The first Startup Weekend of 2020 was packed with problem solving, learning experiences and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs in Calgary.
The event, which usually happens three times a year, brings together like-minded people who want to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality. From Friday evening through to Sunday evening, participants pitch, brainstorm, research and validate their ideas and try to bring them to life. The event is not only for those who want to start companies, but for those who are looking to support startups and their growth.
This event saw more than 40 attendees, some returning after previous Startup Weekend experiences, all from different walks of life who were taking part for different reasons.
“It’s just really fun to meet other people who want to grind it out and hustle,” says Joe Dang, who was attending the event for the second time. “There aren’t many opportunities to meet other people like that and actually do it other than Startup Weekend.”
Paige Neilson, who recently moved to Calgary from Toronto, was a first-time attendee looking to understand the tech ecosystem here.
“Here in Calgary, you have the chance to focus on your idea and meet like-minded individuals,” Neilson says. “I think it’s great that there’s such a big strong sense of community in everything here.”
“I have a lot of ideas,” says first-timer Sabahat Naureen. “When this came up on the radar I was like, ‘it’s time for me to give it a shot.’ I’ve never been in a startup environment, so I wanted to learn what it takes.”
“I wanted to come to explore the opportunities and find out what it’s like to be an entrepreneur,” says Khalid Mehmood, who drove down to Calgary from Red Deer for the event. “It’s also a good way to meet like-minded people and get some experience.”
The weekend started off Friday evening with a Startup weekend alumni Kelcie Miller-Anderson, who founded Bumblechain, a blockchain company focused on saving the world’s bee population. Then, attendees pitched to an audience which included local startup founders, community and business leaders, and the Startup Calgary staff and volunteers.
Of the 26 pitches, the eight strongest were chosen, and from there, attendees created teams based on the pitch they were most passionate about. Those teams worked together Saturday and Sunday, often leaving their comfort zones to research, problem solve and work with coaches and one another.
“It was uncomfortable, it was overwhelming, but it was exciting too. You see everyone’s passionate about what they’re interested in. It was a mix of emotions for sure,” Neilson says. “It’s cool to see everyone’s strengths and all the sides to a startup. Because you always see the final product of any type of business, but you don’t see how you get there.”
The event wrapped up Sunday evening, when the teams presented their updated ideas. Ideas ranged from a subscription service that gave art lovers access to local artists every month, an app to help customers save on their grocery bills, and a device to help people with mobility issues.
In the end, three teams went home with prizes, including from six months of space at Work Nicer for the top team, to one on one sessions with CDL-Rockies Venture Leaders, to tickets to Startup Calgary Launch Party. But in reality, everyone in the room was a winner in some way – not only did everyone receive one week of space to use at Work Nicer as well as discounts to upcoming events and development courses; they also gained a different perspective, made new connections and became part of Calgary’s startup community.
“Being in this environment, the support system is massive. There are people picking you up and telling you ‘you can do this.’ It’s not like that in other places,” says Naureen. “I don’t think there’s a better way to spend a weekend, if you want to learn and grow, than to come to a Startup Weekend.”
“If you’ve ever had an idea in your mind, this weekend is the chance to pitch your idea, and if you get people on board, now you have five people working towards that same idea, so it’s a great opportunity,” Dang says. “Calgary wants to establish itself as Canada’s tech hub. I love that all these companies are helping each other out and putting on these events to develop that ecosystem.”
“You never know who’s in the room, who’s going to be here and what skills they bring. It’s always a good opportunity; a simple idea could be a million-dollar idea,” Neilson adds.
“I would say even if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur, you should still come. You’ll make connections and learn a lot in two and a half days. To see other people’s ideas, it will blow your mind,” Mehmood says.
Visit Startup Calgary’s website for more information about Startup Weekend and other upcoming events.