My trip to Startup Weekend Victoria was terrific. It was a smaller, more intimate event then I am accustomed to, since I usually facilitate much larger sized events in the Middle East. Having the opportunity to facilitate in the wonderfully sleepy town of Victoria, Canada was refreshing.
The event kick-off with an inspiring talk given by Rick Perreault of Unbounce. Rick talked through the importance of getting out of the building and talking to potential customers and not building a product that does not solve a problem people are willing to pay for. His no non-sense approach and pragmatic advice seemed to really resonate with teams as evidenced by the amount of customer discovery that took place during the weekend.
Afterwards we shifted focus and played a game of ‘Half-Baked’ to help shake attendee jitters before pushing ahead right into Startup Weekend’s infamous ‘pitch-fire’. We had several ideas pitched and ended up with four teams ranging in size of 5 – 8 individuals. Several attendees had previous Startup Weekend experience from Vancouver and began executing immediately.
During the rest of the event teams worked late into the night – engaging with Coaches, writing code, and constantly iterating through their minimum viable products. From time to time teams would take short walks for some fresh British Colombian air and a cup of Tim Horton’s world-famous coffee.
As I alluded to earlier, there was a strong emphasis on Customer Discovery, and the Lead Organizer – Evan Wilms – did an incredible job challenging teams by asking very probing questions about each team’s value proposition and customer segments. He clearly understood the importance of finding product/market fit and contributed valuable advice to teams.
I helped coach teams with their final pitches as they scrambled to polish off their final presentations before presenting to a stacked judging panel – consisting of several prominent local entrepreneurs and investors. Francois Deschenes who founded myBestHelper one year ago at Startup Weekend Vancouver sat as a judge and gave a very inspiring talk to attendees about the importance of maintaining momentum after the event.
Nearby in Vancouver, the increasing presence and success of local technology companies are attracting more risk capital (making flights across the border and into Silicon Valley as thing of the past), and the spillover effects on this investor community into Victoria are already getting noticed. Accelerate Tectoria is one local accelerator program leading the efforts to build a more vibrant and connected entrepreneurial community – offering educational programs and investment to aspiring entrepreneurs.
The strengthening of the risk capital community in British Columbia is a great signal for those entrepreneurs building SaaS products that service a global community, but don’t want to leave the idyllic landscape of the Pacific Northwest.