The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Weekly event offers support and networking

technology thumbTo challenge Calgarians to turn their ideas into a product, Startup Calgary launched a weekly Hack Night event in March 2013.

The concept aims to bring Calgarians with ideas together and give them a time and place to "hack away at their idea among a community of supportive people," said Sean Collins, Startup Calgary's vice president of partnerships.

 "There's a lot of people with that $10-million idea that's burning a hole in the back of their head," he added.

"What we need is for more people to have belief in the power of their ideas, that it's good enough, and the excuses they have for not working on those ideas are invalid."

Community collaboration

From recent graduates to experienced programmers and developers, attendees at Hack Night widely vary in experience and age. Some aim to see how feasible their concepts are, others look to expand an already established business.

Savana Radley is a regular attendee of Hack Night and a consultant for business development and technology implementation. Though mostly interested in providing budding startups with feedback, Radley noticed that many new companies "really weren't thinking about what was their differentiators, or how they were going to make money."

However, as she's beginning work on her own ideas, Radley said she finds it a great way to connect with people when working from home.

"There are not a lot of established avenues for people to go and share ideas if you're working by yourself or in a small group," Radley said.phonewater resizeMike Wellwood, CEO of WaterSeal Technology, is trying to license his smartphone waterproofing technology to interested investors across Canada.

Photo by BAJ Visser

"Events like this, or Startup Weekend, really provide a venue for people to come together and share ideas, which will then help them as they go on to make contacts with investors or other businesses," she adds.

The sense of community is evident to attendees, many of whom put aside their own projects to help out their fellow start-ups. Successes, such as the cloud-sourced 3D printing company Print to Peer, are celebrated by other entrepreneurs as an example of what the community could achieve.

Hack Night contributes to success

Kiran Sthankiya didn't know about the technology community in Calgary before he came out to Hack Night. In August, the founder of the fast food discovery app Takeout King had his app featured by Startup Calgary, and members of the community engaged in a discussion over what his next steps should be.

The process of taking his app from concept to app stores was a major learning process for Sthankiya, but he noted that connecting with programmers, developers and designers made launching his app an achievable goal.

"You have people who've been there, who've tried, who've failed, who've succeeded, and they've all learned something. There's so many options, and to have that in a place like this is great."

Mike Wellwood, CEO of WaterSeal Technology, used AcceleratorYYC's space to launch his smartphone waterproofing company in 2012. After launching his company, he returned to Hack Night to demonstrate his waterproof coating's success and connect with other entrepreneurs as he looks to expand his business.

His company has had some early successes, he is still looking for funding to get his product off the ground.

Our entrepreneurial climate

"I've been an entrepreneur all my life and I've lived in some entrepreneurial wastelands where I had zero support," Wellwood said. "Compared to most cities in Canada, Calgary's very entrepreneurial."

Wellwood had worked with startup communities in Kanata, Ont. and Victoria, B.C. However, he's found Calgary's community to be particularly energizing.

"I like the buzz and the number of young people involved in the community here, which you don't find everywhere," Wellwood said.

"What we need is for more people to have belief in the power of their ideas, that it's good enough, and the excuses they have for not working on those ideas are invalid."

—Sean Collins, Startup Calgary's vice president of partnerships

Wellwood identified the area between launching a company and the venture capital stage as the hardest part of entrepreneurship.

"It's the funding gap in the middle where a lot of these great ideas get stuffed," he said. "If there were some more resources and coaching and mentorship around how to transition through that stage, that would be ideal."

Wellwood pointed at government regulations on investment and crowd-sourcing as a major roadblock in the way of hopeful entrepreneurs.

"Opening up the door to crowd-funding will be the next big step in Canada. Sure, nine out of ten companies will fail, but the one that succeeds will be a good return on investment," he said.

The event takes place at AcceleratorYYC every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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