Startup Weekend coming to Ottawa

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By Francis Moran

Ottawa is about to finally get its own edition of Startup Weekend, a global phenomenon that has seen more than 45,000 technical and business people come together in more than 200 separate events around the world to spend a full weekend building new businesses. The intensive 54-hour company-building competition will take place in the nation’s capital April 27 to 29 at Shopify’s headquarters at 126 York Street in the Byward Market.

Although The Ottawa Network had a similar event a couple of years ago, this will be the first time the city has welcomed the official Startup Weekend, an initiative of the Kauffman Foundation, the large American NGO that promotes entrepreneurship. The event kicks off on Friday evening with rapid-fire pitches from participants who would like their ideas to be the focus of company-building teams over the weekend. All participants vote on which ideas will be workshopped, and teams form organically around each idea. The teams work feverishly all weekend, breaking occasionally for presentations, sleep and coffee, and present their ideas late on Sunday afternoon. A panel of judges selects the winning team.

Organizer Cheryl Draper told me this morning that ticket sales are going extremely well. “We’ve had ticket sales open for only a few days so far and we have already sold about 50 percent of our tickets.” Additionally, organizers have recruited a solid group of mentors to help coach the teams, including Ottawa’s usual startup suspects Luc Levesque, Scott Annan and Harley Finkelstein.

Draper, who also organises Ottawa Startup Drinks, said it was time for Ottawa to have its own Startup Weekend experience. “We really needed an event like this in Ottawa,” she said.

The winning team will receive a mix of software and technology products and, hopefully, some cold hard cash. “We have just started reaching out to sponsors,” Draper said. “We’re hoping to have a good prize package, whether it’s cash, software or access to technology.”

You don’t have to be a geek to participant in Startup Weekend Ottawa. While developers and designers are two of the three categories of participants, the weekend also relies on non-technical people such as business, marketing and PR types. Early-bird registration at $75 runs until March 28, after which the price goes up to $99. The ticket covers the whole weekend, including food and drinks.

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