startup Weekend is for anyone who want to start or be a part of something exciting from the very birth of the idea.
Don’t miss out on launching your idea. Register now!
Nearly 200 attendees gathered at Unbounce last night to witness the startup teams competing in Startup Weekend Vancouver’s 7th annual competition. This year’s Startup Weekend Vancouver involved 125 participants, with 52 pitches presented at Startup Weekend Vancouver’s kick-off night on Friday — which resulted in 15 teams formed.
Over a span of 54 hours, teams took to the streets of downtown Vancouver to validate their startup ideas, develop their minimal viable product and prototype, while gaining valuable insight and feedback from a team of industry professionals as their Startup Weekend coaches.
With the steady growth of startups emerging within Vancouver’s technology sector, events such as Startup Weekend Vancouver have provided participants with an unfair advantage in receiving an outpour of support from the Vancouver startup community.
“The tech scene in Vancouver is at a tipping point with the success of companies such as Hootsuite, and Slack — both of which once started in Vancouver as startups themselves,” said Sean Elbe, the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC)’s Technology Sector Development Manager. “With the steady growth of startups emerging within Vancouver, we expect up to 15,000 jobs opening up within just the tech sector alone. We were excited to help foster this startup momentum through our support of Startup Weekend.”
As the final presentations on Sunday night fast approached, teams prepared to pitch to their panel of seasoned entrepreneurs and top-tier VCs consisting of: Ryan Holmes (CEO, Hootsuite), Wade Foster (CEO, Zapier – which emerged from Startup Weekend Columbia), Amy Rae (Principal, Vanedge Capital), and Igor Smirnoff (Chief Commercial Officer, PressReader).
After an intense, 3-hour long round of pitches, three well-deserved startups made it to the top 3: Draft Madness (3rd Place), HouseHive (2nd Place), and Culitech, claiming the winning title of this year’s Startup Weekend Vancouver competition and category winners of having the “Most Disruptive Idea”, presented by PressReader. Additionally, Automated Vertical Agriculture (AVA) took home the title of having the “Best Impact”, presented by Spring Activator.
Thebrain-child of two young entrepreneurs, Angela Wang and Madeleine Liu (both whom are still in secondary school as eleventh graders), Culitech offers detachable cutlery that can detect allergens, toxins, and nutritional content (calories, sugars, proteins, etc.).
HouseHive, claiming 2nd Place, offers an online platform which connects household service providers to city residents.
Lastly, AVA was awarded as having the “Best Impact” by Spring Activator. AVA provides a simple, beautiful solution to home gardening using the AVA device, a microwave-sized, smart urban gardening box for the urban cultivator.
With the support of local and global sponsors such as Google, dotCo, Vitamin Water, Branch Metrics, Zenefits, Unbounce, Jukebox, QuickMobile, PressReader, the finalists took home over $16,000 in prizes to help further their startup success.
Other local sponsors for this year’s Startup Weekend Vancouver competition include:
- BC Innovation Council (BCIC)
- Smythe CPA
- Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC)
- Small Business BC
- Lighthouse Labs
- MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP
- Launch Academy
- Spring Activator
About Startup Weekend Vancouver
Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014.
For more information on Startup Weekend Vancouver, please visit:
Our 7th Startup Weekend Vancouver event kicked into high gear at Unbounce Friday night with over 150 attendees eagerly awaiting to pitch their ideas. When the dust finally settled, a total of 52 concepts were pitched resulting in 11 ideas voted in, and 15 teams finally formed.
Early Saturday morning, the teams got right to work bringing their startup ideas to life. Some took to the streets of Downtown Vancouver for customer validation, and others hustled to develop their prototypes (with coffee in hand, of course).
We’ll be opening our doors to almost 200 guests for our sold-out event on Sunday night, and we’re excited to see our teams present their innovative ideas. Here are the exciting ideas our #SWVan teams have been working on so far (*updated team names):
1. Magic Motion
Magic Motion is an affordable virtual reality (VR) system that enables PC-gamers to enjoy VR games using Google Cardboard. As a direct competitor to Oculus Rift, Magic Motion’s advantage is making VR gaming affordable for the average PC gamer.
2. Draft Madness
Draft Madness is a new platform for fantasy drafting of March Madness (one of the largest sporting events in the United States featuring men’s college basketball). Draft Madness allows you to draft your favourite team through a live, interactive auction, double your winnings when your team wins, and buy/sell teams amongst your friends throughout the tournament.
Imagine suddenly losing a loved one, and now having the daunting task of settling all their outstanding liabilities (phone bills, loans, credit card payments, etc.), finding a funeral home, estate lawyer, and countless other tasks while still grieving for their loss. Closure is an automated platform that will close all outstanding tasks required to manage the death of a loved on — saving you time, and stress while allowing you to grieve.
ActivePal is an online community that connects you to active pals nearby who love the outdoors. Key pain points outdoorsy people face are: finding other active people nearby to enjoy the outdoors with, connecting with smaller groups of people (avoiding large groups of hikers), and finding an active community for outdoor activities (that’s not a dating site!). This platform will be filtered based on location, availability, interests, and various activities you’d like to do.
ActiveShadow is an online platform that helps people improve their presentation skills through a live, online audience. Think SoundCloud meets Toastmasters. Users will connect on the platform with the intention of wanting to improve their presentation skills, or to provide feedback on the presentations that others’ make. The platform will enable presenters to record their presentations, and engage in Q&A with their audience.
Culitech aims to produce smart, attachable cutlery that will detect toxins, allergens, and nutrient content in your food. This smart utensil will enable both consumers and households to take precautions of any dietary sensitivities, or toxins (i.e. mould, bacteria, etc.) that otherwise may harm cause harm to your body.
Rentbid.co is a web and app-based platform that optimizes rental property revenue, helping landlords get more money through an auctioning system. This rental property revenue optimizer allows you to get the best market price for your rental property by crowdsourcing bids from qualified, trustworthy renters.
HouseHive enables your local neighbourhood to leverage purchasing power by bundling common household services. This online platform helps organize you and your neighbours to find common services you all require, package up the service requests, and connect you with the best local service providers in your community. With HouseHive, you can find out who’s already working in your building (home cleaners, dog walkers, cooks, carpet cleaners, etc.) and find the best deal on your shared services.
SurfLife is an online community that connects extreme sports professionals with new learners to provide their expertise, share lessons and sports equipment. Through SurfLife, you can find suggestions for local spots to best enjoy the sport, and learn from seasoned professionals at a fraction of the price. SurfLife’s extreme sport-listing will include (but not limited to) surfing, ski/snowboarding, and mountain biking.
10. Wow Her
Wow Her is the Expedia for date nights — a web and app-based platform that will enable users to find and search for date night ideas. Filtered based on budget, location, and interest, Wow Her will personalize your next date night suggestions.
AVA, or Automated Vertical Agriculture creates beautiful, modern, indoor farming units for the urban cultivator. Paired with a smart tech plant food gel dispenser, users can grow and monitor their organic produce using AVA’s mobile app. AVA aims to encourage more urban cultivators to adopt a healthier, self-sustainable lifestyle.
Carbon Context is a B2B platform that simplifies environmental data for companies to make better choices in their project initiatives. Corporate Social Responsibility representatives (CSRs) are often tasked to evaluate possible environmental impacts made on any company-initiatives, however the data collected is scattered and difficult to understand. Carbon Context provides a clear, visual representation to enable businesses to make better design decisions to prevent harmful environmental impacts that damage may damage the earth.
13. Blue Circle Project
Blue Circle Project is a food redistributor service that takes any leftover food from grocery stores and restaurants and re-distributes them to local animal farms, charities, etc. Billions of dollars worth of food gets wasted every year, and produces substantial amounts of CO2 emissions into the environment. Blue Circle aims to reduce the amount of food waste to help foster a low-carbon economy.
14. Local Log
Local Log is a discovery engine for local shopping, helping shoppers discover local stores and support local businesses. Additionally, local business owners can expect an easier transition to developing an online presence for their store through Local Log.
Lift is a match-making service for fitness and nutrition coaches to connect with new and goal-orientated clients. Moreover, Lift will match clients with their ideal coaches who can best accommodate for their fitness and nutritional goals. These highly-trained coaches will be vetted based on their experience, training/background and professional network to offer a variety of options for clients to choose from.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for— Startup Weekend is finally here, and we are thrilled to present the 7th Annual Startup Weekend Vancouver event tonight at Unbounce!
Startup Weekend Vancouver is a volunteer-run event, and we couldn’t have done it with the support of all our amazing sponsors:
Unbounce has always been an amazing supporter of Startup Weekend Vancouver, and as our Signature Venue Sponsor for this year’s Startup Weekend, we are so excited to host our competition at their new headquarters in Downtown Vancouver. Unbounce will also be providing a 1-year account for the winning team for SWVan.
Originally founded in San Francisco, CA, it’s hard to believe that Zenefits was once a startup only two years ago, and has been our biggest contributor to helping us put on an amazing event. Zenefits Financials is one of the fastest-growing SaaS Businesses ever, and we’re thrilled to have them as our Platinum Sponsor and hosts of our Official After Party for SWVan!
While serving customers in over 100 countries, most people don’t think of Jukebox Print as a startup, but in fact, Jukebox was once the very definition of a startup— created and managed by one person. Huge thanks for Jukebox Print providing us with all the beautiful print work for SWVan! Find out more about their story in our latest guest blog from Jukebox’s Founder & CEO, Loredo Rucchin.
Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, QuickMobile was named Deloitte’s #1 Fastest Growing Technology Company in Canada in 2013, and has now expanded globally with offices in London, UK, and Singapore. This year, we are thrilled to have QuickMobile provide our attendees with our Startup Weekend event app —complete with a list of our event schedule, profiles of our judges, coaches, sponsors and more!
PressReader is the global leader in multi-channel, cross-platform content distribution and monetization, and the chosen partner of more than 4,000 publishers from 100 countries. We’re grateful for PressReader’s support in SWVan this year as one of our Gold Sponsors, and sponsor for one of our extra prize categories for “Most Disruptive” idea.
In addition to our featured sponsors, we’re so thankful for the support of our Bronze and Silver Sponsors:
- BC Innovation Council
- Smythe LLP
- Lighthouse Labs
- Vancouver Economic Commission
- Small Business BC
- MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP
- Spring Activator
- Launch Academy
To our awesome community and media sponsors, thank you for providing some awesome prizes and perks for our SWVan attendees:
Thank you again to all our amazing sponsors, and for more information on a complete list of all our awesome perks and prizes, be sure to check out our Big Basket of Prizes!
Startup Weekend Vancouver is an action-packed weekend of entrepreneurial learning, execution, and fun. With such a short timeframe for teams to build a new idea, it’s amazing to see what they come out with.
That said, Startup Weekend is still a competition to see who can create the best idea, MVP, and present the viable business in the short 54-hour period—and competitions aren’t competition without an awesome basket of prizes to be won. So let’s take a look at what’s up for grabs!
Prizes for the Winning Team
- 1-year MailChimp PRO account from MailChimp
- 1-year Premium account from Todoist
- 1-year account from Zapier
- $3,000 of accounts services from Smythe
- Coffee with Mobify Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Peter McLachlan
- $2,500 worth of legal service (including incorporation) from MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP
- A month’s supply of free snacks for your office from SPUD
- 1-year account from Unbounce
- 1 free pass for a team member to attend the Lean Entrepreneruship Program from Launch Academy
- 1-month of office space at the wantoo Lounge
Total basket is worth over $10,000 in prizes!
Second & Third Place
- 1-year Premium account from Todoist
- 1-year account from Zapier
- $1,000 worth of legal service (including incorporation) from MLT (2nd place only)
That’s not all, though. We also have some alternate prizes for teams that meet other criteria.
Most Disruptive Idea
PressReader is also offering the team with the “Most Disruptive Idea” a 1-year PressReader membership for the whole team.
Spring is also offering the team with the “Best Impact” one (1) scholarship to Spring’s Kick pre-accelerator program—a 4-week intensive to help you get from concept to clarity by emphasizing lean methodology, idea validation, and customer discovery. The “Best Impact” prize will be awarded to the most promising business concept that looks to create the biggest positive social or environmental change through technology.
Global Startup Battle Prizes
But wait! There’s more!
As our Startup Weekend event is participating in Global Startup Battle, the top 3 teams will also be able to compete in the exclusive Champion’s Track against other winning startups from around the world for even more prizes!
There are also addition tracks open to all teams that compete in Startup Weekend where you can still win some of the awesome prizes.
There are still a small handful of tickets available to Startup Weekend Vancouver on Nov 20-22 so if you don’t have your ticket yet, what are you waiting for?
Guest Post by Loredo Rucchin, Founder & CEO of JukeboxPrint.com.
At Jukebox Print, we’ve experienced it all. As a successful e-commerce business serving customers in over 100 countries, most people don’t think of Jukebox Print as a startup, but in fact, Jukebox was once the very definition of a startup. Jukebox was created and managed by one person. That one person was the CSR, the designer, the packager, the shipper, the IT guy and the accountant. The “office” consisted of a bedroom with a desk and computer, and the product line consisted of only business cards. If any of this rings true to your current circumstances, keep reading. We’ve got some insight from our own personal experiences growing into a successful business. There will still be some challenges along the way, but with our help, you might just be ready to face them.
You have a brilliant idea for your own e-commerce company; a product or service that stands out and meets an unmet demand. What you need before you launch is an effective name, and this should be given serious consideration. If we were called Loredo’s Print Shop, you would probably envision us as a small, plain, industrial shop offering the same old aqueous coating on everything. Instead, we’re called Jukebox Print – an offbeat, exciting, intriguing, stylish and memorable name that lets you know immediately we are not your average print shop. If you are not an overly creative person, enlist the help of someone who is. Test out your name ideas by judging the reactions they receive. The first general reaction to the name Jukebox, along with our bright pink branding, was shock and disbelief. The fact that people had such a strong reaction is what solidified the name as the right choice for us. It would give people something to talk about – and for 8 years, it has.
Another main challenge you will face in your early stages is making the leap to expand outside of your basement or home office. Jukebox is an online business that has grown its customer base mainly through referrals, and although we serve an international customer base now, we grew locally first. Before you are known as a reputable business, people are going to want to meet with you, view samples in person and in general, get a feel for how professional your business is. This demands that you have a professional office space. A great option for today’s budding startups is a shared office or “co-work” space. You don’t need a large storefront, so focus on finding a small yet modern environment. Expand your team slowly by hiring one person at first, and don’t overlook the value of students or those with little experience – you can mould the right person into exactly what you need. Although it might be tempting, don’t hire your friends. The more professional you keep all aspects of your business, the more professional your reputation will be with your clients.
As you grow, your challenges will change dramatically. If you are operating your business mostly or even partially online, you need a good IT team (yes, you need to hire multiple people) to keep your website stable, secure and operating smoothly.
Once your website is backed up by a great IT team, you can start to focus on international expansion. Shipping and payments will be your biggest challenges. Choose your business partners wisely from the beginning. We are thrilled to offer UPS shipping and Paypal during check-out, company names that are trusted all over the world. This has had a direct increase on our international sales.
Grow your international customer base further by having a strong social media presence, and by tailoring your marketing approach to the specific location you are targeting. The products that are a hit in North America may not be new or exciting in France or Australia. This will be the case with any product or service you offer, as worldwide customers will have different appreciations and expectations of service. It might seem obvious, but don’t forget that an exotic Bamboo business card isn’t so exotic in China. Communication can also be a difficult barrier you may face. When hiring, start to look past the obvious talents and put more value into multi-lingual capabilities. This will be a huge asset to your company, as one employee can help you connect with a whole new market.
Lastly, never forget the power of aesthetic attraction. Our branding is something our customers compliment us on the most. Something as simple as a beautifully wrapped box can be the motivation your customer needs to share photos online or recommend you to everyone they know. This can be as simple as branding your packaging using a custom stamp of your logo at first, evolving into using a fully customized set of branded tissue paper, boxes, wrapping paper and product tags. And we happen to know the perfect place for you to get them printed.
About the Author: Loredo Rucchin is a successful entrepreneur – his company, Jukebox Print, recently made Profit’s top 100 list, with five-year growth of 4,331%. Jukeboxprint.com offers high quality business card products and the latest, most innovative print products. Learn more about Jukebox Print.
Guest blog post by #SWVan coach, Tony Gui
All-star teams formed.
Adrenaline is the fuel for ideas.
Post-its, pivots, and coding, OH MY!
Hungry, Sleepless, and Determined.
All for the experience to pitch the next greatest idea or startup over a weekend.
Millennials are replacing their weekends for the opportunity to solve some bold and badass challenges to design better futures. Hackathons and Startup Weekends are being curated globally to bring together passionate leaders and entrepreneurs with diverse skills to design innovative solutions. Even NASA has seen the value of hosting their own Hackathon, providing access to their open source data to teams of technologist, developers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs across the globe.
Whether you are a seasoned hacker/startup guru or a virgin curious about the experience, these weekends are full of adrenaline, excitement, frustration, emotion, and new learning. Come Sunday, it’s celebration of what your team has designed!
Having had experience in these events as both a participant and mentor, I’d love to share some key tips:
1 — Fall in love with the problem not the idea. Don’t trust anyone who thinks they have the next greatest idea. All ideas are crap and are based on assumptions. Get out of the building and test your ideas with real people who are having the problem you are designing for.
2 — Build Team Understanding. Chances are everyone on your team is coming from a different background. It may feel as though everyone is speaking a different language. As a team, understand everyone’s skills — some might be great at coding, visual design, or strategy. Visualizing the problem and process will make sure everyone is speaking the same language and feels heard.
3 — How Might We is an innovator’s most powerful weapon. As you unpack various problems along the weekend, keep asking How Might We. This secret will help uncover fresh ideas and insights.
4 — Visualize Everything! The one that picks up the pen solves the problem.
5 — The new 4 Ps: Prototype, prototype, prototype, and prototype.Design is not about building beautiful things. Design is about triggering the right responses. Build prototypes that can be tested on people to learn whether or not you are triggering the responses you want.
6 — Business Model Canvas. Learn to use the Business Model Canvas, this will help you visualize whether or not your startup makes any sense. How will you make money? Who are your customers? What is your promise to your customer? How will they know about it?
7 — Pitch! Show and Tell time. Make us resonate to the problem you are solving — what is! Show us how you can relieve that pain point for us — what could be!
*This was a guest blog post by Startup Weekend Vancouver 2015 coach, Tony Gui.
Tony Gui is a design strategist and creative hustler who splits his life between San Francisco and Vancouver. He has founded two startups and is currently bringing the third to life. Kreatives will be a design and strategy lab working with investors and businesses to sustain innovation and launch new ventures globally. Tony has taught design thinking around the world, mentored at NASA’s International Space App’s Challenge in New York, and is a finalist in the 2015 Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards. He is passionate about working with entrepreneurs and businesses to design meaningful futures.
Vancouver, are you ready? The world’s biggest startup competition is returning to our city for the second year in a row, and tickets are now up for grabs!
Startup Weekend Vancouver takes place on November 20-22, 2015 at the new Unbounce HQ, and will bring together developers, designers, marketers, product managers, and startup enthusiasts alike to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups. We’re excited to be one of over 250 cities taking part in the Global Startup Battle 2015!
The stakes are high. Last year, not only did ConceptKicker, the winners of Startup Weekend Vancouver 2014, win locally. They also competed against 3,200 teams from 83 countries and took home the title as the 2014 GSB Champion.
Are you up for the challenge? Tickets are available now for purchase!
We’re giving away a Lighthouse Labs scholarship!
In celebration of the opening of ticket sales, we’ve partnered with Lighthouse Labs to give away one full scholarship to their Part-Time Web Fundamentals Course. If you’re trying to build a minimum viable product (MVP), communicate with your dev team, or gain valuable career skills, this opportunity is for you. Everyone who buys a ticket before Monday, October 19 will be entered to the giveaway! Learn more about the course.
What’s in store this year
This year’s Startup Weekend is shaping up to be another can’t-miss event. We’re bringing out some of our community’s most experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts to support our teams.
Throughout the weekend, teams can meet one-on-one with coaches and mentors. Our current lineup of coaches and mentors include Jayesh Parmar (CEO & Co-Founder, Picatic), Hussein Hallak (Director of Strategy & Marketing, 3 Tier Logic & Head Instructor of the Lean Entrepreneurship Program, Launch Academy), Wade Foster (CEO & Co-Founder, Zapier), Elizabeth Steward (VP Marketing, Dun & Bradstreet Cloud Innovation Center), and Keith Ippel (Co-Founder & Partner, Spring Activator).
On the last day of Startup Weekend Vancouver, teams demo their prototypes and receive feedback from a panel of judges. We’re excited to welcome Boris Wertz (Founder & General Partner, Version One Ventures), Ryan Holmes (CEO, Hootsuite), and Wade Foster (Co-Founder & CEO, Zapier) as this year’s judges.
We’ve also partnered with fantastic supporters to give the best perks and prizes to our attendees. They include Unbounce (our venue sponsor), QuickMobile (our gold sponsor), BCIC, MailChimp, Smythe CPA and Lighthouse Labs (our silver sponsors), iQmetrix and Spring Activator (our bronze sponsors), & Futurpreneur and Todoist (our community sponsors).
Grab your ticket today before they sell out!
Startup Weekend Vancouver
July 24th, 2015
“Startup Weekend is Coming, Startup Weekend is Coming!” is a gleeful shout of the people gearing up for the weekend event at Clark College in Vancouver.
It’s like Christmas.
The closer it gets the more excited we get about the great things that happen at Startup Weekends. People from every area of our community and from far away come to the weekend to create and build incredible business ideas over the course of a single weekend. The energy is amazing!
Here is a blow by blow of what you can expect.
Friday night starts with a really fun and casual pizza dinner for everyone, we get checked in, eat and meet some of the other attendees and most people start to mentally practice our pitches. After dinner we all get to hear from an amazing speaker who has farther ahead on the journey of building a company who helps us all understand how to be successful and move our ideas forward.
Then…. The pitches start… nobody knows how many, some people who never thought about pitching become inspired and jump up at the last minute to share the great ideas that was sparked by listening to other would-be entrepreneurs.
Then we all vote on the best ideas we have heard from that night! it may be your idea or something else that inspired you. What ever it is we select the top ideas by popular vote and we all redistribute among those teams. Its intoxicating to meet the talent and energy that will help grow your teams idea for the weekend. And without delay its off to work. Most of the time the venue has to shoo out the teams to close down for the night. Once the ideas get flowing they are hard to shut down. But you really should try to get to sleep because the weekend is just getting started.
When you show up again on Saturday morning there is an amazing buzz of energy, typing, laughing and tons of smiles (despite people being up earlier than normal for most weekends), and it’s off to work on your idea. Later on in the morning the mentors check in and help you shape and mold your business and answer any challenges you might be facing. What? Lunch already? Don’t worry, you can knock back or nibble and get right back to it. Its amazing to see all the parts of the team working in unison, the programmers are coding, the designers have built an incredible logo, the business development people are talking to potential customers and refining the revenue model. What? Dinner already? then a quick gut check with the facilitators on progress and direction and you are back at it until… yep they have to shoo you out the door again.
OK, The next morning, lots of smiles still, but the keystrokes seems to come a little slower, the coffee seems a little more important and oh thank god for the mentors helping knock down those road blocks! What? Lunch? how does that seem to happen so fast every day?!!?? ok, you can just eat at your desk and graze. More coding, more design, more business validation and soon we have your first real pitch practice!!!! Your chance to get in from of the organizers and key mentors to help you rock your final presentation. Its coming up soon! The finish line is close! Pencils Down! and….. Dinner. A great chance to detox a little destress a little before the final pitches.
Then no pressure… You get up in front of the judges and pitch your heart out, make your case and show off your teams sweat and hard work.
THEN………….. Thats when the fun starts, the awards are almost anticlimactic because you realize that everyone wins, everyone has had an amazing weekend and bonded with a team to make great things happen. Yes, some walk away with the hardware and some with accolades, but everyone walks a little taller and struts a little bit more come Monday morning when they walk back in to work. Cuz…. “I built a business in 54 hours this weekend, what did you do?”
I know it sounds like a fairy tale, but come out and spend the weekend with us you’ll agree, there’s a magic to these weekends.
In the Vancouver startup community, you never know if the next person you meet will go on to become the next breakthrough startup entrepreneur. Startup Weekend is one of the key outlets for aspiring entrepreneurs to not only come together and bring their startup ideas to life, but also for them to meet an array of high potential founders with unique stories to share.
When military soldier-turned-artist and now startup CEO, Jennifer Yemu Li participated in Startup Weekend Vancouver in 2014, little did we know that this powerhouse entrepreneur and her co-founders would go on to build an online network of over 170,000 influencers on Instagram through their online platform, Musefind.
Musefind is an online platform that allows eCommerce brands to market through social media influencers. Incubated in Vancouver’s Spring Activator, Musefind has become the first and only Canadian startup to have been accepted and funded by one of New York’s leading tech accelerators, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA).
We sat down with Jennifer to discuss her Startup Weekend experience and the support she has received from the Vancouver startup community that has led her to grow her business in New York.
How did you first hear about Startup Weekend, and what made you want to participate?
I had first found out about Startup Weekend from friends in the Vancouver startup community and by word-of-mouth. Around that time, I was also participating in the Kick program at Spring where I had met one of my co-founders, Stephen Shen, and then at Startup Weekend, I met my other co-founder, Andry Tanusdjaja. Since then, the three of us have built Musefind in Vancouver, and after getting accepted into ERA, we decided to move together to New York to grow Musefind even further.
Did you participate in SWV with the idea of Musefind — or was it initially a different idea?
The idea of Musefind was the same as what we went in Startup Weekend with — which was initially called Fame Mob. It had the same roots as Musefind, but we only had an MVP, and the idea wasn’t validated until we joined Spring.
How did you come up with the idea?
My co-founder Stephen and I both had similar experiences running an e-commerce business, and we both had frustrations around connecting our brands with influencers. So when we came together with our other co-founder, Andry, during Startup Weekend, we knew we were on to something.
When did you feel that Musefind first had legs?
When we sold our product to our first customer — without an actual product. It was just a concept during Startup Weekend, so when someone actually paid for something I had pitched to them, it was then when we realized we really needed to hustle and start prototyping.
You are the first and only Canadian company to have been accepted and funded by ERA in New York – congratulations! What led you to wanting to move Musefind to New York?
We knew that if we wanted to grow our company, New York was the place to be — and it was the best decision for our company. With ERA being the one of leading accelerators in New York, it was an honour to be selected as one of the 10 companies for their summer cohort, out of the 1000+ applications that they had received. Although we intend to grow our company here in New York during the whole duration of the program, we left our hearts in Vancouver, and we plan to be back if it’s best for our business. We want to be an inspiration to all the startups in BC, and come back to help further develop the startup community in Vancouver.
How have your first few weeks in New York been?
In just our first two weeks of being in New York, we’ve managed to double our growth, grow our revenue sales by 25% each month, and sparked a ton interest from major NYC agencies and digital advertising companies. We’ve even signed our first SaaS brand customers just last week!
What resources did you find the most helpful in Vancouver to get you to where you are now?
Definitely the people and the relationships we made in Vancouver. The support we received from Keith Ippel and Spring team — we couldn’t have done it without them. Also, developing our company in Vancouver really helped us connect and understand our customers better.
What were the best takeaways from SWV for you?
Learning how to work under pressure, meeting my co-founders, and being a part of Startup Weekend really made me realize how amazing the tech community was here in Vancouver, and support it has to offer for startup entrepreneurs.
How should someone prepare for Startup Weekend?
Be prepared for the unexpected — I know it’s a very vague thing to say, but be prepared for blow-ups between team members, or people not showing up the next morning — but more so, be prepared for the experience of working under pressure.
When should a startup founder start exploring options on participating in an accelerator — why not just look for VCs or angels?
It really depends on the level of the founders’ experience. If a founder had a past experience with a successful exit, perhaps working with a VC or angel would be beneficial. But for us, we were very focused on People, Product, and Industry — we wanted to be very selective on who we were going to be working with, and that they had a shared vision of what we wanted to accomplish.
What is the best business advice you’ve received?
Talk to your customers. Keith Ippel had always told us when we’re stuck on an idea or feeling crappy — talk to your customers to validate why you need to keep going. Spring definitely pushed us to keep going and we will always be grateful for their support.
Be sure to follow Musefind on social media to find out more about their journey through ERA: