Part of my responsibility as a co-founder of SparkGig during my winter 2014 Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) term was to raise money, through student competitions, to help finance the SparkGig team.
When I started doing some research I was amazed at the number of student startup competitions out there.
While I completed my E Co-op term, SparkGig competed in eight competitions, in seven cities, across three countries. You are probably thinking that all of these plane tickets must have cost us a fortune! Well, one of the big advantages of being a student is that travel expenses are often included in part of the package when you apply to student competitions. The application process was time consuming at first, but we found that many of the questions on each application were the same, so applying became easier over time.
Apex Business Plan Competition (Fredericton, NB)
Our first flight together was to Fredericton, New Brunswick, to participate in the Apex Business Plan Competition from January 22nd to 24th.
There were teams competing from universities all across Canada working on a wide range of interesting projects. One team was harvesting an invasive green crab species for a valuable compound in their shell, while another was building a new piece of workout equipment. Connecting with the people behind these ideas was very inspiring and many of them provided insight on some of the challenges that we are facing as we build our startup.
At this competition we won the Entrepreneurial Powerhouse Award and got a lot of valuable feedback from the judges.
Canadian Business Model Competition (Halifax, NS)
The next competition that we attended was the Canadian Business Model Competition (CBMC), held in Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 14th and 15th. We saw a lot of familiar faces from the last competition.
This competition was focused on Lean Startup methodology, unlike the many competitions that are judged based on long-term forecasts and assumptions. The CBMC was all about getting out of the door and testing different assumptions, which I found very useful.
The three days were filled with activity. The organizers did a great job of keeping everyone on their toes by not announcing the finalists until very shortly before the final pitches! We were very humbled to come home with the $15,000 second prize.
Global Student Business Competition (Bahamas)
The following week, we flew out to the Bahamas, of all places, for the Global Student Business Competition that took place March 19th to 21st. This was the first year the competition was held, so it was not as well organized as some of the other ones that we attended. We were the only Canadian team competing; the other teams were mostly from large universities in the United States. We managed to come home with the elevator pitch prize and were able to sneak in some time on the beach.
Clinton Global Initiative University (Phoenix, AZ)
From the Bahamas, we flew directly to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Clinton Global Initiative University conference organized by the Clinton Family and focused on social enterprise. There were close to 1,000 students flown in from around the world to hear some amazing speakers like Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Kimmel, and many more! We were extremely inspired by the students we met who are working on important global challenges such as poverty alleviation in Kenya and women’s rights issues in Eastern Europe.
The last four months have been a great learning experience. We were able to drastically improve our pitching skills, meet some inspiring people, and explore interesting cities. We are really looking forward to pitching at the International Business Model competition this week in Provo, Utah, and to raising our first round of funding from investors over the next few months.
Mike Reid is in his 2B term of Management Engineering at the University of Waterloo. In a previous co-op term, he managed a student home-care franchise that produced over $300,000 in sales in the Montreal area.
When Mike is not working on SparkGig or studying in school, he enjoys traveling, trying extreme sports, and learning new things.
SparkGig is an online marketplace that seamlessly connects talented performers with event planners.
Anyone organizing a corporate event, wedding, or private party can use SparkGig to quickly and easily find the perfect entertainment for their event.