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This article was published 27/9/2016 (1723 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
No one has ever accused Winnipeg’s buzzy startup community of being stodgy — and to prove it, they’re throwing a street party.
Adelaide Street between McDermot and Bannatyne avenues will be closed to traffic all day today for the North Forge Block Party on Innovation Alley.
The startup ecosystem in the west Exchange District consolidated as North Forge earlier in the year. Tech startups now occupy space in a handful of buildings.
A few dozen of the best and brightest of the group will set up booths out on the street. There will be a virtual-reality tent where folks can experience some VR applications local companies are working on, a 3D printing booth where you might even be able to scan and print yourself and a rapid-fire pitch competition.
"It will be like an open house of innovation," said Chris Johnson, one of the original directors of StartUp Winnipeg, which along with AssentWorks, the largest fabrication lab of its kind in the country and the Eureka Project, the original Smartpark business incubator, merged to form North Forge earlier this year.
"We have been doing so much, and we realized no one in the city ever gets a chance to see all of what it is going on."
In addition to traditional street party fixtures such as food trucks and a beer tent, the block party will include a mentors tent where would-be entrepreneurs will be able to get free advice from surprisingly well-heeled business people who’ve been there and done that.
Federal and provincial funders have been big supporters of the various organizations that have now teamed up as North Forge. Some of that love is undoubtedly because they initially got the ball rolling without public-sector support.
Now, even the likes of Bell MTS are reaching out to the disrupting elements of the tech start-up crowd.
Bell MTS will be making what’s being referred to as a "transformative" announcement at the event. It is expected to have something to do with an innovative Wi-Fi network that would further enhance the co-operative elements of the startup ecosystem at Innovation Alley.
"It is really all about the whole community as much as it is about North Forge," said Johnson. "We have a whole united front. We all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to build the tapestry that is the new economy in Winnipeg."
Companies that will show off their wares include the likes of Johnson’s own PermissionClick (online school permission forms and more), Declan McDonald’s Pricerazzi (a digital platform to generate cash back on retailers’ guaranteed lowest prices), Tom Tessier’s Solar Remote Data Delivery Inc. (extreme environment communications devices used by search-and-rescue organizations around the world) and Bryce North and Dustin Refvic’s TrapTap (it’s not a radar warning it’s a speed-trap indicator).
The collective buzz Winnipeg startups have produced has seeped outside Manitoba’s borders.
Innovation Alley has already been the subject of a 45-minute documentary film and the maker space, AssentWorks, located on the third floor of an old warehouse building on William Avenue across from Red River College’s Princess Street campus, was one of the few stops during Prince Charles’s 2014 visit to Winnipeg.
It hasn’t been confirmed, but there’s a rumour Daily Planet, Discovery Channel’s popular science program, will be at the street party along with representatives from 500 Startups, the successful Silicon Valley accelerator that has helped 1,500 companies in 50 countries.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.