The Toronto startup community gets a JOLT of inspiration at DemoFest 2013!
While a big part of the story was about raising the profiles of JOLT’s winter 2013 graduates, the broader, underlying theme of the JOLT Demo Festival was celebrating innovation and all of the people who are helping to build a strong startup community here in Toronto.
It was standing room only in The Hall last Tuesday as the JOLT graduates were ready to showcase their businesses to the gathered community of investors, JOLT alumni, friends and supporters, as well as members of the media. It was a different format than JOLT’s first Demo Day. This time, the six startups gave brief six- to eight-minute pitches, which were followed by an interactive Q-and-A session with a panel of investors and industry experts: Matt Golden, Ken Nickerson, Craig Miller and Axel Bichara. The panel members were able to probe the startups further, challenging them and engaging them directly from their place on stage. Matt shared how he loved to be part of a panel that was able to provide that real-time feedback and support to the startups directly.
That same sentiment was shared by Kerri Golden, general partner of the JOLT Fund, as she opened the festivities and encouraged each person in attendance to support both the startups who were pitching and the greater Toronto startup community by thinking about how they could help these companies reach their goals. This feeling of community was a big theme throughout the whole JOLT Demo Festival night.
Sue McGill, executive director of JOLT, recognized the effort and progress the startups made during the program, hacking and hustling non-stop around the clock and bridging the gap between the big “idea” and building a real company.
She later took some time to thank Toronto’s startup community, as well as JOLT’s investors, mentors and community partners, who have been devoted fans and supporters of JOLT from the beginning. It was then time for the startups to take the stage.
Here’s a rundown of the six companies that pitched at JOLT Demo Festival and who were a part of JOLT’s winter 2013 cohort.
Hypejar—which won the 2013 Dobson Cup, McGill University’s Startup of the Year Award, the day before JOLT Demo Festival—is a social platform where those who are passionate about the future and “newism” can be a part of tracking, sharing and building that future. The panel was clearly impressed with the possibilities of the Hypejar platform, especially when it comes to tracking big brands and new, innovative technologies. The panel advised the entrepreneurs that they’ll be successful as they focus on their consumer acquisition model for building traction.
Stylekick, who announced the opening of their beta site at the festival, was one of the crowd favourites, wowing both the audience and the panel with their presentation by CEO Natalie Gray. The investor panel called it “very impressive,” and Lyssa Neel tweeted:
Their platform, which recommends other retailers’ offerings based on the sizing of your current and favourite pieces of clothing, will drastically reduce returns and increase online conversions.
Flee knows its target audience: adventurers, experience seekers and those who want the ability to book a trip in “21 minutes versus 21 days.” If one of the factors that leads a startup to success is the domain knowledge of the founding team, then by all accounts, Flee was standing on solid ground.
When FlyerFlo took to the stage, it was easy to see how the depth of their team’s engineering experience from the University of Waterloo is driving the ongoing development of their app. FlyerFlo helps draw shoppers to their local retailers and helps convert those 10% of in-store purchases that are directly influenced by mobile. The ability to aggregate local deals, social platform sharing, shopping lists and specials shows why the app is growing its user base by 1,000 people weekly, and you know it’s a good thing when the app was downloaded live by the panel of investors and they could instantly see the value and the potential.
The ability to pick a song, play music, get direct real-time feedback on your lesson and review and share your progress was only one of the reasons the panel of investors was excited about the platform. The future goals of development to incorporate acoustic inputs made the panel members yell out: “Sign me up!”
Last, but certainly not least…
Having a live prototype is a clear way of generating a lot of buzz about your product. Launching pre-ordering from the stage is certainly another!
Push wants to revolutionize the weight-training experience. Team tracking metrics, social sharing and the potential of the market made the panel call Push’s business “super, super impressive.” The team clearly demonstrated their depth of understanding of health and wellness, as well as the product’s potential in mitigating sports injuries and increasing team performance. Amateur and professional sports teams, as well as the avid workout enthusiast, will benefit from using Push.
After an update from Dessy Daskalov, a JOLT alum and the chief technology officer of Greengage Mobile, the buzz in the room was palpable as the startups met with audience members after their presentations. That continued throughout the Creators’ Gallery, where more startups—all curated by the broader Toronto community—were welcomed to showcase their ventures to the Demo Festival attendees. It was a great example of #whenweallwinweallwin.
Once again, it takes a whole community of people to support these startups and we want to thank everyone who played a part. To our partners and mentors, to the entire JOLT team and to the entire startup community in Toronto, we couldn’t have done it without you all!
Karen Schulman Dupuis
Karen Schulman Dupuis was the manager of business development in the ICT sector at MaRS. She has worked with startups and entrepreneurs for 15 years in information and communications technology, and brings together years of practical experience in the fields of sales, education, operations, business analysis, project management and marketing communications to tell compelling stories and generate results. See more…