Fourteen startups. Five cash prizes. Five trips to Silicon Valley to help make their dreams come true.
UBC Robson was host to Vancouver's second Plug and Play Startup Showdown event on Wednesday, June 11. The underground auditorium was packed with 220 attendees, competitors and spectators both. Their inaugural event in November led to three startups receiving mentorship: BluePerch, which has a landing page up for its job-discernment service, Bex, a Bitcoin security interface, and Routezilla, a platform to help mobile service workers plan out the most efficient routes for their workdays.
Over a hundred applicants submitted their startup ideas, and fourteen were chosen to compete. They were vetted by seven industry experts, hailing from law firms, incubators, and the National Research Council. On the judging panel, Alireza Masrour of Plug and Play Ventures was joined by four well-known faces of the Vancouver startup scene. Andrew Jones of Garibaldi Capital, Ray Smith of Cross Pacific Capital, Amy Rae of Vanedge Capital (who joking referred to herself as the rose among the thorns) and Ray Walia of Launch Academy were all on hand to offer their feedback on the contending businesses.
Among those fourteen were some very familiar faces. The prize was worth coming out for—every winner received at least $25,000 in funding and three months in the Valley.
Attendees of the Cascadia Startup Day would have recognized MetaOptima, the company responsible for MoleScope. MyBestHelper has been a mainstay of the Vancouver scene for years, and anyone who attended the first GirlsRaising event would have recognized go2gether, a carpooling platform meant to convey people efficiently along high-traffic routes to work.
Tangoo, who went on to host the after-party, closed the evening on a high note with an enthusiastic pitch that used plants around the room to get the energy going. New faces at the competition included VeriClock, a cloud-based employee tracking system meant to curtail fraud and wasted wages, and Beheld, a platform for connecting artists and would-be patrons.
The winners that night were a combination of new and old faces, with MetaOptima, PiP, MyBestHelper, Cleanify, and BucketList. The evening's host, Lloyed Lobo, brought considerable energy from start to finish, calling everyone on stage for awards ceremony and insisting on a gigantic group shot of the crowd. For what it's worth, he credits for energizing him.
“The talent here is just great. It's my fourth time visiting from the valley, and I love it here. There's good startups and a solid market," Lobo said.
The judging, according to him, was quite difficult.
“We're investing early enough that what matters is the team. This early, everything changes. Twitter was something else. Everything was something else. A good team has a hacker, a hustler, and a hipster. A good product with poor design won't have customers," he said. "Vancouver's got awesome developers, I haven't seen as many great designers, but there's so many great developers and marketers here.”
There's over 500 people at the Plug and Play in the Valley, with applicants coming around the world, but Lobo's got high hopes for Vancouver.
“Honestly, we were super impressed with the talent. Even compared to the Valley, the talent's great. That's why we came here for a second time, and why we're going to be coming for a third and a fourth," Lobo noted.
The third event is expected to be in the fall, no later than November.
Plug and Play Canada is a subsidiary of Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, a global accelerator and seed investor that specializes in growing tech startups. Since January 2006, Plug and Play has helped the startup community raise over $1 billion in venture funding, and has invested in 100+ companies including PayPal, Dropbox, Lending Club and Zoosk.