Bitmaker Alumni Win Over $10,000 in Prizes at Startup Weekend Library Edition

Last weekend we had a number of our alumni participate in Startup Weekend Library Edition at Mozilla Toronto. For those who don’t know, Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014. The event was all about solving issues facing libraries around the world. The event brought together library professionals, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs to create solutions to the problems libraries are facing today.

Luckily there were a number of Bitmaker alumni in attendance to not only dream up great solutions, but equipped with the the technical ability to implement their ideas. It’s no surprise that three of the top four teams were equipped with Bitmaker Labs alumni – The Hub, Raisin Readers and BrookList.

First Place: The Hub

Bitmaker Alumni: Barbara Shain

The Hub connects library patrons to their communities, truly positioning libraries as a community hub. By including community organizations within library catalogues, The Hub enables patrons to search for organizations and groups in their community in the same way that they search for books and periodicals.

Of the 55 librarians that The Hub surveyed, 51 said they’d love to see community resources listed in their library. 22 of 25 patrons felt similarly. By combining a well-designed business model, strong focus on customer validation, and focus on positioning libraries at the centre of their communities, The Hub earned the first prize: over $8000 worth of prizes, including an iPad Air, Kobo eReader, and intensive advisory support from the MaRS Discovery District EdTech Advisors.

Third Place: Raisin Readers

Bitmaker Alumni: David Yip, Taras Petryk

Raisin Readers is promoting early literacy by sharing the great early literacy resources that libraries have online, and building a web app that supports parents reading to their children. Through curated book lists, achievement badges, and maintaining a history of what books they’ve read, Raisin Readers makes it easier for parents to find books to read with their children, and encourages them to keep reading. The web app connects directly into the library catalogue, letting parents know about story times, events their children might be interested in, and availability of books in the catalogue.

The Raisin Readers Team won approximately $2000 worth of prizes, including a Cobalt Counsel Incorporation Kit, 6-month Audible subscriptions, and a UX advisory workshop from TailoredUX.

Organizer’s Choice Award: BrookList

Bitmaker Alumni: Michael Atlin

BrookList, the Organizer’s Choice winner, truly embodied the spirit of startup weekend. They were focused on the observation that when they place holds on books, all of the books tend to become available at the same time, often after a long wait, and they’re unable to read all of them before they’re due back. The team had some early setbacks, but their pitch demonstrated a deep understanding of the problem, drawing on ample established research as well as a community survey to convince everyone that this was an issue worth addressing. Going forward, they hope to build a simulated library environment so that they can model different solutions to the problem.

BrookList’s team won a 6-month Lynda.com subscription, Ladies Learning Code workshop coupons, and Indigo gift cards.

Natalie Jubb and Kyle Bachan, two other Bitmaker alumni participated in the event on teams Maker Library and Sticky Bookmarks, respectively.

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