DemoCamp 14 Proved That Vancouver’s Startup Ecosystem is More Vibrant Than Ever

A stage, valuable prizes, free beer, and a full house. It all adds up to an amazing DemoCamp 14.

They came, (in droves), they saw (a cubicle free future), and they conquered (actually pitched)! Hosted by GrowLab and brought to the community courtesy of Launch Academy and Vancouver Pixel Crafters, DemoCamp14 this) was a resoundingly successful evening.

The buzz was palpable even before the taps were pouring and the cursing became audible. Make no mistake, the evenings organizers Mack Flavelle and Boris Mann make the event happen because, well, “We give a F#@% here!”

With over 150 attendees, no fire marshals in sight, and sponsors thanked, everyone was invited to white board to sign-up for their 30 seconds in the spotlight. There was a  prize package worth over $10,000 for the winning pitch (including the good people of Deal Maker Media providing a free pass to Grow Conference, the biggest tech conference in Canada, happening this August).

It was also really cool seeing the HootSuite’s new live Twitter stream HootFeed in action—talk about keeping the audience engaged.

There may have been a few butterflies in the room, but the shy gals and guys were no-shows: the white board almost wasn’t big enough for the 31 pitch-ready entrepreneurs.

This is unprecedented participation compared to past DemoCamps. There were maybe 10 to 12 pitches at the last DemoCamp in November. A night like this shows some healthy indicators for interest and support in the local startup ecosystem.

There were some very solid pitches, a few memorable lines, and definitely a few notes taken. Everyone who stood up and put their best 30 seconds forward deserves kudos.

Ultimately it was up to the crowd to choose the top six. Arguably another key entrepreneurial skill came into play, schmoozing and working the crowd, as each attendee only had one vote.

This intrepid reporter would never want to suggest that a little gaming was going on—well, that’s not true. A few folks benefited from having their fans in the crowd: a  good call, asking (or bribing) friends for an evening out where the beverages are on the house. A very sound application of lean business practices too.

If anyone was nervous about doing a 30-second spiel, then firing up a six-minute demo and presentation while keeping the audience fired up, and lighting up the judges is a real test of fortitude. Judges are one thing, but the “peanut gallery” (AKA @kaler) is way tougher: “How’s it going to make money?”

With minimal technical glitches and nerves of steel the top six pitches did their best to impress.

While making a business case is good, as Boris Mann reminded everyone, DemoCamp should really be about about showing off cool new ideas, demoing inspiring MVP’s, and building great technology. This isn’t Angel forum, and there are no checks being written.

The stories of the night, and possibly the stories still to be written, belonged to the following startups.

• Swiip (iOS app for ending procrastination, and improving productivity);

• Vult Technologies (digital and disposal tap and go wallet payment system);

• PhotoQuest (iOS app, gamifying the picture taking experience, a digital “where’s Waldo”) 

Following some painstaking deliberation, the evening’s four judges awarded these winners.

3rd place: BigMaMa.ca. Ramona MacLeod is intent of reducing the cost of a post-secondary education. Why buy text books, when you can rent them online?

2nd place: Karmahire. James Clift and team are helping company’s “Hire in Fast Forward.”

1st place: ForTwoPlease. leading her team, Alexandra Skey is helping couples by keeping their relationships “First Date Fresh.”

The no shortage of what’s next? What’s next for the winner, and how will they leverage all of that booty? What’s next for the rest of the top 6? What’s next for the 31 who pitched? What’s next for the ideas that sat on the sideline? Most importantly, how will Democamp15 top this one?