Tech event seeks to engage small business startups

After parting a sea of wild-but-not-too-wild hair and trendy dress shirts, Patrick Lor climbs on a table in the back of the packed Inglewood loft.

His attitude is infectious. His shirt is the trendiest. He addresses the masses:

“Anything that looks or feels like a PowerPoint will be pulled off. No exceptions.”

The room smiles with him, knowing how serious he is. At events like these, presentations tend to be on the long-winded side. Lor, along with co-organizer and entrepreneur David Gluzman, is determined to break that trend. They want all the demos running under six minutes, and they will time you.

This is DemoCamp Calgary — a semi-regular gathering of small tech business people from all around the city, crammed into one room, pitching business ideas and drinking three-dollar beer.

Events where local startups can meet and share ideas with peers and investors are easy to find in cities like Vancouver or Toronto, but this project is among the first of its kind in Calgary.

“It’s all about people getting together and knowing that more needs to be done for the [tech] community.” – Eric Anderson, Local tech startup rep.Lor says DemoCamp, has been running for four years in cities across Canada, was born out of a desire for a more cohesive community of tech entrepreneurs in Calgary. The speed, flow, and openness of the presentations all factor into that.

Most small tech companies operate out of “basements and garages,” says Lor, who believes that bringing projects out into the open can help developers with their ideas.

“We wanted to shine a little daylight on projects, to bring them out and have the community participate in the building of these companies.”

This, it seems, is the key to DemoCamp — getting as many tech-minded people as possible in a room, just to bounce ideas off each other.

DemoCamp isn’t a one-time thing for Calgary, keep your ears open and eyes peeled for the next event. Photo: Connor BellAnd judging by the reception, it works.

“It’s all about people getting together and knowing that more needs to be done for the community,” says Eric Anderson, one of the few who demoed his project to the crowd at the latest gathering on November 17th.

He sees the connections he made there as “invaluable.”

“It’s a chance to discuss with other businesses or investors on ways to make [your project] better. You can’t really do that unless you have a chance to get in the same room with them.”

Anderson, who represents an online message board and SMS service that caters to condo residents and owners, says his business has several meetings in the coming weeks that came about directly through DemoCamp.

Like Lor, he sees the need for a more vocal tech community, and thinks DemoCamp is a great way to start.

“The Calgary scene would very different without this.”

Cam Linke, an organizer for DemoCamp Edmonton and small business member in his own right, sees this “scene” as an opportunity to create some new space in what is typically thought of as Alberta business.

“The chance to see that there are people building things other than oil wells is a huge thing in both [Calgary and Edmonton].”

Lor echoes this sentiment, seeing this event as an alternative; “slightly different than the oil and gas city we’re stereotyped as.”

“The definition of business is wide ranging,” says Lor, and an “attitude of acceptance” to tech ventures is important if we are to redefine what it means to live in Calgary.

This echoes sentiments felt by others in the room. This project is “a huge catalyst for the community,” Linke adds.

“It shows some diversity in what Calgary is,” Lor says, his eyes on the metaphorical horizon.

“It’s making Calgary a much more interesting place to live in.”

cbell@cjournal.ca