If there’s something like Godwin’s Law for startup events, it is this: for every additional individual in the room, the probability of somebody pitching a new dating application increases.
Startup Weekend Montreal didn’t disappoint, as one of the teams boldly proposed creating a new dating application by laying out a wine and table spread right in the middle of their presentation. Catered to single women, the dating application focused on activities you would do with your partner rather than the “meat market” approach of photos.
It might sound familiar to those of us who have used coffeemeetsbagel.com—but it’s a healthy sign for aspiring entrepreneurs. Nobody in the technology field can dispute that dating can be a significant pain point. An early focus on finding real, tangible pain points shone in the presentations, as teams took on problems of great scope, and proposed practical solutions.
In Montreal there are two major pain points: bad weather, and bad infrastructure. It is no surprise that the winning team tackled both of those head-on. Snowtification created a mobile application that allowed snow plowing companies to push text messages to consumers in areas where they would start clearing their driveways. This would allow for customers to move their cars before the plows came. They impressed the jury by texting members of the crowd, demonstrating that within just a couple of days, they had created a fully functioning product.
This was a constant theme of the Weekend. Many of the projects already had some traction by the time final presentations rolled out. Shamelessly.co had built up an impressive working product that used an algorithm to display tweets that highlighted bad customer service, in an impressive bid to mount a “Wall of Shame” for companies that abused their customers. It constantly updated as the weekend rolled on.
Third place competitor GymFlex focused on linking up with gyms to offer flexible one-day passes for those who often switch from gym to gym. They had already validated their idea, and built up a mock-up of what their interface would look like with a sample gym, demonstrating the massive potential of their product as they sought to tackle a pain point for a huge, and digitally underserved fitness industry.
Second place ParkHereCo tackled parking, a multi-billion dollar industry with massive communication problems. Their user interface allowed for users to communicate directly with one another to swap their parking spots for pay. They demonstrated incredible foresight in locating their numerous competitors, and in anticipating friction in their application with some hypothetical users overstaying their purchased time slots. Penalties were built into the system for abusive users, demonstrating an impressive drive towards solving present pain points—and future ones.
The future loomed large for all of these emerging startups. I was very impressed with all of the presentations in the present, but I wondered whether or not the presenters would be contributing to the vibrant Montreal startup ecosystem in the future.
I went around and asked a bunch of the new founders whether or not they intended to continue with their new ventures. Most replied in the affirmative. Winner Snowtification said they had no choice: they already had traction, and a paying customer they couldn’t disappoint.