Ramp Up Weekend gives Manitoba entrepreneurs a chance to develop their own startup in just 55 hours, and this year’s action-packed event didn’t disappoint.
Although geared towards developing innovative ideas, the weekend isn’t focused on how many startups succeed or launch. Instead, it’s about building deep relationships among the attendees, learning and taking the first steps towards entrepreneurship in Manitoba.
Learn more about the format of the weekend here, and keep reading to hear about this year’s pitches, judges, honourable mentions and the Ramp Up Weekend winners.
The Weekend: A non-stop innovation lab
To put it mildly, the action throughout the weekend was crazy! Starting on day one there was a flurry of activity that never ended: Friday night idea pitches, a scramble to vote on the most popular ideas, yelling for developers, designers, etc. to join their team. Teams formed and the work started, going late into the night and early into the next morning. Contestants had just 55 hours to build a minimal viable product – and that would mean very little sleep.
The participants for the weekend had the opportunity to receive coaching and valuable advice from eight Manitoba mentors with varied skill sets including legal, financial, branding and marketing. The mentors brought a wealth of expert knowledge as leaders in Manitoba business (and some past winners of Ramp Up Weekend):
- Danielle Grzybowski, TDS
- Allister Penner, MNP
- Andrea Legary, Deloitte
- Joelle Foster, Futurpreneur
- Suzanne Braun, Relish New Brand Experience
- Stefan Maynard, Bold Commerce
- Chris Johnson, PermissionClick
- Dustin Refvik, FarmTrack
Bryce North of TrapTap, a past winner and pitch pro extraordinaire, also volunteered to help the teams perfect their pitches.
Sunday Night: The Final Pitches
Emcee, Greg Mackling, on-air host at 680 CJOB and fierce defender of all things Manitoba hosted the Sunday main event at The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre (The Met) in downtown Winnipeg. Kicking off the night was Chris Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Permission Click, who broke it all down for the audience. Mayor Brian Bowman, a big supporter of innovation and entrepreneurship in Manitoba, who had also renamed a portion of Adelaide Street to “Innovation Alley” in January 2015, also helped kick-off this gala event.
— Mayor Brian Bowman (@Mayor_Bowman) June 12, 2017
Also in attendance was Hon. Cliff Cullen, Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade who delivered additional opening remarks, as well as Michael Legary, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Winnipeg who is an entrepreneur and investor himself.
Rounding out the event’s personalities in perfect fashion were the esteemed judges for the final pitches, who are also all entrepreneurs and leaders in the community:
- Tracey Maconachie, President of Life Science Association of Manitoba
- Jim Perchaluk, seasoned entrepreneur and Founder/CEO of Winnipeg tech company, UnionWare
- Priti Mehta-Shah, Managing Partner of 49-97 Capital Partners and Chair of The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce
First Place: Connexus
Connexus is an idea that started from four young university students: David Teffaine and Brett Swope (both studying at the University of Manitoba), Sam Cohen (University of Winnipeg) and Carson Milberg (University of Victoria). Two more post-secondary students joined their team during the weekend; Kazu Kimura and Wajihah Mughal (both studying at the University of Manitoba), who rounded out this winning squad.
Connexus is an app geared for post-secondary students so that you “take the guessing out of learning.” Designed to provide university students with all the information they’d need on campus and throughout their studies, the app filters students’ selections (GPA, faculty, etc.) and customizes the results for the user.
Imagine being a student who spends countless hours researching available scholarships in your faculty. With so many out there, you’d potentially miss out on opportunities — and the universities, in turn, would miss out on connecting with students. With Connexus, students would be able to filter through all those scholarships to see exactly which ones are the most relevant based on the information that matters to them.
The group’s pitch stayed focused on available scholarships but is adaptable to include social events and clubs, demonstrating the massive scalable potential that could be rolled-out to all universities in North America.
Their pitch deck was succinct and their delivery was on point. The Connexus team articulated the problem clearly with validation from influencers at RRC, financials, market strategy, competition analysis and a well-delivered summary — showing demand from both students and faculty, massive scalability, validated revenue, and the end result of helping students succeed. This was a well-deserved victory.
Second Place: Portal VR
The team from Portal VR included Logan Daly-Doersam, Jeremy Dyck, Jiazhou Bi and Harman Sandhu, whose idea was to provide the latest virtual reality techniques to home builders, selling agents and customers in order to significantly reduce home staging costs through 3D rendering.
Their solid pitch and pitch deck covered solutions, the business model, marketing and sales strategy, competitive analysis, financial projections, traction and the underlying magic.
The team also seconded a fantastic mentor over the weekend who is no stranger to the VR industry – Dan Blair from Bit Space Development.
Honourable Mention: StockCast
Remember this name: Sparsh Agrawal.
The impressive entrepreneur is only 14 years old, in Grade 8 and has single-handedly democratized the tools and strategies of Wall Street by leading development of his app, StockCast.
Here’s how it works:
1) StockCast gathers historical data of all the stocks in the US stock market
2) The app uses industry-recognized indicators to examine the stock
3) It then applies a second layer of analysis to give a recommendation
The StockCast roadmap includes an advisory app, brokerage integration and a subscription platform for other algorithm developers. There’s no doubt that Sparsh is on the entrepreneurial path to do something incredible.
Honourable Mention and Fan Favorite: Go Oil
The team of John Sparrow, Jenn Lusby and Joel Miyazawa introduced the audience to Go Oil, whose slogan “Because your time matters” could resonate with any busy motorist.
Go Oil is an oil change company that’s on the move — as they come to you. The business would conduct a vehicle inspection serviced with warranty guidelines and change all oil types. Complete with online booking, this service can save consumers a lot of time — and for companies with a fleet of trucks, that time can also mean major corporate cost savings.
Go Oil displayed the most hustle during the weekend by gaining actual customers. Using the first-day revenue they generated over the weekend, they reinvested it into the final event on Sunday night by sponsoring a table.
Going a step beyond, their branding was the best ever seen at a Ramp Up Weekend — having also made t-shirts and truck decals from the new heat press and vinyl cutter at the North Forge Fabrication Lab.
The prizes were all strategically selected to give the winning teams the ability to start their business with the least amount of friction possible.
The top two finishers are offered office space for four months at the ACE Project Space, a North Forge Fabrication Lab Membership, plus more assistance to grow their business ideas via the North Forge startup program, office space, legal services, accounting services, UX services and more.
Still craving more Ramp Up Weekend activity? Check out the official podcast from the event:
All images by Wayne Perkins.