Yesterday evening, 300+ entrepreneurs gathered on a cold November evening to meet fellow developers, designers and budding business owners to pitch their ideas. The Burroughes building, home to Playground Digital, The Working Group, and The Toronto Standard (among others), was the setting for what would be a 54 hour competition, in which the participants have one weekend to build and launch a startup. No small feat by any measure, so we expect that there will be a healthy dose of caffeine and RedBull consumed this weekend as the teams coalesce and start developing their products.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Startup Weekend this event is a “weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if startup ideas are viable. Their mission is to educate entrepreneurs and build communities around the world, and are committed to delivering the world’s premier experiential education for entrepreneurs.”
StartupWeekend kicked off with a bang (and some loud speaker feedback), featuring a video by EighteenEighty, a creative branding and cinematic storytelling agency located in downtown Toronto:
Following the video was a panel on venture capital in Canada, featuring Peter Carrescia from OMERS Ventures; Senia Rapisarda from BDC; Farhan Thawar from ExtremeLabs; Matthew Leibowitz from BEST Funds; and Mark Faucher from the Blackberry Partners Fund.
The pitches, approximately 90 of them, kicked off just after 9pm, and lasted well over an hour. Ranging in focus from lifestyle applications for the iPhone, to property management web applications for tenants and condominium building owners, the quality of the pitches was impressive.
One of the pitches that caught our attention was MyClosingCosts.ca. “When you purchase a house, you have to put down a down payment. There are additional closing costs that some buyers don’t account for, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. To help buyers keep track of all these fees, we’re building a web app that will download all the data about the house you’re interested in purchasing, like square footage and number of rooms. The application will map out for you how much your real estate lawyer will cost, how much your home inspection will cost, and how much your monthly home insurance will cost”, explained Alyssa Richard, founder of ratehub.ca, a mortgage comparison website. “We’re taking this application one step further and connecting you with local service providers, so you can compare home inspectors and pick a company you would like to deal with. Our application will be mobile friendly and built in HTML5, so that you can track all your costs and manage your tasks on an iPhone, iPad or any other mobile device.”
In the end, only 24 startups made the cut, including the recently launched Ladies Learning Code, a monthly workshop series targeted at women who want to learn how to code. Their pitch? Code With Friends. Heather Payne, founder of Ladies Learning Code, describes Code With Friends as “Codecademy meets Words With Friends. We’re building a game to teach beginner-friendly code in a social and collaborative way.” They’ve launched this morning at http://codewithfriends.com/, on Twitter @codewithfriends and on Facebook.
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