ThreeFortyNine, a coworking space located in Guelph, Ontario, is organizing the train journey to Montreal via Kitchener-Waterloo, with stops in Guelph and Toronto. Three first class Via Rail cars will carry what is expected to be 120 people.
Startups can still get an all-inclusive ticket that includes transportation and entry to the festival for $525.
Riders can take advantage of one-on-one mentoring sessions with investors and mentors like David Crow of Startup North, April Dunford of Rocket Watcher and Ken Seto, who created the social gaming platform Massive Damage.
Crow called it an opportunity to build worthwhile relationships while refreshing old ones.
“It's a great initiative,” Crow told Techvibes. “There’s something fun about the artificial social situation of being stuck on a train for six hours with other like-minded individuals that is interesting and engaging.”
ThreeFortyNine has organized desk space for train riders to work from upon arriving in Montreal on July 10, through the RPM Startup Centre in Montreal. Riders can also hang out at the Ontario Startup tent during the festival.
For the past few weeks signed up riders have been communicating through a Yammer group, creating discussion boards and 30-second videos about themselves. According to ThreeFortyNine’s Brydon Gilliss, it’s about creating a comfortable atmosphere for people to approach each other.
Last year the Startup Train only travelled back to Toronto after the festival. Seto was on that inaugural journey and said that the setting facilitated open networking, allowing introductions in a more intimate setting. This year he’s expecting an even livelier atmosphere, given that it will serve as a “pre-event, event.
“I think the setting is just perfect,” said Seto. “The whole event hasn’t started yet so people are just kind of gearing up and the excitement is still there. It’s going to be hard to find that kind of easy environment to connect with these people and get their thoughts on your startup elsewhere.”
Gilliss is the one behind the Startup Train. He also heads up a new startup out of Guelph called 20Skaters, a solution to organizational problems that plague pick-up hockey.
Gilliss’ idea for the train came after too many underwhelming conclusions to conferences, where dialogue with new contacts inevitably dies down. Often all we’re left with is business cards. “It was an experiment at the end of the day and I’ve always thought that there’s a lot of wasted time spent travelling to and from conferences,” said Gilles. “What we’re really trying to do this year is to get people on the train and help them get organized about what they want to get out of the conference.”
Gilles nearly guarantees that riders will enjoy their time on the train. After all, they’re with mentors willing to talk to them for five hours, “and they can’t run away.”