Friday, February 24, 2012

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun!

Here at AF-Calgary, we're starting to hit a few milestones. For example, we hit our one-year anniversary on Twitter back on January 31, and we're approaching the one-year anniversary of awarding our very first $1,000 micro-grant in April. Last night's Thousand Dollar Thursday, our second of 2012, hit another milestone, which was a historic one for our chapter but definitely not unprecedented throughout the Awesome Foundation.

February's Thousand Dollar Thursday took place at AcceleratorYYC, an early stage start-up tech incubator space located in Inglewood run by entrepreneurs Victoria and Christian MacLean. AcceleratorYYC really boils down to entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs become successful, which made it an ideal venue for awesome people trying to help other awesome people realize their ideas.

In fact, some of the folks at AcceleratorYYC made Top4 and pitched their idea to us back in October 2011, and while they didn't win the prize, they were able to connect with Trevor Gair from The SoJo (another Top4 Finalist from that month) and they are currently collaborating together to try to realize Trevor's idea. Truly awesome.

This month's AF-Calgary Thousand Dollar Thursday was hosted by Emma Grace May, a new AF-Calgary Trustee who joined us at the end of last year. She now has the honour of being the emcee to an important event in the history of AF-Calgary, and it was with this backdrop (and a lot of big TV cameras) that the Top4 Finalists for February 2012 took the stage for 90 seconds each to try to convince the Trustees and audience why they felt they were deserving of the $1,000 prize.

Pitch 1: Timmy's Only Delivery Service

First up was Tim Barber representing Timmy's Only Delivery Service. It's a delivery service that provides downtown Calgary employees the opportunity to get any food delivered from any downtown restaurant to their office or business, and they recently celebrated one month in business.

The delivery service is unique in that all of its employees are homeless. In fact, Tim and his business partner Chris were once homeless themselves (they are now housed) and they started this business to try to give themselves and other homeless people in the city an opportunity to get themselves off the streets.

Tim wanted to use the $1,000 to help launch a campaign to help promote and raise awareness of the program, cover some of the logistical costs involved in running the program, upgrade equipment to ensure that delivered goods remain hot, as well as to help grow the business by recruiting more employees and getting more people involved. He hopes to increase staff by at least 10 people in the near future.

Pitch 2: Gumsphere 300

Up next was John Frosst and his partner Shawn Petsche with Gumsphere 300. Like Ed Kusmirski from the Calgary Science Network last month, John was a former Top4 Finalist back in September 2011 who didn't end up winning the $1,000 prize, but decided to re-submit his idea again to AF-Calgary for consideration.

Gumsphere 300 is a 15,000 km, month-long North America-wide traveling road show and rally with 27 shows, three Alberta bands, four artists, a film crew, one photojournalist, one mechanic, one chef and eight Ford Festivas. The tour aims to promote Alberta bands around North America who may not get any other exposure otherwise.

The Ford Festivas would be used as the primary mode of transportation for the road show. Launching this summer in July, the Gumsphere 300 folks are still short one Festiva to pull off the project, so what they'd like to do with the $1,000 is purchase one Ford Aspire and one Ford Escort GT and smoosh them together to create a hybrid Franken-monster-type Festiva to finish off their fleet.

Pitch 3: River Surfing Wave

Third was Neil Egsgard from the Alberta Surfing Association with River Surfing Wave, a project that aims to build a world-class river surfing wave in Kananaskis that emulates the Eisbach Surf Wave in Munich, Germany.

River Surfing is unique in that there are no ropes and no boats involved and relies solely on the organic flow of the river to propel the surfers. Most of the work in designing the wave has been done as they have the structural diagrams direct from Munich and conditional government support for the program. The plans and any knowledge that the Alberta Surfing Association gains from completing this project will be posted online so that any other municipalities around the world who are interested in undertaking similar endeavours can learn from what happens here in Alberta.

While the entire project will ultimately cost around $200,000 to complete, the $1,000 micro-grant would be used to help kickstart the fundraising and engineering efforts needed to build the surfing wave, as well as to help promote the project.

Pitch 4: Art for Strangers

Up last was Aoife Baldwin-Maher and her partner Hillary with Art for Strangers, a volunteer-run community initiative directed at putting the local art community in direct contact with the larger Calgary community through publicly distributing free works of art to the public.

They will be putting out an open call to local artists to donate works of art to be distributed for free to passersby around the downtown core via bicycle courier on a pre-determined date (tentatively May 24) in the hopes of strengthening the personal connections and awareness of Calgary's vibrant art community with the community at large. The types of art available for distribution would range from traditional pieces like paintings and sculptures to new media and digital art like animated gifs distributed on CD or DVD.

Art for Strangers is heavily inspired by the Papergirl Calgary project (which itself was inspired by a project out of Berlin), but Aoife wishes to create a version that's more open to all types of art and all types of people and make things really accessible to all.

The group would like to use the $1,000 to help pay for promotional materials and campaigns online (like procuring a website and social media presence) and in the real world (like poster campaigns) to reach as many people as possible, purchase equipment like bike baskets and rear racks to help distribute the art to the public, and to help pay for additional expenses in terms of covering the logistics of the endeavour like renting a venue to facilitate the art donations.

And the winner is...

The original idea of the Awesome Foundation was to gather 10 people who'd be willing to put out $100 each and that would form the basis of the $1,000 prize. While it is a minimal requirement for any city or group hoping to start up their own official AF chapter, these days it has evolved into more of a guiding principle rather than a hard-and-fast rule (for example, the recently-launched Awesome Foundation - Halifax chapter recruited a whopping 30 founding Trustees).

Almost one year ago, Calgary initially brought on 10+3 Trustees (i.e. 13) in the hopes of using the extra money every month to give out two or three extra prizes a year for special occasions or in months where we have trouble deciding a winner. Because the only funding our chapter has access to is the money that the Trustees can put in out of their own pockets each month, we didn't award any extra prizes last year because we had to cover capital expenses like T-Shirts to give to the Top4 Finalists, business cards to help promote the program, and similar expenses like that.

That said, we managed to pay off the bulk of our bills last year and have finally had an opportunity to let the rainy-day fund grow a bit.

Every month is a tough one to decide a winner because all of the ideas that are submitted to us are stellar, and this month was no different. Day-of deliberations took the longest they ever had for us, and we even had to call back the Trustees to the back room a second time for more discussion.

In the end, we had such a hard time deciding on a winner that we decided to empty the bank account and award our first multi-grant in AF-Calgary history.

So, with that in mind, AF-Calgary's February 2012 joint winners are Tim Barber with Timmy's Only Delivery Service and John Frosst with Gumsphere 300. Tim and John will each receive a full no-strings-attached $1,000 micro-grant to help realize their respective projects.

That said, because we weren't planning on giving away $2,000 last night, we only had one money bag to give away, but if you're reading this John, rest assured that your check is in the mail. ;-)

John's win here also shows that it's worthwhile to re-submit an idea for consideration. While we can only afford to give away one (or so) $1,000 micro-grant a month (because bottom line, we ain't rich), even if an idea doesn't win one of the monthly prizes, it still doesn't detract from the merit of the idea. We have a saying around here: If it's worthy to be submitted, it's worthy for consideration, which is why we developed the Top4 Pitch format when we started up back in April 2011 (as well as choose to write long blog posts such as this one summarizing as much as possible) rather than adopt the traditional Scholarship-like format that some of the other chapters still use, as we want to highlight as many Awesome Ideas that are feasible for our small group of people to the public and anyone out there willing to support the projects we can't afford to support ourselves.

Congratulations Tim, John and Shawn!

Kudos to everyone who submitted (or re-submitted!) an idea or project for consideration this month, and congratulations to all of our Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions for the month of February.

And a BIG Thank You to our Awesome Support Team for February: Sarah Pynoo, Tara Prudhomme and Matt Braithwaite with the Twitter work for the night and Lonnie Taylor with photography duties.

We're still accepting submissions for the AF-Calgary March 2012 prize, and the deadline for that one is Saturday, March 10 at 11:59 p.m. To apply, fill out this handy-dandy web form!

Thanks to everyone who took time out of their evening to join us at AcceleratorYYC, and stay tuned for the announcement of our March venue!

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