Category: Uncategorized

23
Oct

Startup Drinks, this Wednesday, October 28!

It’s getting a little chillier, which makes it all the better for getting inside and yakking it up at the next Startup Drinks Montreal.  This whole drinks+networking thing has caught on to other cities so if you’re not in Montreal, don’t despair.  Startup Drinks has become your local purveyor of the highest quality tech startup networking.

Here are the details:

Montreal – Sign up here!

Venue: Brutopia, 1215 Crescent St, Sth of Ste-Catherine

When:  Wednesday, October 28, 2009 from 5:30pm

Toronto – Sign up here!

Venue: Fionn MacCool’s,  70 The Esplanade, Btw Church and Victoria

When: Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 2009 from 6pm

Ottawa – Sign up here!

Venue:  Fox & Feather Pub (cnr McLaren), Upstairs, Fox 2 room

When: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 from 6pm

Waterloo:  

Venue: TBA

When: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 from 6pm

This event is for the faithful and the curious – all are welcome!

See you there,

Robin

28
Sep
Colón y otros canibales / Columbus and other cannibals: La enfermedad de explotación wétiko: Imperialismo y terrorismo / Wétiko disease exploitation: Imperialism and Terrorism

Reminder: Startup Drinks in YOUR city!

Well, if you happen to be in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto or Waterloo, that is!

Startup Drinks is a monthly gathering of people working in and around startups of every stripe.  In each of these fine Canadian cities, there are people in your community spending their time and energy to keep it alive. The aim is to do what you mostly call networking – it’s fun, easy and involves drinks.  Yeah!

Montreal: SIGN UP HERE!

Venue: Brutopia, 1215 Crescent St

When:  Wednesday, September 30, 2009 from 5:30pm

Toronto: SIGN UP HERE!

Venue: Fionn MacCool’s,  70 The Esplanade, Btw Church and Victoria

When: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 from 6pm

Ottawa: SIGN UP HERE!

Venue: Cornerstone Grill, 92 Clarence Street (in the market)

When: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 from 5:30pm

WaterlooSIGN UP HERE!

Venue: McMullan’s on King, 56 King Street North

When: Wednesday, October 6, 2009 from 5:30pm

19
Aug

August Startup Drinks in Toronto and Montreal! Update: now Ottawa too!

The inaugural Startup Drinks Toronto had over 100 people thanks to David Crow and his organizing efforts.  Montreal had another really nice mid-summer showing as well! We’re back for another round this Wednesday, August 26 in Montreal and Toronto for more startup networking.

For Toronto:

Venue: C’est What,  67 Front Street East, Corner Farquhars Lane

When: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 from 6pm

Sign up: here or on Facebook, if you prefer

For Montreal:

Venue: Brutopia, 1215 Crescent St (South of Ste-Catherine, Metro Guy)

When: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 from 5:30pm

Sign up at TechEntreprise

As always, I look forward to seeing you there!

Robin

UPDATE!

If you’re reading this from the fair city of Ottawa, you can also join in the synchronous fun too thanks to Scott Annan from Mercury Grove!

Here are the details:

– Date: Wednesday, 26 August, 2009
– Location: Metropolitan Brasserie, 700 Sussex, Street level entrance (map)
– Time: 6pm until late

Sign up here

!

27
Jul
El Gran Incendio de Londres (the Great Fire of London) (Desastres)

Don’t Forget Startup Drinks in Montreal and Toronto!

This Wednesday, July 29 is the date when Toronto and Montreal Startup Drinks sync up!  If you’re in either city, there’s no reason to stay in.

For Toronto:

Venue: Pogue Mahone, 777 Bay St (Cnr College St)

When: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 from 7pm

Sign up: Startup Drinks Toronto Facebook Event

For Montreal:

Venue: Brutopia, 1219 Crescent St (Sth of St-Catherine)

When: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 from 5:30pm

Sign up:at TechEntreprise

AND if you’re a developer looking for a new opportunity, find me or my comrade Peter Bailey!

Robin

P.S. Startup Soccer was super fun!  The bruise on my toe is my new Startup Badge of Courage.  Thanks Daniel and John for organizing!  I’m up for another game before the winter is upon us.

19
Jun

Bulls*%t, Next Slide…

We had an entertaining speaker at last night’s meeting of Anges Quebec

. Andy Nulman of Airborne Mobile and Just for Laughs fame, spoke about his experiences as an entrepreneur and his thoughts on Angel investing. I don’t know Andy but he’s absolutely hilarious.

One funny anecdote he mentioned was pitching some VCs during the early days of Airborne and being told that their financial projections were not nearly sophisticated enough. They dutifully hired a bunch of experts to create what he described as the most beautiful set of financial projections ever created. At their next pitch to a big strategic investor, they went through their powerpoint and got to the financial projections. As soon as the investor saw the projections he said “Bullsh!t, next slide.

Under “Lies Angels and Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves” #1 has to be that financial projections mean something. Projections are a good way to work out aspirations but they’re not good for predicting the future (in a startup). We’re investing in People right? Entrepreneurs are just as bad. When their pitch isn’t convincing they roll out excruciatingly complex financials to boost their case.

Angels and entrepreneurs should stop lying to each other. Entrepreneurs should be honest about what they don’t know (which would be refreshingly impressive) and Angels should realize that at the earliest stages they’re placing a big fat hairy bet on an individual. People who aren’t comfortable doing this probably shouldn’t be investing in startups.

Andy’s version was funnier…

18
May

A Follow Up On Project Olympus

There was quite a lot of interest in our post about Project Olympus, the startup incubator at Carnegie-Mellon University. I think it’s a (good) sign that many people are trying to understand what does or doesn’t work in the university commercialization process. To further help get the information out there I’m posting a detailed follow up from Kit Needham (PDF bio) who is the Senior Business Advisor and Executive in Residence at Project Olympus:

“I am the Senior Business Adviser for Olympus.  In response to your very thoughful question, the answer is simply that we truly filled a gap.  While there were many professors at CMU who pursued commercialization of their technology that fed into our Tech Transfer system and the other organizations listed, there were many that just had not really considered commercialization.  Further, they are often not at the stage where the path to commercialization is obvious. That is where we come in. We have initial exploratory conversations with the faculty and help by providing  some preliminary market analysis, walk them through what is involved in commercialization, what their options are, etc. So were are simply creating more, better prepared ‘deal flow’ for our Tech Transfer office and the other organizations in the diagram.  For the students, there was no other incubator space where they could meet 24/7, leave their equipment and notes on a white board, and collaborate with other student team members.

Also, when Olympus was getting started and as we grew, we sat down and talked with the staff of these organizations, and explained what we were intending to do. It was clear that this was going to be a true collaboration where what we did complemented and supported what they do.   For instance, once one of our PROBEs ‘graduates’ to another agency or organization, they become the primary adviser. We stay informed but are very careful not to be giving conflicting advice. The staff of the other organizations regularly attend our events and, as mentioned earlier, when we think there is a possible fit with one of the organization’s program, we set up exploratory meetings with the faculty (and students).  Again, we help identify (and help prepare) good prospects for their programs that they otherwise may not find that connection.

To Ben’s question, we haven’t really been in operation long enough for one of our PROBEs to have crossed the finish line, although one student PROBE  is getting close.  You can go to our website (olympus.cs.cmu.edu) to see the various PROBEs, link to their websites and see recent news about them as well as see the testimonials.”

Thanks Kit for the excellent comments. One thing I find interesting is how integrated Olympus is with both professors and students who are the source of new startups, and upstream funders and mentoring organization who Olympus can “hand off” projects to. It’s not easy establishing this level of integration especially where every organization wants (and probably deserves) some credit if the project succeeds.

If other people have interesting startup incubator stories they’d like to share please contact me and I’ll post it.

20
Mar

Over $1 billion in stimulus for Canadian startups

This is a great time to be building startups in Canada. Ontario and Quebec have recently announced over a $1 billion in funding for new ventures through matching funds and fund-of-funds. There may be more good news when Ontario tables its budget on March 26.

Here’s a quick summary:

Ontario:

Quebec (link to budget):

  • $825 million for a fund-of-funds to invest in 15-20 VC funds ($700 million from the government, $125 million from the private sector)
  • $125 million for the creation of 3 seed funds ($100 from the government, $25 from the private sector)
  • 10-year provincial tax holiday for new ventures that commercialize research from a Quebec university or research centre

So how does this trickle down to startups?

  1. If you’re raising your first round it means there will be more seed funding sources and more money in existing funding sources. Private investors may be more willing to invest since the government is matching their dollars 1 to 1 or 2 to 1 in some cases.
  2. If you already have investment it means your investors may be more likely to top-up if they are on the receiving end of these funds.
  3. If you’re commercializing research, which Canada does a poor job of, you look a lot more attractive to investors. Not paying provincial corporate tax for 10 years has a huge effect on investor returns (assuming you’re planning on profitability).

The best part of these initiatives is that they support the existing investment ecosystem rather than trying to replace it with something government run. We already have the pleasure, privilege and intestinal fortitude to deal with the government for SRED and other subsidies. Best leave investment to experienced managers.

So is there any bad news? Timing will be an issue as nobody can deploy this much money quickly. It’ll be awhile before funds actually trickle down to companies. I personally don’t like any initiative with a geographical limitation. I understand the desire to create jobs in a particular place but technology companies can be spread out. In Canada, where we don’t have the density of markets and talent, an Ontario-only company doesn’t make sense.

But enough complaining. Does this mean that we at Flow are more likely to make investments in the near future? You bet!

(Link to more budget analysis from Chris Arsenault from Inovia)

15
Mar

A method for finding out if you have a painkiller or a vitamin

The more pitches I hear from startups the more I realize that entrepreneurs have a hard time figuring out if their startup is a painkiller or a vitamin. I mentioned this briefly in a previous idea screening post but I’d like to propose a method to help.

I’ve come up with five measures so far:

  1. Do you have a problem or a feature? – “Mobile access” is a feature, not a problem. E.g. I don’t really want mobile access to my tax return. A lot of startups have a feature idea at their core, not a pain point, mostly because the initial idea was created by an engineer.
  2. Do you have a specific target market? – A telltale sign of a feature looking for a problem is to target “everyone” or “small business”. Saying everyone needs your product doesn’t mean a trillion dollar opportunity. It just means you don’t understand the problem.
  3. Can you describe the person who will use your product? – How, where and when do they work? What are they doing exactly that causes them ‘pain’? What alternatives do they look for? Can you draw a picture before they use your app and after?
  4. Is the pain measurable? – Any convincing CEO can make you believe that bad UI is as painful as a root canal. But how do you measure it? Extra clicks? Time lost? Money lost due to errors? If you can’t measure the pain you have two problems: 1) you might be wrong and 2) you can’t tell if your solution is an improvement.
  5. Is it verifiable? – Sure, you may find some way to quantify pain but how do you verify with the people who matter, i.e. users? Have you identified ways to double check, like surveys, focus groups or one on one interviews?

So let’s look at an example:

Bad Better
Problem or Feature? We create social networking tools for non-profits We help non-profits engage more volunteers and raise more money from funders, using social networking tools
Clear market segment? Non-profits Geographically-distributed non-profits with less than 10 staff whose target volunteer base is 18-35
Detailed description of user? People who work at non-profits 3 user types: 1) the Volunteer Coordinator & Fundraiser (who regularly communicates with volunteers and funders), 2) volunteers who network with the non-profit staff and other volunteers, 3) funders who don’t want to network but enjoy the profile they receive on the network
Measurable? All non-profits wish they reached more people We measure the # of volunteers needed each year to deliver programs minus turnover to calculate the total annual volunteer hours needed. There is often a deficit. We measure the annual budget deficit that needs to be covered by outside funding. We measure the opportunity cost of programs not delivered due to insufficient funding. If we’re successful, the # of volunteers, funders and programs goes up.
Verifiable? We talked to a local non-profit and they loved our product We have identified a list of 25 non-profits in our target market. Within 30 days we could contact each one, ask them to complete a survey, and give us feedback on some screenshots of our product. If feedback is negative we will try other segments until we find the right one

Of course, having answers to the five questions doesn’t guarantee that you have a painkiller. It just makes it more obvious whether the pain you think you solve is really all that painful. Stated one way, the lack of a social network is no big deal for a non-profit. Stated another way, helping find volunteers and funders is a life-or-death part of how non-profits operate.

The main benefit of this process? Forcing you to spend more time digging into the problem. You may abandon your original problem but you may also find some legitimate pain points that are a lot more interesting to tackle.

Next time I’ll post a few more examples and analyses. Feel free to send me some examples from your startup.

23
Feb

Calling All Area C#, .Net Senior Programmers to Startup Drinks!

I want to meet all qualified C#, .Net senior programmers looking to flex their leadership muscles with a venture backed startup.  I’m looking for someone with 4-6 years of experience in web application development on ASP, .NET and C# and and excellent understanding of Visual Studio and SQL. You should have a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering and if you’re bilingual, all the better.

Look forward to meeting you at Startup Drinks this Wednesday, February 25 from 5:30pm at Brutopia.

Robin

17
Feb

Startup Drinks February

The last Wednesday of the month comes around faster than you realise and suddenly, it’s time for Startup Drinks again!  January’s drinks was pretty gregarious and good fun, which can only be good for business.  Keep encouraging those who need to come to Startup Drinks this Wednesday, February 25 at Brutopia from 5:30pm until whenever.

I’m putting out a challenge to all who read this: if you’re a senior programmer looking for work (or know someone who fits this description), look for Robin from Flow and introduce yourself!  We’re looking for senior software developer for one of our clients and I’d love to have a chat over a pint.

Registrations are open at TechEntreprise!

See you there,

Robin