Despite the weather last Saturday, Mount Royal University was packed with over 120 people (SOLD OUT!) collaborating and exchanging ideas at Startup Calgary’s BarCamp. If you’re unfamiliar, BarCamp is an “un-conference” where the agenda is created by the crowd. So unlike a traditional conference where speakers are pre-selected and announced in advance, at BarCamp you post topics of interest on a board, which are then voted on, and if your topic is selected you have to run the session
Three very inspiring speakers formally kicked-off the event – USB inventor and partner at iNovia Capital, Shawn Abbott, MRU Entrepreneurship Director and the first product manager of Blackberry, Ray DePaul, and Western Canada’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year and CEO of Splice Software, Tara Kelly.
At any given time there were four to five sessions running concurrently, with over twenty-five sessions throughout the day.
1. Never beta test in public
BarCamps are typically scheduled either using sticky notes or a large white board, where people post their ideas for different time slots and the crowd chimes in by dot-voting.
We tried to do something different a few days before the event, where we worked with Zyris to develop a Touch Voting platform facilitated on a 46” digital display provided by POSH View. There are 350 BarCamps around the world and something like this hadn’t been done before. Although Touch Voting was extremely successful in processing the votes, beta testing in public coupled with having only one display was a bad idea. This was a perfect example where technology became a bottleneck; however, the feedback we received from the community was invaluable for future improvements.
So next time, in addition to multiple touch displays, we will modify the system to enable people to submit ideas, vote and access schedules on any device.
2. More roundtable discussions vs. classroom style sessions
While the classroom sessions worked great, many were looking to collaborate on ideas and share views in an informal setting.
3. Disruptive technologies need disruptive channels
Ray DePaul shared the story of Eric Migicovsky, who founded Pebble, a customizable watch that runs a lot of cool apps and connects wirelessly with mobile devices. Eric had a difficult time getting attention for his idea, until he posted his it on Kickstarter. As of this morning, Pebble has raised almost $10 million in exchange for 64,616 Pebbles.
4. Relentlessly obsess about your story
Tara Kelly is full of energy and has the ability to keep people at the edge of their seats. More importantly, she’s very passionate about her company and her people and it reflects in her speech. Tara said people don’t just show up for a paycheck and free water… you need to have a passionate story and share your vision on how you can change people’s lives. Give people a mission, a sense of purpose, and as your company and role grows, be sure to stay juiced about your story. Tara also promised to share a document for figuring out your brand architecture which can be found here – BrandPyramid.
5. Entrepreneurship is a team sport
Shawn Abbott is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Canada, so when he says something, people listen very closely. Shawn shared the importance of working in teams and collaboration as the key to startup success, and said most venture capital firms do not invest in companies without a strong team.
6. Innovate on your business model, then your product
Shawn also shared that many entrepreneurs spend too much time on their product before thinking about how to make money. He urged the audience to figure out creative ways to monetize right from the start.
7. The answer is in the crowd
Our Touch Voting platform inspired one of the attendees, Mike Tighe, to introduce us to Foundation Zurb, a multi-platform, multi-browser, mobile ready front-end framework that dramatically decreases the time needed to create front end user interface. Mike was able to learn the framework in 10 minutes and develop the front end in under 30 minutes, which made for some interesting conversations, especially with Nabeel Khan who developed the Touch Voting platform.
8. Calgary has the most awesome tech community on the planet!
Ten organizations – A100, Calgary Herald, Cybera, Digital Alberta, Pixels & Pints, Innovate Calgary, Innovation Exchange, Productivity Alberta, Techrev and TechVibes – came together to promote BarCamp. I’ve lived in 9 cities on 3 continents and I’ve never seen something like this before, which is a strong testimony to Calgary’s tech community.
All in all the attendance and participation of the community made it an astounding success. Check out the hashtag on Twitter #BarCampYYC and keep an eye on Startup Calgary’s Twitter account for links to other events.
A big THANK YOU to everyone who came, contributed, and especially those who volunteered their time and efforts. Our sponsors supported us in amazing ways, and we hope you’ll check them out and give them some props.