The evening of Thursday February 9th, 2012 marked the beginning of the first ever Startup Weekend at Torstar Digital. Participating Torstar Digital employees assembled after their work days to begin the impressive task of building a new business in just 54 hours. The result was a tidal wave of ingenuity and innovation that impressed all those involved including Torstar Digital senior leadership and prominent Toronto Venture Capitalists.
“What a great way to leverage internal talent and provide a means to seeing an opportunity through. The quality of innovation that Torstar employees displayed this weekend was truly refreshing and impactful,” commented Competition judge, Matt Golden of Golden Venture Products commented. “Torstar has really set the bar high and I look forward to seeing what their existing talent will come up with in the future.”
Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups. Torstar Digital is the first company in Canada to do a Startup Weekend as a company event. Chris Eben, lead organizer for the Toronto Startup Weekend helped kick off the event as did Daniel Debow, successful entrepreneur and cofounder of Rypple which was recently acquired by Salesforce.com, with an inspiring keynote.
Candice Faktor, VP, New Ventures who championed this event for Torstar Digital spoke about the reason for the event “We wanted to give our talented employees an entrepreneurial immersive experience to have the opportunity to showcase their talent and create new businesses based on their deep expertise and understanding of the spaces we play in and assets we have to leverage. We also wanted to give our employees the opportunity to be creative and work with other employees across our portfolio companies and from different functional areas. The results were magical and beyond our expectations.”
Torstar Digital has a history of building and growing innovative businesses both through acquisition and incubation across the digital space in Canada. Torstar Digital put on this event because of its strong belief that the future lies in creating a home for great entrepreneurial talent that want to build Canada’s leading digital businesses.
“The most important thing I learned was how crucial it is to validate your idea,” said Matthew Hudson, business analyst at Torstar Digital property WagJag. “It might make sense to us, but does it make sense to the consumer? the supplier? industry experts? What evidence is there to support this? We also learned it is important to adapt based on the feedback you receive!”
Over the course of the weekend, Torstar Digital saw the development of seven innovative ventures. Teams stayed late into the evening on Thursday and Friday to assemble their ideas and formulate pitches that would be judged by a panel of venture capitalists and Torstar Digital senior leadership.
Finally, on Saturday afternoon the seven teams took to the stage to reveal their presentations. What followed was an astounding display of new technologies, platforms and applications – all designed to solve problems for both consumers and businesses. The winning title went to the business application “Warm Fuzzy” which assists small businesses in forming human connections with their customers to drive loyalty and retention. The team will get to take home $5000 cash as well as the opportunity to further develop the business for Torstar Digital.
The greatest impact of the event, however, was for the participants who learned valuable skills about building a startup and got to experience working with new people across the organization.
Jonathan Naymark of Torstar Digital’s Strategy and New Ventures team commented that “participating in Startup Weekend at Torstar Digital was an awesome experience that brought together employees from disparate business units, but it also proved that Torstar Digital really believes in innovation. I can’t think of an activity that is more in keeping with our corporate mandate. I can’t wait to participate again.”
Overall the event proved to be a great success for Torstar Digital and its employees. Torstar Digital plans to continue running events similar to this one going forward to continue to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.
Tomer Strolight, President of Torstar Digital reflected on the success of the event, stating “I have been evaluating business proposals for Torstar for over 10 years, and I was blown away by the quality of proposals developed so quickly by these teams. The process involved in a Startup Weekend really is amazing at focusing and sharpening new business ideas. We will definitely be repeating this event and encouraging even greater participation in the future.”