From friends to co-founders: Startup Weekend helps you go from idea to launch

Startup Weekend is the perfect place to see what it’s like to build, validate and launch a tech startup. We spoke with Dan Clay Ellis to find out how his experience at Startup Weekend helped him find a co-founder and launch his startup, Rallyteam.  

Tell us about your first experience at Startup Weekend?


My first experience at Startup Weekend was when I was living in Houston in 2013. I started the year with the mindset that I was going to work on a startup. I intended to go it alone, but ended up having discussions with an associate of mine named Huan Ho, who I knew through mutual friends. He was working in the corporate world and told me he was ready for a change. We participated in Startup Weekend together (just for fun) and ended up winning the pitch competition at the end of the weekend.

Did you work on your own idea at Startup Weekend?

Actually, no we didn’t! If your idea isn’t chosen, don’t be discouraged because that’s not really the point. Think of Startup Weekend as a simulation with the potential to take away learnings you can apply to your own business ambitions. It can also help you see your own idea in a new light! Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to help them with their idea really challenges you to think outside the box.

What was the most impactful outcome you experienced from participating in Startup Weekend? 

You quickly discover the importance of a strong team dynamic and learn about the roles that exist within a startup. Winning the competition was great and the team dynamic that we achieved at Startup Weekend laid the ground work for a partnership with my teammate Huan. Just a few months later, we became co-founders and launched Rallyteam in Silicon Valley.

How did Startup Weekend accelerate your journey from idea to launch?

Having those three days to just immerse yourself continuously in startup land and startup lore was transformational. It gives you the framework you need to launch a startup and pushes you to make things real. There is nothing like taking an idea and sharing it with the world after an entire weekend of concentrated effort. We all have ideas, but Startup Weekend is a forcing function that helps you validate, share and take your idea to some level of implementation. The biggest differentiating factor is those with ideas and those that make it real - it’s a big chasm to cross.

What did Startup Weekend teach you about building a team?

There’s no substitute for getting to know someone that you want to work with. You can talk to each other about ideas and philosophize about starting a business, but you don’t really know someone until you have the opportunity to work together. The constraints of Startup Weekend in terms of time and resources pushes everyone until their true qualities emerge. It quickly shows you how your teammates deal with pressure, giving you a clear indication of what they would be like to work with in the real world.

L to R: Huan Ho and Dan Clay Ellis, Co-founders of Rallyteam at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2014

L to R: Huan Ho and Dan Clay Ellis, Co-founders of Rallyteam at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2014

What aspect of Startup Weekend is most underrated? 

The experience of getting up in front of people and pitching. If you launch a business, you will have to do it over and over again and become a master at it. Whether you are attracting customers, employees or investors, being able to share and communicate your idea with the world is of paramount importance.

If you could tell the rest of the world one thing about Calgary, what would it be?

You would be hard pressed to find people as nice and as hard working as Calgarians. The environment is great and in many respects it’s one of the best kept secrets out there. The velocity of what is happening in Calgary, especially in the startup community, is really impressive and it only has one direction to go - and that’s up.

Why would you encourage a startup to launch and grow their company in Calgary, as opposed to Silicon Valley?

If you factor in the cost of living and running a business in the San Francisco bay area, it’s 2-4 times the cost of running a company in Calgary. There is an increasing demand for startups to be capital efficient, and Calgary as a location has a fantastic edge here. If you can lay down impressive traction, the capital will come to you.

The next Startup Weekend Calgary will be held Feb 8-10