Early last Friday evening, the winners of Techstars Startup Weekend Toronto hadn’t even met.
Fifty-four hours later, Robert Stanica, Lula Fukur, and Danish Quereshi had fleshed out an idea for a business, conducted research to prove there’s a market need, presented their pitch, and been invited to chat with a potential investor – not bad for a weekend’s work.
It proved, said Fukur, that collaboration and trust can be built within fifty-four hours.
The trio was part of a group of 74 would-be entrepreneurs who came together at Ryerson University’s DMZ to pitch ideas for new businesses, vote on their favourites, then form teams and, with the help of coaches and mentors, develop the 10 or so top ideas over the weekend and present their business cases on Sunday evening. In Toronto, thirteen ideas of the 50 pitched made the cut.
Techstars, a global network that supports new ventures, provides resources for entrepreneurs, and connects the community, presents these events in over 150 countries.
Each team had three minutes for its presentation, and a further three minutes to answer questions from the judges: Theresa Laurico, founding partner of SociaLIGHT, Sheetal Jaitley, founder and CEO of TribalScale, Sarah Howe, director of Innovation York, Alan Fong, CTO of Fleet Complete, Scott Wu, CTO of Compass Digital Labs, and Kyle Collier, cofounder and CEO of Phaze.io.
The three winning teams addressed three totally different problems.
In third place, the team called Stashed, composed of Patricia Lim, Zachary Habayeb, Yaswanth Kumar, Richard Fa, and Zachary Smith, came up with what it described as Airbnb for storage: a peer to peer marketplace matching people with things they want stored with people who have the space in which to store them. It addresses the high price and inconvenience of current self-storage sites. The judges loved its spin on the sharing economy.
In second, Accountabilibuddy, a motivation-based social network that holds friends accountable, aims at people who can’t seem to kick themselves into gear. For example, friends can pledge to hit the gym 3 times a week, put some cash on the line, and then must demonstrate photographically that they actually fulfilled their pledge through the app or pay a self-imposed penalty to their buddy. Succeed, and keep the money. Brothers Ryo and Michael MacPherson developed the concept, and are targeting not only social groups, but people like personal trainers, life coaches, and even employers. Several of the judges confessed that they chose it because it was something they would like, to keep them motivated at the gym.
The big winners, Stanica, Fukur, and Quereshi, team Maker Night, built on an idea that came from Stanica’s girlfriend Crystal to captivate the judges with the idea of a subscription service providing a monthly box of electronic components for a project (for example, a robot, or a programmable LCD display), plus instructions through videos or at in-person community events, to help parents interest their kids in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers. Once the project is built, participants are encouraged to modify it and to share their creations on social media. The team is even developing a tool that lets participants wirelessly program their hardware so they don’t have to worry about special software or drivers.
As well as appreciating the STEM focus, the judges liked the community engagement, and the fact that it’s something parents can do with their kids.
Whether or not these concepts will actually turn into running businesses is still to be seen. The MacPherson brothers say they plan to go ahead with Accountabilibuddy (though likely not under that tongue-twisting name), and are expecting funding, but the other two winning teams have not committed.
Each winning team received a free .ca domain from Rebel.com (first prize also included a pro website builder package); SociaLIGHT conference tickets, free for first place, discounted for second and third; Founder Institute FI for blockchain discounts; final stage interviews for admission to the Creative Destruction Lab incubator (plus a 2.5 week crypto-marketplace workshop for first place winners); and Focus Framework Customer Validation Electronic Workbooks.