Manitoba startups prepare for success with Venture Challenge

After chatting with Chris Johnson, founder of Ramp Up Manitoba, my head was spinning with new terms and ideas. What do I know about business? Nothing. I am a writer. Thank goodness Chris Johnson knows about business. Not only does he know about business, you can hear in his voice the passion he has about start-ups and building products and companies. He sounds like a kid talking about dinosaurs, and you can just tell he is in his element.

Ramp Up Manitoba is a grass roots, volunteer-based non-profit organization that provides the opportunity for people with ideas to get feedback, find talent, and join in the community of peer support. And, this support is proving to be helpful.

Between May 3rd and 6th, fifteen startup companies took part in a boot camp style event called Launch Pad run by Innovate Manitoba. Launch Pad gave startups the opportunity to learn how to woo “angel” investors (yes, this is a term I learned from Chris, my business guru) to take them under their wing, put some cash into their project and offer guidance. From this event, seven startups were chosen to move to the next round called Venture Challenge, being held on June 19th. Out of the seven groups chosen, five are companies associated with Ramp Up Manitoba. This speaks to the power of support and community that Ramp Up Manitoba provides.

The Launch Pad event was, based on Chris Johnson’s accounts, best described as grueling. The 15 participating companies pitched their ideas throughout the weekend, only to have helpful investor mentors chew them up and spit them out. Luckily, the remainder of the weekend was spent building the pitches back up in a format that will impress the savviest investors around. Oh, the fun of business. But, it makes sense. You have to be the best. You have to present well to land investors. You have to make investors believe in your project. And it’s a tough game. So, the lessons learned over the course of the weekend helped participants to become a bit savvier. Did it help? Was it useful? Chris responded with a resounding, “Yes!” Again, just through his voice you could tell how impressed he was with the weekend and how excited he is about what he learned.

And now, it’s on to the big round. Venture Challenge. It’s an exciting opportunity with a lot at stake. They top three have a chance to win a good chunk of change ($15,000 for first place) and a trip to the Banff Venture Forum or the Canadian Financing Forum in Vancouver where they will shake hands and do some more wooing with an even bigger audience.

At the end of my conversation with Chris Johnson, I felt pumped up and excited. His energy is infectious. His passion is inspiring. He is one of the Launch Pad participants moving on to the Venture Challenge with his company Epicenter AV. The competition will be stiff, and if all start-up owners moving forward to the Venture Challenge have Chris’s determination and drive, the judges are going to have one tough job on their hands.

Startups also advancing to the June 19th Venture Challenge are Advolve Media run by Bryce North and Kris Luinenburg, Eyewear Evolution run by Sean Sylvestre, Joist run by Justin Kathan and Brendan Sedo, and ScheduleAide run by Dustin Refvik who are all technology startups that are part of the Ramp Up Manitoba community. Prairie Food Innovation, run by Michael Reimer, and VastCon, run by Auraag Shrivastav round out the competitors.


Chris Hearn writes and posts videos for Spectator Tribune. 

For more, follow us at @spectatortrib