The International Startup Festival in Montreal was full of networking opportunities, feedback, gummy bears, a party bus, pitching in an elevator and meeting the early innovators of the tech world. (Read our recent blog post If you don’t know what the International Startup Festival is).
(Jon, founder of Splitwise, using our test site. )
The journey started at 8:30 AM on July 11. Barely awake, the Fiestah team and 14 other startups boarded the DOer Express bus that was heading to Montreal. Some startups were still in the concept stage while other startups had turned down two opportunities for acquisition in the name of creative control. It was a great mix of people that made for meaningful networking.
As soon as we entered the festival we hit the ground running with our business cards in tow and got to networking. After talking to various investors and startup founders the first night we had a late night food craving. Using our rudimentary high school French we asked bystanders for directions to a great place to eat. We were about to give up when we stumbled upon the famous bar/restaurant L’Assommoire Bernard in Old Montreal. It was completely serendipitous. It just happened to be our intern’s birthday that night and we wanted a special place to celebrate.
Flippin’ the Bird and a Crazy Elevator
Decked out in our new Fiestah shirts the next morning, we listened to entrepreneur and founding partner of 500 startups, Dave McClure, who was speaking at the festival. He gave great tips on being an entrepreneur like, “Aim for the moon, land on the roof.” Meaning that, even if a business venture isn’t a success, there is still something useful that can be taken from that “failed” experience. But the most memorable part of his talk was when he asked members of the audience to look at the person next to them and flip them off. We are not kidding! Then, he pulled someone on the stage, flipped them off and had them flip him off. Then he had the audience flip him off and he flipped us off as well. We forgot what the lesson of that exercise was, but it was hilarious to watch hundreds of people uncomfortably flip each other off, to say the least.
Next, it was time to do our elevator pitch. Normally “elevator pitch” refers to the short summary of your product that is useful when networking and presenting to potential clients and investors. The elevator reference alludes to the brevity of the summary, it should be able to be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator with someone. The organizers of the International Startup Festival got a little creative and took the elevator pitch literally and had startups pitch to investors for a minute in an actual elevator! We saw this as a great opportunity for some honest feedback. We went in with a positive attitude and two ipads. The investors were so engrossed in our pitches that when the time ran out they couldn’t believe it flew so fast. We took that as a good sign.
Gummy Bears and Mentors
Because Twilio, Microsoft Azure and Sendgrid are so awesome we got to reserve a time slot for one of the tents at the festival. What most people remembered was how we got them to our tent. The day before the festival we put a Fiestah logo sticker on clear plastic bags and filled them with gummy bears to pass out as marketing swag to everyone. A couple people mistook us for a candy company, but more importantly, people knew who we were. Who says you need to spend a lot to get a lot of people talking?
When we weren’t passing out gummy bears or running the tent, we were taking advantage of the resources the International Startup Festival provided. The tents we took advantage of were the Office Hour and Mentors tent. We received a lot of helpful feedback from experts in their fields.
The Bus Ride Home
By the end of the festival all the startups on the DOer Express bus became fast friends. We look forward to maintaining the connections and friendships we gained this past week and can’t wait for next year’s festival. On the bus ride home we discussed how we wouldn’t choose to do anything else. That’s what made the DOer Express bus ride so special. We were immersed in a group of people who, like us, believed in their dreams and were making it happen. You can’t ask for better company than that.
You can read more about the bus to and from the Startup Festival here.
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