The last Startup Weekend Toronto (@startupwekndTO) took place earlier this month from November 9th – 11th and was won by a startup called GroupNotes led by McMaster students Matt Gardner and Jason Moore. Groupnotes is a collaborative tool that allows users to easily share, annotate, and comment on websites. The big win at Startup Weekend Toronto led to Groupnotes receiving coverage on Mashable, TechVibes and the Financial Post.
Groupnotes is now part of a vote-based global startup competition in which they will face off against teams from around the world. It’s a great chance for Hamilton to raise our profile as a tech startup city – so be sure to vote for them! I figured the best way to let people know about Groupnotes would be talk to one of the founders, so check out this quick interview with Matt below:
How did Groupnotes get started? Why did you tackle this problem in particular?
Groupnotes was started as part of StartUp Weekend Toronto (http://toronto.startupweekend.org). Basically any budding entrepreneur can come with a company name and idea to pitch in under a minute friday night. The top ideas (by vote) get to form teams and that team works as hard as possible to produce a product with validation over the next 54 hours. By sunday afternoon 5 minute pitches and demos are given to a panel of judges made up of investors. After only 54 hours Groupnotes had almost $500 in sales and took top prize for the weekend, also being featured in mashable, techvibes, and the financial post in the following days. As well the team was given the privilege of opening the TSX Tuesday morning.
The problem Groupnotes set out to tackle was wasted time during collaborative projects. To cut down duplicate work and make it easier to work together, the concept was to add virtual sticky notes to any webpage (Any at all!) and have your “group” also be able to see them as they browsed, like leaving a note on your mom’s fridge. As well, while on the same page at the same time group members can collaborate live as even single character presses load in real time.
The problem was tackled because it is something we had all encountered as students, and this was a way to easily remedy the problem. But, during the validation process it turned out that the platform had a lot of usage addressing specific problems that Teachers and Professors had been having. The problems were so severe and educators so eager to have them dealt with, that Groupnotes sold several advanced licenses for a January release date to professors and teachers as far away as New Brunswick. Again, this was all in 54 hours!
Currently the plan is to bring Groupnotes to education for January, but also to have the secure corporate version up and running to sell enterprise licenses early next year.
The most exciting thing though is that we’re now representing Canada and Hamilton in the world’s largest startup battle, www.globalstartupbattle.org. Canada has never won the competition, but we’d love to put our city and our country on the global radar for great startups! Round one is vote driven and begins Wednesday, so if people check out www.groupnotes.ca and follow our voting directions it would be really appreciated by us and the Hamilton Startup Community! You can win prizes for supporting us, too!
Who should be using Groupnotes?
Educators, Students, Enterprise, Startup Founders, pretty much everyone has found a use!
What has the reception been like so far for Groupnotes?
The reception has been incredibly positive! Each person we get feedback from gives us a new use for the platform, it really seems like it addresses different problems for everyone. We also have an awesome quote from a great education-centered CEO that will be revealed Wednesday when our video is released for Global Startup Battle, so be sure to check www.groupnotes.ca daily starting Wednesday! We’re raffling off some great prizes for anyone who supports us.
What challenges is Groupnotes facing right now?
Right now we’re just trying to build our PR campaign for Global Startup Battle, we need to properly represent Hamilton and Canada and bring our startup community the respect it deserves.
Where do you see Groupnotes being a year from now?
Hopefully it has a happy home in your browser!
What advice would you give to people attending Startup Weekend events?
Don’t be nervous, put yourself out there. The community is nothing but supportive. Talk with everyone and you’ll meet great people, build your network, and possibly assemble your dream team as I did. Finally, USE THE MENTORS! They are invaluable and continue to help me far past the end of the competition.
What about student entrepreneurs, what advice would you give them?
Talk is cheap, start working hard. It’s all doable with school but don’t skimp on market validation! Make sure your problem exists and know that your MVP (minimum viable product) will 99% not work exactly how you think. You’ll need to constantly be validating, testing, and refining your product until you have that perfect market fit. Also come out to more events and share your ideas! We don’t bite…
Is there a way that the community in Hamilton can encourage more students to take up entrepreneurism?
It’s doing a great job with democamps, startup drinks, etc. Students need to know that this is a viable career options. I’m actually in the MEEI program at McMaster, which is an Masters of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation. That’s right, I’m majoring in startups! They help with funding, networking, paying your way into events, and have a ton of resources (in everything from connections to mentor networks) that I use every day to keep going in the right direction. So don’t be afraid to say that when you graduate you don’t want to work for a big company! What I’m doing I want to keep doing forever, and I know others are out there in school. Start learning now, fall flat on your face a few times, and you’ll be raising your first seed round before you know it.
Overall Hamilton is showing great support for startups, the only thing it may lack is widespread news coverage. Maybe we can help by winning the Global Startup Battle and bringing the title to Canada for the first time!