The X Factor to Running Laurier’s First Hackathon
Last Thursday, I had the chance to sit down and speak with Moosa, the President of Phi Society, the computer science student society at Laurier, who helped organize Laurier’s first ever Hackathon event along with Startup Laurier. A hackathon for those who don’t know what it is, is where you form a group of people and decide on a project you think is cool and then build it. Hackathons last about 24-36 hours of straight coding and at the end you present what you made to a panel of judges.
The theme for this year’s hackathon was a Startup themed hackathon with the hackathon lasting 24 hours. The Hackathon got widespread reach with over 900 applicants in less than a month from not just Laurier but from other schools in Canada U of T, McMaster, UBC and even internationally from people in Switzerland and India. The event also various networking opportunities from sponsors and a keynote speaker.
The idea for a Hackathon at Laurier came from the Moosa, back in September after attending HacktheNorth, the University of Waterloo’s Hackathon. Moosa was amazed by what he saw from both the participants and the whole event itself. However, after taking over as President and rebranding the club, he didn’t have much time and effort to execute on the Hackathon for Laurier. It was soon after being approached by another student, Anthony and Theo who helped pushed for Laurier’s first Hackathon. It was then January and nothing about the Hackathon had been really organized since. Laurier’s first Hackathon was in jeopardy of not happening.
With time running out and no sponsors sponsoring the event, it looked like there wasn’t going to be a Hackathon. In the span of a month, with a team of 20 new hires, Phi Society was able to promote the event and get 60 people to sign up on their first day. By the end of the month there were over 400 applicants. To organize the event, the team met 3 times a week and as a group brainstormed ways to reach out to sponsors. To find sponsors, team members went to networking events and when speaking with representatives of the company they also mentioned they were trying to organize a hackathon and were looking for sponsors. The frequent meetings also ensured everyone understood their task and were working efficiently to meet the upcoming deadline.
The event was a success for Laurier’s first hackathon with 100 applicants accepted out of 900+ total applicants. For next year’s hackathon the goal is to accept 300 applicants, get more sponsors and book a larger venue to host the event.
Interview with Wil, Co-Founder of Scheltr: Message for Startups
I hope everyone’s had a great weekend. Continuing with our interview blog posts, I had the chance to speak with Wil last week about his startup and hear his tips for startup entrepreneurs.
Wil is the Co-Founder of Scheltr. He came to Waterloo in 2012 and was part of the first cohort of Global Business And Digital Arts. A UX Designer by trade he has experience on the Seller Experience Design (SXD) team at Amazon.com as well as volunteer experience in Peru through the Beyond Borders Program. He has been attracted to technology and the world of startups since his first trip to San Fransisco when he was 14 years old.
Scheltr is on a mission to simplify the way people rent. They are creating a platform that finds students the off-campus housing they are looking for. Early Access is launching at the end of January via scheltr.com for students at The University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.
Wil came to Entrepreneurs Exchange last year where he had the chance to hear Michael Wekerle speak, and through the event he was able to set up a meeting with his company WekTech for a potential investment opportunity. Wil’s thoughts on Entrepreneurs Exchange was the location of the venue was on point. He also notes the diversity of people attending the event noting talent in engineering, business, science, and arts. He found the networking with students as a great way to meet new people and speak with recruiters.
Wil’s advice for startups is be prepared to put in a lot of work, it’s not just the glamour you see on TV. Often upstarting entrepreneurs are given the misconception that entrepreneurs live in luxury; however, it’s in fact the opposite when first starting up the business. Wil also notes from his Co-Founder, Adrian that “you should plan for the best, expect the worst” as often there are setbacks. Finally, “your product ends up being a reflection of the people that make it” is a quote from Wil, that speaks truth to the type of business you run and your intentions.
Thank you for checking out our blog post. A reminder Entrepreneurs Exchange is this Thursday! If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, do so soon. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to network, attend workshops, get some free food and hear from our guest speaker, Shad. Get your tickets here, https://shop.lazsoc.ca/
Tips For Effective Networking
I hope everyone has had a great week so far as we shift away from the freezing rain forecast. This week I’ve had the pleasure to visit the Shopify offices located in uptown Waterloo with 2 other of my colleagues at Startup Laurier to speak with Zack, a Laurier Alumni who now works at Shopify. We had the chance to ask some questions about his experiences and hear his tips for effective networking.
Zack works at Shopify as part of the sales team in Shopify Plus. Shopify is a complete Ecommerce platform that allows people to set up an online store to sell goods, customize the storefront and accept payments. Zack works in the Shopify Plus Sales division working on bringing more enterprises using Shopify’s platform. Enterprises that use Shopify Plus include Kylie Jenner, Ellen Degeneres, Tesla, Black Milk, Kanye West, Nestle, P & G and many more. Zack decided to work in Sales after deciding he wanted to do something more entrepreneurial.
Zack attended last year’s Entrepreneurs Exchange where he was able to network with many recruiters at the event and even talked with a Shopify representative to learn more about their career opportunities. What he liked about the event was the opportunity to meet like minded people who are also entrepreneurial minded and ambitious. Besides noting the event helped him get a job at Shopify, Zack also mentioned there were well picked sponsors, contests and promotions in the event. As well as a well-organized venue to accommodate the event. In the sit-down with Zack, he noted you never know where you might meet the right person and every job that he’s gotten has come from a networking event.
Zack also works as a recruiter, attending trade shows and networking events on behalf of Shopify and shares these tips for entrepreneurs. He notes the importance of being genuine and asking insightful question is key when speaking with a recruiter in a networking event. This will help you differentiate yourself from other applicants. He follows these 6 pillars to success: having entrepreneurial drive, intelligence, work ethic, creativity, competitiveness, and a history of success. Zack also stressed the importance of being open minded and attending events such as networking events because you never know where it’ll lead you. He also recommends learning new skills and going on an exchange in university.
A reminder our flagship event Entrepreneurs Exchange is taking place January 26th, if you still haven’t bought your ticket left, do so soon, Entrepreneurs Exchange was named event of the year last year. This year, we plan to continue the success we had last year and create more opportunities for attendees to network with other ambitious people. For more details go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1347696078605940/ and to sign up for this event go to https://shop.lazsoc.ca/products/entrepreneurs-exchange-2017.
What You Ought to Know About Entrepreneurship
Welcome to the first blog post at Startup Laurier presented to you by the Startup Laurier team. Each of our posts will highlight important insights you should be aware of concerning the topic of entrepreneurship and how to get started running your own business.
This week’s post will list the following things you ought to know about entrepreneurship and how you can deal with each and how you can use these tricks to get ahead.
Murphy’s law, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” is something often found in startups. There will always be unexpected challenges that come your way, whether it is a proposed partnership that doesn’t end up happening or being unable to find clients, you must be prepared to accept things will not always go your way. However, it doesn’t mean you should always expect the worse, rather be prepared to think ahead and have a contingency plan ready in case things do not go as expected. For example, if a firm chooses not to partner with you, what would you do? You should create a list of potential firms you would want to partner with and get in contact with multiple firms rather than just the one in case the one firm you want to partner with you.
This could not be more important to the success of your business. Good planning will help you in the long run and really, it’s supposed to benefit you. It’s naïve to think you can throw together a satisfactory business plan and then ask yourself how did the business fail? If you’re in it for the long run, it’s best to spend time to make a proper business plan, marketing plan and early financial projections. There are many templates available online and examples to help you create them. Creating these plans will help you articulate your vision and set goals. This will also help you communicate your vision more clearly to employees to give them a better picture of what’s expected of them and in their performance.
Regardless of what type of business it is, there will always be something you need to learn or update your knowledge for. You should always ask yourself how can you make things better, better meet customer needs or find new ways to generate revenue. Marketing is one example of a skill you need to constantly keep yourself updated in. Parts of marketing taught 10 years ago, is obsolete today. To stay up to date you should be aware of changes in trends and technology. For marketing, there are free blogs available to get updated insight about such as HubSpot which is a notable one. The external environment is constantly changing, you must learn to adapt in order to sustain yourself and grow your business.
Here’s where BU111 comes back… To be aware of the business environment is important so you can make informed decisions of what to do and to make sure your strategy is aligned with the environment. I won’t go to much detail in this section, as most of you have already taken BU111. However, a quick SWOT analysis is very beneficial.
The fear of failure is often an emotion that acts as a barrier to pursuing new opportunities. Why risk the time and effort to know it could possibly fail? Simply put failure is part of the learning process and the sooner you accept that and learn to not be discouraged of failure the better you’ll be. It is part of the learning process, the same as falling of a bike when first learning how to ride a bike. It’s impossible to know exactly what will work and what will not without trying anything; however, if you never try you’ll never know what works. Every entrepreneur has faced failure often more than once or twice or many more times before reaching the point where they are now, it’s just their successes are often pointed to in the media, not that they haven’t failed before. When I ran Simply Coded Learning Services, there were failed marketing campaigns that ate up a good chunk of my marketing budget. From each one, I learned what went wrong and took that into consideration for the next campaign. Simply put, take risks, learn from your mistakes, and keep looking forward, not back.
This wraps up the first Startup Laurier blog post, please leave any comments or suggestions you may have and stay tuned to our next blog. Also, to talk more about their personal experiences and tips to success, is our guest speaker for the Entrepreneurs Exchange program happening on January 26th. At Entrepreneur’s Exchange it’s our flagship event come join us and meet local entrepreneurs, collaborate with your peers and witness why this region is dubbed Silicon Valley of Canada. For more details go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1347696078605940/ and to sign up for this event go to https://shop.lazsoc.ca/products/entrepreneurs-exchange-2017.
To learn more about our guest speaker this year for Entrepreneur’s Exchange. Click on the link to learn more https://youtu.be/q-mAMH5S6VA
Thank you for reading our first blog post brought to you by the team at Startup Laurier.
My name is Andrew Guo I am the founder of Simply Coded Learning Services and have also been a business mentor for Summer Company. Through my experience, I have identified these as very important aspects of entrepreneurship you should be aware of before running your own business. I will be writing more posts related to entrepreneurship and provide you with more insights. If you have any questions you can shoot me a message on Facebook, Andrew Guo.