Geek Speak: Maura Rodgers, Strutta and Launch Party Vancouver
Maura Rodgers is an enthusiastic promoter of Vancouver’s technology sector. The 35-year-old entrepreneur is one of the founders of Launch Party Vancouver, a series of mixers organized by the Bootup Labs Entrepreneurial Society that showcases local Internet start-ups. She’s also the cofounder and chief executive officer of Strutta, a company that helps customers run on-line competitions.
Born outside Boston, Rodgers started her first company, a marketing consulting firm, at the age of 24. In 1998, she founded Spinway in Palo Alto, California. Spinway partnered with large offline companies to offer free cobranded Internet access to their customers and became the fastest-growing Internet service provider in history.
Rodgers moved to B.C. eight years ago and now lives in West Vancouver. She founded Strutta with Danny Robinson in 2007. The company launched its Web site in April 2008 and its on-line contest platform in December.
On Tuesday (June 2), Launch Party Vancouver 7 will feature seven start-ups: Foodista, LetsGoForDinner.com, MakeGood, Muutu, Protagonize, Tynt, and Wantsa. The mixer will be preceded by Launch Party’s first Co-Founder Speed Dating Night.
In a nutshell, what is the Strutta platform?
It’s a platform that allows anyone, like I said, from bloggers to the mom-and-pop shop to a Fortune 500 company, to come and create fully branded, interactive on-line contests. We have a couple different products. One product is our on-line contest builder, which basically allows you to walk through five different steps and build a branded contest site to engage consumers—user-generated contest sites to engage consumers.
What should people attending Launch Party Vancouver 7 expect to see?
For one, we’re featuring seven early-stage start-ups. Basically, Launch Party is all about—our tag line really is—launching start-ups from Vancouver to the world. So, what we’re doing this time is we have five local start-ups from Vancouver and two out-of-town start-ups—one from Calgary, a company called Tynt; and another from Seattle that’s coming up, called Foodista. One of the other big things about Launch Party is that we’re trying to connect Launch Party with other tech centres and people that are doing cool things outside of Vancouver.
So, they’re going to see some great start-ups—very early stage—demoing. They’re also going to be able to meet with other people in the community that are either starting companies or are investors or very involved in the social-media and tech scenes in Vancouver. So, it’s a very exciting, fun event. There’s no presentations. It’s always well attended. There’s usually about 350 to 400 people that attend each event, and it’s a very fun technology networking event.
How does Launch Party Vancouver choose the start-ups it features at each event?
So, we have a panel that was put together, and the panel differs every time. I’m not one of the people that choose the companies to demo. But a couple of the members are Boris Mann, Danny Robinson, and Dimitri Sirota, and then we have a couple of other judges that vary from time to time. They come on and look at all the start-ups and see which ones they think are doing—you know, based on their expertise and experience—they think are really on to something cool and innovative. They select them. They sort of all rate and vote all the companies, and then together they select the six to eight start-ups to demo at each event.
What will happen at Co-Founder Speed Dating Night?
So, this is the first time that we’ve done this. One of the things that the [Bootup Labs] Entrepreneurial Society and Bootup [Labs] is finding [is] that a lot of founders that are starting companies are looking for a partner to do that with. So, we’d thought it’d be interesting to do this event. It’ll be the first one, so we’ll see how it goes.
But we’re setting it up to be like a speed-dating event, where you actually—sort of a matchmaking event—you come and there’s going to be tables set up and you’re going to sit down and there’s going to be another person across from you and you’re going to start asking questions. You have about five minutes to ask questions. There’ll be a timer to let you know when to switch and move on to the next person. We’re talking about putting—to break the ice—we might put some questions in a fishbowl in front of you that you can sort of pick up if you need something to sort of break the ice and get you going, warm you up. Hopefully, you’ll meet some people that could potentially be good matches for you to start a company with or bring on to your existing company.
What’s one local start-up that you think is headed for the big time?
Oh, aside from Strutta? I think there’s a couple of cool companies that are actually going to be at this Launch Party. I think Muutu is a pretty interesting company. They’re sort of aggregating classified ads, and I’m not even doing it justice about what they do....
There’s another company that’s actually in the Bootup Labs offices called LetsGoForDinner. They’re sort of like—are you familiar with the charity coupon books that you pay a certain amount, you get it? So, they’re sort of taking that concept and putting it on-line into a card. Basically, you pay, you know, $25, and you get $25 to spend at the different things. But they’re sort of taking that on-line, and I think that’s a really cool concept.
What else is there? There’s a number of different companies in the office that I’m working with at Bootup that are really on the verge of greatest. But those two come to mind.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.