Uberflip’s 2015 Tournament Bracket – #startupong2015 retrospect

Uberflip’s #startupong2015 event was the 2nd annual tournament run at SPiN’s ping pong bar Toronto. Tournament participation clocked at 200+ players, a 64-team single elimination tournament that ran in a skinny 2.5hr window. The overall general attendance grew from last year’s 300-ish basement capacity, as the crowd spilled ceremoniously onto the 2ndFloor event space that housed another 300+ of standing room.

Hats off to Uberflip for running the event again. Exhibiting their reach and influence with big-time sponsors, attendees were offered free admission with a drink ticket in tow… clearly more than generous. Teams paid $20 for tournament entry but all proceeds – $2500-ish – were donated to Sick Kids Hospital.

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Uberflip’s #startupong 2015

Over the last couple of years startup-themed tournaments have thrived with the growth of startup companies and culture. SPiN’s ping pong bar offers the perfect venue for a single elimination tournament and (unofficially) began in earnest back in November 2012. Wattpad, the original sponsor of the first startup tournament, ran a single elimination tournament bracket of 20+ single players and attracted heavyweight Toronto startups Wattpad, Freshbooks, and Kobo to name a few. Overall attendance clocked in at roughly 150 people – not bad for a private-run event.

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Singles bracket from Wattpad’s startup tournament back in 2012.

The growing and ever-changing landscape of Toronto’s startup scene continues to sustain a thirst for ping-pong dominance. There is more than enough desire for more and if anything, this is but a snippet of the aggregate interest level. Last year #startupong winners GataLabs for example, couldn’t participate to defend their title; meanwhile, 2012 heavy contenders Kobo and Wattpad were nowhere to be seen… not to mention the obvious absence of tech behemoths such as Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn and Google.

Just imagine a 128-person and team bracket that featured the best of Toronto’s startup/tech companies: One pong competition to rule them all.

For years we’ve dreamed of a full, 128-person company bracket tournament. Using some polka-roo imagination, it’s not far-fetched to envision one ridiculous, off-the-chart, mind-blowing experience. The hype would be insane: just imagine a 128-person and team bracket that featured the best of Toronto’s startup/tech companies. One pong competition to rule them all. Taking a step further, leveraging SPiN’s North American reach, this could be a multi-city affair. With SPiN’s expansion into San Francisco and Chicago in the very near future, not to mention their current presence in NYC and LA, the stakes and pieces to take this a step further may be closer than you think.

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Wattpad’s startup tourney in 2012 reserved SPiN Toronto’s backroom. The tournament has since grown from one room, to the full facility last year, to two floors this year.

The challenge of course is time and logistics. 2.5hrs is barely enough time to run a 64-person bracket and even then, a single-elimination tournament isn’t enough to sustain continued interest. There has to be more.

Why not take a page from soccer’s FA / Champions League series and run a year-long tourney with a grand finale of 16 teams and players at the end of the year?

The other hurdle foiling this grand vision is player time. This is the reality of today’s workforce – we ain’t 9-5 anymore and trying to ram a strict schedule down a startup’s throat is like trying to feed a crocodile without losing a finger.

So the real question is: Why run the tournament simultaneously? Why not take a page from soccer’s FA / Champions League series and run a year-long tourney with a grand finale of 16 teams and players at the end of the year? If executed correctly, this could circumvent the time issue.

This kind of format orchestration would require  qualification rounds, general rules to be governed and ruled, a venue (at least for the finale), and a basic system to help manage results and progress. Perhaps a ranking system at the company level to help manage seeding. And most of all… someone would need to organize the monster.

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Therein lies the rub. This needs a committee or council body at best. Someone to oversee it. Someone to set rules and regulations. Someone to market the messaging and spread the word.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a quick poll of the floor: tweet/share/like this post and let’s see where this goes. This might be just a dream but hey, worst case, startupong 2016 will run. That’s more than just good enough for me.

But imagine – even if it is that bloody male actor changing into a costume –  it could be so much damn more.