Innovation Week YYC 2022 pulls back the curtain on Calgary’s most promising startups
Innovation Week YYC is upon us and loaded with events to inspire Calgarians to explore the variety of ideas and revolutions that have come from businesses right here in our backyard.
Meant to showcase Calgary’s tech community and startup space, Innovation Week YYC highlights businesses that are on the rise.
“Innovation Week is a large celebration of tech and innovation in the city. We want to highlight and spotlight innovation for all Calgarians,” says Shanika Abeysinghe, an advisor at Platform Calgary.
“It is a moment to celebrate all of the work Calgarians have done to this point. And to also say, ‘Let’s not take the foot off the gas. Let’s continue doing this together.”
Innovation spans beyond technology
This week is not just designed for founders of large-scale businesses and investors looking for the next best thing.
“Throughout Innovation Week, there’s something for startups and tech companies, but also for people that are interested in innovation at every stage,” explains Umair Tazeem, selection committee member for Platform.
“Whether it be students looking to get into tech, early stage companies, or all the way up to scale up programming… there is really something for everyone.”
Innovation is widely associated with technology, but it has a much broader reach, says Abeysinghe.
“Innovation is not just for tech bros,” Abeysinghe says. “It goes so beyond just the robots and drones and everything like that. There’s innovation in the digital creative spaces, in agriculture, and health, tech, wellness, and more.”
There’s no idea too small
Ideas of all shapes and sizes are welcomed at Innovation Week YYC, no matter what stage in the process the idea is at.
“Everyone gets caught up in this idea that they must have the most monumental idea in the world, like it must be a Tesla… but it doesn’t have to be that,” Abeysinghe says.
“Don’t ever think that it’s too small, too big, not right, not good enough. Because you never know what can be in the end.”
Platform Calgary is hosting the 13th annual Launch Party on Nov. 24.
The Launch Party highlights Calgary’s most promising startups and the top 10 startups chosen by previous alumni, including Tazeem.
As the founder of one of 2019’s top-10 startups, Embold, Tazeem was chosen to be part of the selection committee this year.
“Every year they’re able to pick the top 10 companies that are just about to take off,” Tazeem says.
“The alumni are there, investors are there, founders, all the important community members are there to show their support for the next generation or the next top tech companies.”
Former startups are now mentors
Being part of the selection committee this year also allowed Tazeem to reflect on his own experience with Innovation Week.
“Launch party was a great experience for us. We were super early into our journey back then. The Launch Party really helped us make some important connections, whether it be with funders or with customers,” says Tazeem.
For over a decade, the Launch Party has been a signature event for local startups and community members to come together and celebrate their successes.
As another top 10 alumni with Bessie Box in 2020, Abeysinghe is excited to attend once again and use her advising skills to help current and future entrepreneurs.
“There’s so many things that I wish I knew three years ago when the journey started. My hope is that with the companies in the top 10, or anyone that comes to us to have a conversation, is that I can help them make less of the same mistakes I made along the way,” Abeysinghe says.
“I worked my tail off, especially being a woman of colour in the space, to build a really large network. And if I can help someone get a seat at that table faster, then it feels like a win for me.”
The pursuit of success
The impact Launch Party has on startups helps propel entrepreneurs further into their pursuit of success.
“I’m confident that every company selected will have meaningful interactions with customers, investors, founders, or the community,” Tazeem says.
“Looking back when I was at the launch party, the big value that I remember receiving was the people that were going out of their way and stopping by our booth to ask how they can help us.”
Outside of Innovation Week YYC and the Launch Party, Platform Calgary is focused on helping innovators bring their ideas to life, no matter their stage of development.
“For anyone that has just an idea and wants to talk to someone, you can book 30 minutes with an advisor for free. The advisor team is built with all ex-founders and entrepreneurs. So we totally understand what you’re going through in a very unique way,” Abeysinghe says.
It’s also a great time to introduce the city’s most promising innovators while highlighting how entrepreneurs help the community itself.
“Pursuing an entrepreneurial path is of so much value to society. Not only are you building something that is going to be impacting your customers and your business, but you’re creating jobs, you’re funding the economy, and building the future,” Tazeem says.