InnovationNight3: Hamilton StartUps Success!

Originally posted on CanuckSEO.com.

Once again, it was my pleasure to be asked by the Innovation Factory folks, to help coach and mentor the next batch of our Hamilton startups for their presentations to Innovation Night:3 held just last Wednesday nite at the MIPs Centre here in Hamilton! And what a batch it was!

We had founders that were inventors, community builders, marketing mavens, new app builders and print publishers…and one and all were so damn passionate that it was a pretty easy task to coach them into developing their one or three minute presentations – and myself and the other coaches/mentors there all had a great time doing just that and I wanted to invest in a couple myownself, eh!

So….more than 200 of us business types met in the Atrium in the MIPs Centre for a wonderful night once again, of presentations and networking! There was food and a bar and even the bad storm outside didn’t hurt attendance much at all! We met and we talked…we chatted…we exchanged business cards and in general learned about the rest of our Hamilton community business folks over a period of a few hours! And what a success that alone was….and here’s a reminder of what Innovation Night is –

“Innovation Night is Hamilton’s key event for innovators and entrepreneurs to share and develop their ideas, practice and perfect their pitch, and present to their peers and the local innovation community…”

And here’s a list of all of the presenters from the listings provided…a couple I believe were held up by the weather or other issues but the list was so full of passionate founders that I know that the couple of missing ones will be back!

  • Saad Anjum of CUBTUC
  • Dave Billings with the Computer Cable Egg
  • Dave Boyle with Dog-I Database
  • Chris Connell of eSports Championship
  • Dan Dexel of Cool Canuck Corp.
  • Chad Fullerton and Timo of Agency Marketing Tool
  • Michael Lee of Moon Lander Playbook
  • Henry QUach of After Class Room
  • Sergio DiGiovanni of QCard
  • Jeremy Freiburger of the Non-Profit Coalition
  • Adam Jarczyn of Boomurang
  • Chris Partridge of iPhone Holder

All of the above presenters did an excellent job of making their one or three minutes pitches and each was judged by our panel of 5 Judges who awarded our two iTouch prizes and who were as follows –

– and our Master of Ceremonies was Dave Carter (Awareness, Inc.) who did a great job of ushering in each of the presenters and then handling the Q&A sessions after each to help the crowd of a hundred+ both hear and enjoy the whole night! Much was learned and much was explained…..and the nods from all around the Atrium were many!

But what about the winners? Well in the one minute presenter section, Dan Dexel of Cool Canuck Corp. was the winner and here’s his pitch from my own notes –

“Hello, my name is Dan Dexel, and I am the president of Cool Canuck Corp. We are a performance apparel company using a new chemical free cooling fabric for all our products. Did you know that companies such as Nike, Reebok and Under Armour all use chemical treatments on their fabrics to assist with moisture wicking and evaporation? Did you also know that after several washings, these treatments begin to break down and deteriorate, compromising the garments ability to function as originally intended?

Our fabrics are made using hollow core polyester yarns and a patent pending technology that incorporates the use of water, thermoregulation, moisture wicking and transport to deliver an instant cooling effect, for about the same cost as the leading brands.

Testing has shown that our fabric temperatures are 20-30% cooler than our competitors fabrics, and athletes’ core temperatures are typically half a degree cooler over a 60 minute workout period. A cooler body will sweat less, require less fluid intake, recover quicker and perform more efficiently. This advantage can translate into those few seconds that sometimes make the difference between winning and losing.

We are currently looking for Channel Partners who can help with distribution and retail for our many cooling products…”

How’s that for a pitch! World class atheletes as well as house leagues and gym-goers everywhere will know this product soon I’d bet!

The winner in the three minute presenter section was Sergio DiGiovanni, of QCard whose personal story about a major and critical traffic accident that had changing impact on his life and showed him that for those who suffer from brain injuries would have a need of the learning tools that he’s developed struck a real personal note for him – and for the Atrium audience as well! I watched as moments after his presentation, many attendants came up to him to present their business cards and arrange times to meet to discuss his startup! I know that he too, is on his way!

So thanks – big big thanks to our Innovation Factory and the evening’s sponsors – Innovation Factory, SBPartners and McMaster Innovation Park too for their leadership and help in building the new Hamilton momentum for startups here in our community! #Kudos to one and all!

 

StartupDrinksHamilton2 location booked!

The first StartupDrinks Hamilton event took place last Thursday October 13th at the Kelsey’s by the Innovation Park. Some great discussions were had about startup trends, the importance of building a platform, knowing how to interpret customer feedback and some startup ideas were kicked around! Oh, and there was good beer too! We’re going to try out the Winking Judge for the next one:

When: Thursday November 10th 2011 @ 6pm

Where: The Winking Judge @ 25 Augusta Street – Hamilton, Ontario

Register: http://startupdrinkshamilton.eventbrite.com/

StartupDrinks Hamilton is a monthly presentation-free and sponsorship-free networking event for Hamilton’s startup community to make connections over drinks and relax a little! Feel free to talk about projects, ideas, funding, technology… or just shoot the breeze! We meet on every 2nd Thursday of the month @ 6pm.

 

Startup Weekend is Coming to Hamilton

Hamilton’s Regional Innovation Centre, Innovation Factory (iF), has joined forces with Software Hamilton and Softmills to bring Startup Weekend to Hamilton starting next Friday, October 21.

Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups.

Startup Weekends are weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if startup ideas are viable. On average, half of Startup Weekend’s attendees have technical backgrounds, the other half have business backgrounds.

Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees are encouraged to bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams design and develop business plans while constantly streamlining their startup vision. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes, listen to judges’ feedback and in some cities, win prizes.

Startup Weekends are specifically designed for entrepreneurs interested in receiving feedback on an idea, looking for a co-founder, or who want to learn a new skill. We also welcome anyone looking to test the entrepreneurial waters. Startup Weekends are risk-free environments where everyone is expected to roll up their sleeves and dive into the exhilarating world of startups.

Your ticket includes: Friday night Keynotes with Intelex CEO Mark Jaine and kitestring partners Chris Farias and Jenn Hudder; one-on-one time with expert mentors (to help with topics like SEO, management, web development, sales and marketing, business development, strategic product development and patents and trademarks); prizes (six month incubation space from Mohawk, cash grant and business services from Inceptive Solutions, a beta test of marketing services from Enthuzr, and an automatic spot at DemoCampHamilton4); all the supplies you’ll need for the weekend; awesome SWH swag; and seven meals plus unlimited snacks, beverages, and coffee from Montfort, Modern India, Bonanza, Carmen’s, Royal Pizza, Popchips, and more!

 

StartupDrinks this Thursday October 13th @ 6pm!

Are you interested in meeting other Startup Weekend Hamilton attendees before the big weekend? Are you still deciding whether Startup Weekend Hamilton is for you or not? Then come out to Startup Drinks Hamilton this Thursday!

Date\Time: Thursday October 13th @ 6pm

Location: Downstairs Pub @ Kelsey’s by the Innovation Park (875 Main Street West Hamilton, Ontario)

Full Details and Registration (not required): http://startupdrinkshamilton.eventbrite.com

StartupDrinks occurs in cities across Canada, and Hamilton will be having it’s first ever StartupDrinks event this Thursday! StartupDrinks is a monthly presentation-free and sponsorship-free event for Hamilton’s startup community to make connections over drinks and relax a little. Feel free to talk about projects, ideas, funding, technology… or just shoot the breeze! The event isn’t limited to participants of Startup Weekend, it’s a free and separate event open to anyone, but it’s a good chance to meet up with other people in the Hamilton startup community and to meet other people participating in Startup Weekend Hamilton. Some of the organizers of Startup Weekend Hamilton will be there too.

 

The Spectator covers Verdant Analysis with Nick Bontis article

The Spectator has covered Hamilton software firm and DemoCampHamilton3 participant Verdant Analysis in an article written by Nick Bontis:

“Do you have any stock in your investment or retirement portfolio? I bet you do. Have you ever checked out the company’s financial statements? I bet you haven’t. Therein lies one of the biggest challenges for the common investor. Here comes Hamilton-based Verdant Analysis to the rescue (see www.verdantanalysis.com).”

Check out full article here: http://www.thespec.com/news/business/article/605629–software-opens-the-door-to-financial-knowledge

How great is it to see software-based startups in Hamilton being covered by The Spectator?!

 

DemoCampHamilton3 Recap: Crow Call

DemoCampHamilton3 took place in front of an estimated 200+ members of the community on Wednesday September 28th at the Twelve Eighty pub right on McMaster University campus. The largest ever attendance for a DemoCampHamilton event was double the previous record, mostly because so many McMaster students showed up for what was probably their first DemoCamp experience. DemoCampHamilton3 had excellent community sponsorship in the form of Innovation Factory, Hamilton Economic Development, McMaster Industry Liaison Office and the Department of Computing and Software.

The event was kicked off with a keynote by the “godfather of DemoCamp” David Crow (@davidcrow) himself. Hamilton’s community is young and still learning, and David shared valuable advice about aiming higher, about the importance of “adding two zeros” to our entrepreneurial expectations. He challenged us to not to make excuses about things being easier in Silicon Valley, but to go there and do it if we thought so. David also talked about the strength of community not being in the number of nodes, but in the number of connections between the nodes. He also left us with a useful list of what to read. Thanks for coming down to Hamilton, David!

Jennifer Cameron (@JenniferVerdant) CEO of Verdant Analysis showed off their financial analysis software – the Cogent financial statement analysis tool and Forecast communication platform for the financial community. Verdant Analysis was actually a top ten finalist at the Lion’s Lair event which took place earlier in the month!

Next up was DemoCampHamilton stalwart supporters FluidMedia who did a demo of SkinnyBoard, web-based software that helps agile project teams collaborate to get work done. Somebody yelled out “I love SkinnyBoard!” before the demo could even begin, so they are doing something very right!

Gavin Schulz (@GsMaverick) and Brian Graham of Open Hamilton (@OpenHamilton) demoed the Dowsing app that helps people find the nearest public water play feature, swimming pool, or beach. Joey Coleman (@JoeyColeman) is the passionate leader of the Hamilton branch of the Open Data movement to have governments release or make open certain kinds of data in formats which afford themselves to the creation of apps like Dowsing. If you’re interested in developing Open Data applications, the group meets regularly on Thursday nights at Hamilton’s local hackerspace ThinkHaus.

Next up was the co-founders of another Lion’s Lair finalist, Brad Ross (@BradARoss) and Mike Saniga (@mikesaniga) of Quant Interpretations. They did a demo of their “QiiQ” consumer intelligence solution – a web-based interpretive solution that helps business owners and managers make better decisions: rich insights about consumers: where they live, how they live, how best to connect with them, and how to find others like them.

Alex and Ruxandra Bucataru then came up to demo their Enthuzr social marketing platform that makes word of mouth marketing easy, more viral, and truly measurable. In addition to giving attendees access to an Enthuzr beta invite, Enthuzr is also a sponsor for the upcoming Startup Weekend Hamilton event happening October 21st-23rd – way to support the community guys!

Finally we had Adrian Duyzer (@adriandz) and Martin Eckart of factor[e] design initiative up to demo HomeFinder, a site for finding new and resale homes that is similar to MLS but designed to be much easier to use. They also did a quick plug for a new web portal of the Hamilton Light Rail initiative.

Some people from ThinkHaus were handing out lazzored acrylic keychains in the shape of 8-bit era Super Mario – did you get yours?! If not ThinkHaus (@ThinkHausOrg) opens their doors on 25 Dundurn ST N every Tuesday at 7pm for an openhaus – why not pop in and check out what other cool stuff they have going on? We also had several other community event announcements. Pat Gaudet of CIPS-GH announced a talk by great Mohawk professor Duane Bender taking place at Mohawk College at 6pm this Wednesday October 5th on the state of electronic medical health records in Canada and what the future holds, reservations (required to attend) and details available here. Stephanie Shuster (@stephshuster) and Tammy Hwang (@tammyhwang) of the Innovation Factory talked about the upcoming Innovation Night taking place on the evening of Wednesday October 12th at the McMaster Innovation Park, details and registration here. One night later on Thursday October 13th starting at 6pm we will be having the first ever Startup Drinks Hamilton in the cool downstairs pub of the Kelsey’s at 875 Main Street West, register here.

Special thanks to Dwayne Ali (@interestica) for making our cool new logo, maybe you want to check out his equally well designed website Secret Hamilton that is all about exposing the “hidden gems” of Hamilton? 😉 Special thanks to Jim “microphone guru” Rudnick (@JVRudnick), Simon “unconference Yoda” Woodside (@sbwoodside), Brian Hogg (@brianhogg), Jessica Pavlin, Tammy Hwang and Stephanie Shuster.

It should also be noted that the sponsors for DemoCampHamilton3 aren’t just sponsors, they’re part of the community too, as evidenced by the Department of Computing and Software’s outreach program, the McMaster Industry Liaison Office’s STEM program, Hamilton Economic Development’s mentoring programs and networking events, and Innovation Factory’s Flight Program.

 

Student software entrepreneurism opportunities [op-ed]

While a Computer Science graduate student and lecturer at McMaster University I’ve often had graduating students ask me if I know if any “good jobs” are available. Students are having difficulty finding jobs that they find fulfilling intellectually, that offer opportunities for advancement, and that make them feel a sense of purpose by doing something important to them. I genuinely believe that even though the opportunities presented to students may seem bleak, the ability for students to create their own opportunity through software-based startups has never been better. I personally believe more McMaster students should consider creating their own software startups as a viable career path.

The success of software startups run by students and recent graduates should provide encouragement. One such example is Kik Interactive, developers of the Kik Messenger cross-platform instant messenger app for iOS, Android and WP7. CEO Ted Livingston was a Mechatronics student at the University of Waterloo in 2009 when he headed up the creation of what would ultimately become Kik. The service became a viral success story, going from zero to one million users in 15 days. By selling some of his personal share in Kik, at the age of just 23 Ted was able to generously donate one million dollars to Waterloo’s residence-based startup incubator VeloCity.

The growth of smartphone and tablet mobile devices and the accompanying increase in app revenue represents an unprecedented opportunity for software startups to launch products built locally to a global market. Smartphone shipments are expected to rise from 249.9 million in 2010 to 506 million units in 2014 according to iSuppli Corp., shipments of tablet computers are expected to grow from 19.5 million units in 2010 to 208 million units in 2014 according to Gartner Inc. media analysis, and Forrester Reports projects that mobile app revenues will grow 1627% from 2.2 billion USD in 2010 to 38 billion USD in 2015.

Many of the tasks required of a startup are now either completely automated or made far easier through the usage of cloud-based services. For example publishing platforms like WordPress for creating websites, MailChimp for managing mailing lists, FreshBooks for billing and accounting, TribeHR for having an HR system, SurveyMonkey for surveys and feedback, Pivotal Tracker for project tracking, Github for source control, and Skype for conferencing. As such it has never been easier to launch a startup with a small team and little or no funding, which is particularly important for student-run startups.

Hamilton itself is beginning to see a surge in software related startups, it’s even been described as “the next new Canadian tech startup hotspot” by Mark Elliot at Venture Accelerator Partners Inc.. I know that some students and recent graduates at McMaster are doing software-based startups. Computer Science students Gavin Schulz and Zaahir Moolla have developed a service called MealDeck which allows restaurants to easily create a cross-platform mobile website. A recent graduate of the MBA program, Lorne Lantz, founded Groupstore, a service which allows people to sell their event as a group online. I feel these efforts should be recognized and applauded, but I think more startups can come from McMaster. McMaster is a world class institution, I believe our students and graduates are capable of creating world class software startups.

If you’re a student that is interested in becoming involved in your own software startup, I would suggest becoming involved in the software startup community in Hamilton and in Canada. Read Canadian tech news websites like TechVibes and blogs like StartupNorth. Attend and participate in local DemoCamp, Startup Drinks and Startup Weekend events. Once you’ve gathered a feel for things, you can make an informed decision about how to either become involved in a startup or start your own. While the intellectual challenges of a startup can be incredibly satisfying, I think the greatest thing is that you can work on a problem that you are passionate about and feel a sense of purpose in providing a solution, potentially for the whole world. I’d love to see more McMaster students doing a software startup, taking up the challenges, providing the solutions and feeling that sense of purpose.

It’s an exciting time for Hamilton’s software community!

It’s an exciting time for the Hamilton software community! Last night Weever Apps came away with the “lion’s share” of the available prizes at Lion’s Lair. The excellent well-executed event was put on by Innovation Factory and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and was attended by over 500 Hamiltonians passionate about seeing innovation and entrepreneurial efforts succeed in their city.

Andrew & Rob were actually one of the first people to agree to demo at the inaugural DemoCampHamilton1 event, so it was nothing short of thrilling to see Weever Apps, a software startup in Hamilton, come away with the top prize of $50k in cash and services in front of everyone at Lion’s Lair. Andrew’s post-award speech was from the heart – his passion for what he does is infectious and simply inspiring. Congratulations on another success guys!

The event was a big win for Weever Apps. But most importantly, it was a big win for Hamilton.

In addition to all the excitement of seeing a DemoCampHamilton veteran come away with the big prize, there are several upcoming events for Hamilton’s software community:

DemoCampHamilton3 is set to take place Wednesday September 28th @ 7pm at the Twelve Eighty pub on McMaster University campus. With just under 2 weeks left to go DemoCampHamilton3 already has over 100 entrepreneurs, developers, designers, students and others registered to attend, which would match the attendance of our first two events. Come out and see some cool demos and become part of the community that night by registering to attend here: http://democamphamilton3.eventbrite.com/

StartupDrinks is being brought to Hamilton due to a lot of talk about the need for a monthly meetup for Hamilton’s software startup community. StartupDrinks Hamilton is a monthly presentation-free and sponsorship-free networking event for Hamilton’s startup community to make connections over drinks and relax a little! Feel free to talk about projects, ideas, funding, technology… or just shoot the breeze! Free registration here: http://startupdrinkshamilton.eventbrite.com/

Startup Weekend is also coming to Hamilton! Startup Weekend is an event where startups go from an idea to a prototype in a single weekend. Startup Weekend is very relevant to Hamilton’s software community as approximately 95% of the ideas at a typical Startup Weekend are either web or mobile focused. For tickets and all the details on the first ever Startup Weekend Hamilton visit: http://hamilton.startupweekend.org