Investing in our entrepreneurial community

It was December 1, 2000 and I was packing up my desk at Spinway, the company I started over two years previously with Danny Robinson, Zach Levow and Michael Perone.  Spinway was our first real start-up.  A company we started in the house Danny, Zach and I shared on Cowper Street in Palo Alto, CA, just around the corner from the infamous HP garage and the birthplace of Silicon Valley. 

Smack dab in the middle of the dot com boom and the ripest entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world, we grew our fledging ISP from launch to 8M users in only 11months.  It was an amazing journey full of hard lessons and wonderful relationships formed.  And while it was also a crash course in shareholder agreements and venture financing, my biggest takeaway from “my first time” was how important the relationships we made and the community we nurtured were to achieving success not only at the time but well into the future.

A week after Spinway was acquired, I was thrown head first into an entirely different type of venture called Parenthood.  With very little time to think about what was next, what was right – we headed to Vancouver.

And here I am. 3 start-ups deep.

Why am I telling you all this?
Because I get asked all the time – Why Vancouver?  Why would you want to start a company here over Silicon Valley? And Why BES?

And my answer is, 1) I married a Canadian and 2) “Vancouver is my home now.” A great team with a good idea can start and build a company  just about anywhere.  I have had many opportunities to go back to CA and Boston but this is where I want to raise my family and grow my business and my next business after that…

As Brad Feld reminded us when he visited us last May – it takes time to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and a commitment from us all to work together to make that happen.  Many of you have been invested in this community long before I got here (ahem Boris Mann, Kris Krug, Dave Olson, Roland Tanglao, Jordan Behan and Megan Cole to name just a few) and welcomed me with open arms. Thank you for that.  You are part of the reason I am still here and why the Vancouver technology community has such a strong foundation.  We started Launch Party and BES to give back, build on the foundation you started and make it easier for early stage entrepreneurs moving forward to start and grow their digital media businesses here.

And we want to hear from you!
As a community driven non-profit organization, we only want to bring in mentors or put on events or workshops that will help you take your idea and build a successful business out it.  While we have a few things on the calendar, we really want to hear from you:

  • What kind of workshops would you like to see? (example: How to negotiate a term sheet?, What is a Captable? Branding 101? )
  • Who would you like to connect with and learn from? (Example: Brad Feld, Guy Kawasaki, Dave McClure)
  • Does an open, co-working space interest you?
  • What else do you think we need to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Feel free to comment on this post, vote on speakers or offer suggestions at or email me directly at maura [at] anytime.

Want to volunteer?
Thanks to volunteers, who have donated their time in the past like Warren Frey and Tris Hussey, (and the many others!) we have been able to keep the cost of our events down and increase awareness as well.  Your support has truly made all the difference.  If you want to get involved and help with PR, LPV or Democamp etc, we would love it.  And if you have a digital media event or initiative you are working on that you would like our help with, let us know.

Thanks for your continued support and your feedback.


9 thoughts on “Investing in our entrepreneurial community

  1. Personally, I would LOVE to see more workshops (and perhaps a collaborative initiative with The Network Hub, hint hint) – I think for startups, the biggest challenge is to think outside the box, and as an entrepreneur I probably would be looking for "how to write grant proposals that get me the startup money" or things like that.

  2. "What else do you think we need to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem?"

    Stop talking about entrepreneurialism, and start talking about building stuff people want.

    There are thousands of people out there with business plans who will never go anywhere because they haven't got a clue about how to actually implement their plans — that is to say, the technical side of things. I don't want to talk to them. I don't want to see them. And if there's an event which I think will be full of them… well, I won't turn up.

    A startup community is built by technical people building stuff — not by business people drawing up business plans. Focus on bringing technical people together, and keep the non-technical people out of the way. Don't talk about term sheets and capitalization tables and branding and all the rest of that businesspeople-bait until the technical folks have organized themselves into groups in garages and started churning out products.

    • "Stop talking about entrepreneurialism, and start talking about building stuff people want. "

      Love it Colin. You want to build something with me?

      Mack, I think what Colin's trying to say (and what I would agree with) is keep the non-technical people out of the way "until the technical folks have organized themselves into groups in garages and started churning out products."

      In fact, he DID say that! lol

      And I'd agree. In the universities, I see a stark contrast between UBC and Waterloo, Stanford or Berkley. In the three latter, the technical people are the ones initiating new products and "building stuff people want." Here at UBC, it seems to be the business students with the ideas, mostly caught up in their own success at business plan competitions, and the engineering/cs students studying hard in labs and assignments so they can hookup great jobs at EA, MDA, MS or Google.

      Now if we can only get more technical students interested in building awesome stuff… any ideas?

  3. raincoaster says:

    Actually, it's a little-known fact that BC has three times the rate of entrepreneurship and self-employment of the US. What we do not have is an efficient machine to connect startups with capital, despite having (also little-known) the most billionaires per capita of any nation.

  4. Many people are nervous about starting a business because they don't have co-founders to share their passion and support their venture. I agree with Raul, that if we can get people thinking from new perspectives, as well as finding like-minded people to collaborate with (like Colin said – although I disagree with the part about keeping the non-tech people out of the way), we will have a stronger community because to be able to 'go anywhere' with your plans, you need to be able to see the opportunities and find people who complement your skills.

    I think workshops to develop those thinking and collaboration skills would lead to more opportunities for finding money. Investors put their money in people – ideas are nothing without good people behind them. If someone is truly passionate about their idea, they go after the 'love' money and bootstrap it. It's about leveraging resources and part of that is putting together a good team and making use of their skills.

  5. Hi Maura,

    Great post and thanks for letting us know your background a bit more! As a new blogger and young entrepreneur here in Vancouver, I can attest to how difficult it is to balance authentic communication with technical savvy but I thought you did a wonderful job!

    After speaking with hundreds of student entrepreneurs from the different campuses in Vancouver during the last month, I've found three common responses when I mention Bootup Labs:

    1) "What's bootup?" (by far the most common)
    2) "Oh yeah, I've heard of them… what do they do again?" (runner up)
    3) "Yeah, I know bootup. But, don't they need you to have everything in order before talking to them?" Or "Don't you have to have a company already?" (this is usually followed by comments about Boris, haha)

    Interestingly, the common theme seems to be an awareness problem. A quick solution I'd see is:

    A model where you can find passionate "campus representatives" who can help to promote these events. The best place is the entrepreneurship clubs who already have passionate entrepreneurs who can get their friends out.

    But basically, I think if students came out and realized how great a job Bootup's doing and the great companies they're helping accelerate, they'd want to be much more involved!

    I'm looking forward to chatting with you later today!

    Jon Chui

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