Saint John to Host Startup Weekend

If there is a business idea you’ve had in mind but just never thought you had the time to work on it, 54 hours might be all you need to see if it can become a reality and get it national exposure. That’s the concept behind Startup Weekend NB.

The Startup Weekend Tech Stars program has chosen Saint John to be one of 8 Canadian cities to host a Startup Weekend business pitch competition. The winner of Startup Weekend NB in Saint John will pitch their business idea against winners from Vancouver and Kamloops, British Columbia, Belleville and London, Ontario, Calgary, Alberta and Montreal, Quebec for chance to win valuable financial support and services for their idea.

From September 29-October 1, aspiring entrepreneurs come together in Saint John to hash out potential money-making concepts. Anyone can pitch their start-up idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams form around the top ideas, determined by popular vote. Then, a three-day frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation begins.

Once a team is put together, you develop and create a pitch for your business idea to a panel of judges, but there are business experts and mentors on hand to help you get the best pitch possible.

Startup Weekend Tech Stars program runs the event in 150 countries, and says about 25 per cent of participants in the weekend business workshop, continue working on their idea after the event.

That’s exactly what happened to Saint John Startup Weekend NB facilitator, Joanna Killen.

“My business, Momentum Canada, was an idea I pitched at Startup Weekend in Moncton in November of 2016. Now, almost a year later, we have 3 full time employees and over 16 clients from around Atlantic Canada. We pitched an idea for an organization that could provide sales support services and also educate entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to learn how to setup deal flow, generate and pursue leads for their business,” says Killen.

The event is getting a lot of help from local businesses when it comes to mentorship and judging, but also financially. EY, The Chapman Group, Donna Mazzerolle & Associates, Momentum Canada, ConnexionWorks and legal group McInnes Cooper have all stepped up with prizes or services for the winning business concept.

Donna Mazzerolle says it didn’t take her long to agree to be a mentor.

“Meeting new people, learning about them, their ideas, their business.  I’ve mentored before at a start-up weekend and I’ve been a mentor at Connection Works for a couple of years so I know what I’m in for.  It’s a group of people with different skills and experiences brainstorming.  Multiple mentors with multiple entrepreneurs discussing opportunities, markets, profitability.  The initial idea and the end result usually are quite different.   It’s fun to be a part of that,” adds Mazzerolle.

Dakota Lutes is the Entrepreneur Development Officer for Enterprise Saint John’s Navigator and says it’s that kind of willingness to help new entrepreneurs that makes Saint John an ideal place to start a business.

“Having an event in Saint John is great for displaying the vibrancy of the Startup Community in our city. It’s a window of opportunity for people to join the community or at least take a piece of it back to their everyday life, whether its motivation, skills, or relationships,” says Lutes.

The winning team will then head to pitch their business concept before a national panel of judges which include: Sam Haffar, who has helped start and nurture tech companies for 10 years and now leads Real Ventures in Montreal and Toronto. Jeanine Jacobson, from the Founder Institute in Los Angeles and San Diego and Sunil Sharma, Managing Director of Techstars Toronto.

30 people have already signed up for the event and if you or someone you know is interested in taking part, you can find out more information go here.

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