Fifty-four hours to launch a business

Startup Weekend Kamloops an opportunity for student programmers, designers and entrepreneurs

Jonathan Bowers, one of the organizers behind Startup Weekend Kamloops, has over five years of experience in the tech start-up industry. (Ryan Turcot/The Omega)

Jonathan Bowers, one of the organizers behind Startup Weekend Kamloops, has over five years of experience in the tech start-up industry. (Ryan Turcot/The Omega)

The Kamloops Innovation Centre wants to help local innovators turn their ideas for smartphone apps and digital services into marketable, fully-functional prototypes. They will get a chance to do exactly that on Friday, Nov. 21, but there’s a catch: they only have 54 hours to make it happen.

“Startup Weekend Kamloops is about throwing people into the proverbial pot and seeing what comes out,” event organizer Jonathan Bowers said. “Ideally, people would have a viable business idea that they could start running with on Monday.”

The event kicks off Friday night with a networking dinner, which will come in handy to participants later on. By the end of the night, people will have pitched their ideas and formed teams to get to work on them.

While web and software developers are essential to build the core products, Bowers said students with graphic design or business backgrounds are also valuable assets to a team.

“On Saturday, you work like mad trying to build your thing, calling customers to see if it’s a good idea,” Bowers explained. “One of the teams last year showed up on Saturday around 8 a.m. and worked until about 3:30 a.m. the next morning.”

The teams have until 5 p.m. on Sunday before they present their work to a panel of judges and explain how they would sell it.

The winning teams will receive additional support from Kamloops Innovation Centre to help build real companies around their ideas. “Part of the prize package we try to create is to help them pursue their idea,” he said. “If they need help incorporating, or need office space, we try to help with that.”

“I would really want to see some TRU students attending Startup Weekend. It’s a great opportunity for people to get a taste of what startup life is like.”

He also said the weekend could be a valuable networking opportunity for students.

Participants get to spend the weekend working in the Kamloops Innovation Centre's office space. (Ryan Turcot/The Omega)

Participants get to spend the weekend working in the Kamloops Innovation Centre’s office space. (Ryan Turcot/The Omega)

“Some companies are going to send members of their teams here to see what kind of talent there is at TRU,” he said.

A few mentors, coaches and speakers are slated to appear at the event, including an audit partner from KPMG’s Enterprise practice in Kamloops and the product director of FreshGrade, a Kelowna-based startup company.

This is Kamloops’s second year hosting a Startup Weekend. Last year’s winning idea was a mobile app and website called “Aptiv.” It was designed to help people broadcast, find and partake in real-world activities ranging from chess to road hockey. Runners-up included “Narr8r,” a service that converted text into podcasts, and “Wingman,” a mobile app that reminded people to buy gifts for important occasions like their wedding anniversaries or relatives’ birthdays.

Startup Weekend Kamloops is part of a larger, worldwide Startup Weekend movement powered by Google for Entrepreneurs.

The event runs from Friday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 23 and starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Kamloops Innovation Centre.

Entry costs $99, but students can receive a $24 discount if they use the code “STUDENT” when they register online (students must produce valid TRU identification at the event to receive the discount).

Students can register for the event online at swkamloops2014.eventbrite.com.