A Weekend in Waterloo

codefestA couple of weekends ago Cloud-A headed to Waterloo, Canada’s tech mecca, to sponsor and judge the city’s first ever open data hackathon: the Waterloo Codefest. Waterloo is a city where we have several users and hanging out in Waterloo for the weekend gave us the opportunity to meet with some of these existing users, gain feedback and better understand exactly what our users are looking for in a cloud provider.

The Hackathon

Waterloo Codefest was a 36 hour hackathon that was held at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a beautiful venue that provided the amenities and comfort to dozens of programmers, designers and business minded participants.

I had the opportunity to judge the event and spent the weekend with the participants, watching them take their ideas and turn them into fully functional applications that make use of Waterloo’s open data sets.

Nearly 20 applications were presented, where participants had 5 minutes to present and demo their concept to satisfy the criteria that was set out for the event:

  • Technicality
  • Originality
  • How unique and innovative is the demo?
  • Practicality
  • How useful is this demo based on the problem they are trying to solve? Issues/problems that were identified by the public on Open City Hall.
  • Aesthetics
  • How good is the visual design and interaction experience?
  • Wow Factor
  • Are you blown away by what you see?

In the end, Timber, an application that plotted the location free within Waterloo on a map and allowing users to become more connected with nature, report damaged trees to the municipality and schedule “Treetups” – public meetups at a tree of your choice, was the winner. The group  included uWaterloo Computer Science student George Utsin and high school students John Fish and Alex Foley.


First prize included $1,500 in cash, a year of free Cloud-A Infrastructure-as-a-service, and $500 of DevOps-as-a-service from our partner Cloud 66

The Podcast

While we were in Waterloo we got the chance to sit down with TSPweekly, Canada’s tech startup podcast, for their episode about the hackathon. I discussed Canadian data residency, safe harbor compliance and the state of “Ops” in tech startups with TSPweekly hosts Darren Conley and Stephen Campbell. The episode also features the coordinator of the hackathon, Raj Sian of the city of Waterloo, as well as the MC of the event, Jeff Duggen, CEO of reelyAcive – a very cool, Canadian based Internet of Things (IoT) company.

Check it out!

The Users

The time spent in Waterloo gave us the opportunity to meet up with two up and coming Cloud-A users.


HeathIM is a secure mental health reporting system to standardize communication between officers and health practitioners, and assist decision making in the field. The team has worked with local police forces to develop software that works for them and they are currently piloting with a few police services in Ontario. The startup has received tons of positive feedback, both from the police and hospitals, with reports of dramatically reduced wait times and improved patient safety.

HealthIM is leveraging Cloud-A Infrastructure-as-a-service to build out a platform robust enough and safe enough to handle private information. The company is leveraging cloud technologies to provide communication and reporting services for law enforcement and the health care organizations in a safe and more efficient manner.


MedStack is a software-as-a-service / Platform-as-a-service for health apps that require compliance to be built into their platform. The company provides secure messaging, forms, preformed monitoring databases, aggregation/de identification, and strong authentication to their users. MedStack is currently taking on BETA users to test out their platform.

MedStack CEO, Simon Woodside talked about selecting Cloud-A as the infrastructure backbone for his company’s product:

“A few years ago, a client asked us if we could set up a system for them. The catch was that it had to be hosted in Canada. Why? Because the regulations and policies around hosting healthcare data require the data to be hosted in-country. So, the search was on for a good infrastructure provider. I really liked the idea of running on OpenStack because it has solid international backing from the open source community and large companies. I checked out an OpenStack meetup in Toronto and liked what I saw. Cloud-A is one of the few Canadian companies running OpenStack so we tried it out and it we found it reliable with good customer service. Our clients are happy with it as well. We’ve been using Cloud-A for about 2 years.”

Moving Forward

Waterloo Codefest was a great chance for us to get in front of one of our fastest growing markets and see some of the up and coming talent the city has to offer. Waterloo is truly an inspiring, tightly knit tech community and we can’t wait to go back!