Recap: TEC VenturePrize 2012

tec ventureprizeLast night was the tenth annual TEC VenturePrize awards celebration and to mark the milestone, an evening dinner format was selected instead of the usual luncheon. Hundreds of people packed Hall D at the Shaw Conference Centre to see some of Alberta’s most inspiring entrepreneurs battle it out in three different categories: student, fast growth, and for the first time ever, nano. Over $300,000 in prizes was handed out this year! For those of you who are new to the competition here’s a brief description:

A program of TEC Edmonton, TEC VenturePrize is an Alberta-wide program providing training, professional support and financial incentives to help people build or enhance a viable business. Now celebrating its 10th year, TEC VenturePrize is open to individuals such as aspiring entrepreneurs and faculty and students of post-secondary institutions, or new companies entering the marketplace.

Mayor Mandel kicked things off by welcoming everyone to the event and bringing greetings on behalf of the City. He was followed by the University of Alberta’s Lorne Babiuk and EEDC’s Ron Gilbertson who shared introductory remarks as presenting partners. As he has done for the last few years, Ryan Jespersen emceed the event. Ryan encouraged everyone to participate using the #VenturePrize hashtag on Twitter, and participate they did! It was great to see all of the positive comments about the companies competing. Throughout the evening there were videos featuring participants from the last ten years talking about their experiences with VenturePrize and the impact it had on them as entrepreneurs and on their companies.

TEC VenturePrize 2012

Being the tenth year, time was reserved in the program to honor the organizations and individuals that have been a part of the competition since the beginning. The Edmonton Journal, Field Law, FMC Law, novaNAIT, PWC, and the TSX Venture Exchange have all been sponsors since 2002. Volunteers who have contributed their time and expertise since the start include Colin Christensen, Brian Goheen, Ted Heidrick, Van Konrad, Gord Meeberg, Dennis Pommen, Lloyd Steier, Sam Soliman, and Ted Yoo.

Just like last year, representatives from each of the finalists in the student category participated in a sit-down interview on stage with Ryan. It was a neat way to learn a bit more about each of the companies! The three finalists were:

Founded by 27-year-old Calgary surgical resident Dr. Breanne Everett, Orpyx is behind two highly innovative planar sensory replacement systems, the SurroSense Rx and the SurroGait Rx, that use pressure sensor-embedded shoe insoles to determine force exerted over the bottom of the feet, and wirelessly transmit collected information to a back pad, mobile device or wristwatch worn by the user. Employing the phenomenon of neuroplasticity – the potential of the human brain to rewire itself – the patient is able to interpret the sensory stimulus felt on the back as that from the feet, and positively adjust their gait, balance, mobility and overall health as a result.

Enercal is building CALTrack – intelligent data software for the oil & gas industry. CALTrack provides easy-to-use, intelligent tools to manage critical calibration processes, allowing companies to meet increasing regulation and measurement quality requirements. Enercal was a finalist in Calgary’s STIC competition.

CitizenBridge is a not-for-profit civic engagement organization creating an online platform that will directly connect Canadians and government by facilitating conversations between citizens and their representatives. Capitalizing on the movement of Gov 2.0 in Canada, CitizenBridge’s purpose is to create a much more accessible, transparent and engaging government by using technology to connect constituents with their elected representatives in an effort to strength the overall well-being of our communities.

TEC VenturePrize 2012

There were two finalists in the nanoVenturePrize category, and we got to hear a short pitch from each of them in addition to a video. I think the addition of a nano category is great and will help to cement Edmonton’s role as a key research and development centre for nanotechnology. The products the finalists have created sound really impressive (and way over my head):

Aquila Diagnostics uses the Domino nanotechnology platform developed at the University of Alberta to provide on-site, easy-to-use genetic testing that can quickly test for infectious diseases and pathogens in livestock. The mobile diagnostic platform is portable, low-cost, fast and easy to use.

Parvus Therapeutics’ breakthrough nanomedicines may hold the cure for difficult-to-treat autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Parvus’ new Navacim medicines are nanoparticles coated with immune system proteins that can target specific autoimmune conditions.

There have been a lot of really unique and successful competitors in the fast growth category over the last ten years, so I’m sure the two finalists were feeling the pressure. Neither showed it up on stage though, delivering great elevator pitches before we got to see their videos.

As a combat trauma surgeon, ITC founder and CEO Dr. Dennis Filips was a firsthand witness to bleeding as a leading cause of battlefield deaths. Now a civilian surgeon and entrepreneur, he is committed to inventing point of injury solutions. ITC’s first product, the ITClamp, is a hand-held device that stops bleeding and saves live by instantly sealing a wound until surgical repair.

Pedpad solves a pervasive challenge faced by consumers in the footwear industry: finding shoes that fit. The process of trying on different sizes across different brands and returning online purchases that don’t fit is frustrating for customers and retailers alike. Pedpad solves this problem with a multi-axis, digital shoe-sizing platform. By stepping on the Pedpad device in-store, consumers can immediately determine their shoe size for a given brand. Through a personal Pedpad account, consumers can access their measurements online, obtain precise sizing recommendations across brands, and shop online with confidence.

The keynote speaker for the event was the Honourable A. Anne McLellan, who spoke about the spirit of innovation in Alberta. After attending a bunch of big events in the last week or two where speakers have not been shy about celebrating the positive economic outlook for Edmonton and the province, it was refreshing to hear Anne McLellan take a more measured approach. She said that we can and must do better in this province, that while energy is our traditional industry, it won’t always be enough. “Complacency is the biggest threat facing Alberta,” she told us. Her remarks covered a lot of ground, including the role that government should play in economic development. “Government should pick the races we’re in, not the winning horses,” she said. I wasn’t sure at first if McLellan was the right fit for a VenturePrize keynote, but I’m glad the organizers picked her!

TEC VenturePrize 2012

While I enjoyed the longer dinner format for the special 10th anniversary, I do think the program was a bit too long. It was well after 9pm by the time we got to the winners! The first award was the Screeners’ Award of Merit, presented by the Alberta Business Family Institute’s Shauna Feth. The award, which recognizes a business plan submission that shows excellent promise, went to Raw-Bitz.

Stephen Lougheed from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures presented the award to the winner of the student category, Orpyx Medical Technologies.

Dan Djukich from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures presented the inaugural nanoVenturePrize award, which went to Parvus Therapeutics.

TEC VenturePrize 2012

The two finalists in the fast growth category could not have been more different. I think Pedpad is on to something interesting, though as Sharon remarked to me when I told her about the company, you really have to try shoes on to see how they fit, because materials and other factors all play a role. Still, companies and products that mix the physical and online worlds are intriguing to me. As for ITC, I still can’t quite believe that their product doesn’t already exist. It looks and operates just like a hair clamp, and doesn’t look very complicated to my untrained eye (though I’m sure there’s more to it). But it obviously works and works well, so I hope it catches on!

TEC Edmonton CEO Chris Lumb had the honor of presenting the award to the winner of the fast growth category: Innovative Trauma Care.

Congratulations to all of the participants, finalists, and winners! Thanks also to TEC Edmonton for saving me a spot at the media table – much appreciated! You can see more photos from the evening here.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 18

Last night was our eighteenth DemoCamp here in Edmonton, and it was awesome! We had an excellent turnout – probably one of our best – and seven really great demos. It’s so inspiring to see local folks working on some really unique and creative projects. You can read more about DemoCamp Edmonton here, and you can read my recap of our last event here.

DemoCamp Edmonton 18

Tonight’s demos, in order of appearance:

  • Backup Box – Eric and Mark showed us their online backup utility, a project they started working on at the Startup Hackathon / Global Game Jam back in January. Backup Box makes it easy to transfer files from a variety of different services, such as from FTP to Dropbox. There’s a big need for a service like this. I love that their website says “Proudly made in Edmonton” right on the front page!
  • Life Goes On – Susan, David, Eric, and Ian demoed their very creative game, something they also started back at the Startup Hackathon / Global Game Jam. I just love the idea behind the game – you solve puzzles using your characters dead bodies. From the website: “Sacrifice an endless stream of fearless knights into the arsenal of spike pits, flamethrowers, sawblades, and lava to make progress through a deadly gauntlet filled with elaborate deathtraps!” You can download the demo now, and watch for a commercial release in the future.
  • PlanHero – Sean, Graham, and Dave demoed their solution for organizing events with friends. You can schedule an event and invite people, and they can then vote on options and pay their share of the costs. I was one of the test users for the demo, and it went really smoothly. Imagine organizing ski trips or pub crawls or hockey pools, those are just some of the events that PlanHero would be useful for. They’re off to a great start!
  • Super Motherload – Skye and his team from XGen Studios demoed their intriguing digging adventure game. From the website: “Super Motherload challenges players to dig deep into the substrata of Mars as they collect increasingly rare and valuable minerals.” I kind of liked that the team basically just sat down and played their game for seven minutes, though a bit more commentary would have been welcome. Looks like fun though!
  • Signia – Next up was Dan who showed us his solution for connecting customer behavior and analytics. It’s a sort of check-in system, so you might use it to track what customers are purchasing and then use that data to create a reward program. Signia was created because Dan’s brother had a specific need, so he just decided to see how far he could get!
  • Technitone – Grant showed us a few things he has been working on, but the big one was a web technology showcase app called Technitone. You’ll want to use Chrome if you check out the website, because it makes use of some cutting edge stuff like the Web Audio API. Using the tool you can compose music using a visual drag & drop interface, but that’s a pretty simplistic description. There’s much information about Technitone here.
  • The Peregrine – Brent came up from Lloydminster to show us his innovative glove for user input. With over 30 touch points and motion sensitivity, you can use the glove to move things on the screen, to type, or to perform other programmable options. Currently you need to plug it in, but a wireless version is in the works. It was very Minority Report-like, and the audience loved it. Here’s a video that gives you a better idea of how it works:

People always love hardware demos, so I think The Peregrine was definitely an audience favorite. Chatting with people after the event at Original Joe’s, it sounds like Life Goes On and Backup Box were also quite popular. The sound effects of your character dying over and over again in Life Goes On had everyone hooked and laughing! I also enjoyed Technitone, because I love that it stretches the boundaries of what is possible today. It offers a glimpse of what’s coming!

DemoCamp Edmonton 18DemoCamp Edmonton 18

There were a bunch of announcements throughout the evening:

  • Work on the Startup Edmonton Space is coming along and we hope to be open in the Mercer Warehouse soon. Memberships will come in two flavors – $275/month for a desk and other benefits, or $125/month for drop-in members. You can apply here!
  • The website for Flightpath is now up! Check it out and learn about the entrepreneur-led, peer based startup accelerator launching in Edmonton later this year.
  • Have an interest in data analytics? Then the Analytics Hackathon is for you! Build something with one or more of the available datasets (City of Edmonton, Edmonton Oilers, etc.) and you could win some big prizes! Submissions are due on April 12, so you need to move quickly.
  • Accelerate AB is back at the end of May! This year the event is taking place here in Edmonton, and it should be a great opportunity to connect with entrepreneurs from around Alberta.

Thanks to everyone who came out last night. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 19!

DemoCamp Edmonton 18 is tomorrow!

democampEvery couple of months there’s another DemoCamp here in Edmonton. Our last event was in January, and the next one takes place tomorrow evening. If you’ve never been, you should definitely try to make it out tomorrow! You don’t have to be a programmer to get something out DemoCamp.

DemoCamp is an event that brings together developers, creatives, entrepreneurs and investors to share what they’ve been working on and to find others in the community interested in similar topics. For presenters, it’s a great way to get feedback on what you’re building from peers and the community, all in an informal setting. Started back in 2008, DemoCamp Edmonton has steadily grown into one of the largest in the country, with 200-300 people attending each new event.

The rules for DemoCamp are simple: ten minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed.

Here are the details for tomorrow’s event:

WHAT: DemoCamp Edmonton 18
WHEN: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 7pm
WHERE: TELUS Centre 150, University of Alberta
COST: Free! Register here

There are seven demos lined up, so it should be an exciting evening! DemoCamp is a free event, but we do like you to register so we know how many people are coming. After the demos are done, we’ll all head over to Original Joes on 109 Street for post-DemoCamp drinks and conversations. If you can’t make it, follow along online using the #democampyeg hashtag.

In addition to being an excellent opportunity to meet others in the local tech community and to get inspired by what they are up to, DemoCamp has at times been a launching pad for local startups. Back at DemoCamp Edmonton 15 in September 2011, Sam Pillar demoed Jobber. Just a few weeks ago, he announced that Jobber had received a seed round of investment! Likewise, at DemoCamp Edmonton 12 in September 2010, Edmontonians were among the first to see TestFlight. At the end of last year, they were acquired by Burstly!

You can check out my recaps of all previous DemoCamps here, and you can see some photos here.

Oh, and if you’re looking for something to do tonight to get you in the mood for DemoCamp tomorrow, check out the YEGRB meetup. They’re talking about design and are also hosting the first ever Exchange.js talk to chat about JavaScript development.

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 18!

Startup Edmonton announces a new home for creative innovation in the Mercer Warehouse

startup edmontonToday Startup Edmonton is excited to announce that it will be moving into the Mercer Warehouse on 104 Street later this year. Edmonton’s new collaborative home for technology, entrepreneurism, and creative innovation will be located on the third floor of the historic building with an anticipated move-in date set for the spring.

The Mercer Warehouse project is a natural extension of the 104th Street/Warehouse District revitalization efforts, solidifying the area as the start-up hub of the city. Built in 1911, the Mercer Warehouse enters its next phase of service, from its beginnings as entrepreneur John B. Mercer’s liquor and beer cold storage to housing the next generation of creative endeavors and innovations.

The news comes just a week after a series of exciting announcements related to the ongoing revitalization of the Warehouse District. For more on the history of the Mercer Warehouse, check out Lawrence Herzog’s article from March 2010.

It should be no surprise that I’m incredibly excited about this! The new space will play a significant role in anchoring the north end of 4th Street Promenade, and it provides Startup Edmonton with the space and physical presence we need to grow and achieve our goal of making Edmonton a hotbed for creativity and entrepreneurship. Here’s a concept sketch for the space:

startup space sketch

And here’s a concept floor plan:

startup space sketch

There’s a lot of renovation work yet to be done, but don’t be fooled by the sketch above. The brick, the beams, all of the historic elements that give the space character – that’s all staying. The space needs to be functional, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose the history! Last week I had the opportunity to check out the building, and took some “before” photos.

Startup Edmonton @ The Mercer Warehouse
The team meets with Kelly & Devin Pope.

Startup Edmonton @ The Mercer Warehouse
The space!

Startup Edmonton @ The Mercer Warehouse
Ken with the floor plan sketch.

Startup Edmonton @ The Mercer Warehouse
The other side of the space.

Startup Edmonton @ The Mercer Warehouse
I don’t know why painting over the brick was so popular. I love the brick!

Startup Edmonton @ The Mercer Warehouse
Cam and Ken ham it up!

I can’t wait until the doors officially open! To keep informed on this and other Startup Edmonton initiatives, sign up for the mailing list and follow @StartupEdmonton on Twitter.

UPDATE: You can learn more about the space here, and also check out Ken’s thoughts on what this means for Startup Edmonton and our city.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 17

democampWith wind chills reaching well below minus thirty, it’s amazing that anyone at all showed up at the Telus Centre tonight for Edmonton’s seventeenth DemoCamp, but they did! While perhaps not our largest turnout ever, we still had a pretty full house for six demos. You can read more about DemoCamp here and you can check out my recap of our last DemoCamp here.

DemoCamp Edmonton 17DemoCamp Edmonton 17

Tonight’s demos, in order of appearance:

  • Zeel – Built by Rocketfuel Games, Zeel is “the topical Twitter app that connects you with your interests.” You can think of it as a layer on top of Twitter that makes it easy to follow conversations on specific topics. You can do that with saved searches of course, but that’s a little more difficult and the experience certainly isn’t as nice!
  • Cross Platform Tablet App using Flash – Randy demoed an application that he built using Flash that was then deployed to the iPad and an Android tablet without requiring any changes. I didn’t catch the name of the app, but it was pretty cool to see the same app running on different platforms.
  • Accessing US-Only Blocked Content in Canada – Ben showed us a trick he shared with the YEGRB group recently. It’s a bit technical, but with just a few steps, you can get access to Pandora, the US Netflix catalog, and other services that block access from Canada. He’s got a screencast that shows you how to do it here.
  • Web Suite ProCollin was really nervous, but did a pretty good job of showing off his online invoicing and CRM app. Web Suite Pro seems very feature rich, with lots of built-in functionality and support for a variety of platforms. FreshBooks is the obvious competitor in the space.
  • Linelo – Terry demoed his solution for recording and organizing large amounts of text. You capture lines of text, and then you can group lines together, format them, collapse them, and more. He’s got support for Android and additional platforms are on the way.
  • Slapshot Heroes – From Visimonde, the folks behind Rinksters, comes this iPad app that is kind of like Angry Birds but with pucks and coins. It started out as a mini-game within Rinksters actually, and was popular enough to stand on its own. Ted was entertaining, just as he was back at DemoCamp Edmonton 15 when he showed off Rinksters itself.

I think Ben’s demo was perhaps the favorite of the night, even though it was a little geekier than the rest. It’s always fun to have demos like that – stuff that isn’t necessarily going to turn into a product or company but which is cool nonetheless. Slapshot Heroes was certainly entertaining, and I’m sure more than a few folks will have already spent the 99 cents to download it. Perhaps not surprisingly, I’m most excited to try Zeel, even though I don’t have an iPhone. I’m always interested in finding new ways to extract value from Twitter!

DemoCamp Edmonton 17

There were a number of event announcements this evening:

Stay tuned to Startup Edmonton for additional events and announcements!

See you in March for DemoCamp Edmonton 18!

Why 2012 is going to be a big year for Startup Edmonton

I can’t believe it has been nearly four years since Edmonton’s first DemoCamp took place! Who could have imagined, on that winter evening in the dungeon-like basement of the University of Alberta’s School of Business building, that sixteen DemoCamps would take place over the subsequent years. But they have, and they are still as popular as ever, regularly drawing 200 people from a wide variety of communities – entrepreneurs, programmers, designers, investors, and lots of others. DemoCamp Edmonton 17 is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, January 18 – don’t miss it!

I also never imagined that DemoCamp would eventually lead to Startup Edmonton, but I’m glad it has. Ken, Cam, Sam, and Tiffany recognized that DemoCamp was actually part of something bigger, and they decided to do something about it.

We help connect creators, innovators and entrepreneurs to start and scale bold new ideas through events, mentorship, workspace, and accelerators. Our vision is to make Edmonton a hotbed for creativity and entrepreneurship. Our mission is to amplify creative innovation and activate startups. Our goal is to invest in 500 creative entrepreneurs over the next 5 years.

DemoCamp helped showed us that Edmonton is full of smart, talented, creative people with really innovative ideas. But having an idea is not enough – you need to take action. That’s where Startup Edmonton comes in.

The organization has been around for a while now, organizing events like Launch Party and TEDxEdmonton in addition to DemoCamp, but it became much more official on December 5. That’s the date Startup Edmonton turned into a fully-fledged non-profit company. Here is the board of directors:

  • Todd Babiak – Co-Founder, Story Engine Inc.
  • Brad Ferguson – CEO, Strategy Summit Ltd.
  • Veer Gidwaney – CEO,
  • Chris LaBossiere – Co-CEO, Yardstick Software
  • Chris Lumb – CEO, TEC Edmonton
  • Mack Male – Co-Founder, Paramagnus Developments Inc.
  • Gregg Oldring – Co-Founder, Mailout Interactive / Inkdit
  • David Quail – Co-Founder, Attassa
  • Darin Rayburn – Executive Vice President, Melcor Developments
  • Kevin Swan – Principal, iNovia Capital
  • Sheetal Mehta Walsh – Founder/CEO, Shanti Microfinance

Though not everyone could attend the first meeting in person, there was great energy in the room as we went through introductions and got down to business. Here is our management team:

Rock stars, each and every one of them!

Startup Edmonton

The year ahead

Ken and the team spent countless hours last year planning, networking, connecting, pitching, building – basically doing all of the things a startup needs to do. They’ve put a solid foundation in place, and they’re the right team to drive the organization forward. With the help of our founding partners, I really feel like Startup Edmonton is going to make a big splash in 2012.

The investment ecosystem in Edmonton (and Alberta) is pretty good at funding things that already have momentum, but there’s a serious lack of viable products flowing into that funding pipeline. Yet we know from DemoCamp and other events and initiatives that there is no lack of ideas. How can we get people with ideas to turn into entrepreneurs with fundable products? That’s the challenge that Startup Edmonton will tackle. Here’s how:

  • Inspire – DemoCamp and other events to bring the community together
  • Create – Hackathons, Startup Weekend, and other events focused on prototyping
  • Accelerate – Incubator for early stage tech startups to rapidly take their prototypes to the next level

Startup Edmonton is already pretty good at “Inspire” and efforts related to “Create” are ramping up, but it’s “Accelerate” where things will get really interesting this year. The tech accelerator program is called Flightpath, and it will invest in up to 30 early stage software/digital media startups over the next three years. These are small financial investments, but combined with mentorship, learning, and networking opportunities, the goal is to help startups make meaningful progress in a short period of time. To turn more ideas to into fundable products.

You will of course see more DemoCamps, Startup Weekends, Launch Parties, and other events in 2012. But you’ll also see the startup space that was teased a couple of months ago – a physical space downtown “where geeks, entrepreneurs, and creatives collide.” You’ll see more opportunities to share your knowledge and to learn from others. You’ll see the launch of Flightpath and the first class of startups. You’ll see a more concerted effort to build awareness of startups in Edmonton.

And I think you’ll start to see that creative entrepreneurs and Edmonton’s future are beautifully intertwined.

It’s going to be a great year – get connected!

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 16

democampTonight was our sixteenth DemoCamp here in Edmonton. Held at the Telus Centre on the University of Alberta campus, DemoCamp is still going strong in our city! Tonight’s event continued the new format adopted at the last DemoCamp in September: 7 minutes for demos, 3 minutes for questions, and announcements interspersed throughout the evening.

DemoCamp Edmonton 16
Reg has been the official DemoCamp Edmonton timekeeper since the beginning!

We had seven demos tonight, in order of appearance:

  • TinderizerDaniel demoed his bookmarklet app that lets you send articles from around the web to your Kindle with the click of a button. There are similar services available now (like Readability) but Daniel has continued improving his offering since first releasing it a year ago.
  • Transit Heat Map – Next up was an interesting web app that helps you visualize how many stops you can reach within a certain amount of time. After you pick a starting stop, you can quickly discover which parts of the city are accessible within 15 minutes, and which parts might take an hour. Reminded me a bit of Mapnificent.
  • Browser HordeKevin demoed a web-based platform for solving complex problems. Similarly to SETI@Home and other distributed computing systems, complicated problems are broken down and solved using computing resources from volunteers. The difference is that Browser Horde runs entirely in the browser.
  • Darkhorse Analytics – Daniel ran us through the web-based analytics app that Darkhorse has been building for the Emergency Services industry. The app consumes data that EMS agencies already collect, such as trip times, wait times, etc., and provides an easy-to-use dashboard to make sense of that information.
  • Solvers Market – Alex demoed his question and answer site, billed as “an intelligence exchange platform.” Similar to StackExchange and other sites you can post a question for others to answer, but the site also incorporates money, so you can earn money for solving questions.
  • Fluik EntertainmentVictor showed the very successful Office Jerk game and its successors, Office Zombie and a new Christmas-themed version of the game. Office Jerk reached #1 on the iOS app charts.
  • Willstream – Joel demoed the mobile payments solution that is currently focused on the market in Senegal. The idea is to build a service that supports the three-party interaction that is common in developing markets (funds owner, spender, and merchant).

DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16 DemoCamp Edmonton 16

I’m not sure there was a clear favorite this evening – all of the demos were great! I love seeing projects like Tinderizer and the Transit Heat Map, built to solve a specific problem without requiring big plans for commercialization. Browser Horde is perhaps a bit technical, but seems suited to some specific problem domains and if they can find enough volunteers, could be quite successful. Darkhorse Analytics certainly seems like it could be a big, big winner. The research and effort that Daniel and his team have put into the product really shows, and I think a lot of folks in the audience were really impressed with the demo. Solvers Market demoed a couple weeks ago at PanEx, and while interesting, still needs to find a clear differentiator in a crowded market. Willstream’s demo unfortunately didn’t go very well (they had some issues with data being deleted today) but I think the concept has promise. I hope they can make it work.

Fluik has become a great Edmonton success story, and seems poised to continue producing hits and to keep growing (they’re already at 20 people and are hiring). Office Jerk was released on April 28, 2011 and immediately found success. Growth has continued ever since, with the game being downloaded more than six million times in just its first month. Keep an eye on Fluik!

There were a number of event and other announcements this evening:

  • The YEG Founders Club is getting started. The group aims to provide a place for entrepreneurs to connect with one another. Follow @yegfounders on Twitter and watch for more information.
  • The next Founders & Funders event will take place on December 5. The invite-only event is an opportunity for founders of technology startups to connect with investors.
  • MediaCamp Edmonton is scheduled to take place on February 4, 2012.
  • Grant MacEwan University is launching a usability lab, and would like to open it up to community. You can contact Sharon Bratt for more information.
  • The next Startup Weekend is scheduled for January 27, 2012 and will coincide with Global Game Jam.

Stay tuned to Startup Edmonton for additional events and announcements!

Tonight’s after-party at Original Joe’s Varsity didn’t seem as packed as some in the past, but it was still a great opportunity to connect with the demoers and others in the community. Thanks to everyone who came out tonight. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 17!

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 15

Edmonton’s fifteenth DemoCamp took place last night at the Telus Centre on the University of Alberta campus. With more than 200 people registered to attend, it was no surprise that the room was packed to see what some of Edmonton’s developers, creatives, and others have been up to. The event has evolved quite a bit since the first DemoCamp was held back in March of 2008 and that evolution continue last night. Demos were shortened slightly to 7 minutes, with 3 minutes left for questions. In an effort to streamline setup between demos, announcements about upcoming events and initiatives were made throughout the evening, rather than all at the beginning or end. And finally, Startup Edmonton branding was more prevalent.

We had six demos last night, in order of appearance:

  • Pepper – I demoed my little project that makes use of the Kinect to respond to voice commands and simple gestures.
  • Buzzerful – Jas showed us “the apartment buzzer of your dreams.”
  • Jobber – Sam demoed Jobber, easy-to-use administration software for businesses like painters, landscapers, snow removers, etc.
  • Inkdit – Greg showed us “the social network model applied to legal relationships.”
  • GeniePad – Rafal and Sjoerd very quickly ran through the many features of GeniePad, “the next generation condominium website.”
  • Rinksters – Ted gave a very entertaining demo of his company’s immersive virtual world.

I hope I achieved what I set out to accomplish with my demo – I wanted to bring an element of tinkering back to DemoCamp! My buggy app Pepper was built for my living room. Hooked up to my TV and a Kinect, I can give it voice commands like “Pepper, what is the current temperature” and it responds using text-to-speech. I have also been exploring gestures, so I can say “Pepper, show me the latest tweets about Edmonton” and then use my hand to swipe through them. The combination of speech and gestures really intrigues me.

Buzzerful was a neat little app. It gives you control over your apartment buzzer, by enabling the creation of one-time party or delivery codes as well as custom access codes for tenants or roommates. Also very cool is that you can set it up to call multiple numbers all at once, and the first person to answer gets to let the visitor in (or not). I’d totally use that, as long as there were solid notifications about the status of the service (if it goes down, I want to know). Might be cool if it could call me on Skype instead of the phone too.

Jobber is one of those apps that had me thinking “where were you ten years ago!” I was one of the unfortunate souls who undertook a summer with College Pro Painters, and an app like Jobber would certainly have made things better. It manages scheduling, customer relationships, invoices, estimates, jobs, tasks, and much more. It has some pretty nifty visualization tools as well to see where employees are deployed and where jobs are located. There’s even a mobile interface for use on-the-go. Check out Jobber’s blog about the event.

Inkdit deals with something pretty boring – legal agreements. Boring, but important! The service is a way to keep track of contracts you’re signing, either as yourself or on behalf of an organization. And it uses social networking to connect the different parties to the agreement. There’s a great demonstration site (it uses Comic Sans so you know it’s a demo site) that shows off the features.

GeniePad is an impressive application already in use by a number of condominium boards and property managers. The idea is to provide a simple communication portal for condos. It lets condos and owners share news and documents, contact the board or property manager, and track tasks and requests, among other things. My condo board uses it, and we’re really quite happy with it!

It was pretty much a given that the Rinksters demo would be fun – it is a game, after all. But I didn’t realize how entertaining Ted was! I’m not sure if he was intentionally funny at the start but he ran with it as he took us through some areas of the world, including a rare look at Yeti’s house! The game is targeted at kids in the 8-12 age range, though as Ted pointed out, no one will know if you’re older and you’re playing.

I usually ask a few people what their favorite demo of the night was, and the two cited most frequently last night were Jobber and GeniePad. Both apps solve real problems and seem to be well on their way to success!

Once again the big after-party was held at Original Joe’s Varsity. Thanks to Go Auto for sponsoring the drinks!

Some upcoming events you may be interested in:

Thanks to everyone who came out last night. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 16!

Recap: TEC VenturePrize 2011

The annual TEC VenturePrize awards luncheon was held at the Westin Edmonton today, and I was fortunate enough to attend as a guest of TEC Edmonton. The Alberta-wide business plan competition is one of the ways that TEC Edmonton helps entrepreneurs access mentorship, networking, and exposure opportunities in our province. Some of the recent success stories from VenturePrize include Yardstick Software and Seek Your Own Proof.

The competition is broken into two categories: fast growth, and student. Finalists in the fast growth category compete for over $150,000 in cash and in-kind services, while finalists in the student competition compete for $10,000 cash.

Ryan Jespersen once again hosted the festivities, and I thought he did a really great job of incorporating tweets into the program. Lots of people in the audience were tweeting about the event and their favorite companies using the #ventureprize hashtag. Part of that online interest might have been due to the fact that the awards luncheon was streamed online for the first time this year.

2011 TEC VenturePrize Awards Luncheon

Ryan kicked things off with a sit-down interview on stage with the three finalists in the student category:

  • (Gezim Hoxha, University of Lethbridge)
    Website offering students an easy way to buy and sell textbooks and save money.
  • Nougat Software Entertainment (Tyrel Schick, University of Lethbridge) (archive)
    Video game development company designing/creating innovative, full scale games for a wide range of platforms.
  • AltaCap Energy Solutions (Trina Salvisberg & team, University of Alberta) (archive)
    Focused on the development, production, and marketing of ultracapacitors that feature cutting edge electrode technology.

I don’t think the interview approach has ever been done before, and I thought it worked well. It was great to feature the students more prominently in the program.

Next we had introductory remarks from TEC Edmonton CEO Chris Lumb and Mayor Stephen Mandel, and then it was time to meet the finalists in the fast growth category. Each finalist had the opportunity to deliver a one minute elevator pitch, followed by a three minute video describing their product and/or business.

CAD Crowd helps firms hire CAD staff globally enabling the effective sourcing of CAD work through their relationships with quality-certified partners and an enterprise project management software tailored specifically to manage and facilitate CAD projects.

  • lightPower (Edmonton)

lightPower builds flexible plastic solar panels with long-term stability which can be integrated in consumer electronic products or used as stand-alone battery chargers. Flexible plastic solar panels are fabricated through roll-to-roll printing techniques, enabling high throughout, low-cost manufacturing.

VibeDX is a patent-pending medical device for diagnosis of injuries, pathologies and fitness of the back and spine. With a 99+% accuracy in diagnosing disc damage that holds promise to improve long term outcomes and quality of life for millions of back pain sufferers.

Rant: You’ll note that CAD Crowd and GizmoBooks are the only two with links to actual company websites. If the others have websites, I can’t find them. You would think that in 2011 this wouldn’t be an issue, but it is. If I can’t type your name into Google and find you, you’re doing something wrong, I don’t care what industry you’re in. And yes, I recognize that these entrepreneurs are focusing on product development, but seriously, not even a simple landing page?! Come on.

After all the pitches were complete, Ryan quickly described how the judging process works, and the judges made a show of leaving the room for their final deliberations. I was surprised to see them return just a few minutes later – usually it takes longer, so I figured they must really have had a favorite! Judges in the fast growth category included Warren Bergen from Webbco International Inc., Rod Charko from Alberta Enterprise Fund, Roy Homyshin from TSX Venture Exchange, Mike Scarth from Alberta WaterSMART, and Shawn Abbott from iNovia Capital. Judges in the student category included Colin Christensen from Signa Venture Development, Troy Deck from Meyers Norris Penny, Don Riep from Yardstick Software Inc., and Jim Spiers from Right Field Marketing. In addition to the judges there were twelve screeners, whose job it was to select the finalists from the many resume submissions. This year, the Screeners’ Award of Merit went to Inspectacar, for their business focused on delivering “nothing but accurate vehicle inspections”.

2011 TEC VenturePrize Awards Luncheon

Our keynote speaker was up next – Evan Chrapko, an entrepreneur currently focused on Highmark Renewables. Evan shared a few stories from his experiences as an entrepreneur, and hammered home the theme of “persistence pays”. I wrote about Evan’s transition into Highmark back in 2007, and he’s still at it, so he obviously practices what he preaches. Evan left the audience with five pieces of advice:

  1. Know thyself, and know your timespan (how much time you can actually devote).
  2. Know thy business partner (consider legal advice up front, even if it seems costly).
  3. Trust your instincts.
  4. Network with others (he encouraged everyone to leave with ten other business cards).
  5. Persistence pays.

Finally, it was time for the announcement of the winners. Annette Trimbee from Alberta Advanced Education & Technology presented the awards for the student category, with Trina’s team at AltaCap taking the top prize!

2011 TEC VenturePrize Awards Luncheon

Chris Lumb presented the awards for the fast growth competition, with the win going to VibeDX!

2011 TEC VenturePrize Awards Luncheon

It definitely seemed like VibeDX was the favorite. I have to admit that I really love the concept behind their technology – taking an approach used in other industries (such as stress-testing an airplane wing) and applying it to the human body. Their video was also quite impressive, as it had at least five doctors offering either testimonials or rosy predictions for the technology. Here’s a video describing how VibeDX works:

Congrats to all of the participants and finalists this year, and of course to the winners! You can see more photos from today’s event here.

If you’re interested in participating in next year’s VenturePrize, check the website this fall for registration details. You can also follow @TECVenturePrize on Twitter.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 14

Tonight was Edmonton’s fourteenth DemoCamp, held at the Telus Centre on the University of Alberta campus. We’re still going strong, with another excellent turnout tonight to see what local developers have been up to. And of course, the after party at Original Joes Varsity was absolutely packed. The general consensus tonight seemed to be that all of the demos were good, though a few definitely stood out.

DemoCamp Edmonton 14DemoCamp Edmonton 14

We had five demos:

  • The first demo was from David Ackerman, who showed us a Mac app he has been working on for writers. You can think of the app as a word processor on steroids. The idea is that as you type, relevant photos, Wikipedia articles, and other information appear alongside your text. In the demo, David typed “Developers, Developers, Developers!” and up popped an image of Steve Ballmer. It had the ability to adjust the amount of “stuff” that was surfaced as well.
  • Our second demo of the evening was Darcy Sabatino showed us the app he has been working on that lets you store and categorize your recipes via a simple, easy-to-use web interface. He noted that the interface looks great on an iPad, so it’s ready for you to use in the kitchen. Darcy had a bunch of ideas for future improvements too, such as sharing recipes with other users.
  • Ryan Ramage was up next to show us Ecko-It, a liferecording platform and audio wiki with the tagline “keep what you hear”. I think it is probably safe to say that Ecko-It was the most talked about demo of the evening. Ryan got off to a bit of a slow start, with lots of explanation, but the stuff he demoed was pretty impressive. Basically you use a Liferecorder, which is a little audio recording device, to capture an audio stream of your life. At the end of the day, you’d sync that audio with the Ecko-It software for tagging and categorization. Let’s say you tagged something “DemoCamp” – you could then with a single click see all of the other audio tagged DemoCamp. I can definitely see potential in the app, but personally I think there would be too much effort required for management of the audio. All of the software, including the hardware firmware, is open source.
  • Liang Shi, Tait Lawton, and Kevin Loney were up next, to show us Sizmio. Born at Startup Weekend back in February, Sizmio allows you to listen to the sounds of the world. Basically it’s an audio layer that sits on top of Google Maps or Google Earth. As you navigate around the map, you can hear different sounds. If you have an iPhone, you can record and upload sounds from your phone while you’re on the go. Very cool stuff, though most people seemed to think it could use some focus – perhaps audio tours or something like that.
  • Our final demo of the evening was also the first ever Windows Phone 7 demo at DemoCamp! Pieter Parker, Jeremey Burns, and Stephen Baden demoed their Windows Phone 7 game called Super Punch. They were one of 100 teams to compete in a 48-hour programming competition called the Great Canadian Appathon, and they won! They took their $25,000 in winnings and have since started a game studio called Bit Shift Games. As for the game, Super Punch looks like a lot of fun. The idea is to punch Dr. Competent as far as you can, with all kinds of power ups and environmental interactions to keep it interesting. I was pretty impressed with the game, especially considering they built it in just two days! As for when it’ll be available – the team said to stay tuned.

Sometimes a video helps to make sense of something. Here’s a quick video of Sizmio:

And here’s a quick video of Super Punch:

Though Ecko-It was the demo that most people seemed to talk about, my favorite was probably Super Punch. I could definitely see myself playing the game! I really love the concept behind Sizmio, and was pleasantly surprised by the progress the team has made since Startup Weekend. I think they could really have something. There’s a lot of intriguing technology behind Ecko-It, so it’ll be interesting to see where that product goes.

DemoCamp Edmonton 14DemoCamp Edmonton 14

We had a few announcements this evening:

  • Save the date for Startup Factory, a new conference and speaker series that focuses on the nuts and bolts of product and customer development for startups. It is scheduled to take place on Friday, June 10, with more information to follow.
  • TEC Edmonton’s annual VenturePrize Awards Luncheon is coming up on April 27th. You can get your tickets here. Vibe DX, lightPower, and CAD Crowd are the finalists that will compete for the top prize.
  • C100, the group behind 4 Days in the Valley, has another event coming up on July 13 called AccelerateAB. The idea is to connect Alberta entrepreneurs with speakers and other mentors. This year’s edition takes place in Calgary, but they are planning to bus a bunch of Edmontonians down for the event. Stay tuned for more information.
  • Be sure to sign up for the Startup Edmonton mailing list to learn more about these events and many others!

Thanks to everyone who came out tonight. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 15!

You can see the rest of my photos from the evening here.