November 22, 2013 5:42 pm

Toronto Startup Weekend kicks off, attracting tech funding hopefuls

This year’s theme is “Makers,” which means a fleet of 3D printers, laser cutters and rapid prototyping tools will be thrown into the mix for teams to use.

Timur Emek/Getty Images

TORONTO – Toronto-area resident Alison Gibbins is no stranger to the startup world.

Yet despite already having turned three business ideas in to successful startups, she will return to Startup Weekend Toronto on Friday armed with another pitch, simply because she loves the rush of turning an idea into a business in 54 hours.

Startup Weekend Toronto sees over 100 entrepreneurs, startup founders, students, designers and creators come together at the OCAD University in Toronto to turn their business ideas into reality in just one weekend.

“I really like the startup weekend format because you can take an idea from just something in your head, to real life, from Friday night to Sunday,” Gibbins told Global News.

“It can change your life in a weekend.”

(Startup Weekend Toronto)

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Participants are required to pitch an idea to fellow participants and a panel of judges in just 60 seconds, by explaining who they are, what their idea is and what they need to help make it a functioning business.

Participants later team up with whomever they think has the best idea to form teams – the 20 teams with the most votes then have until Sunday night to try to execute the idea and build as much of their product as they can.

This year’s theme is “Makers,” which means a fleet of 3D printers, laser cutters and rapid prototyping tools will be thrown into the mix for teams to use.

With that in mind, Gibbins plans to pitch a business inspired by her children – a game that would allow kids to collect beads with characters and story themes. Kids would then go online and use their beads to write stories.

Even if her pitch isn’t selected, she hopes to gain enough feedback from other participants to take the idea to crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

This will mark the fourth year that Gibbins has participated in Startup Weekend.

Her first go at the competition resulted in her first company called Baby Simplify, an algorithm service that helps new parents hone in on what products and services they need; the second project she worked on was eventually pitched to the City of Toronto.

At the most recent Toronto startup event in August, she was a part of the winning team, called The Learning Loop – a tool for parents and early childhood educators that allows better sharing of information between the two for a seamless learning experience.

“The Learning Loop team is continuing to build – we hope to have a prototype out in the spring,” said Gibbins.

“It was really fantastic to meet a whole bunch of people and really solve the issue of communication between early childhood educators and parents.”

Gibbins continues to be inspired by the people she meets at the events, noting that this year she has enlisted her mother – who is in her 60s – to prove that anyone can benefit from the experience of working on a startup.

“That’s the beauty of startup weekend – you get to meet all different people. Ideas always change over the weekend because there is a such a variety of people working on them,” said Gibbins.

“It’s that magic combination of great ideas and great people coming together for an awesome weekend that is the start of something bigger.”

Though many may associate startups with students looking to gain an edge on the business world, lead organizer of the Toronto event Holly Knowlman said that the mix of people attending the event is quite wide.

“We do get a lot of students, but we also have more established entrepreneurs as well – people who have maybe had a startup before and they are looking for a platform to launch their next big idea – and there are people looking for a bit of a better idea of what entrepreneurship is like,” said Knowlman.

The winning team this year will go home with a MakerBot 3D printer, alongside other prizes, to help them build their startup.

Any group who participates in the competition is also allowed to go on to complete globally.

Last year Group Notes, a startup that was created at the Toronto startup weekend, went on to win the global competition. Group Notes has now moved into the Hyper Drive space in Waterloo and has acquired funding.

This month’s event is being held during Global Entrepreneurship Week, alongside events around the world.

Fellow Canadian entrepreneurs in Quebec City will be holding a startup weekend; south of the border, tech-hub San Francisco will hold its event as well.  Across the pond, startup weekends will be held in Paris, France and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Startup Weekend Toronto is presented by Ontario Centre for Excellence.

© 2013 Shaw Media

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