The weekend of August 17th – 19th was a busy one for several of e@UBC’s Kickstart acceleration program participants, as they took part in Startup Weekend Vancouver. Members of the Swiip team (Jeffrey Liu and Samuel Chan) attended with the Prever team (Ricky Gu and Pouyan Bibalan) to take part in the 72 hour event held at the Emily Carr campus on Granville island, along with several hundred other eager participants.
The weekend began with a series of 1-minute business idea pitches from attendees looking to inspire others to join their team. Both Ricky and Jeffrey pitched ideas, with Jeffrey explaining his idea for a new system for course registration, while Ricky pitched a peer-to-peer boat rental company. After over an hour and a half of pitches, everyone had an opportunity to vote for the pitches they liked the most and to form teams around them. Ricky and Pouyan formed a team around their idea, while Jeffrey and Sam joined up with several other participants who wanted to start a new team, with a new idea that hadn’t been pitched.
Saturday morning was a flurry of activity. While Team Outliers (Jeffrey and Sam’s team) brainstormed to find an idea they could build a business around, Pouyan and Ricky hit the streets. To determine if peer-to-peer boat rentals was an idea that would float, they needed to talk to boat owners and boat renters, which is exactly what they did. Fortunately, the Emily Carr campus is conveniently located near a number of private docks and boat rental companies, which meant there was no shortage of people to talk to. Over the course of the day, the two UBC students hit the pavement talking to dozens of people about the business idea and their particular needs and concerns, so they could be sure to get the messaging just right.
Meanwhile Team Outliers searched for an idea. Several members wanted to work on a location-based app of some sort, while others wanted to pair business professionals with charities. Over the course of the day, the team rallied around an idea, spoke to the expert coaches and judges in attendance, discovered their idea had drawbacks, and so switched to a new idea. This rapid-fire testing and switching process is known as “pivoting” and over the course of the day, the team pivoted at least 4 or 5 times. After an exhausting day, the team broke for dinner, and after returning, had a team meeting to figure out how to proceed. With only a day left, and no established idea, it was looking pretty bleak, until Jeffrey suggested they combine a couple of the ideas presented earlier, and make a service that would pair volunteer professionals like lawyers and accountants with startup companies needing to save money. The team rallied around the idea, and quickly did a survey of all the startup teams taking part in the weekend: virtually all of them said they liked the idea, and would be willing to pay for it. Team Outliers was off to the races.
Sunday was a busy work day for both teams. While Ricky and Pouyan developed a website to demonstrate their product, Sam and Jeffrey worked with their team to determine the market size, establish pricing models, figure out how potential customers would use the service, and so on. With only 10 hours until presentations were to begin, it was a race to the finish for both teams. Jeffrey presented for his team, with their service called Soc Call. The judges were interested in the potential of the business, but had questions about the ability of the service to attract quality professionals. Ricky was one of the last to pitch, with his company MyRentalBoat.com. The judges were impressed with the work they’d done identifying their customers, but were nervous about whether boat owners would be willing to trust strangers with their property.
In the end, the winners were three other companies: a peer-to-peer system for buying and selling event tickets, a web service that consolidates recreational sports equipment rentals, and a route planning service for small to medium sized delivery companies. Though the four UBC students didn’t take home any of the top prizes, they all got excellent feedback from the judges and other participants, and had a great time building their businesses.
Vancouver has a growing startup community, and events like these are being held more and more often. Think you’d like to participate in an event like this? Keep an eye on our events calendar to stay up to date on seminars, workshops and competitions around town. e@UBC often works with the organizers of events like this to get free or discounted tickets for UBC students. If you see an event you’d like to attend, and want to find out if there are any student discounts available, you can send us an email, and we’ll do our best to help you help you take part.
More photos from the event can be found at the Startup Weekend website here.