How to Prepare for a Hackathon or Startup Weekend

Guest blog post by #SWVan coach, Tony Gui

Challenged accepted.

All-star teams formed.

Adrenaline is the fuel for ideas.

Post-its, pivots, and coding, OH MY!

Hungry, Sleepless, and Determined.

All for the experience to pitch the next greatest idea or startup over a weekend.


Millennials are replacing their weekends for the opportunity to solve some bold and badass challenges to design better futures. Hackathons and Startup Weekends are being curated globally to bring together passionate leaders and entrepreneurs with diverse skills to design innovative solutions. Even NASA has seen the value of hosting their own Hackathon, providing access to their open source data to teams of technologist, developers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs across the globe.

Whether you are a seasoned hacker/startup guru or a virgin curious about the experience, these weekends are full of adrenaline, excitement, frustration, emotion, and new learning. Come Sunday, it’s celebration of what your team has designed!

Having had experience in these events as both a participant and mentor, I’d love to share some key tips:

1 — Fall in love with the problem not the idea. Don’t trust anyone who thinks they have the next greatest idea. All ideas are crap and are based on assumptions. Get out of the building and test your ideas with real people who are having the problem you are designing for.

2 — Build Team Understanding. Chances are everyone on your team is coming from a different background. It may feel as though everyone is speaking a different language. As a team, understand everyone’s skills — some might be great at coding, visual design, or strategy. Visualizing the problem and process will make sure everyone is speaking the same language and feels heard.

3 — How Might We is an innovator’s most powerful weapon. As you unpack various problems along the weekend, keep asking How Might We. This secret will help uncover fresh ideas and insights.

4 — Visualize Everything! The one that picks up the pen solves the problem.

5 — The new 4 Ps: Prototype, prototype, prototype, and prototype.Design is not about building beautiful things. Design is about triggering the right responses. Build prototypes that can be tested on people to learn whether or not you are triggering the responses you want.

6 — Business Model Canvas. Learn to use the Business Model Canvas, this will help you visualize whether or not your startup makes any sense. How will you make money? Who are your customers? What is your promise to your customer? How will they know about it?

7 — Pitch! Show and Tell time. Make us resonate to the problem you are solving — what is! Show us how you can relieve that pain point for us — what could be!

*This was a guest blog post by Startup Weekend Vancouver 2015 coach, Tony Gui.

Tony Gui is a design strategist and creative hustler who splits his life between San Francisco and Vancouver.  He has founded two startups and is currently bringing the third to life. Kreatives will be a design and strategy lab working with investors and businesses to sustain innovation and launch new ventures globally.  Tony has taught design thinking around the world, mentored at NASA’s International Space App’s Challenge in New York, and is a finalist in the 2015 Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards. He is passionate about working with entrepreneurs and businesses to design meaningful futures.

Title (what’s interesting about this event in one phrase: ex: NEXT Kicks Off For the First Time in Jerusalem)

[ Prompts to help you are in brackets. Be sure to remove them before you publish! ]

Startup Weekend Shawinigan
November 20th, 2015

[ What type of event (Startup Weekend, Startup Weekend Women’s Edition, NEXT, etc) ] [ Is this event “a first” in your city or “a first” in any other way? ] [ Why should people come to this event? ] [ Why will it help your community? ] [ What do you hope attendees get from the event? ] [ Who are the (current) mentors? ] [ Who are the judges (if applicable)? ]

The world’s biggest startup competition returns to Vancouver – tickets now available!

Startup Weekend Vancouver

Vancouver, are you ready? The world’s biggest startup competition is returning to our city for the second year in a row, and tickets are now up for grabs!

Startup Weekend Vancouver takes place on November 20-22, 2015 at the new Unbounce HQ, and will bring together developers, designers, marketers, product managers, and startup enthusiasts alike to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups. We’re excited to be one of over 250 cities taking part in the Global Startup Battle 2015!

The stakes are high. Last year, not only did ConceptKicker, the winners of Startup Weekend Vancouver 2014, win locally. They also competed against 3,200 teams from 83 countries and took home the title as the 2014 GSB Champion.

Are you up for the challenge? Tickets are available now for purchase!

We’re giving away a Lighthouse Labs scholarship!

In celebration of the opening of ticket sales, we’ve partnered with Lighthouse Labs to give away one full scholarship to their Part-Time Web Fundamentals Course. If you’re trying to build a minimum viable product (MVP), communicate with your dev team, or gain valuable career skills, this opportunity is for you. Everyone who buys a ticket before Monday, October 19 will be entered to the giveaway! Learn more about the course.

What’s in store this year

This year’s Startup Weekend is shaping up to be another can’t-miss event. We’re bringing out some of our community’s most experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts to support our teams.

Throughout the weekend, teams can meet one-on-one with coaches and mentors. Our current lineup of coaches and mentors include Jayesh Parmar (CEO & Co-Founder, Picatic), Hussein Hallak (Director of Strategy & Marketing, 3 Tier Logic & Head Instructor of the Lean Entrepreneurship Program, Launch Academy), Wade Foster (CEO & Co-Founder, Zapier), Elizabeth Steward (VP Marketing, Dun & Bradstreet Cloud Innovation Center), and Keith Ippel (Co-Founder & Partner, Spring Activator).

On the last day of Startup Weekend Vancouver, teams demo their prototypes and receive feedback from a panel of judges. We’re excited to welcome Boris Wertz (Founder & General Partner, Version One Ventures), Ryan Holmes (CEO, Hootsuite), and Wade Foster (Co-Founder & CEO, Zapier) as this year’s judges.

We’ve also partnered with fantastic supporters to give the best perks and prizes to our attendees. They include Unbounce (our venue sponsor), QuickMobile (our gold sponsor), BCIC, MailChimp, Smythe CPA and Lighthouse Labs (our silver sponsors), iQmetrix and Spring Activator (our bronze sponsors), & Futurpreneur and Todoist (our community sponsors).

We’re continuing to add more mentors, coaches and partners. Stay tuned for more updates by following us on Twitter, Facebook, or signing up for our newsletter.

Grab your ticket today before they sell out!

Zone Montreal: A New Match-Making Platform for Entrepreneurs!

Welcome to Zone Montreal Inc., the matchmaking platform designed to help you meet and learn from other members of the entrepreneurial community!

What is it?

It’s Brain Dates for learning humans, where you can find like-minded people interested in sharing knowledge face to face, one-on-one.

How it works?

Zone Montreal Inc

Congrats Fondation Montréal Inc. for this amazing project.

#SWVanAlumni: Where Are They Now? Musefind Team Takes on the Big Apple

In the Vancouver startup community, you never know if the next person you meet will go on to become the next breakthrough startup entrepreneur. Startup Weekend is one of the key outlets for aspiring entrepreneurs to not only come together and bring their startup ideas to life, but also for them to meet an array of high potential founders with unique stories to share.

When military soldier-turned-artist and now startup CEO, Jennifer Yemu Li participated in Startup Weekend Vancouver in 2014, little did we know that this powerhouse entrepreneur and her co-founders would go on to build an online network of over 170,000 influencers on Instagram through their online platform, Musefind.

Musefind is an online platform that allows eCommerce brands to market through social media influencers. Incubated in Vancouver’s Spring Activator, Musefind has become the first and only Canadian startup to have been accepted and funded by one of New York’s leading tech accelerators, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA).

We sat down with Jennifer to discuss her Startup Weekend experience and the support she has received from the Vancouver startup community that has led her to grow her business in New York.

How did you first hear about Startup Weekend, and what made you want to participate?

I had first found out about Startup Weekend from friends in the Vancouver startup community and by word-of-mouth. Around that time, I was also participating in the Kick program at Spring where I had met one of my co-founders, Stephen Shen, and then at Startup Weekend, I met my other co-founder, Andry Tanusdjaja. Since then, the three of us have built Musefind in Vancouver, and after getting accepted into ERA, we decided to move together to New York to grow Musefind even further.

Did you participate in SWV with the idea of Musefind — or was it initially a different idea?

The idea of Musefind was the same as what we went in Startup Weekend with — which was initially called Fame Mob. It had the same roots as Musefind, but we only had an MVP, and the idea wasn’t validated until we joined Spring.

How did you come up with the idea?

My co-founder Stephen and I both had similar experiences running an e-commerce business, and we both had frustrations around connecting our brands with influencers. So when we came together with our other co-founder, Andry, during Startup Weekend, we knew we were on to something.

When did you feel that Musefind first had legs?

When we sold our product to our first customer — without an actual product. It was just a concept during Startup Weekend, so when someone actually paid for something I had pitched to them, it was then when we realized we really needed to hustle and start prototyping.

You are the first and only Canadian company to have been accepted and funded by ERA in New York – congratulations! What led you to wanting to move Musefind to New York?

We knew that if we wanted to grow our company, New York was the place to be — and it was the best decision for our company. With ERA being the one of leading accelerators in New York, it was an honour to be selected as one of the 10 companies for their summer cohort, out of the 1000+ applications that they had received. Although we intend to grow our company here in New York during the whole duration of the program, we left our hearts in Vancouver, and we plan to be back if it’s best for our business. We want to be an inspiration to all the startups in BC, and come back to help further develop the startup community in Vancouver.

How have your first few weeks in New York been?

In just our first two weeks of being in New York, we’ve managed to double our growth, grow our revenue sales by 25% each month, and sparked a ton interest from major NYC agencies and digital advertising companies. We’ve even signed our first SaaS brand customers just last week!

What resources did you find the most helpful in Vancouver to get you to where you are now?

Definitely the people and the relationships we made in Vancouver. The support we received from Keith Ippel and Spring team — we couldn’t have done it without them. Also, developing our company in Vancouver really helped us connect and understand our customers better.

What were the best takeaways from SWV for you?

Learning how to work under pressure, meeting my co-founders, and being a part of Startup Weekend really made me realize how amazing the tech community was here in Vancouver, and support it has to offer for startup entrepreneurs.

How should someone prepare for Startup Weekend?

Be prepared for the unexpected — I know it’s a very vague thing to say, but be prepared for blow-ups between team members, or people not showing up the next morning — but more so, be prepared for the experience of working under pressure.

When should a startup founder start exploring options on participating in an accelerator — why not just look for VCs or angels?

It really depends on the level of the founders’ experience. If a founder had a past experience with a successful exit, perhaps working with a VC or angel would be beneficial. But for us, we were very focused on People, Product, and Industry — we wanted to be very selective on who we were going to be working with, and that they had a shared vision of what we wanted to accomplish.

What is the best business advice you’ve received?

Talk to your customers. Keith Ippel had always told us when we’re stuck on an idea or feeling crappy — talk to your customers to validate why you need to keep going. Spring definitely pushed us to keep going and we will always be grateful for their support.

Be sure to follow Musefind on social media to find out more about their journey through ERA:


We’re back, Vancouver.

Hey, Vancouver! Hope you’ve all had an awesome time celebrating on Canada Day! We’ve had some amazing highlights since organizing Startup Weekend Vancouver last November — with a number of our Startup Weekend participants like ConceptKicker, Votely, and My Green Space competing the Global Startup Battle (who, by the way, competed against 3,200 teams from 83 countries where ConceptKicker took home the title as the 2014 GSB Champion!) and now, Startup Weekend has become a part of the Techstars family with UP Global.


This year, we want to go above and beyond on hosting yet another epic Startup Weekend. After much anticipation, we’re excited to announce that the 2015 Startup Weekend Vancouver will take place on the weekend of November 20-22, 2015. With the support of our Venue Sponsor, Unbounce, Vancouver techies and aspiring entrepreneurs are invited to take a plunge into the world of entrepreneurship in just 54 hours.

Not sure what Startup Weekend is about? Find out more on our website — and stay tuned for our upcoming blog series featuring some of our past participants and various members of the Vancouver startup community.

Be sure to follow us on social media for more exciting announcements, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter below!



Téléchanger, première entreprise à émerger du premier Startup weekend de Trois-Rivières!

Julien Levac, fondateur de Téléchanger
Julien Levac, fondateur de Téléchanger

Trois-Rivières, le 4 mai 2015 – Du 27 février au 1er mars dernier, l’évènement Startup Weekend s’est déroulé à l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR). En effet 65 participants provenant principalement de la région de la Mauricie, mais également de partout au Québec, se sont regroupés autour de 10 projets afin de bâtir autant d’entreprises en 54 heures intensives.

L’un des projets présentés, Téléchanger, vient de démarrer officiellement ses activités et devient donc le premier projet qui émerge de l’évènement. Il s’agit d’une entreprise permettant aux entreprises et aux particuliers d’obtenir le forfait en télécommunication (cellulaire, internet, téléphonie et télévision) le mieux adapté, et ce au meilleur prix possible.

Suite aux rencontres du Startup Weekend avec des mentors, des comptables, des avocats, le projet de Téléchanger est devenu plus précis, concret et réalisable. Ainsi, selon le fondateur, M. Julien Levac, cette nouvelle entreprise, œuvrant comme intermédiaire entre les entreprises et les particuliers utilisant les services en télécommunications et les fournisseurs en télécommunication existants, démontre clairement que des économies substantielles sont au rendez-vous. “Les ménages qui ont fait affaires avec Téléchanger ont économisé une moyenne annuelle de plus de 950$, ce qui représente  30% de leurs factures”, affirme-t-il.

L’équipe gagnante de la première édition, Liste École Scolaire, travaille également avec les entreprises de la région afin de développer d’un système d’achat en ligne de fourniture scolaire qui devrait voir le jour à l’été 2016. Elle a d’ailleurs pris possession de son bureau au sein de l’incubateur Technocentre offert grâce à un partenariat avec Innovation et Développement Économique Trois-Rivières (IDÉ).

L’écosystème entrepreneurial de la région peut donc se réjouir de l’arrivée de ces nouveaux joueurs qui permettront d’inspirer d’autres futurs entrepreneurs à se lancer en affaires également. Souhaitons que d’autres projets d’entreprises naîtront des suites de l’initiative du Startup Weekend et que les éditions futures permettront elles aussi de dynamiser le milieu entrepreneurial Mauricien.

Pour plus d’information sur l’entreprise Téléchanger, vous pouvez visiter leur site web au ou suivre leur développement sur Facebook

Montreal-based MakerBloks Hits Crowdfunding Goal in Two Days! Wants to Rethink How Kids Learn Electronics

MakerBloks A Montreal startup that wants to teach children about electronics is seeing strong success on Kickstarter, reaching its $25,000 goal on the second day of its crowdfunding campaign. MakerBloks are colourful blocks that allow children to create real electric circuits. A Kickstarter campaign to fund their creation launched on Tuesday morning, raising over $20,000 within 24-hours and reaching its goal on Wednesday afternoon. Francois Poirier, the CEO and creator of MakerBloks says he got the idea while working as a product designer. Clients would come to him with little more than a circuit board and his job was to make the products look good and be easy to use, but he says, “I actually had no idea what they had in their hand, the [printed circuit board] itself was a mystery to me.” Poirier says his then-seven-year-old niece was developing a strong interest in science and technology at the same time so he thought it would be fun for the two of them to learn about electronics together.

“I looked at all the different ways to do it, software, books, DVDs and toys,” he says, but nothing fit. When it comes to toys, he says, “they are all bad, they are all using outdated technology.” He says the toys on the market might make sense to engineers but they don’t make sense to a six-year-old. Having worked as a consultant for Mega Brands, he thought about creating an educational tool that involved bright plastic blocks.

One of the MakerBloks kits being launched as part of the Kickstarter campaign also includes a augmented reality feature – a mirror that attaches to an iPad’s camera and allows children to solve puzzles in a virtual game using their real-world blocks. It’s another thing that Poirier says sets MakerBloks apart from other electronics kits on the market. “They don’t use what the kids are using,” he says. “I thought it was important to adapt to the kids of today.” Still, Poirier says MakerBloks won’t be going entirely virtual. “For me it’s really important to always have the hardware piece, the blocks,” he says. “Because if they are more interested in electronics when they are 10, 12-years-old and they actually want to pick up a soldering iron and build real circuits, it’s always going to be a physical world.” As part of the Kickstarter campaign, MakerBloks is offering several different kits as individual perks, that will help guide future developments from the company. “I think the Kickstarter campaign will actually give us a really good idea of what our audience wants,” Poirier says. That’s a big part of why he decided to launch his product through a crowdfunding campaign. “Gaining visibility and validating the product is the major reason we’re doing the Kickstarter, for sure the funding will help but it’s not the main goal,” he says. “Dollars are the best feedback you can get.” While delivering the MakerBloks on time and living up to the promises made in the Kickstarter campaign is Poirier’s main goal right now, he’s also got his eye on the future. He wants MakerBloks to be the flagship product of a company that’s focused on science, technology, engineering and math learning for kids.

Makerbloks Awards
Makerbloks Press Coverage

Originally posted in TechVibes Canada

Montreal-based Makerbloks Wins 2015 Silicon Valley CrowdPitch Competition!



Congratulations to Francois Poirier of MakerBloks, the winner of the 16th Founder Showcase CrowdPitch CompetitionMakerbloks creates small, reactive building blocks that allow anyone to learn and build electronic circuits without any technical background. The company took first place at the Montreal TechCrunch Pitch-Off, which led to them attending TechCrunch Disrupt in New York to showcase their new product.


François Poirier is a graduate of Silicon Valley Founder Institute as well as Google-backed Startup Next program in Montreal, Canada.

Originally posted on



What you need to know.

Happy Saturday Everyone!

Today is a big day so we want to make sure that you have everything you need and know exactly where to get it.

1. Sponsor Tools & Resources

  • .CO:
    • SW15051274
    • Go to this link:
    • Click “I just Want A .CO”
    • Fill out basic information
    • Submit code: SW15051274
    • Good to go
    • This code is only applicable once per participant, and will only be active until the first Thursday following your event. A list of FAQ’s associated with the .CO offer can be found here:

For more information to help explain the .CO offer at your event, go to

Attendee Guide

Attendee Resources (where you can find useful tools like the Business Model Canvas)

If you’d like to know more about our sponsors, please visit this page:

2. Coaches

Coaches will be in today from 11-9pm. There will be sign-up sheets for your team to choose when you want to work with specific mentors. We’ll go over more about this around lunch time. Quick tip: sign up for mentors fast!

3. Judging Criteria: (this is the exact criteria I go over with the judges)

  1. Validation:
    1. Did the team get out and talk to customers?
    2. Are they actually solving a problem?
    3. What’s their clear value proposition to that customer?
    4. Have they identified a specific target market?
  1. Execution and Design:

.              Did they work well as a team?

  1. Did they have an MVP or prototype (paper is ok) to present?
  2. How functional was the demo?
  3. Was the usability of the product easy and friendly? Design Matters!
  1. Business Model:

.              Does their solution solve a core need/problem?

  1. Did they present a value proposition
  2. Is it unique?
  3. How will they differentiate themselves from their competition (did they identify competition)?
  4. What is the go-to-market/launch strategy?
  5. How will they make money?
  6. What is the user acquisition model?

4. Team Survey

Your project manager is responsible for filling out the Team Survey, aim to do this after dinner but be sure to complete it before 9pm. This will sign you up for Demo Presentations on Sunday. If you do not fill out the Survey, your team will not present on Sunday night.  Go to to enter your Team information.

5. Keynote Speaker & Pitch 101 & Organizers Info Session

John Rowe, President of Island Abbey Foods Ltd., is our keynote speaker and will be sharing his experiences with entrepreneurship over dinner.

Sally will offer pitch 101 following our guest speaker.

If you’re interested in helping to organize PEI’s next Startup Weekend, Sally will be giving an overview of what it takes and how to get involved!

If you have questions about anything, don’t hesitate to ask! Otherwise have a fantastic weekend, and remember NO TALK ALL ACTION!

Good luck!