THE BLOG

24
Nov

Why you should attend StartupDrinksCA

This week marks a major milestone in the life of StartupDrinksCA. It’s the first time the event can be called a truly Canadian event rather than something that’s just happening in a few cities. Since organizing StartupDrinks in Montreal over a year ago, we’ve managed to expand it to Toronto, Ottawa and Waterloo. Now we’re happy to welcome Halifax (which ran its first StartupDrinks last week), Moncton, St. John, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. I’m sure there will be more Canadian communities joining.

We’ve created a new Web site (www.startupdrinks.ca) to make it easier to organize and promote StartupDrinks in your city. Check it out to see when StartupDrinksCA is happening in your city.

To mark this important milestone, I thought I would highlight the 3 reasons why I think you should attend StartupDrinksCA:

  1. Celebrate your community – I’ve recently started reading Who’s Your City? by Richard Florida. He talks about how important creative clusters are to the work of creative people. StartupDrinks is a great way to celebrate how vibrant your local tech entrepreneurship community is. Take a step back and realize that you’re surrounded by passionate, talented people who’ll go out of their way to enable your passion and talent.
  2. Build your reputation – Your personal reputation in the community is crucial, not only if you’re a social media professional. It applies to all types of businesses. Regularly attending StartupDrinks is a way for you to develop a reputation with people you aren’t necessarily doing business with today. But when opportunities arise (e.g. someone looking for a co-founder, or their next investment) you’ll appreciate the fact that you have a social bond to back up the fact you’re LinkedIn.
  3. Talk about yourself – All startups (and entrepreneurs) are works-in-progress. There’s no better way to develop and hone your pitch (business or personal) than getting out there and doing it. You’ll get great feedback and just the exercise of hearing yourself pitch will give you new insight into what works and what doesn’t. The nice thing about StartupDrinks is that there are no speeches and no panel of judges. Be yourself, share a pint and talk about your projects.

One last reason: there’s a fabulous prize (paid out in kudos) for the person who attends the most Startupdrinks in different cities. We call it: Startup Lush. So far I’m winning but I’d love to have some competition!

16
Nov

Startup Drinks CA is live!

Big news!

Startup Drinks has expanded to include eight beautiful cities – Halifax, St. John, Toronto, Waterloo, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal.  Startup Drinks Canada also has a new home over at www.startupdrinks.ca and twitter account (@startupdrinksca), to keep you informed on what’s going on locally and nationally.

If you’re eager to help organize for the fun and fellowship, contact your local organizer.  Your support in getting the word out from exactly where you’re sitting right now is always appreciated too.  Use the usual or unusual channels, I’m not picky!  This is a completely community run event for all to enjoy.  Thanks to all of our city volunteers who saw the need and stepped up so fast it nearly made my head spin!

If you’ve never been before, it’s really simple.

  1. Go to www.startupdrinks.ca and look up your city’s date, location and time.
  2. Sign up to show your support and let your organizer know you’re coming.  Make a date with yourself or a friend and go.
  3. Order a drink and introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met before. Repeat as needed.

We don’t have presentations or sponsors and fully encourage people just to have a good time while getting to know their local startup community. This is the last one for 2009 so please accept my sincere thanks to each and every one of you who came and made it a success.  The kudos belongs to you.

Here are the need to know details for Startup Drinks Montreal:

When: Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 5:30pm

Where: Brutopia, 1219 Rue Crescent (cnr Ste-Catherine) (map)

Sign up here!

Next Startup Drinks Montreal: January 27, 2010

05
Nov

Playing for the Tie

Like Playing to Lose, Playing for the Tie is a strategy that doesn’t lead to winning. The difference is that people inadvertently playing to lose think they’re aiming their boat at the far shore, instead they’re heading for an iceberg. Playing for a tie means you’re more scared of losing than winning.

Why is not losing (but not winning) a bad strategy for a startup? Because:

  • Opportunity cost – What aren’t you doing while you’re not succeeding? What next great startup idea are you not working on while your current one treads water?
  • Survival is not (necessarily) a milestone – Survival is a huge achievement for any startup, but it’s not the goal. You have to be able to tell the difference.

Many startups have a strategy to win at the beginning but this gets diluted to a strategy for a tie when things get operational. Here are some telltale signs:

  • You’re afraid to say that you are or will be a world leader in your category (ask yourself why)
  • You never hear your team talk about being the best
  • You gravitate towards any type of validation (“they like me!”) even if it’s too scattered to truly prove your business value
  • You’re risk averse. I’m a firm believer that many risks, like operational risks, can be mitigated in a startup. But you just can’t avoid the fundamental leaps of faith that will be required in proving your business. If you’re afraid of leaping ask yourself what you’re preserving by avoiding risk. If you’re still proving out your business then you really don’t have anything to protect (yet).

Caveat: I’m not saying swing for the fences every time. Be iterative, i.e. get out there and see what sticks. But don’t forget that getting a little traction reduces some risk (a few people like me) and sets you up for new risks (how do I get everyone to like me). See Crossing the Chasm.

Next up: Playing to Win

04
Nov

Playing to Lose

I heard a bunch of different pitches from startups this week that made me think: too few startups are playing to win. Most people have a strategy for moving from point A to point B but I’m hearing more and more strategies for getting “better” not becoming the “best”. I think it’s a problem.

Here are some strategies that I consider Playing to Lose:

  • You don’t have a strategy. No further explanation necessary.
  • You only have one strategy. A good sign that you are playing to lose is that you can’t describe several alternative strategies in detail. A strategy is only as good as the ones you considered, but rejected. Be a skeptic.
  • You don’t understand the cost of success. When people plan to scale a business they often forget that revenues don’t scale by themselves without a some kind of scaling of expenses. Take headcount. Double headcount and I bet you’ll more than double HR expenses. Double the feature set of your product and I bet it doesn’t maintain itself anymore. These ‘diseconomies’ of scale better be built into your strategy.
  • Your winning strategy is your losing strategy in disguise. Sometimes I hear a strategy for winning that sounds a lot like a strategy for losing. Here’s an example: Your platform is so feature-rich and versatile that it can be used by anyone. Your strategy is to sell it to anyone. But soon you’ll realize that all of your customers are different and all your recurring license revenues are replaced by low-margin service fees for customization. Yep, that’s your winning strategy.

I think you can avoid Playing to Lose by spending more time understanding your winning scenario and making sure it holds up to scrutiny. Why do you think your cost structure will be leaner than other comparable companies? Why will acquisition costs go down, not up? What things get more difficult, not easier, the more you achieve success?

Are you sure your idea of winning is actually winning?

Next up: Playing for the tie