Students working hard on a weekend at UBC is nothing new. Students from other schools working hard at UBC’s Point Grey campus on a gorgeous weekend is a little unusual.
The past three days were host to the first UBC Startup Weekend. Vancouver’s Startup Weekends have been hosted by universities before – last August’s event was hosted by Emily Carr – but this marks a Lower Mainland first in terms of a university owning the event.
The participants of UBC’s Startup Weekend were a relatively even blend of BC’s post-secondary institutions. 40% of the participants were UBC students and alumni, with the other 60% were a blend of entrepreneurs and students at SFU and Emily Carr. There were 80 participants in all, with 60 creating a presentable project.
The judge’s panel was a cornucopia of local talent. Mark Williams, cofounder of Elastic Path, opened the judging with a 25-minute speech meant to inspire the participants to continue to pursue entrepreneurship, despite any possible outcome when the presentations were done.
“Right now, what I want to say, and I think it’s the most important thing that you guys should realize, there’s probably millions of ideas out there that have been pitched to VCs, angel investors, etc., and they’ve been told the idea is dumb, nobody’s going to buy it. And at the end of the day, the entrepreneur did do it, and it became a multi-million dollar organization,” he said. “Don’t give up on your ideas.”
The panelists included local success stories including Kenshi Arasaki of A Thinking Ape, SFU’s Sarah Lubik, Jason Xu of Battlefy, Entrepreneurship@UBC’s Anuj Singhal, and Fundrazr’s Bret Conkin. Fundrazr also provided free campaigns for the contestants on its platform; four campaigns are still running as of publication, with ProDono, a service that allows businesses to provide pro bono work with what would have been a professional fee instead becoming a donation to the charity of the business’s choice. ProDono received an additional $200 from Fundrazr in recognition of its success.
But the unsurprising winner of the event was gaming platform Pony Pony Dog. Masterfully presented by Emily Chen, Pony Pony Dog will be a trans-generational gaming platform for parents, grandparents, and their three to six year old children to bond over minigames despite geographic boundaries. The team had a working prototype for one of the minigames that could be featured in a final version. The game had the entire auditorium emotionally invested in the game’s titular pony.
The second place winner was Uplyft, an upscale online provider of umbrellas. Considering the event’s theme was Improving Vancouver, it was a deserved if unsurprising choice for the winner’s podium. In third was the vigorously presented Marco Polo, a facilitation service for bloggers and businesses similar to Odesk and Elance.
The next Startup Weekend to hit the Lower Mainland will be held on the final weekend of May. If the talent, enthusiasm, and innovation there are half of what was demonstrated on Sunday night, we’re in for quite a show on May 31.