One weekend, 54 hours. That’s all the time participants at the inaugural Techstars event in Penticton had to create their own start-up idea and pitch.
“It’s build a start-up in basically a weekend,” said Dan Arbeau, an organizer of the event. “It’s really crazy, but it works. A lot of the benefit is the people you meet, giving you connections and references for the future.”
Ideas pitched at the event ranged from an online marketplace for excess construction supplies to a system for connecting youth to mentors, a blockchain-based system for protecting and transferring medical files, to a funeral home comparison site.
For the first year, the reception for the event was better than Arbeau could have imagined.
“We had a great turnout. Our target was 30, as it was the first time this event was here,” said Arbeau. “We had 35, but almost 50 people from the community here just interested in us. We had 17 ideas pitched, out of 35 people, which was really good for the first time.”
The participants take the first hours to come up with their own individual ideas, pitching them to each other and selecting from them before breaking down into teams to develop the most appealing ideas.
While the voting for the ideas was going on, the people who posted ideas were also encouraged to go and convince others to vote for them, a condensed version of the process of promoting their start-up idea.
“It’s a great pressure cooker, and it pushes you to get out of your comfort zone,” said Arbeau. “In real life, if you’re out there with an idea, you have to know how to respond on demand. You have to know your thoughts and your ideas, to be successful in the future.”
After hours of work, including working out the basics of operation and maybe some programming, the teams had a final tech check before their final pitch.
At the end of the 54 hours, the teams take their ideas and pitch them to a panel of judges in a “Dragon’s Den kind of presentation.”
The teams aren’t alone going through the competition either. In addition to the six organizers for the event, there are 10 mentors providing additional input and support to the teams, and then the five judges.
“My whole reason for bringing it here from Kelowna, being in a few of them, because I feel that our area needed a grassroots level to help build entrepreneurship,” said Arbeau. “To show people who are in the process or want to start a new business, that there’s more help out there than just the institutions. They’re great, but to really see entrepreneurship on a community level, there needs to be grassroots support.”
Businesses may not all be tech-focused, but many now are at the least are tech-enabled, and for the future, Arbeau hopes to see many more registrants and ideas.
“We want to grow it, so next year should be double,” said Arbeau. “We want people to know that there’s a community of professionals here. People like to think that Penticton is just an older demographic, but there’s quite a mix in between.”
The 54-hour Techstars challenge was hosted in the Okanagan College’s Penticton Campus.
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