By the time day 3 rolled around it was all hands on deck for everyone at Startup Weekend Toronto, Matt had contacted is professors to get feedback and some of us got out of the building and surveyed folks. All the while our dev dream team continued the coding marathon and the graphic designers where making things look all sleek and sexy.
The buzz high but so was the stress and the pressure. Last minute pivots were coming fast and furiously all weekend for many of the groups. Matt was putting the finishing touches on the pitch, we were combing the web to find that last stat to seal the deal, the designers were cranking out an awesome landing page and creating mock ups of what the UI would be.
When you get into these types of situations you get into tunnel vision mode, where all the chaos that surrounds you fades away, you get into the zone where the only thing that matters is the task at hand. By talking to professors, students, and people in general Matt realized that Groupnotes could help educators, in particular Professors with a way to assess how team members contributed.
Validation for us was not about just getting feedback but was about getting cash in hand to show explicitly show that there was a need for what we were providing. While our users are students, our sales would actually be Professors and Educators which meant we had to tweak our messaging to hit them not students, at least at this stage.
There were 22 presentations, which took more than 3 hours to complete. Thankfully they fed us dinner as well. After the final pitches finished we all headed out to a nearby bar to unwind before the winners were announced.
Third place went to Milk, whose premise was the ability to subscribe to anything; focused on those repetitive purchases like toilet paper so you wouldn’t have to get them yourself (the judges told them to avoid was fulfillment at all costs). Here’s their pitch:
Second went to FlyShortcut a travel website that would get you the cheapest route to a destination by using your final destination as a stopover. There were some significant limitations such as you couldn’t have a carry on, good for trips a few days long only but for those who would have the need you could save a huge amount by using their system. I love that their idea is taking how their systems handle trips and opens it up to the rest of us.(Hell I want to travel next year and I would so use it if it could save me money on a flight, even with the limitations). Here is FlyShorts pitch as well, the video is dark but the audio and presentation are clear:
First place and winner of Startup Weekend Toronto went to my team, Groupnotes YAY! Matt’s idea to offer a tool for groups to annotate websites when doing research really struck a chord with many people at Startup Weekend because I think we have all had problems when doing research. I think the Key for our pitch was the validation that Matt was able to get from the target market itself, that in one day Matt was able to get meetings set, money down and willing to test it out next semester. That is what sealed the deal and why we won.
Below you can see Matt pitch Groupnotes to the judges:
Matt’s experience winning Startup Weekend Peel for carddrop.me meant that he had a good idea of what bullz-eye they needed to hit to win, he had done it before and was about to do it again. Matt’s presentation was all about the judges and what they were looking for, not just the audience, he was all about showing that the problem was real and how our solution could improve student productivity in teams and help educators when evaluating individual contributions. Here is the Facebook page created for Groupnotes as a place to put the news and make sure we could get the name first. So if you like the idea please like us and we would love to get some more feedbak.
That what he and the rest of us had devised from his original idea could be so much more useful than we had ever thought to educators and students. Matt wants Groupnotes in the field by January and with his passion as a serial entrepreneur, his connections as a student I have no doubt we will be seeing in University in a few months’ time.
It was an amazing event where 175 people of all stripes from developers, designers, writers (like me) and non-technicals could combine their brain power for the sake of the idea. Originally there were 70ish pitches on Friday, those became 22 or so groups and the 3 teams Milk, FlyShortcut, and Groupnotes took top honours.
The barriers to entry that existed a decade ago to start a business are long gone; anyone with an idea can at least get started. It is the people who have the force of will to execute on that idea which will have the best chance of success. Now as part of winning Startup Weekend Toronto you get 24 hours to create a video pitch that will part of the Global Startup Battle competition. Matt and co. spent all Monday doing this and thanks to all the help from Extreme Startups we were able to get it in just before the deadline. When it goes live the voting begins so let’s make sure Toronto represents!
In 54 hours we had dozens of working prototypes that while rough were proofs of concept. If all that is possible in 54 hours, then that just makes you think about what is possible for the rest of us. Now the real question is what ideas will survive transitioning from Startup Weekend to the real world. Most will not, even the ones that do will probably pivot multiple times before being made real but Startup Weekend has provided the catalyst to begin.
It was an honour to work with the McMaster crew, Matt was awesome, the developers were godly, the biz dev folks were research machines, and the designers we had were top-notch. No matter what, I had a great time and know that if I do it again I will be one of the guys doing the pitching, cause it is getting out of your comfort zone which only makes you better. What is funny is that 2 of the top three vote getters at the beginning of Startup Weekend made it to the final 3. Groupnotes was 3rd and eventually won, while Milk had the most votes for the original pitch and came in 3rd when it was all said and done.
(Took me a day to recover and a lot of sleep before I could finish writing this and it is till somewhat rough but I just wanted to get something down online, while it was top of mind.)