Technovation bigger and better in year two, says organizer

A team from Earl of March Secondary School walked away with the top prize this weekend when the second annual Technovation program wrapped up at Carleton University.

The 12-week program, designed to attract girls to potential careers in technology, attracted 100 students who were part of 22 teams from 13 schools across Ottawa.

The Earl of March team developed an app it called Connectsitter, which does exactly what it says: connects parents to babysitters.

“There are actually a couple of commercial businesses that do this, as they found out as they started down the portion of the course that takes you through competitive analysis,” organizer Jennifer Francis said. “They said, ‘Oh no! Competitors!’ I said, ‘That’s OK. You just have to be better than the competitors.’”

What existing competitors actually do is validate the idea, Ms. Francis said.

The Earl of March team decided to go with a transaction fee model instead of the more common membership fee model.

“It means they can get people that just need occasional babysitters,” Ms. Francis said, adding it’s a more economical option for that client base.

The second-place finishers from Elmwood School designed a rental platform app that allows users to “try before you buy,” Ms. Francis said.

The Earl of March team will definitely advance to the semi-finals later this spring, and Ms. Francis said because the Ottawa program doubled in size this year, there is a chance the Elmwood team will advance as well.

Their pitches will be judged virtually by a California-based panel. The top 10 pitches from around the world then advance to the finals in California.

Ms. Francis said she has heard from several of last year’s participants that the experience has convinced them to pursue computer science degrees, which is the program’s goal.

“So it happens,” she said.

Last year’s winning team from Merivale is continuing to work on its app, while last year’s finalist from Colonel By recently became the youngest team ever accepted into Carleton’s Lead to Win accelerator.

The Earl of March team has already applied and while it didn’t get the Lead to Win green light yet, it is continuing to work with the program to improve its business model.

Ms. Francis said the second Technovation cohort benefited from the experiences of the first one as many students from last year returned this year as mentors.

“The pitches were just a little more polished this year. They learn from each other,” she said. “I think that just upped the level a little bit, and I think as we continue this, it will just get better.”