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During Startup Weekend, students will compete to build the best business. Photo: CC Startup Stock Photos.

Event to bring entrepreneurial students together to build unique businesses

If you’re a University of Ottawa student who wants to be the next Elon Musk, uOttawa Startup Weekend is the place for you.

Startup Weekend, held Feb. 26–28 in the Desmarais building, is a competition where entrepreneurial students group together to formulate a business idea from start to finish—all by the end of the weekend.

“It’s a fast-paced opportunity to learn what startup life is all about,” said Stephen Daze, entrepreneur-in-residence at the U of O. “It’ll be an opportunity for people to meet others with different skill sets.”

According to Daze, the event features students from many different disciplines. The event’s sign up page lists the main categories as designers, developers (engineers and coders), and non-technical, largely students in business and marketing.

“The reason we created the event was to help facilitate purposeful collisions of people from different faculties who are entrepreneurially inclined,” said Daze.

The students will have an opportunity to pitch their new business ideas to judges, and the top teams are eligible for prizes. The grand prize is $1,000 and an office at Invest Ottawa, a local group that provides resources and training to help start new businesses. There are also $500 prizes for the best business model in categories like “Refugees Resettlement and Integration into Canadian Society” and “Open Source Hardware For Social Change”.

The event can feature all types of businesses, including non-profits. One non-profit featured in last year’s event is Go Give-Back, a mobile donation platform, created by Liora Raitblat.

“All in all, it was an incredible experience,” she wrote in a blog post about her time at Startup Weekend last year. “I was able to learn new things, and meet some driven individuals who share my passion in startups and entrepreneurship.”

The event also provides networking opportunities, and access to mentors who have extensive experience in startup work, including Filippo Di Trapani, partners operations manager at Shopify, and Sally Dimachki, program officer at the National Judicial Institute, among others.

“Throughout the weekend, various coaches and mentors stopped by to donate their time,” wrote Raitblat. “Each mentor had an incredible story to tell, and relevant advice to give from their past experiences.”

Ved Petkar, who participated in last year’s Startup Weekend, has gone on to apply his entrepreneurship at Neutun Labs, which makes wearable technology designed to help people who suffer from epileptic seizures. He said the event helped him to realize how much he enjoyed developing businesses from the ground up.

“Before (entrepreneurship) was just something in the background that I wasn’t really considering,” he said. “After going through that and feeling the energy and the lifestyle, I was completely sold.”