Startup Weekends are Wastelands

I’ve just finished my first Startup Weekend. And let me tell you, it was a wasteland. I’ll explain why in a second, but before that, here’s why I went.

As co-founders of Ejenio, Philippe and I often toss around ideas of other potential startup ideas as a game. We thought one of our ideas was worth considering, but since all our combined energy is focused on making Ejenio better and stronger, we decided to test it during Startup Weekend Montreal, which would be happening in a couple of weeks.

For those who don’t know much about these events, it’s a 54 hour race towards building a startup. The first evening, anyone who wants to has 60 seconds to pitch an idea. Then all participants judge and the most popular teams enter the competition. The race starts at this moment. Teams can recruit “free agent” developers, designers, marketing and business profiles and they have the rest of the weekend to prepare a 5 minute presentation of their business if front of the crowd and a panel of judges coming from the local startup and VC community.

I had a great time, and so did most of the other competitors, from what I saw and heard. Our team, CrowdMedia, was even rewarded with the first spot by the panel of judges. Nonetheless, my overall conclusion is that this kind of event is indeed a wasteland, but in a good way.

Startup weekends are wastelands for ideas.
Startup weekends are the places where ideas go to flourish, but instead are bashed, torn apart , burned alive and kicked in the gut by… well… reality.

We are raised to believe ideas are the most important thing in the world. Our parents, our teachers, our educators, and especially Hollywood constantly remind us that we are free to think and dream, and these dreams can become reality and change the world. I believe this is a good thing. We need to have children dreaming about making society a better place. But it wouldn’t be bad if somewhere in the process, we would have a mandatory course entitled “Dreams don’t BECOME reality”. This course would look a lot like a Startup Weekend.

Let’s do the math quickly. Around 50 ideas were pitched at the beginning of the weekend. Some were horrible, but most were really interesting. There were 13 Startup Weekends around the globe happening at the same time. Let’s assume Startup Weekends take some time off during summertime and holidays. That leaves 40 weekends. Which means 26 000 ideas will be pitched at the beginning of official Startup Weekends in 2013. That doesn’t even include all the other types of similar organisations or all the people trying to put their secret, supposedly amazing and unique idea, on the market.

That’s why Startup Weekends are so important. They show young adults that their idea is not a snowflake. It is not unique and poetic. It is, instead, a crude and pretty ugly rock which might or might not contain precious material. These 54 hours became a cemetary of ideas. Having to validate the market (would people really use it), build a working prototype, find meaningful numbers and putting in place a projection of sales based on our team’s capacity to talk to potential clients transformed our idea into a Phoenix. We made it fall from the sky, catch ablaze and had either the choice to go home and say it wasn’t good after all, or find ways it could work by digging deeper into it, around it, and sometimes in completely other places. If you accept the fact that your idea is worth nothing in itself, but is only as good as what your team can make of it in the real world, it becomes kind of fun to watch it explode and leave shrapnels all over the place.

Out of the 50 ideas pitched in Montreal, 19 were presented to the jury. The first team presented how their idea died the first morning, a couple of hours after they filled a patent request for it. It made a good story. But their weekend shouldn’t have stopped there. Since the principle of Startup Weekend is not to bring YOUR idea towards the finish line, but to take an idea, any idea for that matter, to hurl it against a brick wall, pick up the pieces, and repeat until you have a valid business model molded for exponential growth, having your idea vanish should never be the end of it. On the contrary, in should be exciting because you get to test a whole new concept, with new parameters, and you’ll get even more learning out of it.

After the organizers announced we got first place, a lot of people congratulated me for my idea. I think what they really meant is : congratulations to the whole team for taking this nothingness that is an idea and turning it into a working demo, a market validation, a sound projection of revenues based on our capacity to sign clients, a good understanding of the competition and the hurdles in front of us, and a solid 5 minute pitch that summarized it all.

CrowdMedia as an idea was brutally murdered this weekend. But I think we have shown that as a team, we can produce a meaningful product if we keep pushing in the right direction. And that’s why Startup Weekends and similar events should be mandatory for anyone who is mothering an idea. We don’t raise children just by dreaming they will become decent, educated and happy, and hiding them until they are ready for the real world. We work to raise the odds of all this happening by putting them in different types of situations. That’s what a Startup Weekend is about.

4 Twitter lessons from the Super Bowl ads

Super Bowl ads create as much expectation as the game itself. This year was no exception, as the brands competed on sexiness, amusement, emotion and amazement.

Social media, and especially Twitter, are becoming the place where people react instantaneously to what they see on the main screen. It’s just logical that more and more brands are trying to push their own hashtags within their ads to create large conversations of their own. But people mostly just tweet about the name of the product or the company, since it’s so much easier to write “The Audi ad was cool!” than “That Budweiser horse is so cute #Clydesdales”. In a case like this, adding the hashtag at the end of the sentence is useful for the advertiser, not for the Twitter user.

We used Ejenio to analyze what people said about some of these ads, how far their ripples went and if they had enough impact to make watchers of the game send a tweet or two about these products.

Here are the 4 lessons I learned from this monitoring. Considering a 30 second spot cost advertisers $3.75 million, each of these lessons would have a street value of $938k.


Lesson 1 :Germans and Koreans speak the loudest (when it comes to cars).

Volkswagen has developed a habit of making great commercials for the Super Bowl. This year, their Jamaican happiness has spread on Twitter, where they got the most mentions of any car company, just in front of Audi and its teenage courage. Mercedes-Benz completed the German podium, being number 3 in the carmaker category. The 3 of them combined had more than 100 million impressions on Twitter.

Piers Morgan from CNN was responsible by himself for 3,5 million impressions of VW in relation to the Beetle’s Super Bowl ad. Although his message wasn’t that positive, it wasn’t a jab at the brand, just a statement that the ad wouldn’t make him buy this car (supposing it’s his type of car to begin with).

Funny fact, Chevrolet had one of the most retweeted messages when they spoke directly to Toyota. They were (by inadvertance?) the most important Toyota influencer, creating 4% of all the noise linked to the Japanese brand’s commercial.

Lesson 2 : No lights. No problem. How Oreo climbed during the blackout.

Oreo had a great impact with their library commercial that aired during the first quarter of the game. In the “munchies and soft drinks” category, it came in second only to Doritos. The real spark of genius for the famous cookie came during the blackout. While all the brands were taking a break, Oreo sent their now famous tweet “Power out? No problem”.

This tweet provoked a sudden and unexpected spike in Oreo mentions on Twitter, as can be seen by the yellow line’s second climb. Notice how all the other brands stay low during the same period.

Lesson 3 : It’s not easy being new. How “new” brands were almost ignored.

Some lesser-known brands came into play this year. The three that come to mind are Gildan (clothing), Soda Stream (soft drinks) and Wonderful Pistachios (munchies). It was tough for them to compete with the veterans. Still, Soda Stream managed to get people to tweet about them.

Although getting people to talk about an ad is normally the objective on Twitter, it isn’t when people are telling others to boycott your product. The most retweeted messages about Soda Stream are definitely not what they had in mind when they decided to go global during the Super Bowl.

For their part, Wonderful Pistachios and Gildan were seldom discussed. Although the pistachio brand hired the singer Psy in a ‘psy’chedelic Gangnam Style remake, the ad didn’t rise to its potential on Twitter. A good part of the 2.3 million impressions came from large Twitter accounts focused on all things Korean.

Finally, Gildan had a tougher time, going below 500 messages and 1 millions impressions. At the published rate of $3,75 millions for the ad, the cost per impression would hover near 5$. Of course, the ad was created for tv, not for Twitter. It could nonetheless be an indication of the impact it had on people. As one person said, we now know that Gildan is a huge company able to pay Super Bowl dollars for its marketing.

Lesson 4 : Scoring first gives a definite advantage.

Football fans know the importance of being the first to put points on the board. The Baltimore Ravens did it during the Super Bowl, and so did a couple of brands by being showcased during the first quarter. As is easily seen in this graph, the main ads during the first part of the game ranked higher in terms of brand mention than the ones occurring near the end. The volumes are lower for all the second half commercials. It shows once again that it pays to be among the first if you want people to notice you.

When should we let people vote for Super Bowl MVP?

Super Bowl XLVII (47 for those of us who don’t enjoy counting in letters) has been over for a couple of minutes and I can’t help but think the MVP announced on CBS wasn’t the one people would have given it to.

In fact, although Joe Flacco had a terrific game leading the Baltimore Ravens to victory, he was second to his teammate Jacoby Jones in popular preference on Twitter for game MVP.

Jones, a wide receiver, received more mentions for MVP by people tweeting, right until the moment CBS announced Flacco as the official MVP.

When the lights of the Stadium went out at 8:39pm Eastern time, Jones was already ahead of Flacco as MVP material.

In the first minutes of the 4th quarter, at 10pm Eastern, Jones was leading Flacco by approximately 3000 tweets. Ray Lewis and Vernon Davis were respectively third and fourth, far behind, and 49ers quarterback Kaepernick was 5th, with less than 500 mentions for MVP.

And at the end of the game, at 10:46pm, when Jim Harbaugh and his team realized there would be no holding call and it was over, Jacoby Jones had 16 800 votes while his quarterback had 14 400 mentions in total.

Why, then, did Flacco get the MVP?

The answer might lie in the numbers of the 4th quarter. From 9:54pm to 10:46pm, Flacco amassed more mentions than Jones. The QB surpassed his teammate by 456 mentions (2886 to 2430).

And when did CBS ask people to vote for their MVP by texting? The fourth quarter, obviously.

What does this all mean? It could be that people have a really short attention span and, in a 3 hours plus sports event (not considering the blackout), they tend to focus on the most recent sequence of actions. If the votes had been sent throughout the game instead of the last minutes only, I believe Jacoby Jones would have been MVP considering the twitter numbers and the huge plays he made.

15 minutes after the end of the game, Joe cool was by far the main winner for MVP in the popular vote, by more than 7 000 mentions, mainly because people were echoing the choice made in New Orleans. With Flacco on the verge of a new deal, we can say the timing of the official MVP vote was as good as his aim on the field.


(15 minutes after the game).


Nouveau contrat de Subban : les réactions sur Twittter

Maintenant que P.K. Subban a signé son nouveau contrat avec les Canadiens, voyons les implications de cette annonce sur Twitter en 6 points.

1- Subban à lui seul est aussi populaire que les Canadiens.

Depuis l’annonce de sa signature par le compte Twitter officiel des Canadiens pour un montant de $5,75 millions échelonné sur 2 ans, le numéro 76 a récolté à peu près autant de tweets que son équipe. Comme on peut le voir, un peu plus de 15 000 tweets ont parlé de Subban, et autant des Canadiens, sur une période de 19 heures, soit une moyenne de près de 820 à 825 tweets à l’heure dans les 2 cas.

2- La majorité des commentaires sont apparus dans l’heure suivant l’annonce du nouveau contrat de Subban.

Les Canadiens ont annoncé à 19h17 qu’ils avaient conclu une entente avec P.K. Quelques secondes plus tard, le fil de nouvelles s’est emballé, passant d’environ 100 messages/heure à plus de 7500 tweets en une heure.

Dès 22h, le volume s’est rétabli autour de 400 messages à l’heure, et il est resté dans la fourchette des 200-400 tweets à l’heure depuis ce temps. Une recrudescence importante est toutefois à prévoir pour le match de ce soir contre les Jets de Winnipeg.

3- Les gens parlaient davantage d’échanger Subban que de le signer avant le nouveau contrat.

Au cours des 5 jours précédant le nouveau contrat de Subban, les messages parlant d’échanger Subban étaient 2 fois plus nombreux que ceux parlant de le signer.

En 5 jours, la moyenne de messages mentionnant un échange était de 442 par jour, alors que ceux se concentrant sur la signature du défenseur furent bien moindres, à 221.

4- Les individus ont plus d’impact que les grands médias pour diffuser la signature de Subban.

Mis à part le compte Twitter des Canadiens, les principaux responsables de la prolifération de la nouvelle sur Twitter sont P.K. Subban, Renaud Lavoie de RDS, Bob McKenzie de TSN et Dave Stubbs de The Gazette.

À lui seul, depuis l’annonce du contrat, le journaliste Renaud Lavoie a généré 4 fois plus de mentions des Canadiens que la LNH, qui a seulement été mentionnée 313 fois.

De plus, le tweet de @RenLavoieRDS annonçant la signature a été retweeté 700 fois (en français et anglais), ce qui le place derrière le tweet officiel des Canadiens, mais devant tous les autres, dont la ligue nationale et les principaux médias sportifs du Québec et du reste de l’Amérique du Nord.


5- Le nouveau compte Twitter du faux Tomas Plekanec a déjà plus de 6 000 abonnés en moins de 12 heures.

Il est très difficile de différencier le vrai du faux sur Twitter. Surtout quand le faux agit comme on s’attendrait de l’authentique. Un nouveau compte Twitter @Plek14, qui se présente comme le compte officiel de Tomas Plekanec, a fait son apparition hier soir un peu avant minuit. Ses 6 tweets sont des encouragements à l’équipe et aux joueurs, en particulier à Subban, Galchenyuk, Gallagher et Price.

Plusieurs journalistes se sont fait prendre au jeu, dont l’Antichambre de RDS, TVA Sports et Dave Stubbs, de The Gazette. Ce dernier a diffusé la supercherie après avoir reçu un texto du supposément vrai numéro 14.

6- L’écureuil d’André Roy représentant Marc Bergevin a eu son moment de gloire.

Parmi les liens les plus partagés, l’image envoyée par André Roy, l’ancien coéquipier de Bergevin à Tampa Bay, a pris le 7e rang avec 79 partages, soit un peu plus que l’article de TVA Sports et celui de ESPN.

Le tweet envoyé par Roy montre les testicules d’un écureuil debout tout en vantant celles du directeur général des Canadiens, qui a tenu tête à Subban durant les négociations.


Just another social media monitoring blog?

Is this yet another typical social media monitoring blog? I hope not.

Frankly, what would be the point? There are amazing resources out there and just repeating what these pros are saying would be pretty useless. When we started building our social media monitoring platform a couple of months ago, we had 2 principles :

1- It has to offer something the other big players are not concerned about.

2- It has to make our (potential) clients’ daily life brighter and easier.

A few months later, I can positively say we were wrong. Our only concern should have been number 2. Because if we do #2 well, we’ll end up doing #1 whether it’s planned or not.

Likewise, the purpose of this blog is first and foremost to make people’s day better by offering insight on what social media monitoring can help discover. I’ll be covering trends, sometimes regarding a topic, or at other times geographical.

My favorite insight blog used to be OKCupid’s amazing OKTrends, who was explaining why guys should try to date older women and what the best dating profile picture should be like. I don’t have the same type of material to work with, but I’ll try to be entertaining and surprising nonetheless.

In this regard, our first look inside social media monitoring will be directly inspired by OKTrends. Can’t tell more for the moment…

Oh yeah, one more thing! I need ideas for future posts. Please leave a comment regarding what you’d like us to monitor on Twitter so I can share the results with you.



ps: If you’d like to monitor social media AND make your day better at the same time, enter your email on our main page (