When asked whether Montreal-based startup Dashbook would exist had it not been for a 54-hour Startup Weekend in early February, cofounder Brandon Chatreau paused.
“My heart wants to say no,” he said. “Because it served as a catalyst, it gave us that kick in the butt to say, ‘hey, lets focus on this.'"
Chatreau and his three cofounders came together at a Montreal Startup Weekend event, now prevalent in over 320 cities worldwide. The team went from a simple idea to an accelerator-funded startup in one month’s time.
Examples like these are just what Startup Weekend organizers in Montreal are trying to emphasize to prospective entrepreneurs as they ready for the third edition, July 12 to 14.
The event will be held in conjunction with The International Startup Festival, the four-day event in Montreal every summer that has had no problems making friends recently, in anticipation of the big event. Because Startup Weekend will be held during the Startup Fest, organizer Sergio Escobar told Techvibes that he expects several prominent Silicon Valley VCs and entrepreneurs to serve as coaches or judges. These positions usually go to local figures but this is why July’s event is being dubbed as more of an "international" weekend.
Escobar works tirelessly on Startup Weekend Montreal because its “disrupts people’s way of thinking.” He said too many people in Quebec fear the entrepreneurial path. When an event like Startup Weekend can open their eyes to a viable path, it’s completely worth all the volunteer hours his team logs.
“I think we need more entrepreneurs and more projects, especially here in Quebec,” he said. “Just to have an idea and to create a startup in a very short period of time, for me that’s amazing. I love that.”
Regardless of location Startup Weekends always follow the same schedule. All that is required for an individual to build a team and establish the event in their city is for it to be inclusive and open.
Between 100 and 125 registered participants begin the three-day long entrepreneurial odyssey on Friday evening with a “pitch fire." Here, participants each have one minute to pitch an idea for a startup. The crowd then votes on the best 20 ideas and teams are formed. The next two days are devoted to producing a minimal viable product, while judges decide on the best startups Sunday evening.
According to Startup Weekend, 30 percent of projects are still alive after six months, while 10% raise money or generate profit. When four entrepreneurs came to Startup Weekend Montreal in February, they ended up taking top honours. A month later Dashbook was given $50,000 and admitted into Montreal’s FounderFuel program.
“I think it’s extremely important and they give you a glimpse into what it’s like getting a startup off the ground,” said Chatreau. “It’s 54 hours but you get a taste of the energy, the effort and what goes into actually working in a startup.”
Dashbook is the personal mobile dashboard that contains all of the information developers care about most. Dashbooks are populated with a series of "dashes" that are fully customized and tailored to the user's informational needs. The team of four now has little over a month to prepare for FounderFuel’s Demo Day, where they will try to convince investors why their product is worth a term sheet.
Much has changed over the past four months for Dashbook, but Chatreau remembers a few valuable lessons that served the team well in Montreal. “One of them is don’t be afraid to work on someone else’s idea,” he said. “And it’s all about the team: it’s tough to get to know somebody within the hour or so you have, but really try to focus on teaming up with people who have skills that you don’t have.”
As part of Escobar’s efforts to spread the word about how Startup Weekend works, Chatreau will be speaking at one of three informative meet ups prior to July 12. The first meet up this Thursday night will have Dashbook tell their story and explain how to launch a company in one month, from idea to prototype.
“That’s part of my mission, to socialize what is Startup Weekend,” said Escobar.