Vancouver Startup Weekend Was a Blast! And the Winner is…

There is a winner. And that detail is coming. But a serious amount of sweat equity, team effort, sleep deprivation, and passion to learn as much as possible in 54 hours is the real story of Vancouver Startup Weekend. Here’s how it went down.

The synopsis starts with a dedicated team of organizers hitting the road Friday morning at 10am picking up swag and supplies and getting stuff done. The doors don’t open at Emily Carr University of Art + Design until 6pm but there’s a lot to set up, coordinate, and orchestrate when you’re hosting a party for 150 guests for a weekend.

If the flock of early birds and general crush of on time arrivals is the measure of excitement, the fun meter needle was officially off the dial once the doors opened. This sure dispels the notion of the “fashionably late” Vancouver crowd. It also reaffirms that the interest in entrepreneurship and startups is running high, what with so many people willing give up their time over a very beautiful summer weekend.

By 7pm, it was time to let the “games begin.” The auditorium was packed and everyone was pumped.

Joey Aquino and Brett Nakatsu were the official Startup Weekend event facilitators from Seattle. They took the stage and got the introductions, thank yous, and rules of engagement established.

Keynote speakers Thomas Lewis (Principal Technical Evangelist, Microsoft) and Matt Mickiewicz (Co-Founder of SitePoint, 99designs and Flippa) shared some great stories. A few well timed F-bombs really got the crowd going.

Of course, it wasn’t speeches that brought everyone out. For many it was the chance it pitch an idea, potentially form a team, and maybe even launch a business.

With 60 seconds to win the crowd over, 63 participants gave it their best. With the crowd letting the sticky notes do the voting, 17 ideas were chosen, and the mayhem ensued of forming teams, looked a lot like picking the schoolyard street hockey team: “I pick you” or “I want to join you.” As everyone had to clear the building by 11pm, it was quite the sight watching teams go through final formations under the street lights.

For all of Saturday and Sunday until 4pm, it was heads down, coding, designing, creating, validating, discovering, listening, pivoting and re-positioning. Original ideas were blown up, some teams blew up, people merged and migrated, and through it all everyone was having a blast.

On both days teams took full advantage of listening and learning from an experienced group of volunteer technical and business coaches. Keeping everyone well fueled with healthy food is also a key to a great event and Vancouver startup did an awesome job of keeping everyone fed all weekend.

Everything comes down to Sunday evenings wind up event at the Arts Club Revue Stage, with each team delivering a four minute presentation, and fielding three questions from an impressive panel of local judges, including Boris Wertz of Version One Ventures, Kimberly Kaplan of Offeron, Kenshi Arasaki of A Thinking Ape, Jason Bailey of East Side Games and Arnold Leung of Appnovation.

With all the pitches done, the judge’s top three teams were Rent2Play (an easy way to secure online recreational equipment rentals), 7PM Tickets (“never buy tickets in advance again”), and the winners of Vancouver Startup Weekend: Route Captain. Led by Marc Kuo, Route Captain built a route optimization app for the courier industry.

Full disclosure: I’m a Startup Weekend organizer and have no pretense about my objectivity and bias.