Startup Edmonton is a place where entrepreneurs go to make their visions a reality. In 2012, the staff team of six opened up a space in the Mercer Warehouse, where they connect start-ups to the resources they need to get their company off the ground. Through workshops, programs and events, new companies are able to develop their crafts and fine-tune their operations. They also offer a group workspace where entrepreneurs can work alongside each other to get inspired and further motivate one another.
Startup Week is a five-day series of events for individuals who are interested in expanding their knowledge about startups and what Startup Edmonton has to offer. The events were a combination of mixers, panels and guest speakers. Most of the events were free to attend. To end the week, Startup Edmonton held its annual Launch Party, designed to welcome new startups and allow them the chance to connect with the city.
“Launch Party is really about showing off some of the awesome things that we have here in the community. A lot of the time, the startups in the city don’t get the attention. We really think entrepreneurs are problem-solvers, they’re rock stars, and so we want a night to celebrate that, to show that off, so that’s what Launch Party is all about,” said co-founder Cam Linke.
This year, 10 new startups debuted at Launch Party. Both Chitter and Fitset were there, showing off their technology to the community. These are companies that have already started to make their ways into our lives. One particular startup, Varafy, had its beginnings right here at MacEwan University.
“Varafy allows science, engineering, and math teachers to create homework and practice problems — and their fully worked out solutions — in minutes, versus the hours and days it takes them today. We do that because kids learn the concept through problem solving, and they need to have fully worked out solutions when they are stuck,’ said Werner Biegler, Varafy’s president.
The software allows professors to log on to a database designed for their specific field and pull practice questions off for their students. The problems are solved step-by-step so students can determine where they made their mistakes, and packages include scaled diagrams. Not only that, but all of the problems change so that no two questions are the same.
The focus on educators and students is indicative of the fact that the founder, Ken Fife, is a University of Alberta alumnus and has been a professor both there and at MacEwan University.
“[Ken] was with MacEwan for a couple years, as a professor teaching engineering, and so MacEwan nicely helped support the incubation of this idea. He got some grants there with our other members, they developed an embryonic version of the software,” said Biegler.
“MacEwan doesn’t even know how big they were in all of this. They supported this.”
Startup Edmonton is a great place for anyone looking to further their entrepreneurship, either by becoming a member or by following their events. It’s all about making connections and networking with other people in the community. It’s not only for people already in the business, either. Lots of young people are looking into startup opportunities and Linke says that it’s easier than you might think.
“I think that start ups are the best thing for students to get involved with, whether they’re in school or early in their career. So whether it’s starting something while you’re young or it’s joining a startup team, it’s the best career accelerant. You get a lot of responsibility early on, a lot of experience early on,” said Linke.
“On the flip side, there’s not really that much risk because you end up in a startup, having a lot of experience, and worst-case scenario, you can just get another job.”