Recap: Startup Weekend Edmonton 2

Edmonton’s second Startup Weekend was held this past weekend at the Computing Sciences Centre on the University of Alberta campus. It was a fantastic event that saw seven teams create some really interesting things in just 54 hours. Around 50 people participated – lots of programmers, some designers, some writers, and many others. Here’s how the weekend played out.

Friday night was pitch night. Fifteen people got up and made an elevator pitch for one or more ideas, which we stuck up giant post it pages on the walls all around the room. Everyone then had a few minutes to walk around and chat with the idea people, to determine which team they wanted to work on. In the end, seven teams were formed, with sizes ranging from two people to more than a dozen. Teams did a little bit of brainstorming and preparation that night, but I don’t think any code was written.

Startup Weekend Edmonton 2

Saturday was a work day, with teams arriving and getting started around 9am. The atmosphere was exciting if a little relaxed. People lingered at lunch and dinner, taking advantage of the opportunities to chat with others. Some people stayed working past 11pm that night, while others went home to relax or out to party after a long day of hard work.

Startup Weekend Edmonton 2

Most people arrived again Sunday morning around 9:30am, focused on completing as much work as possible before demo time. It was interesting to see the shift in atmosphere from Saturday to Sunday – no time was wasted on food or breaks on Sunday. People called out tasks and things like “it’s checked in!” as they worked furiously. Getting everyone to leave the building for Original Joe’s as 6pm approached was challenging!

Startup Weekend Edmonton 2
Team Victory working right down to the wire at Original Joe’s.

There was a great turnout for the demos. Here’s what was built:

  • A flash-based gamed called Flatlander, a 2D game similar to minecraft.
  • Eartonic, an iPhone app that helps train people to learn music by ear.
  • Google Earth Sounds, a really interesting tool that enables people to add sounds to Google Earth. It’s such a great idea – with StreetView you can see what a street looks like, so why not find out what it sounds like too?
  • Swift, an attempt to make the experience of sending and finding invoices easier.
  • Another game, called Rubber Chicken Assassin. You take a photo of your friend with your iPhone, then beat them with a rubber chicken. It could then share a fun obituary on Facebook!
  • Helping Manual, a crowdsourced website to answer questions like “how do I get a social insurance number”. It’s targeted at communities such as the homeless or immigrants & newcomers, as well as the people who work with those communities. Another really great idea.
  • Team Victory, the team I was on, built LaunchWith.me. It’s part project directory and part people finder. We focused on a single question – would you work with someone again? LaunchWith.me is a way to answer that for colleagues you’ve worked with at companies, on projects, and in groups. You can check out a screencast here.

The weekend was a great opportunity to meet new people, to work with someone you might not otherwise had have the chance to, and to use and learn new technologies. I did all of those things, and also felt the sense of accomplishment that comes from working together to go from idea to working product in such a short period of time. It sounds so cliché, but it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you focus and work hard! Check out Rachelle’s recap for more.

I would like to see more even team sizes at our next Startup Weekend, tentatively scheduled for the fall, but part of the magic of the weekend is that the outcome is entirely up to attendees. Everyone had a role to play this weekend, even on the large teams, so if you have hesitated about attending because you’re not a programmer, keep that in mind for the next event!

Thanks to everyone who participated this weekend, and to everyone who came out to see the demos! You can see the rest of my photos here.