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 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 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


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

Diccionario de Directores y Escenografos

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

Matrimonio bien avenido, la mujer junto al marido

Seeking an Exceptional Technical Writer

Flow Ventures invests in and accelerates startups. Our unique model combines financing, strategy and hands-on operational services designed to grow new ventures quickly and efficiently. At Flow, you’ll work with experienced technology entrepreneurs who have built, financed and managed high-growth companies. Flow accelerates startups by operating key areas including finance, software development, HR, business development and administration. This allows entrepreneurs to focus on their products and their customers rather than building infrastructure and capacity.

Flow has worked with startups in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. We’re contributors to the tech entrepreneurship community either as organizers, sponsors or participants in various events.

Flow is looking to hire a Technical Writer in either Montreal or Toronto to work with us on a contractual basis, possibly leading to a permanent position. Your role would be to help us gather raw data and information to help us create R&D technical documentation for SRED claims as well as other government grants and subsidies that Flow prepares for our clients.

Responsibilities include:

  • Visiting our clients to gather information from their R & D and Engineering teams
  • Translating raw data into key concepts to create content for technical documentation
  • Writing technical documents for SRED claims
  • Writing and filling in government forms for grants and subsidies.

Skills and experiences required:

  • Previous experience with SRED
  • Exceptional English writing skills
  • Capable to write creative and well structured documents
  • Previous experience in software development
  • Deep understanding of web based & internet technologies
  • Ability to work independently
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Meticulous attention to detail

To apply please send your resume to

Candidates will be required to complete a writing test.

*Only qualified candidates who match hiring criteria will be contacted.


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


Venue: TBA

When: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 from 6pm

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

See you there,