A group of five entrepreneurs, including McMaster University students, has beaten more than 1,000 other teams from around to world to take top prize at the 2012 Global Startup Battle.
Their idea is an education software tool called Groupnotes that allows school groups to leave notes for each other on webpages. It edged out the competition to earn the team a prize package worth more than $50,000.
"We were all on a group chat going crazy when we found out," said Matt Gardner, who co-founded the team with partner Jason Moore.
'No one’s ever won from Canada before. This shows we [in Hamilton] are producing great stuff.' —Matt Gardner
"Two of us are in the middle of our first week of exams. It’s a mix of doing interviews and excitement and then, ‘oh yeah, I’ve got to study.’"
The global competition draws entrepreneurs who have won the startup competition in their home city. Just 24 hours after the Groupnotes team took top prize at the Toronto Startup Weekend in November, they had to hand in their video presentation to the international competition.
Armed with three additional team members — Greg Connell, Mathieu Gosbee and Graham Kennery — and the help of the Toronto Startup community, they were able to deliver.
Once their video was in the mix, it was up to a popular vote to determine if they were even to be considered for the winning spot. Only the top 15 ideas from the open vote were judged.
That meant the team needed their school, and their city, to rally behind them. McMaster and Hamilton stepped up to the challenge, edging the group to the 14th position by just 100 votes.
"Every person, every vote really mattered to us, especially on campus," Gardner said. "No one’s ever won from Canada before. This shows we [in Hamilton] are producing great stuff."
The team plans to launch the product commercially in January, although they had already made a number of sales by the end of the Toronto Startup Weekend.
They're also looking forward to the prizes from both competitions, which include a trip to Rio De Janeiro to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, a trip to San Francisco to tour Googleplex and meet with founders, and tens of thousands of dollars in free services to help launch their business.
But their recent success hasn’t deterred them from their studies — less an hour of exam studying or two. Gardner said everyone on the team plans to finish their programs of study.
He and Jason Moore, his original partner in the Toronto competition, are both in the Master of Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. Gardner said a lot of their success is owed to their program.
"There’s no way we’re going to leave after all the help they’ve given us," he said.
"They were the ones who first told us about the Startup Weekend. The resources there are phenomenal."