Yukon changemakers and innovators from across the territory were presented with a Hall of Innovators Award and inducted into the permanent Hall of Innovators in the NorthLight Innovation building at an online awards ceremony on January 27th. Keep reading to learn about the Yukoners who were recognized for their hard work.
Yukonstruct welcomed their newest Startup Bootcamp cohort with a live streamed event at NorthLight Innovation that combined both in-person introductions (at a safe distance apart) and zoom-in attendees. The event was the first opportunity for the participants in this fall’s cohort to meet one another and for the public to get their first glimpse of the businesses they may soon get to experience themselves.
Yukonstruct Startup Bootcamp’s recent Demo Night was a true celebration of local entrepreneurship! To conclude the 12 week Startup Bootcamp, 8 of the 10 graduating companies got the full experience of delivering a pitch to a room filled with funders and supporters. Local investors, Panache Ventures, Minister of Economic Development, Ranj Pillai, representatives from Yukon Government and CanNor, and many other guests came out to celebrate the startups which made the evening even more special.
Our Kick-Off Celebration brought out the best of our community as we celebrated our first year in NorthLight and introduced the entrepreneurs who will be taking part in our first ever Yukonstruct Startup Bootcamp! The overwhelming enthusiasm brought in from the community made for a warm and welcoming evening, and the entrepreneurs’ passion added an element of excitement that mirrors the energy fueling Yukonstruct.
This past Saturday, Yukonstruct hosted the annual Startup Canada Awards – North Region program. The event took place at NorthLight Innovation – home to Whitehorse’s key entrepreneur support organizations, Yukonstruct Society and Yukon College’s Cold Climate Innovation. Recently outfitted with art by local artists and full of inspiring energy, the venue was the perfect backdrop for the evening’s celebration.
A candid roundtable discussion with award recipients, local and national corporate partners, and key leaders in the North, got the night off to a productive and thought-provoking start. Participants discussed the state of entrepreneurship in the North and how entrepreneurs can best be supported. Key takeaways included:
• Importance of training and support for entrepreneurs (e.g. financial literacy, etc.);
• Importance of developing strong partnerships in order to start and scale businesses;
• Need for government to back existing organizations that already support, entrepreneurs, rather than create new programs.
During the reception, attendees enjoyed the incredible beer and award-winning cocktails served up by Yukon Brewing, and gourmet catering by the Wandering Bison. Guests also had a chance to check out artisan goods produced by some of the creative entrepreneurs working out of Yukonstruct’s Makespace at the Makers’ Market, held in the NorthwesTel Event Space.
The Awards ceremony kicked off after the reception and was hosted by the dynamic Lauren Manekin Beille from Yukon College’s Cold Climate Innovation. A passionate community builder, Lauren set an engaging and charming tone. Government attendees included the Honourable Larry Bagnell, MP for Yukon; Mayor Dan Curtis; and the Honourable Angelique Bernard, Commissioner of Yukon.
The winners of this year’s StartUp Canada awards were:
Ranj Pillai – Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award
däna Näye Ventures – Startup Canada Entrepreneur Support Award
UasaU Soap – Startup Canada Entrepreneur’s Choice Award
Make I.T. Solutions – Startup Canada Global Entrepreneurship Award
Proof – Startup Canada Innovation Award
Arctic Fresh – Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award
Antoinette’s Restaurant – Startup Canada Women Entrepreneur Award
Charlie Fiddler – Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur Award
Outpost 31 Media – Startup Canada Entrepreneur of the Year Award
The ceremony included plenty of laughs, heartfelt speeches, and a few joyful tears by the amazing winners who continue to impact entrepreneurship in Canada.
Yukonstruct is honoured and humbled to celebrate the creative, hardworking, and inspiring entrepreneurs that make up this lively community.
And a BIG thank you to our local sponsors for making these events possible!
Hacker: A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular.
—RFC1392, Internet Users’ Glossary
What a weekend!
Four years ago we ran our first hackathon, and now we’re proud to have completed the first hackathon in our new NorthLight Innovation space – HackYG. It really felt like a concentration of some of the brightest minds in Yukon, and we were even lucky enough to have some participants coming from as far away as Mexico City. The energy in the space was truly palpable.
HackYG’s focus was on finding technical solutions in order to build a better, more efficient Yukon government. On day one, each team leader had two minutes to pitch their idea and form a team with any interested participants. Once they found their teams, they began developing their projects! The clock ticked down, with only 48 hours until wrap up on Saturday evening.
On Friday, as the teams settled into the nitty-gritty details of their projects, fuelled by coffee and inspiration, the benefits of this model became immediately evident. Projects sailed ahead at breakneck speeds as everybody focused on getting prototypes working. Forward focused, without getting mired in the minutia coders often bury themselves in when it comes to building full projects. Things like consistent naming conventions or finding the perfect API simply aren’t important when you only have 48 hours to finish your project. “Everything was really about building actionable prototypes for the future. It was hands on. It was getting our hands dirty and building something,” said Ben Sanders after presenting the grand prize winning demo: a chat bot AI that can help you access government services, like booking a campsite.
“Five years ago I couldn’t have imagined building a startup here, but today I am, and we have a team doing some really amazing stuff in part because of the leadership the government is showing.” Sanders continues, ”I think one of the biggest challenges to innovation is not being able to experiment. And one of the biggest challenges to me as a business in working with government is that the traditional RFP process is slow. It’s cumbersome. I think it’s broken in a lot of ways. It’s outdated and it’s exciting to see that through this model and other policies coming from this government that there’s a real openness to finding new ways to be better.”
And not only did the Yukon government embrace the hacker ethos, but the hackers embraced the Government of Yukon into their community. At one table, I overheard somebody worried that she didn’t have much to offer because she wasn’t very technical, and the response from the rest of the team was overwhelmingly welcoming. “90% of the stuff we have to do isn’t technical,” they assured her.
“I’ve been to a bunch of hackathons where it’s just software people that are showing up, so it’s neat to see this,” said Wes George, leader of the project that won the People’s Choice Award: a tool to convert government PDF forms into a more accessible format. No more will we have to download a PDF, print it, sign it, scan it back into a digital form, only to upload it to the same place you downloaded it from!
But this goes deeper than the demos that came out of the hackathon. Everybody came away from the weekend with more exposure to different ways of working more efficiently. Wes continued: “I was taking for granted a bunch of tooling that we take to get things done in the tech world, like Slack and GitHub, and yet, having people in the public sector that work on my team, I’m actually equipping them with new tools … by the end of the weekend, people who’ve never used Slack before, they’ve got it and it’s in their tool belt.”
And on the tech side, teams learned the benefits of really, honestly scoping their projects down to something they can complete in the time available. “Sometimes when we’re in project-land we imagine that we’re just flush with resources because those deadlines aren’t pending, but that’s an illusion. What project ever has all the resources it needs to complete itself?”
In the end, there were over 60 participants presenting 10 demos, and the Government of Yukon took notice. “I personally saw application for five of them I’m just one guy,” said Richard Mostyn, Minister of Highways and Public Works. Deputy Premier Ranj Pillai added “All these people came into this space and started talking to one another, looked at the way government works, and you had all these different perspectives intermingling and changing. An understanding started to develop between vastly disparate groups that maybe had never really talked together, so civil servants would know a little bit more about developers, developers would know a little bit more about the needs of civil servants, and this whole cross-pollination will lead to better understandings and will help facilitate conversations.”
And when it was all over and everyone went home for some much deserved rest, we were left inspired by a weekend full of open communication, innovative experimentation, and the drive to do the seemingly impossible in only 48 hours. We would like to thank and congratulate all the participants who truly made this event greater than anything we could have imagined.
Keep on hacking!
Government of Yukon’s Wildlife Viewing Program teamed up with YuKonstruct to host a bird box building workshop. This was a part of their Celebration of Swan events, and there is more to come! Check out www.env.gov.yk.ca/events
Photo credit: Environment Yukon
The second Drinking with Scissors proved to be very popular with fans of both crafts and beer, selling out in the first 15 minutes! So many enthusiastic makers showed up, the Social House ran out of chairs and people sat on the stage floor to get their craft on.
November’s projects were inspired by a cozy winter cabin in the woods, the quintessential Yukon experience. Participants chose from kits to make mini bear rug coasters or little wall-mounted felt deer and foxes.
The next Christmas edition of Drinking with Scissors is happening December 13th from 8pm to 11pm at the Social House (102 Wood Street). Be sure to show up early while kits and seats last! Unfortunately the December Drinking with Scissors has been cancelled, but we have lots of fun things planned for January and February, so keep your eye on our events calendar.
Ever wondered what’s inside your favourite toys?
On Thursday November 23, the makerspace hosted a fun maker night and special toy hacking edition of Repair Café. YuKonstruct members showed off their toy projects, we dissected a Furby (1990’s mechanical, furry, noisy, talking, creature thingy) and even found some time to fix some small appliances.
Michel brought along the sound generating machine he built for his daughter. Its buttons, dials and sensors are perfect for entertaining a toddler, but perhaps not all parents would be as willing as Michel to give their child an electronic noise machine…
Chris and Allison showed off their restored vintage toy record player with custom 3D printed records (you can read the instructions they followed on instructables). They also brought in their animatronic Krang (the villain from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) that they made from another Furby.
The highlight of the night though by far was the Furby dissection. We removed appendages, fur and various components and got a chance to explore the different mechanisms to try and find out exactly how it works (we still have much to learn).
What could be better than crafts and craft beer?
The first Drinking with Scissors event took place on October 25 at the Social House. With Halloween right around the corner, spooky craft kits were available for participants to assemble while enjoying drinks with friends.
There were kits for making cute mini pinatas (complete with candy and treats!) and kits to design a mini felt monster. Both were a big hit!
If you missed this month’s edition, fear not, Drinking with Scissors will be continuing as a monthly event.