CakeWalk with Ramp Up Weekend judges. (L-R): Same Haffar, Real Ventures; Ben Myers, CakeWalk, Andrew Erickson, CakeWalk; Jan Lederman, Innovate Manitoba; and Inayat Singh, Winnipeg Free Press. Missing was Colin Gislason of CakeWalk.

CakeWalk with Ramp Up Weekend judges. (L-R): Same Haffar, Real Ventures; Ben Myers, CakeWalk, Andrew Erickson, CakeWalk; Jan Lederman, Innovate Manitoba; and Inayat Singh, Winnipeg Free Press. Missing was Colin Gislason of CakeWalk.

No cake walk for CakeWalk…

After 55, grueling but ‘worth it’ hours, seven teams made it to the finish line to deliver their 3 minute pitches to a panel of startup and open data experts at Ramp Up Weekend 7 (RUW7) presented by Innovate Manitoba on April 24 to 26, 2015 at Red River College’s Princess Street Campus. Clearly, the quality of the top ideas and pitches made it difficult choose a winner.

“I’ve been through this seven times now,” said Chris Johnson, director and co-founder of Startup Winnipeg, “and this is by far the toughest and longest judges deliberation that has ever taken place.”

cakewalkIn the end, it came down to one key element that gave top spot to CakeWalk, an app that shames its users into getting more exercise, the top prize.

“While the model is quite similar to another very popular startup called Carrot App, CakeWalk introduces an entirely new and innovative revenue model,” said Jan Lederman, president of Innovate Manitoba.

While the app promises an engaging user and social experience, with a clearly cynical yet charismatic app logo/character that will gladly tell you how lazy you have been, it is the model of having the user bet on themselves and letting CakeWalk hold their money ($5 to start) that pushed this startup to the front of the pack.

If the user doesn’t achieve his/her exercise goals, then the money depletes directly into CakeWalk’s bank account. While that won’t appeal to everyone, at least one judge thought it had potential.

“I think there are people who would be willing to bet on themselves as motivation to stick to their exercise goals,” said Sam Haffar, Principal with Real Ventures based out of Montreal. “It’s a new idea that is worth further exploration.”

The CakeWalk team took home a $3,000 TechFutures grant, along with automatic entry into Innovate Manitoba’s Pitch’Day 2015 and other prizes.

“We think we can launch into the app store within a few weeks,” said Ben Myers, founder of CakeWalk as well as a developer with Robots and Pencils.

In second place was LineHub, where the innovation allows users to purchase or transfer over multiple phone lines and/or inexpensive VOIP lines to their system, which allows for friendly control of all the lines from a mobile device.

LineHub team

The LineHub team with the judges.

They also took home the TechFutures grant and automatic entry into Pitch’Day.

Best demo and an overall honourable mention went to HomeFax. “Think CarFax for homes,” said Jodi Moskal of Moskal Electric and an enthusiastic participant over the Weekend.

The HomeFax team with the judges.

The HomeFax team with the judges.

HomeFax took home $1,000 for having the best demo.  Their model is to use open data to quickly provide demographic reports for prospective home buyers, such as retirees who would prefer not to live in a neighbourhood filled with noisy kids.

The other honourable mention was Sense Immersion, which leverages virtual reality for education and offers a platform for others to build their educational applications.  All that is needed is a mobile device to capture surroundings and Sense Immersion makes it easy to build learning scenarios.

Daniel Blair presents Sense Immersion

Daniel Blair presents Sense Immersion

Daniel Blair of Sense Immersion is excited about taking his business innovation – which applies to several other spaces beyond education – forward.

“Next week we are moving into the Massey Building across the street,” said Blair. “We are hiring a few developers and are going to make a go at this.”

Blair was one of several competitors who expressed his gratitude for Innovate Manitoba’s pitch scrubbing sessions that happened earlier in the day. Innovate Manitoba’s pitch scrubbing is a staple of the event. It gives the teams a chance to pitch to experts in a private room to get tough and constructive feedback, giving them the opportunity to adjust their pitches and business models before the evening competition.

“Really appreciated your feedback,” said Blair. “It got us to step back and think about how to present our idea to someone who doesn’t have a background in education or virtual reality.  It helped us get our idea across much more clearly, so the judges wouldn’t need to waste time asking us what our product and market was.”

Thanks to Rodger Lipinsky for kindly taking and sharing his photos!