StartUp Weekend Hamilton 1: A Resounding Success!

This post was originally on by Jim Rudnick, one of the mentors at the event!

Yup, the best weekend I’ve ever spent in #HamOnt is over and I can tell you that it was “best”

not only for me, for the 100 attendants and participants but for the city of Hamilton itself!

Everyone won and the big news is that everyone will continue to win!

First, the sponsors deserve credit for their participation and belief that holding our first ever StartUp Weekend here in Hamilton would be an event that they could take a-hold of and use to promote our city and our new culture of startups! So a big thanks to Innovation Factory, to Intelex, to McMaster Innovation Park, to Inceptive Solutions, Mohawk College, SoftMills and SoftwareHamilton too….their ability, skills and yes cash helped get this event up and running!

Next, I must also thank especially the team at our RIC, the Innovation Factory for their efforts and attention to details that made the registration, running and judging of the contest once again, the best I’ve ever been at hands down! I must mention Stephanie, Tammy, Mike, Keanin, Peter Smith, Robin Hopper and especially Ron Neumann too, who all worked very very hard both behind the scenes and out front too to make exactly the right “feel” happen for our more than a hundred participants and startup founders too!

Beginning last Friday nite, with an open mic call to any entrepreneur in the audience who had an idea, we saw I believe over 25 such ideas for startups broached and expounded upon by contest participants. They showed their passion and their belief that what they wanted to build in 54 hours over the weekend would be both an attainable goal as well as an actual up-and-running company by Sunday night judging time! And what a wide assortment of ideas we all heard….many for hi-tech apps, new social media ideas, communitys and more!

Once that was done, then all of the participants voted for their own choice of what they thought they’d like to

see attempted and then once the final 7 company ideas were chosen based on those votes, the participants signed up to “work” on their own choice. This part I watched pretty intently as I saw coders and marketing types, biz development types and sales folks walk from idea to idea and listen to the founding members talk about their idea at great depth – then move on to hear them all. But in about half an hour, the teams were all self-picked and then registered – and work on each of these projects began! And each of the teams picked out their won project names too – Sochi, MoveGroove, GeoFresh, Caltrakr, Accension Labs, Alterative Pollution Cleanup Solutions, and ShoutOutUs as they began to work on their startup ideas. And a phrase that I learned this past weekend, is that this kind of a startup weekend promotes “co-founder dating” which is a plus for all the participants, eh! Talk about passion…these entrepreneurs were poster boys for same, eh!

And that work continued over the next 54 hours too….with some team changes and I believe one drop-out too…but the hardy pushed on and as I watched and went from room to room to see and hear and mentor them all, what I noticed was the great depth and degree of vetting and verification of ideas with great results. I was asked by a couple of the startups to help in depth and offered up same, as did many of the half-dozen or so mentors that were present. We werent’ allowed to code or do any actual hands-on technical skill items, but we were asked to help by offering up advice, counsel and even point the startups at what we know works…and it was so dang pleasant that from my own perspective, that the startup founders were all totally “coachable” – they listened, they asked qualifying queries, they filtered our counsel and then used it! Nothing makes a mentor feel better than to offer up help that is not only accepted but then really used to fine-tune a slide-deck and presentation….and I mean nothing!

Saturday was full of the visits from room to room to room….talking, asking queries on their marketing and projections, asking for details on their marketsize and their customer profiles….and while at first there were some blank stares and honest “don’t know” answers…by the end of Saturday, what I began to hear back was fulfilled research and knowledge. Sure, ideas morphed and varied even from the origianal Friday night offer….but that too is business and founders need to learn that as well…that pivoting can happen for a variety of reasons and that “staying the course” in light of new research can often be fraught with issues. Oh, did I mention the wonderful food? Our Innovation Factory stalwarts, Stephanie and Tammy and Mike worked dang hard to get us great – and I do mean great food! Pizza and Portugese subs and shwarma and muffins and tons of other items including those teensy chocolate bars that just disappear in a mouthful…I must have gained 5 lbs, but it truly was a nice surprise having such great food looked after by same! #bigFoodKudosToo!
And then it was Sunday and more of the same, counsel and queries and then the presi’s themselves….rough at first. Then polished, with some slides disappearing while others were added….with the founders gaining confidence and skill at making their pitches….and listening to solid call-to-actions… made me personally proud of what I saw and learned….these are truly our future business leaders….and I know that for a fact!

Sunday night’s presentations of the seven ideas went off without a hitch! All seven of the founding ideas were well presented and all seven made full pitches for their own needs when it came to the judging by the distinguished panel of 5 judges who were — Julie Ellis (Co-Founder of Mabel’s Labels), Peter Smith (Managing Partner at The Meaford Group), Ted Scott (Dean of Applied Research at Mohawk College), and Mark Stewart (Director of Operations at McMaster Innovation Park) and Derek Ho (CEO of Inceptive Solutions) awarded prizes to 3 companies: a business plan pack package from Inceptive Solutions went to MoveGroove. A branding package and website from Inceptive Solutions along with a credit for Amazon Web Services was given to Caltrakr.

And the grand prize of a 6 month incubation package from Mohawk College, a $2000 grant from Inceptive Solutions, and a spot at DemoCampHamilton4 was awarded to Sochi. In addition, Enthuzr awarded a $1000 credit for their services to Sochi, who demonstrated the most popularity online thought their use of social media and has at this point 821 LIKE fans on Facebook too!

And why did I title this post “StartUp Weekend Hamilton1? Because I like every single other person at MIPs over the weekend realized…that we need to do this again…and again….and I hope the planning for #2 begins soon! Got an idea? Want to start a biz in 54 hours? Me too…and when same is announced, it’ll appear right here when I blog about same…so see you all at StartUp Weekend Hamilton2!

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