5 ways starving startups can get a free ticket to Startupfest


Today is the deadline to apply to Pitch Onstage at this summer’s Startupfest. But if startups aren’t selected as one of the 12 golden teams, it could be financially challenging for their startup to get into Startupfest.

Startupfest charges a set fee of $500 for a startup’s ticket, and given the depth of speakers and the overall experience, one could argue it’s a reasonable ask. However, not all startups can afford to pay the $500.

But don’t go just yet. There are several ways that a “starving startup” can gain access into the fest. We sat down with the Startupfest team for coffee and got all the details.

Here’s five ways teams can take in all the glory while on a tight budget.

starving startup

1. The Patron Ticket

First and most importantly, those interested should apply to be a starving startup here.

“We’re here to support the community and we do everything we can through our Starving Startup program, and that’s really the intent.”

Long a staple of Startupfest, the Patron Ticket is for more successful companies, organizations or individuals, priced at $1,000 plus taxes. For every Patron Ticket bought, Startupfest grants a starving startup a free ticket.

The patron can elect to choose who gets the free ticket or Startupfest can choose from the hundreds of starving startup applications it gets. Startupfest founder Phil Telio said often law firms or accounting firms will buy several Patron tickets, bringing clients, or simply letting Startupfest choose a starving startup.

There is a $25 “commitment fee” for a starving startup if they are selected, likely as a way for Startupfest to avoid no-shows.

2. The Pay it Forward Program

“We like to pay it forward, and we believe in you to do the same,” said Telio.

Starving Startups often go on to become Patrons, according to Startupfest. If they have the foresight to predict that their startup can be a Patron next year, they can attend the fest this year for just the $25 commitment fee. However, they have to promise to buy a Patron ticket ($1,000) by May. 17 the following year.

“We ask you to make us a promise and we’ll trust in the good will of people that if they’ve been given something, then in the future they’ll pay it forward and give it to someone else,” Telio told MTLinTECH.

3. The Million Dollar Program

Telio said that Startupfest believes in startups so much that they’re willing to give them a $1 million valuation right now. Startupfest will give a free ticket and take 0.05 per cent equity of a startup ($500) next time it opens its cap table.

While Telio had a clever way of phrasing it, it’s doubtless a great way for Startupfest to turn itself into a mini-investor. It would be difficult to argue that both sides aren’t getting something nice out of this deal. The startup pays nothing for a ticket to a big event that costs a lot of money to produce and Startupfest gets a tiny piece of a seed-stage venture that may or may not become successful down the road.

“It’s our way of saying we believe in the startups at Startupfest,” said Telio.

4. Volunteer at Startupfest

starving startup

For any individual that can volunteer ten hours of their time over the course of Startupfest, they’ll receive a free ticket.

“We’re always looking for people who are dynamic, happy and eager to serve,” said Telio, “If that’s the case, we’re happy to bring a volunteer on board.”

Every year, Startupfest runs off of the help of about 80 volunteers. “We’re a smaller organization and so we live off of our volunteers,” added Telio.

5. Student tickets

Students can take advantage of several cost-cutting measures designed by Startupfest. A regular student ticket costs $200 plus taxes.

However, some Montreal-based universities like École de technologie supérieure (ETS) has purchased a large amount tickets and are making them available to their students.

“There are lots of local groups who subsidize tickets,” said Telio. “If you’re a Montrealer, there are several organizations supporting Startupfest that people should be able to find tickets at a decent price.”

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