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.

Startup Weekend returns to Edmonton

Startup Weekend Edmonton is back! The weekend of February 11-13 is your opportunity to do something about that idea you’ve been thinking about – and that’s just one of the many good reasons to attend. Startup Weekend is a great opportunity to network with other people in the community, to learn something new, to gain valuable team building experience, and maybe even just to feel that sense of accomplishment we all love. Not to mention the rush of going from concept to working demo in just 54 hours!

Edmonton’s first Startup Weekend took place last June. About 30 local developers, designers, and other creative people got together and formed six teams that built some really interesting projects. You can read my recap of our last event to get a sense of how the weekend went, but here in a nutshell is the process:

  • Friday Night: Everyone shows up, we have some brief introductions, and if you have an idea you pitch it. It’s messy and fun but we then form teams out of all the ideas, and each team begins to plan and prepare for the rest of the weekend.
  • Saturday: Teams dive into building their project. Breaking it up into tasks and time management are key. Throughout the day there are lunch and dinner breaks with speakers talking about startup-related topics.
  • Sunday: It’s crunch time! Teams finish up their projects so that they can demo it in the evening. Around 6pm, all the work stops and the wider community gets to see what each team accomplished over the weekend.

Cam is going to cover all of that in more detail on the Friday evening as well. It’s a short amount of time, which is part of why it is so exciting!

One of the questions that people ask a lot is if Startup Weekend is only for programmers. The answer is no! In fact, teams need individuals with all kinds of skills to be successful. Anyone can have an idea and help flesh that out into a project. Artists and designers can help with the look and feel. Business people can help with the pitch or maybe even work on a business plan. Storytellers can help make the project compelling to customers. Of course someone needs to test the project out. I’m sure you can think of dozens of others skills that could be brought to the table. The most successful companies need more than just programmers!

There are Startup Weekend events happening all over the world. In fact, there are going to be 150 this year alone! If you’re unsure about the event, check out the Startup Weekend blog and read through some of the stories from other places. It’s really amazing what has been created, not to mention all of the relationships and other great things that have been formed as a result. Innovative ideas like Planely, which aims to make it possible to use the “lost” time we spend on airplanes to network and make friends. Also be sure to check out My Edmonton which was created at Edmonton’s first Startup Weekend has since grown and evolved into a really useful app!

Edmonton’s second Startup Weekend is taking place at the Computing Sciences Centre on the University of Alberta campus. Tickets are $99, but if you purchase yours today or tomorrow, it’s just $65. That includes food for the weekend and a Startup Weekend t-shirt. It’s a heck of a deal. You can see the event listing and other information on ShareEdmonton.

Stay tuned to Startup Edmonton (and on Twitter) for updates. We’ll be using the hashtag #SWEdmonton if you’d like to follow along on Twitter.

I hope to see you there!

Recap: Startup Weekend Edmonton

This past weekend was the first Startup Weekend in Canada, held right here in Edmonton! About 30 local developers, designers, and idea people got together at Enterprise Square for the event, organized by Startup Edmonton. As I mentioned last week, Startup Weekend’s mission is to teach entrepreneurship in a fun, interactive way. It’s also a great way to see first-hand the talent that exists in the local tech community.

The weekend got started on Friday evening with the pitches. Anyone with an idea for an application or product was invited to write it down on a flip chart. After all the ideas were collected, each one was given 60 seconds to make an elevator pitch, trying to attract people to the team. When that was done, everyone spread out and slowly but surely teams formed. In the end, six teams came together for the weekend.


The teams starting to form on Friday evening

For all of Saturday and most of Sunday the teams were hard at work on their ideas. There is no required deliverable at the end of Startup Weekend, but each team was working as quickly as possible to get as much done as they could in time for a demo. Startup Weekend forces teams to focus on bringing an idea to life quickly, which is an important skill to have. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but being able to execute on them is much more difficult. Starting with just the seed of an idea and less than two days later having something workable to show to others is incredibly valuable. Another great thing about Startup Weekend is that it provides an opportunity for individuals to work together, even if they had never met before. It’s amazing what can happen when two or more creative people get talking.

As the teams put the final touches on their prototypes on Sunday evening, members of the local tech community started to arrive. The final part of Startup Weekend was the demo, giving teams a chance to show off what they had worked on for the last two days.

Here’s what was built at Startup Weekend Edmonton:

  • HomeCricket, an iPhone application that utilizes Open Data from the City of Edmonton to help you find a house. It shows you assessment information, as well as the nearest police stations, schools, parks, and more.
  • Life Radar, a to-do application for the iPad that uses a points system to motivate you to get things done. Neat app, especially when you consider that no one on the team had ever built an iPad app before!
  • RightPath, a web-based Q & A style app that connects high school students with mentors from the business world. Students ask questions about careers, mentors answer.
  • PaxImperium, a social real-time strategy game for Facebook. With no developers on the team, they focused on a detailed product pitch instead, complete with financial projections.
  • GameGigs, a web-based app that connects game developers, designers, and players. It uses the Twitter API for authentication, which made for an interesting (and challenging) demo!
  • Green Planet, a Facebook-based app (with an iPhone app too) that builds awareness around environmental sustainability. As you complete real-life missions (like replacing light bulbs in your house with energy efficient ones) your virtual planet benefits.

I’m really amazed at what was created in such a short amount of time! The apps were all polished and well-thought out, and while there were some bugs in the demos as expected, every team completed enough to clearly convey their idea. Many of the ideas changed quite a bit from the original pitch on Friday, and it would be interesting to see how they’d change even more if the teams continued working on them. With the Apps4Edmonton competition now underway, I suspect some of the teams may do just that.

There are loose plans for another Startup Weekend in Edmonton, tentatively scheduled for the fall. Stay tuned to Startup Edmonton (and on Twitter) for updates. You can see the rest of my photos from Startup Weekend here.

Congratulations to the Startup Edmonton team and to all the participants for a very fun and successful weekend!

Startup Weekend comes to Edmonton

This weekend Edmonton will host an event called Startup Weekend (on ShareEdmonton), which brings together developers, designers, marketers, inventors, investors, and anyone else interested in startups to see what they can build in just 54 hours. Will the next big thing emerge out of Edmonton? Will the community create something small that positively impacts the lives of Edmontonians? Maybe both!

Startup Weekend has happened in dozens of cities around the world. Their goal is to hold 60 events this year, and 100 in 2011. Here’s some background:

Startup Weekend is a non-profit organization based out of Seattle, WA USA. Startup Weekend is a small team of three along with community leaders around the world. Startup Weekend’s primary mission is to be the most valuable and influential organization in startup communities around the world. Startup Weekend doesn’t have to teach entrepreneurship in a boring classroom setting, we model it in a fun, interactive, and results driven way. As a result, we have become one of the leading catalysts for startup creation, co-founder dating, and entrepreneurship education in startup ecosystems around the world.

You can download a one-pager on Startup Edmonton in PDF here.

The way the event works will be somewhat familiar to anyone who has attended a *camp. It starts with the pitch – ideas for new startup ventures. The favorites are selected, and teams of 4 to 10 people are formed to tackle each one. The rest of the weekend is spent trying to build a prototype, demo, or maybe even a finished product!

The Edmonton event, organized by Startup Edmonton, is taking place at Enterprise Square downtown. The weekend kicks off on Friday evening at 6pm, with introductions and idea pitches. Then the real work begins! Here’s what attendees get out of the event:

Startup Weekend provides an unprecedented level of networking, team building, learning, and life changes for its attendees and their communities. Don’t forget that there will be 6-7 meals and drinks provided. There is a reason that most attendees come back for every event – it’s just plain fun and provides amazing opportunities you can’t get anywhere else. Sometimes a company emerges, sometimes one doesn’t, but every time people leave with more experience, insight, knowledge, friends, and resources than they came with.

Startup Weekend should be a lot of fun! Tickets are $99, which includes meals and beverages for the weekend (there are a few available at half price if you hurry). You can follow @StartupEdmonton on Twitter for updates, as well as the #SWEdmonton hashtag. See you there!

Click here to register for Startup Weekend Edmonton!