This past weekend, Waterloo’s first ever WiMin Ideathon/Conference took place at the new Science Teaching Complex. Their mission was to “connect, inspire, and explore the potential of women across disciplines while helping them seed or grow ideas”. Attendees ranged from undergraduate students to graduate students to university staff.
So what is an Ideathon? An Ideathon is an open-ended version of a hackathon that extends beyond the realm of technology. Conference attendees, in groups of 2-5, collaborated on a variety of interdisciplinary ideas to create concepts ranging from services and social enterprises to phone apps and businesses that have the potential to grow into a start-up. Over the 2 days, conference goers learned from a variety of interactive workshops, listened to inspiring and candid speakers, and networked to exchange ideas and build connections. It was a unique opportunity for women studying in different disciplines to meet and discuss a variety of topics, including pertinent social issues and creating start-ups.
The conference’s workshops were based on two streams: Seeding an Idea and Growing an Idea. The first stream of workshops focused on finding an idea, solving problems through innovation and testing ideas (using bricolage). The latter set of workshops aimed to further develop an idea by determining value propositions, building strategic partnerships, and asking better questions.
Another main concepts of the conference was centered on using a business model canvas to turn a concepts into a viable business idea. The model divides a potential start-up’s concept into 9 main categories that focus on 3 areas: the target market of the idea, the resources needed to bring the idea to life, and the economic model needed to sustain the idea. (http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas/bmc) Following the idea of creating a start-up, Melissa Durrell, a Waterloo City Councillor, former news anchor, and start-up pitch coach, guided the conference goers through making and delivering a good pitch. She emphasized knowing how to tell an engaging story, understanding the audience, and presenting with good body language.
Not only did conference attendees learn about how to find and grow an ideas into a start-up, they also heard from successful start-up founders. One of the keynote speakers, Lauren Lake, co-founded Bridgit, an app-based software aimed to improve the efficiency of the construction industry by streamlining communication and responsibilities between contractor groups. Another speaker was Caitlin MacGregor, the CEO of Plum, a service that helps employers hire the right person by looking beyond the resume and interview. Plum has developed an assessment (which can be taken on their website plum.io) that delves into a person’s strengths and working style, helping employers find employees who will work well with the culture of their company and teams.
Altogether, it was a useful conference that forged lasting connections and sprouted diverse ideas that may become the next successful start-up or social enterprise.