On the evening of May 10th, Barton and I went to the grand opening of the new Startup Space at Startup Edmonton. From the moment we first walked in, we were pleasantly surprised at how many familiar faces we saw. One of the people registering newcomers to the event was a former Cyberan, Hilary Darrah. From there we went to buy a couple drink tickets, and found that one the Canadian OpenStack Users Group members was manning the table. When we got to the front of the line for drinks, another former colleague of ours had volunteered to tend the bar. We turned around and, before we could take our first sip, ran into even more people that we had once worked with.
After catching up on old times, we took a tour of the space. The smell of drywall dust was still thick in the air. It provided the perfect olfactory atmosphere for the grand opening of a startup space. The hardwood floor had just been refinished, but you could tell it had seen its fair share of activity during its previous life as a scotch and tobacco warehouse floor. The ceiling joists were exposed, which gave the space an open but raw look and feel. The common areas, where the entrepreneurs will sit and work, are divided into small islands of four tables. Budding moguls can rent an individual table for $275/month. We noticed that one whole island had already been spoken for by a startup call Showbie.
During the tour we ran into Pawel Brzeminski from Kiribatu Labs. He was one of the first users of the DAIR cloud, and is featured in its introduction video. It was heartening to see that he was also engaged in the startup community in Edmonton. We then ran into Ken Bautista, the Co-Founder/CEO of Startup Edmonton. Naturally, he was very proud of what his team had accomplished so far, but said this was really just the starting point. He envisions Edmonton becoming more like Austin, Texas: an economy founded in the energy sector but now driven by creative and entrepreneurial people.
We also met Lionel Carriere of Xeaservices, who is launching charitify, a startup aimed at helping charities raise funds. It operates a service similar to Kijiji, where people can post items for sale. But instead of the money being kept by the seller, he or she can distribute the revenue between a number of charities. Xeaservices keeps 10% of the charity revenue, which is a drop in the bucket of the overhead costs of most other fundraising programs.
At the end of the night it was clear that this was the start of something special. We believe that Startup Edmonton will achieve its long-term goal of investing in 500 entrepreneurs in the next half-decade. It's going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but it's apparent that they have the will and the way. Cybera hopes to help in some way and be a part of this story. Whether it's providing access to CyberaNet and/or running "How to Use the Cloud" style workshops, this is an excellent opportunity to spur and support innovation in Alberta.