“Do something that you want to have exist in the world and focus on it entirely. Something good will come of it.” — Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter

With support from the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), ten MaRS startups (four from the information technology, communications and entertainment practice, and the entire JOLT winter 2013 cohort) travelled to California last week to participate in the sold-out LAUNCH Festival, touted as “the best place to launch your startup, raise money and learn about starting a company.”

LAUNCH has quite the track record of success stories—past festival winners include MintYammer and Space Monkey. Sticking with tradition, Yammer co-founder David Sacks committed to creating the so-called LAUNCH Fund, consisting of $250,000 to help fund five of the startups presenting at the festival with $50,000 each.

The stakes were definitely high and we knew MaRS had to be a part of the Silicon Valley action.

In securing MaRS’ first-ever LAUNCH partnership, we had three main goals:

  1. Gain exposure and strengthen both the MaRS and JOLT brands in the United States.
  2. Connect our startups with media, key customers, partners and early-stage investors.
  3. Learn and “raise the bar” in how our startups think about creating, building, competing and extending their companies.

I’m very proud to report that we fully accomplished these goals. Here’s how we did it.

Exposure

  • Over 5,800 attendees from around the globe came to the sold-out conference—making for unbelievable exposure for our companies and the MaRS/JOLT brands in the Valley.
  • MaRS received a huge shout-out from conference organizer Jason Calacanis on the main stage (in front of an in-house audience of over 3,000 people—see the picture below). There was plenty of buzz in the air about the large Canadian presence and the awesome group of companies in the LAUNCH Demo Pit after this mention.
  • The event was also live streamed online to a global audience.
  • The #MaRSLaunch hashtag we used at the conference generated over 526,000 impressions and reached 92,232 Twitter accounts! Check out the feeds here: #MaRSLaunch and #Launch2013.
  • MaRS client InteraXon was chosen from the Demo Pit to demo Muse, their brain-sensing headband, on stage to the Grand Jury in front of an audience of 1,500 people. Here’s Jason Calacanis’ Vine video of the demo.

Connecting

  • Each team connected with at least three to five potential investors and partners at their Demo Pit tables, giving them priceless introductions to the US market.
  • In between speaker sessions, the entrepreneurs were able to meet with some of the top technologists in the world, who challenged their assumptions and offered them incredible advice, connections and insights.

Learning

The startups gained first-hand exposure to the Silicon Valley ecosystem of phenomenal talent. We were fortunate enough to attend fireside chats and several panels (including a passionate session on diversity in technology with Freada Kapor Klein), as well as to receive updates from past festival alums.

Here is just a sample of the many industry experts at LAUNCH:

  • Chamath Palihapitiya (Social + Capital Partnership)
  • Evan Williams (co-founder of Twitter)
  • David Sacks (co-founder of Yammer)
  • Naval Ravikant (AngelList)
  • Dave McClure (500 Startups)
“I was born poor, I’ll die poor and the only thing that will be left is the legacy of what I’ve done.” — Chamath Palihapitiya 

University of Waterloo grad Chamath Palihapitiya was the resounding favourite at the conference with his truly inspirational fireside chat—it’s definitely worth the watch.

“I believe that companies are bought, not sold. Do something interesting in the market and get yourself noticed.” — David Sacks, co-founder of Yammer

Furthermore, the startups were also able to watch dozens of pitches (the good and the not so good) and see the judges’ feedback immediately, giving them great insights into what makes a great pitch. This also showed them the calibre of other tech companies from around the world and gave them a glimpse into the competition.

Check out the full list of LAUNCH 2013 winners:

I am exceptionally proud of our MaRS startups for an outstanding effort at LAUNCH. They came, they hustled and they conquered one of the top tech conferences of the year.

Jennifer Marron

Jennifer Marron was the Manager, Marketing and Channel Development for MaRS. See more…