Startup Bootcamp Called: Women Answered

Yukonstruct welcomed their newest Startup Bootcamp cohort with a live streamed event at NorthLight Innovation that combined both in-person introductions (at a safe distance apart) and zoom-in attendees. The event was the first opportunity for the participants in this fall’s cohort to meet one another and for the public to get their first glimpse of the businesses they may soon get to experience themselves.  

A third cohort driven by women with IMPACT

10 businesses will take part in our third Startup Bootcamp to date. Among the things that make this cohort stand out from previous Bootcamps is how well it reflects the realities of entrepreneurship in the Yukon. Of the 12 founders enrolled in the program, 11 are women. In the Yukon, 43.7% of businesses are owned by women, while nationwide that number shrinks to just 16%.  Another exciting direction this cohort has taken is the nature of the businesses being explored are almost all experiential businesses that will directly impact the community. Think experiential bakeries, an antique shop, a Play Emporium, just to name a few.  These are businesses that will bring happy outings and experiences to the community. 

Now more than ever, work-life balance is important. The Startup Bootcamp program puts the individual behind the business first.

Each program is designed to meet the needs of its current cohort, so while everyone walks away with the same knowledge, they are delivered in a manner that best suits the unique requirements of the participants. Using a combination of theory, practice, and guest speakers, the program imparts fundamental knowledge to building a successful business. Each participant will be equipped with a thorough understanding of topics such as:

  • Customer Discovery
  • Sales Fundamentals
  • Marketing
  • How to Develop your Team and Talent
  • Attracting and Securing Capital and Financing

Though there is much substantive ground covered in the program, what Yukonstruct is most proud of is the holistic approach they take in ushering these budding entrepreneurs into careers with a healthy, balanced mindset. By connecting the founders with professional coaches and mentors, the participants get the benefit of the acquired wisdom from experienced entrepreneurs and the emotional support required to handle the ups and downs inherent to starting your own business. Access to professional and life coaches and experienced mentors is one of the pillars of the Bootcamp. 

Yukonstruct’s in-house facilitator of the Startup Bootcamp, William Lechuga, shares his excitement about this approach, “I think something really special about the Bootcamp this fall is that we are offering coaching for this cohort, and that is a tremendous perk, but more importantly it speaks to our values to humanize businesses and to care for the person behind the business. I think Yukoners, and Canadians overall, will be happy to hear our program has embedded coaching to ensure the people who are changing the landscape of our communities with their businesses are being set up for professional and personal success.”

The Bootcamp started as a combination of in-person and online classes but has temporarily moved to an exclusively online program. This is the third Bootcamp to run since the program was introduced one year ago. A total of 16 companies have now graduated and the current cohort is slated to graduate this winter. With all the inspiring success stories already piling up, demand for the Bootcamp continues to grow. The success of this program can be seen in the growth in alumni businesses like Grandma Treesaw’s Yukon Bannock, Cold Acre Food Systems, YukonGrow, DiscoVelo, Two Mile Asset Management, and YZED projects.

The next iteration of the Startup Bootcamp will begin in March 2021. With a focus on STEM companies, you can expect to see a lot of buzz around the ideas being explored in that cohort. Registration will open late November 2020. 

A celebration of entrepreneurship with the first graduates of Launchspace Startup Bootcamp!

Launchspace’s recent Demo Night was a true celebration of local entrepreneurship! To conclude the 12 week Startup Bootcamp, 8 of the 10 graduating companies got the full experience of delivering a pitch to a room filled with funders and supporters. Local investors, Panache Ventures, Minister of Economic Development, Ranj Pillai, representatives from Yukon Government and CanNor, and many other guests came out to celebrate the startups which made the evening even more special.

The Bootcamp validated the businesses of the cohort over the past 12 weeks by providing them with hands on sessions covering theory and startup fundamentals. The companies walked away knowing how to successfully undertake key startup skills and knowledge, including how to execute a successful customer discovery, an investor-ready pitch deck, a tested elevator pitch, and relationships with mentors that will continue to provide support along their journey to launch.

Scott Keesey, co-founder of SpinReg, and a recent graduate from the Startup Bootcamp discusses his experience with the Bootcamp: ”We came to Launchspace with some progress and structure around our startup idea, but the program really helped us to identify our blind spots and gave us the tools to keep building with. We learned key aspects of structuring a high growth startup, we gained insights into financing, legal, marketing and sales considerations, and most importantly we’ve used what we’ve learned to validate our idea – allowing us to launch into product development confidently!  Our network has expanded considerably, with amazing new connections in all important directions – fellow cohort members, mentors, partners, and funders. The Launchspace program at Yukonstruct should be the first stop on your new business’ journey to new success in Yukon.”

Following the pitches, the companies enjoyed time to connect with funders, the local entrepreneurial community, and the growing ecosystem who came out to support and encourage these burgeoning local startups. Post pitch smiles and relief from having accomplished the most daunting task of the program, made for a truly engaging evening, highlighted by delicious catering by Mary Elle, and drinks from Yukon Brewing.

Each company continues to actively pursue their business.

John Glynn Morris, of Yukon Article Co, shared: “I wanted to become a social entrepreneur and build a business.  However, going into business was a totally foreign idea for me.  Where does one even start?  Thanks to Launchspace, I was able to work with a cohort of fellow business start-up founders all within a framework to help show me the road map.  Here are the buckets with questions that need consideration, ranging from sales, to marketing, to my ‘why do I want to do this’?  Both William and Erin were professional, knowledgeable and responsive Launchspace guides.  I highly recommend the program to any Yukoner looking to jump-in, but unclear where to start and how to proceed.  At the end, I feel well equipped to launch (and had fun along the way!)”

If you have an idea that you want to explore in more depth, or are interested in learning more about our Launchspace Startup Bootcamp, feel free to reach out to Launchspace Coordinator, Erin Scott at: [email protected] or check out our webpage here.

Applications for the next cohort will go live January 20th, 2020.


Launchspace Startup Bootcamp Celebration was . . . A great night!

Our Launchspace Kick-Off Celebration brought out the best of our community as we celebrated our first year in NorthLight and introduced the entrepreneurs who will be taking part in our first ever Launchspace Startup Bootcamp! The overwhelming enthusiasm brought in from the community made for a warm and welcoming evening, and the entrepreneurs’ passion added an element of excitement that mirrors the energy fueling Yukonstruct.

Catering by The Wandering Bison and cocktails shaken by Yukon Brewing created a perfect backdrop to an evening that saw many connections and shared passions permeate the party.

M.P. Larry Bagnell opened the event with a speech that was both warm and encouraging, and Minister of Economic Development, Hon. Ranj Pallai, followed up by expressing support and admiration to the entrepreneurs who are taking the leap into entrepreneurialism and diversifying our economy.

The participants in the Startup Bootcamp are a group of passionate entrepreneurs who are working to make positive change in the clean tech, software, hardware, tourism, and non-profit industries. We are delighted to join them on this part of their journey and can’t wait to see them grow!

Without further ado, here are the entrepreneurs bravely going where their passion is taking them: – Eirik Sharp

Mapping software to mitigate animal disturbances. Primarily targeted towards the  heli-skiing industry.  ​ services will help minimize the impact of helicopter operations on wildlife and reduce the cost of mitigations.

Pelly River Wilderness Lodge – Taylor Bradley

Taylor is transforming cabins and a lodge on the Pelly River into a tourist attraction.

Smart Solar Ventilation – Shane Wolffe

Black mould is a persistent issue within the North, Shane has created a prototype  that can be integrated into commercial and residential buildings to utilize solar energy as a cooling and heating system to provide proper ventilation within the units.

YZED Projects – Wendy Morrison

YZED projects is helping​ to grow organizational effectiveness and capacity within Yukon’s non-profit sector by creating a system that will streamline the processes between NGO, government, and stakeholders.

Joel Brennan Inc. – Joel Brennan

Joel has designed a prototype of a standup paddle that emulates the feel of using a paddle in the water, allowing for dryland training in all seasons.

SpinReg Technologies – Scott Keesey, Melissa Crosker, John Carson

​SpinReg Technologies is focused on the development of software designed to  accompany stationary bicycles. The software will promote self-regulation, creativity, learning  and healing for a wide end-user cross-section.

Northern Winds Innovation – Conrad Kirkwood

Conrad has created a prototype that allows travellers for easier sleeping  accommodations specifically targeted to travellers on planes.

Yukon Belt Company – John Glynn Morris

Using raw Yukon materials to make leather belts.

Duteau Bioresource Contracting – Michel Duteau

​DBC is developing a new and innovative service (pyrolysis) and product (biochar) for the Yukon farming community, and beyond.

ColdAcre Food Systems – Carl Burgess, Tarek Bos- Jabar

Developing systems that will help create sustainable food growth in the North.


The Launchspace Startup Bootcamp’s official start was Tuesday, September 3 and will finish up with a Demo Day in November.

If you are interested in taking part in our spring cohort, watch out for our next intake in Feb. 2020.

All photos by Mark Rutledge.

StartUp Canada Awards celebrate Yukon entrepeneurs!

This past Saturday, Yukonstruct hosted the annual Startup Canada Awards – North Region program. The event took place at NorthLight Innovation – home to Whitehorse’s key entrepreneur support organizations, Yukonstruct Society and Yukon College’s Cold Climate Innovation. Recently outfitted with art by local artists and full of inspiring energy, the venue was the perfect backdrop for the evening’s celebration.

Yukonstruct team with Honourable Larry Bagnell, MP for Yukon; Chief Richard Sidney; Minister of Economic Development, Ranj Pillai; Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur Award winner Charlie Fiddler


A candid roundtable discussion with award recipients, local and national corporate partners, and key leaders in the North, got the night off to a productive and thought-provoking start. Participants discussed the state of entrepreneurship in the North and how entrepreneurs can best be supported. Key takeaways included:

• Importance of training and support for entrepreneurs (e.g. financial literacy, etc.);
• Importance of developing strong partnerships in order to start and scale businesses;
• Need for government to back existing organizations that already support, entrepreneurs, rather than create new programs.

During the reception, attendees enjoyed the incredible beer and award-winning cocktails served up by Yukon Brewing, and gourmet catering by the Wandering Bison. Guests also had a chance to check out artisan goods produced by some of the creative entrepreneurs working out of Yukonstruct’s Makespace at the Makers’ Market, held in the NorthwesTel Event Space.

Reception and Makers’ Market in the NorthwesTel Event Space.

The Awards ceremony kicked off after the reception and was hosted by the dynamic Lauren Manekin Beille from Yukon College’s Cold Climate Innovation. A passionate community builder, Lauren set an engaging and charming tone. Government attendees included the Honourable Larry Bagnell, MP for Yukon; Mayor Dan Curtis; and the Honourable Angelique Bernard, Commissioner of Yukon.

Winners and presenters of this year’s StartUp Canada Awards – North Region

The winners of this year’s StartUp Canada awards were:

Ranj Pillai – Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award
däna Näye Ventures – Startup Canada Entrepreneur Support Award
UasaU Soap – Startup Canada Entrepreneur’s Choice Award
Make I.T. Solutions – Startup Canada Global Entrepreneurship Award
Proof – Startup Canada Innovation Award
Arctic Fresh – Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award
Antoinette’s Restaurant – Startup Canada Women Entrepreneur Award
Charlie Fiddler – Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur Award
Outpost 31 Media – Startup Canada Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Neil MacDonald, Jayden Soroka, David Hamelin

The ceremony included plenty of laughs, heartfelt speeches, and a few joyful tears by the amazing winners who continue to impact entrepreneurship in Canada.

Yukonstruct is honoured and humbled to celebrate the creative, hardworking, and inspiring entrepreneurs that make up this lively community.

Check out the pictures of the event here!

Philip Fitzgerald CFO, Northern Vision Development; Minister of Economic Development, Ranj Pillai

And a BIG thank you to our local sponsors for making these events possible!



How To Hack The Government (And Why That’s A Good Thing)

Hacker: A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular.

RFC1392, Internet Users’ Glossary

What a weekend!


Four years ago we ran our first hackathon, and now we’re proud to have completed the first hackathon in our new NorthLight Innovation space – HackYG. It really felt like a concentration of some of the brightest minds in Yukon, and we were even lucky enough to have some participants coming from as far away as Mexico City. The energy in the space was truly palpable.


HackYG’s focus was on finding technical solutions in order to build a better, more efficient Yukon government. On day one, each team leader had two minutes to pitch their idea and form a team with any interested participants. Once they found their teams, they began developing their projects! The clock ticked down, with only 48 hours until wrap up on Saturday evening.

On Friday, as the teams settled into the nitty-gritty details of their projects, fuelled by coffee and inspiration, the benefits of this model became immediately evident. Projects sailed ahead at breakneck speeds as everybody focused on getting prototypes working. Forward focused, without getting mired in the minutia coders often bury themselves in when it comes to building full projects. Things like consistent naming conventions or finding the perfect API simply aren’t important when you only have 48 hours to finish your project. “Everything was really about building actionable prototypes for the future. It was hands on. It was getting our hands dirty and building something,” said Ben Sanders after presenting the grand prize winning demo: a chat bot AI that can help you access government services, like booking a campsite.


“Five years ago I couldn’t have imagined building a startup here, but today I am, and we have a team doing some really amazing stuff in part because of the leadership the government is showing.” Sanders continues, ”I think one of the biggest challenges to innovation is not being able to experiment. And one of the biggest challenges to me as a business in working with government is that the traditional RFP process is slow. It’s cumbersome. I think it’s broken in a lot of ways. It’s outdated and it’s exciting to see that through this model and other policies coming from this government that there’s a real openness to finding new ways to be better.”

And not only did the Yukon government embrace the hacker ethos, but the hackers embraced the Government of Yukon into their community. At one table, I overheard somebody worried that she didn’t have much to offer because she wasn’t very technical, and the response from the rest of the team was overwhelmingly welcoming. “90% of the stuff we have to do isn’t technical,” they assured her.


“I’ve been to a bunch of hackathons where it’s just software people that are showing up, so it’s neat to see this,” said Wes George, leader of the project that won the People’s Choice Award: a tool to convert government PDF forms into a more accessible format. No more will we have to download a PDF, print it, sign it, scan it back into a digital form, only to upload it to the same place you downloaded it from!


But this goes deeper than the demos that came out of the hackathon. Everybody came away from the weekend with more exposure to different ways of working more efficiently. Wes continued: “I was taking for granted a bunch of tooling that we take to get things done in the tech world, like Slack and GitHub, and yet, having people in the public sector that work on my team, I’m actually equipping them with new tools … by the end of the weekend, people who’ve never used Slack before, they’ve got it and it’s in their tool belt.”


And on the tech side, teams learned the benefits of really, honestly scoping their projects down to something they can complete in the time available. “Sometimes when we’re in project-land we imagine that we’re just flush with resources because those deadlines aren’t pending, but that’s an illusion. What project ever has all the resources it needs to complete itself?”

In the end, there were over 60 participants presenting 10 demos, and the Government of Yukon took notice. “I personally saw application for five of them I’m just one guy,” said Richard Mostyn, Minister of Highways and Public Works. Deputy Premier Ranj Pillai added “All these people came into this space and started talking to one another, looked at the way government works, and you had all these different perspectives intermingling and changing. An understanding started to develop between vastly disparate groups that maybe had never really talked together, so civil servants would know a little bit more about developers, developers would know a little bit more about the needs of civil servants, and this whole cross-pollination will lead to better understandings and will help facilitate conversations.”


And when it was all over and everyone went home for some much deserved rest, we were left inspired by a weekend full of open communication, innovative experimentation, and the drive to do the seemingly impossible in only 48 hours. We would like to thank and congratulate all the participants who truly made this event greater than anything we could have imagined.


Keep on hacking!

Bird Box Building Workshop – Celebration of Swan 2018

Government of Yukon’s Wildlife Viewing Program teamed up with YuKonstruct to host a bird box building workshop. This was a part of their Celebration of Swan events, and there is more to come! Check out
YuKonstruct’s Amy and Thomas guided 24 groups through the assembly of a bird box. This was a family-friendly event and we had so much fun with everyone who came out. The participants took home their bird boxes to create bird habitat for Yukon’s small migratory bird population, including chickadees, bluebirds, and swallows.


Katie Aitkens from Yukon College gave our participants a talk about cavity-nesting birds that might use our bird boxes.
The participants learned about Yukon’s local populations of cavity nesting birds as well as how to pick a good spot to mount a bird box — creating an open flight path to and from the entry way and protecting the nesting birds from predators.


If you missed the workshop, YuKonstruct has created an instructable to help guide you through making your very own bird box:
There are also lots of great resources at the Cornell Lab.
Happy spring everyone!

Photo credit: Environment Yukon

Who knew felt faux taxidermy was so popular?

The second Drinking with Scissors proved to be very popular with fans of both crafts and beer, selling out in the first 15 minutes! So many enthusiastic makers showed up, the Social House ran out of chairs and people sat on the stage floor to get their craft on.

November’s projects were inspired by a cozy winter cabin in the woods, the quintessential Yukon experience. Participants chose from kits to make mini bear rug coasters or little wall-mounted felt deer and foxes.

The next Christmas edition of Drinking with Scissors is happening December 13th from 8pm to 11pm at the Social House (102 Wood Street). Be sure to show up early while kits and seats last!  Unfortunately the December Drinking with Scissors has been cancelled, but we have lots of fun things planned for January and February, so keep your eye on our events calendar.

Toy Hacking at the Makerspace

Ever wondered what’s inside your favourite toys?

On Thursday November 23, the makerspace hosted a fun maker night and special toy hacking edition of Repair Café. YuKonstruct members showed off their toy projects, we dissected a Furby (1990’s mechanical, furry, noisy, talking, creature thingy) and even found some time to fix some small appliances.

Michel brought along the sound generating machine he built for his daughter. Its buttons, dials and sensors are perfect for entertaining a toddler, but perhaps not all parents would be as willing as Michel to give their child an electronic noise machine…

Chris and Allison showed off their restored vintage toy record player with custom 3D printed records (you can read the instructions they followed on instructables). They also brought in their animatronic Krang (the villain from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) that they made from another Furby.

The highlight of the night though by far was the Furby dissection. We removed appendages, fur and various components and got a chance to explore the different mechanisms to try and find out exactly how it works (we still have much to learn).


Furby dissection underway at YuKonstruct! #repaircafe #yukonstruct #makerspace

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Halloween craft fun at Drinking with Scissors

What could be better than crafts and craft beer?

The first Drinking with Scissors event took place on October 25 at the Social House. With Halloween right around the corner, spooky craft kits were available for participants to assemble while enjoying drinks with friends.

There were kits for making cute mini pinatas (complete with candy and treats!) and kits to design a mini felt monster. Both were a big hit!

If you missed this month’s edition, fear not, Drinking with Scissors will be continuing as a monthly event.

YuKonstruct at YukomiCon 2017

Geeks, gamers and pop culture fans of all stripes filled the convention centre last weekend for the third YukomiCon. We were on hand with a special edition of our regular Repair Cafe: YuKonstruct’s Cosplay Repair Station

Celebrity guest PJ Phil getting “Phresh” with the sewing dummy

Located right across from the costume contest stage, our booth’s volunteers spent the weekend helping to solve last minute costume catastrophes and spreading the word about the tools and training available at the makerspace.

Between patching storm trooper armour, rewiring Doctor Strange’s magical accessories, sewing Rocket Raccoon’s ears, and many other fixes, the tools at our booth were busy on Friday and Saturday!

It was great to meet so many makers and introduce them to how the makerspace can make their geeky dreams come true. Whether it’s 3D printing miniatures, laser cutting LARP gear, building the ultimate gaming table or designing your own battle bot, YuKonstruct has the tools and training you need!

Thank you to our amazing booth volunteers, Tayley, Julie, Amy, Ksenia, Allison, and Andrew, to Ksenia and Dianna for making the booth decorations, and to Rowan, Chris and Josh for helping with set up and tear down!


Adult costume contest winners