THE BLOG

15
Apr

Flow Is Growing – Now Hiring: Administrative Assistant

Flow Ventures is a boutique consulting firm with unparalleled experience advising companies throughout the business lifecycle. Our team is composed of experienced, successful entrepreneurs and technical specialists. Combined, Flow aids our clients in growing their companies by helping them claim their SRED and other tax credits, raising financing, and planning strategic growth or exit.

Flow works with some of Canada’s most exciting companies and has a long history of being the go-to resource for funding.

We are seeking an experienced Admin Assistant to join our expanding consulting group in Toronto. We offer a fast-paced, dynamic and entrepreneurial work environment with opportunities for training, career growth and advancement.

The successful candidate will be expected to provide administrative and financial support for all aspects of the organization.

Responsibilities:

  • Bookkeeping, generating contracts, mail and general office support.
  • Client billing, ordering supplies, obtaining Government Business Consent from Clients.
  • Processing all employee expenses efficiently and within company timelines
  • Liaising directly with employees to resolve discrepancies
  • Processing payroll
  • Maintaining marketing material (e.g. databases, CRM and email lists)

Job Requirements:
To be considered for this Administrative role, you must have a 1+ years of experience in an Administrative Assistant or Bookkeeping capacity, although recent graduates from a administrative or financial/accounting program are encouraged to apply.

  • Polite and professional business attitude
  • High energy, positive attitude and approachable
  • Close attention to detail and accuracy
  • Time management skills
  • Self starter, works independently, flexible and hard-working
  • Ambitious, takes initiative
  • Ability to organize, multi-task and prioritize workload
  • Good command of the English language (both written & verbal)
  • Bilingual – French an asset
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word required
  • Knowledge of Xero Accounting, workflow management and CRM tools an asset.
  • Proficiency with web publishing tools such as WordPress is an asset.

To apply, please send your resume to: info@flowventures.com

10
Aug

Bryan Watson Joins Flow Ventures as Partner

TORONTO, ON – August 10, 2015 – The Partners of Flow Ventures are pleased to announce that Bryan J. Watson has joined Flow Ventures as the newest Partner of the firm, spearheading the growth of the firm, particularly in Ontario
For over a decade Bryan has advised and supported Angel and venture capital investors, all levels of government, NGOs, and companies at all stages of growth – from idea to exit. In addition, Bryan is active on numerous funding review panels for Provincially and Federally funded organizations.

In the past, Bryan has served as Executive Director of the National Angel Capital Organization, Founder and President of the Network of Angel Organizations-Ontario, and CEO Fusion as well as President of EP Enterprises Inc.. In addition to these roles, Bryan has been a Director of Precarn Incorporated and the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, and well as an Advisor to the Mississauga R.I.C. Center and hundreds of startups. Bryan continues to be actively engaged in advising a number of organizations.

Bryan completed his Masters in Management, Economics and International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, on the only full Chevening Scholarship awarded in Canada.

On Bryan’s partnership, Founder of Flow Ventues, Raymond Luk, commented, “Bryan is an institution within the growth company, financing and innovation management communities. His recent selection as one of 7 finalists, representing Ontario, from across Canada for the 2015 BDC Mentorship Award demonstrates this. We are excited to have him on board!”

“Having worked with Flow Ventures on many different projects,” commented Bryan, “I am pleased to join the Flow Ventures family and look forward to continuing to support my current clients as well as new ones. The holistic, approach that Flow takes to helping clients grow is very much in line with my philosophy for supporting growth companies and companies seeking to better manage their innovation portfolio and activities.”

Bryan will spearhead the expansion of Flow Ventures in Ontario while also advising companies across Canada and internationally. To connect with Bryan Watson, please do so at bwatson@flowventures.com.

About Flow Ventures:
Flow Ventures is a boutique consulting firm with unparalleled experience advising companies throughout the business lifecycle. Whether your company is securing grants and tax credits, raising financing, or planning strategy growth or exit, the Flow Ventures team is at your disposal. Flow Ventures was founded and is operated by serial entrepreneurs, investors, and company operators, and working with us means working with people with the experience and vast international network you need to achieve your goals. For more information, please visit: www.flowventures.com

06
Jun
Hojas Amarillas Para Una Violeta

What startups need to know about the 2014 Quebec budget

Quick Hit: Your Quebec refundable SRED credit goes down from 37.5% to 30%; more $$ for investors.

The 2014 Quebec budget was just released and there are a few things that affect Quebec startups. But all Canadian startups should pay attention anyways, especially to the continued support for Quebec Angels and VCs.

1. The Quebec portion of refundable SRED tax credits goes down from 37.5% to 30%. This takes place June 4, 2014. That bad news is 7.5% less cash for cash-starved startups. The good news? Provinces like Ontario only provide 10% so Quebec startups shouldn’t complain too much. So far there haven’t been any changes to the federal SRED program.

2. $500,000 per year is going to build accelerators at Quebec universities. Hopefully this means the money goes to support better ties with existing accelerators, or bringing in experienced people from outside the university to get more students into startups. Hopefully.

3. There’s going to be another new VC fund in Quebec, privately-run thankfully, of up to $375 million. This sounds like a good thing and further evidence that Quebec is serious about venture capital as a way to ensure more great companies start, and stay, in the province.

4. Adding another $25 million to the sidecar fund of Anges Quebec bringing it to a truly envy-inducing $100 million. I can’t think of another city in North America, possibly the world, that will have an Angel group with a $100 million fund attached to it. I’m a fan of Anges Quebec and they are going to be a serious player in the early stage funding game.

What do you think about the 2014 Quebec budget?

16
Apr

A List of Corporate Governance Resource for Startups

This post was originally published on the Hockeystick.co blog on April 15, 2013 http://blog.hockeystick.co/2013/03/20/governance-for-startups/

To kick off the Hockeystick.co blog, we’ve compiled a list of resources about corporate governance and investor relations for startups. Unsurprisingly, most governance research is focused on large, public companies. But there are some good resources for startups.

Here’s the list so far:

Can you recommend other startup governance resources we should add to the list?

 

13
Dec

Year One Labs grad Localmind acquired by AirBnB

 

Question: Was Localmind acquired by AirBnB?

Answer: You bet!

I’m very proud to announce (or at least point to the TechCrunch article) the acquisition of Localmind by AirBnB.

Localmind was one of the first investments we made at Year One Labs, the accelerator I co-founded with Ben Yoskovitz

, Alistair Croll and Ian Rae. Investors love exits but accelerator exits feel even more gratifying because you’ve seen the company when it’s just an idea, or just the hope that a few smart people would find a great idea.

Anyone who’s met Lenny or Beau knows they can be summed up in two words: hustle, and so-damn-nice-you’d-swear-they-were-Canadian!

I can’t wait to bet on whatever they do next.

Raymond

16
May

Introducing Scalability Inc. – A Back Office for Startups

 

We’re announcing the launch of Scalability Inc. a spin-off from Flow Ventures. Scalability has one goal: to take away all the hassles business owners go through to run the administrative side of their business. This includes bookkeeping, accounting, government filings, payroll, record keeping, and human resources. Remember, as your business scales, so does the complexity of your back office.

How are most companies managing their back office today? The more organized companies spend a lot of money on admin staff, bookkeepers, accountants and consultants. This is costly and the responsibility to keep on top of everything still falls on management.

Less organized companies simply let things fall through the cracks: taxes get filed late, it takes longer to get paid, your staff suffer because everything is disorganized. Worst of all, as a business owner you just don’t feel you have visibility into what’s happening in your business.

Why you need Scalability Inc.
We are back office experts and startup experts. We not only take care of your admin tasks, we monitor your business so things are taken care of before problems arise. We get excited about best practices in administration, seriously!

Scalability Inc. operates remotely and in the cloud. Every file is archived digitally. Every transaction is logged. We’ll even open and scan your mail if you want us to. Best of all, you always have a human being you can talk to with any questions or special requests.

We offer flat-rate subscriptions so you can plan your cash flow effectively rather than be unpleasantly surprised when you receive an hourly-rate bill. We have packages for each stage of your business and we’re rolling out premium services that you can order on an ad hoc basis.

Getting Started
Check out our packages at www.scalability.ca. Or just contact us directly to learn more. We’d love to hear your feedback and we offer a free evaluation of your current back office so you know where you stand.

Also follow us on Twitter: @scalabilitycainc

and join our Facebook page.

16
Mar

Startup Office Spaces for Rent (renovated, furnished, short-term leases)

 

A client of ours has some extra office space they’d like to sublet. They’re perfect for startups: renovated, furnished, located right downtown and only requiring a one-year commitment. Each space has both closed offices and plenty of open space.

Take a look and contact me if you are interested.


 

460 Ste Catherine Street West, Montreal – 8th Floor #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1400 sq ft, $17/sq ft, 12 month lease

Move-in ready, washroom, closed offices and open space, newly renovated, furniture (desk, chairs, cubicles) can be included for a small fee, cabled for Ethernet

 


 

15
Mar

An Interview with Adeo Ressi (and why Founder Institute should be in Canada)

 

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about incubators. Creating one, mentoring at others, visiting lots and being skeptical of several (I’m not saying which). You can decide for yourself if you think there is an incubator bandwagon being jumped on, but one incubator that marches to its own distinct drumbeat is The Founder Institute.

Here are two examples: 1) they don’t give you money and charge a nominal tuition fee, and 2) all founders who go through The Founder Institute get a share in a common equity pool. That’s pretty innovative.

Entrepreneurs already know Adeo Ressi, who is the founder of The Founder Insitute, as the man behind TheFunded.com. He’s also behind a bunch of other successful startups and is a bit of a renaissance man.

I spoke to Adeo recently about what makes The Founder Institute so different, why it works, and why Canada needs the Founder Institute. I think it’s a great model for talented Canadian entrepreneurs who don’t necessarily fit the ‘mould’ of the TechStars/YC genome. At the end of the post I’m going to ask for people to step forward if they would be interested in talking about getting The Founder Institute in their Canadian city. I know Adeo is interested, and so am I.

Here’s the interview:

 

You’ve built 8 startups, 4 of which were acquired. What’s the secret to your success?
Perseverance. No matter how bad things appeared, we struggled through the adversity to find the magic. Building a company from nothing to a few hundred or a thousand employees in a few years time is an immense challenge. The moment that you master one phase of growth, you are already onto the next. It takes a high degree of self awareness and perseverance to succeed. There is this meme that failure is acceptable. I prefer to triumph over adversity.

Your last two startups, TheFunded.com and Founder Institute, are about helping entrepreneurs. Is this philanthropy or business (or both)?
Entreprenurship is becoming harder, and I want to give back to the craft of entrepreneurship. A strong philanthropic mission can only endure with a solid business underpinning, so the Founder Institute is a for profit entity. I am turning over the for profit company stock to a long-term trust to guarantee the philanthropic mission for at least 100 years.

As I became more successful as an entrepreneur over the last 18 years, it became easier to build amazing products and harder to build great companies. When I started in 1994, about 1 in 100 companies were successful. Now, less than 1 in 1,000 companies are meaningful. The Founder Institute was designed to invert the startup failure rate, and our goal is to create 1,000 meaningful and enduring technology companies per year. We expect to hit this goal in 2012, less than 3 years after being incorporated ourselves.
There are a lot of incubators out there. What is different about the Founder Institute?
I am a huge fan of the programs being launched to help entrepreneurs. There is a renaissance going on. Most other programs help entrepreneurs that have a company, a team and traction. The Founder Institute looks for passionate people with a dream, and we help them create a meaningful and enduring technology company. I like to say that we mine diamonds, while others make jewelry.

We have chosen the most challenging segment, inception. Everyone involved in the Institute is a founder, and we create an equity pool that shares the upside created from the companies among everyone. So, if you graduate from the program and fail while a peer goes on to succeed, you will also see a return from your peer’s success.

Who should (and who should not) attend Founder Institute?
Everyone who has a dream to start a company should apply. We have absolutely no gender, race or idea biases, which also separates us from various other programs. The average age of applicants is 34 years old, and we have a 21% female graduation rate. Just due to our scale, the Institute is the largest female incubator in the world. I would eventually like to see our graduation demographics resemble the demographics of the working population.

What’s the greatest success of the Founder Institute to date, and why?
The greatest success of the Founder Institute is are helping thousands of people pursue their dream. We survey all enrolled Founders around the world, and nearly everyone would proactively recommend the Founder Institute. Some semesters are better than others and some locations have a stronger ecosystem, but the survey results are universally consistent.

What do you think Founder institute can do for Canadian startups?
The Founder Institute is a great asset for a burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem, like in Canada. We encourage successful entrepreneurs to help the next generation of companies and give them economic upside from the results. We help local Founders to launch meaningful and enduring companies. We provide a high quality stream of companies for other incubators, for investors and for various vendors. Ultimately, we are a value added player in the ecosystem, and we get along with everyone else.

You’re on the Board of the X Prize. Why are you so passionate about private space travel?
I am passionate about models to inspire innovation, and I believe that prizes are effective. As Chairman of the Strategic Committee when the Ansari X Prize was won in 2004, I pushed the foundation to expand the prize model into other categories, such as genomics, automative, medicine, etc.

There’s a great picture of you with President Clinton (http://www.adeoressi.com/about/). Seriously, how cool is he? What about Hillary?
In the photo, I am standing next Jeff Dachis as well, the Co-founder of Razorfish. I find that Founders are a much better bunch of people to spend time with than politicians, and I look forward to traveling around the world to meet aspiring Founders.

THE ASK

I think The Founder Institute would work really well in Canada. I think there are a lot more entrepreneurs than available spots at incubators and Adeo has really focused on what’s important for idea-stage startups. They’ve launched 415 companies in 20+ cities around the world.

I’m looking for interested parties to step forward if you’re interested in starting, running, mentoring or hosting The Founder Institute in Canada. Leave a comment or contact me directly.

01
Feb

What’s Your Personality Type? Insights for Lean Entrepreneurs

 

The ancient Greek aphorism “Know thyself” is very relevant to entrepreneurs. Most founders don’t give much thought to how their own personality type influences how well they run their startup. Remember, your reality distortion field distorts yourself too.

The good news is that for the first time since I’ve been building companies, entrepreneurs share a common framework for guiding their startups: the Lean startup. Sure, some people don’t use the right vocabulary and misunderstand Lean. But I find that Lean thinking has permeated the entrepreneurial community, so much so that some founders are following the principles without knowing the term “lean startup” at all.

The bad news is that there’s still a huge gap between the understanding of lean startups and the practice. It’s frustrating to see and I think one reason is founders don’t take into account how their own personalities influence the process. I haven’t seen anyone ask: “How is my own personality getting in the way of being lean?

To help answer that question, I’ve created a list of the top 5 personality archetypes I come across, as well as some things to watch out for if you recognize yourself in one (or more than one) of them:

  • “Smartypants” – You’re very knowledgeable and you want people to know it. You love complexity. You believe that superior intellect and knowledge will close the sale, investment etc.
    • Watch out: you’ll ignore the simple solution (which is often the best one) in favour of something more impressive. You’ll discount what customers say because they aren’t smart enough. You’ll be attracted to innovation vs execution.
  • “Intelligent Architect” – Most engineers have this personality type. You like to build machines and you like it when they work as planned. You like the design phase of projects because there are no customers in the design phase…
    • Watch out: you’re going to be very uncomfortable when your startup is trying to find a business model vs building a product. You can’t architect a solution when you don’t know what the problem is yet. Pivots will drive you crazy because there’s nothing wrong with the code.
  • “The Advocate” – Most sales people (and almost all entrepreneurs) are strong when it comes to selling their vision or advocating what they believe in. In a meeting, especially a brainstorm, you talk rather than listen.
    • Watch out: when you’re trying to find product-market fit, you’d better hone your shutting up skills. You can’t hear your customers’ voices when you’re still talking. You already know your own position, it’s time to listen to others.
  • “The Dreamer” – I saw a pitch deck recently for a hyper-local startup. Great deck, nice screenshots, but within 5 minutes the entrepreneur admitted he probably would never use the product, nor did he think anyone else would. It’s easy to envision success IF everyone used your product. It’s harder to make it so.
    • Watch out: you get excited about building an empire but you have a blind spot when it comes to actual customers and their problems. You’ll overestimate how well your product solves their problems.
  • “Mom and Pop” – One great thing about Lean startups is that founders are getting in close proximity to customers to validate their businesses. Most people start with people they know in their community. If you’re a natural hustler, you’ve probably walked down Main Street knocking on doors and signing up beta customers.
    • Watch out: You’ll hold as proof of your business the fact you signed up 10 restaurants in your neighbourhood. Instead of using (and possibly abusing) them to test your hypotheses, you’ll want to make them happy and get pulled in many directions. Be careful you don’t lose sight of the goal. You’re trying to build a scalable business, not a local consulting company.

Spend a bit of time thinking about who you are. Better yet, ask the people around you and make sure there are no sharp objects close by. There’s no value judgment here. There are no “good” or “bad” personality types. But the sooner you recognize your own personality type(s) the sooner you can get out of your own way.

nosce te ipsum

12
Jan

Hiring for Lean Startups: The First Few Hires

 

I was having coffee with a founder the other day and we started talking about his hiring plans. Since he’s a non-technical founder (which Ben Yoskovitz claims is a dead-end to begin with) he had several top coders in mind, all of whom were earning big bucks with larger companies.

“I’m paying them a little bit of money but they’ll join full time once I can raise money,” said the founder. It’s something I hear a lot, especially from non-techie founders.

I went back to review some blog posts on Lean hiring, and I came across Eric’s post “Lean Hiring Tips” and Mark MacLeod’s “Fat Hiring for Lean Startups“. Both are worth your time. But I think they’re also written for startups that are already up and running and need to expand. I’m interested in very early stage hiring, e.g. when you’re one person looking for a co-founder or you’re two people looking for your core team.

Companies always take on the characteristics of their founders and in the rush to scale, I find many startups don’t stop to consider how they’re establishing the DNA of their company. The first few hires are the most important ones you’ll make.

  • Hire for an experimental mindset – Look for people who enjoy encountering problems, designing ways to solve them, and finding proof of success or failure. Skill at building, whether it’s software or a marketing plan or a sales funnel, is irrelevant at this point. You need people who will volunteer to scrap their plans, not fight you when you want to change course.

How? Join a hackathon, Lean Machine or just create your own (laptop + Starbucks = hackathon). Give your (potential) team a crazy challenge and see who exhibits the right behaviours.

  • Hire generalists – A lot of people will disagree with this advice. If you can find the best Python developer in the country go for it. But only if she’s also willing to cold call customers, crank out some Web site copy and help you whiteboard the business model. Your #1 focus is to find a business model that works. The latent technical talent on your bench won’t help you unless you graduate from this first phase

How? Again, hackathons are great practical tests. No matter what their skillset, look for passion about your business model and solving customer problems.

  • Prioritize UX over development – This is easier said than done since there’s a shortage of UX talent. But it’s better to have a kick-ass UX person and a mediocre developer than the other way around. UX will help you find your business model and most (good) UX people already have an experimental mindset and generalist attitude

How? Actively seek out UX people, not just developers. You may need to work at a distance if you can’t find local talent. Consider working with less experienced people if they can prove themselves through testing.

  • Get skin in the game – Leaving a six figure job to join your startup for a paycut is not skin in the game, or not enough in my books. Hire those people later when you’ve found your business model, have money in the bank, and need to scale. Skin in the game means working full time, just like you are. It means putting their reputation on the line, raising Ramen funding from friends/family/spouses and saying “I’m going to see this through until we fail.”

How? Stop feeling like you’re a poor startup that can’t afford to pay top salaries. Those aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Think of finding your co-founders like raising your first round. You need to get them excited to invest in your business.

I know this advice seems to apply better to “Web” startups than general technology startups, which is a common criticism of Lean startups in general. But I think it applies more broadly. If you hire for the right attitude, you not only solve the critical product-market fit problem, but you set the DNA of your business right from the start. I guess I haven’t seen too many examples of startups failing because they lacked a specific technical skill. They probably think they failed because of it though.

In the end, I guess “hiring” is the wrong word to begin with. You’re looking for people to co-found a business with you. You aren’t buying their skills, you’re asking them to invest in helping you shape the course of your business from the very beginning. Maybe not all of them (including yourself) will be able to scale up with the business. That’s a problem for another day.