Connect with Key Execs from Silicon Valley at Metabridge 2010

Metabridge is a tech event created by Steve Wandler, an entrepreneur, who returned to Kelowna after his company YourTechOnline.com was acquired by Support.com in CA. Appreciating and understanding how the right connections can make a world of difference in the life of a startup, Steve created Metabridge to connect entrepreneurs in BC with key players in the Bay Area.

We believe there is no better setting in Canada then golf in the middle of a vineyard over looking Okanagan lake, sipping on a glass of wine in 30 degree weather. This lures key executives to British Columbia to meet with some of the best startups in the Province.

Last June, I was invited to the first Metabridge tech event in Kelowna, BC.

With it’s beautiful vineyards, large, deep lakes and all that sun, I don’t know why I had not visited the Okanagan before Metabridge 2009.  Perhaps starting a company had kept me chained to my desk for too long?  In any case, I jumped at the chance to take a break from the office to connect with other entrepreneurs and mentors in real time. On top of the amazing setting, round of golf and lovely boat ride on Okanagan Lake, I was able to spend some quality time with Dale Fuller of Moka 5, Ethan Anderson – Founder of Red Beacon, the Founders of Rack Force and many other entrepreneurs and mentors at Metabridge 2009. I made some great connections and was really happy to be a part of it.

Metabridge is back!
Metabridge 2010 will take place on June 10-11. Wandler has invited 20 key executives from Silicon Valley to Kelowna for the next event including:

  • Punit Minocha, VP of Corporate Development, Trend Micro
  • Stephen Beamish, Sr VP Bus Dev & Strategic Alliances, Mitel Corp
  • Dan Scholnick, Partner – Trinity Ventures
  • Tim Majarin, Sr. Columnist, PC Magazine
  • Jeremy Geiger, CEO RetaiLigence
  • Sam Odio, Founder of Divvyshot, Acquired by Facebook
  • Jim Curry, VP Corporate Dev, Rack Space

You can check out the schedule and register here.

Startup Bus
We know what it is like to be on a budget!  So, if there is enough interest, BES will look into a startup bus to drive us from Vancouver to Kelowna June 9 returning June 12. We can practice our pitch and get to know other entrepreneurs in the community on the way to and from Kelowna.  In addition, BES will look for Hotel deals for all of us.  If you are a startup, who is interested in attending,  you can email me directly maura [at] bootup.ca or sonia [at] bootup.ca  and we will see if we can get you a package deal.

For more information and photos, check out Metabridge.ca and join their Facebook Page for updates.


This Week in Tech Events: April 26th – May 2nd, 2010

Make sure to check out some of these awesome events in Vancouver this week.

Design Currency: Icograda Design Week In Vancouver

  • Monday, April 26 – Friday, April 30
  • Click here for schedule.
  • Breakdown of Registration here.

Philanthrocapitalism- Entrepreneurs using business strategies & technologies to effect social change

  • Tuesday, April 27
  • 5:30pm
  • Vancity Theatre – 1181 Seymour St., Vancouver
  • Free for VEF Members, $45 for Non-Members

Social Media for Social Change – Part 1 of 4, Feat. Kris Krug

  • Thursday, April 29
  • 1:30pm
  • Hollyhock Room in Tides Renewal Center – 163 West Hastings St., Vancouver
  • $395 for all 4 sessions. $345 for Non-Profits

Gladwell Presentation Screening & Debate

  • Thursday, April 29
  • 5:30pm
  • Ceili’s Irish Pub – 670 Smithe St., Vancouver
  • $20 – Includes light appies and one drink

If we’ve missed an event, please add it below as a comment.

Upcoming Bootup Events
If you would like to be notified of upcoming Bootup only events, please sign-up. You can choose what type of events you want to be notified about from networking to investment pitch opportunities.  We’ll email you several weeks before events to let you know about registration deadlines and other important dates.

Design Currency: Icograda Design Week April 26-30 in Vancouver

Next week, some of the world’s most influential designers will converge at the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre for the Design Currency: Icograda Design Week 2010 conference to share experiences, inspire, engage and maybe even enrage creative professions.

This is NOT your standard design conference and we’re not interested in creative *stars* standing on stage flipping through portfolios or playing demo reels, regaling us with stories about their own career triumphs. – Mark Busse, Design Director of Industrial Brand and Co-Chair of Icograda Design Week 2010 Vancouver.

Design Currency has brought together a diverse selection of the world’s top design authorities—from business strategy to industrial design, illustration to architecture, branding to interactive user experience including:

  • Editor of Innovation and Design at Bloomberg/Business Week (Helen Waters, USA)
  • Design expert for the World Economic Forum (Gregoire Senkoff, France)
  • Chief Creative Officer of COLLINS, a division of the agency that won Adweek’s Advertising Agency of the Year in 2010 (Brian Collins)
  • Founder of Architecture for Humanity and 2006 TED Prize winner (Cameron Sinclair, USA/UK)
  • Senior Creative Director for Philips Lighting (Oscar Pena, Netherlands)

Those behind this conference believe that more than ever, design has the power to influence our core values, our identity, our expectations and our worldview.  If you are a leading edge designer, this is one conference you will not want to miss.  There is still time to Register:

To promote the event and play off the ideas of currency and value, Icograda Events designed and printed over 2200 custom bills and fed them through a money counter to create this very cool stop motion animation video:

F5 Expo: The Secret to Success: Avoiding Start-up Pitfalls

If you fail, fail in style – Michael Fergusson on starting your own company.

On April 7th, I was amongst thousands who attended the F5 Expo, which was full of familiar faces, gadgets and mascots and buzzing with talks on innovation.

Cybele, Founder of Webnames.ca and me.

I sat in on the The Secret to Success: Avoiding Start-up Pitfalls panel with Bootup Labs’ Danny Robinson, HootSuite’s Ryan Holmes and Ayogo Games’ Michael Fergusson, and moderated by SoMedios’ Carisa Miklusak.

These startup stars shared their stories and opinions on passion vs. experience to funding and finding that work/life balance we all strive for.

Passion VS. Experience – What’s more important?

When looking for a Co-Founder or expanding your team, Ryan said he prefers passion over experience. “Passion cannot be taught or bought. When you are passionate, you will hustle hard and work through the hard knocks.”

Danny believes that passion and experience deliver the same result: “the ability to rely on your intuition to make the right decision.” Danny explains his thoughts on passion vs experience in more detail here.

Michael, on the other hand, felt that many startup founders lacked experience, but few lacked passion. Passion is usually what motivates entrepreneurs to start a business in the first place. “You obviously need both to succeed. Having said that, experience is usually what’s missing.”

Funding – When should you start raising money and which VC should you go after?

Ryan, Danny & Michael

Danny explained that it’s not about the firm, it’s about the partner. The partner is the one sitting on your board and is the person you keep updated with company stats and information.  It’s really important to establish a good relationship with your partner as they become a vital part of your start-up. He also mentioned that when raising money, you need to know how much money you need to raise, and once you have this number, work backwards.

Ryan believes that raising money is highly dependent on the circumstances. He suggested looking into angel investment and convertible debt earlier on if you can’t generate revenue from day one.

Michael didn’t comment too much on funding but did say that the process of raising money and managing investors should distract you as little as possible from your vision and plan for the company.

Balance – Why it’s important for you and your company.

Michael expressed the importance of work / life balance when starting your own company. You need to be distracted by these things, though, if you’re going to stay healthy (for yourself) and productive (for your business).

Ending Notes

In summary, the panel was insightful, personable and honest. They did a great job in painting a picture on how to avoid certain pitfalls when starting a company. Listening to how passionate they were about starting a company has me itching to start one of my own.  Who’s with me?

If you are an entrepreneur, who has been or is currently on the startup roller coaster, what do you think is important? What lessons have you learned?

Missed the show, here are some great shots by Jeremy Lim.

How Building a Community is Like Dating a Pretty Girl

You don’t own your community.  You can’t build a community.  Community starts on it’s own. Saul Colt

First Encounter
When I first met Saul Colt at Twiistup 4 in Santa Monica, CA, he treated me like the most important and prettiest person in the room. Perhaps it was all part of his master plan but the conversations we had after our first encounter are what really won me over.  There is a reason why Saul has been named as one of the iMEDIA 25: Internet Marketing Leaders & Innovators and has been called one of Canada’s best community builders/experiential marketers. His greatest strength, in my opinion, is his ability to listen, connect and nurture the community around him.  Saul got my attention at Twiistup and not only did I become a fan of his in the years to come, I also became a fan of Freshbooks – the online invoicing company he worked for at the time.  And now as the Lead Evangelist for Thoora, Saul still has my attention.

If you missed Saul’s workshop last week at Bootup, “How to Build and Engage a Community around Your Product or Service,” I took some notes on the steps he covered and some of the stories he shared:

Amy Rae of Canpages at the workshop with Saul Colt

Listen up!
Fascinated by the 50’s, when everyone knew everyone else’s business, Saul spends the majority of his time “listening” to his community.  In fact, he spent at least 2-3 weeks just listening before he engaged the Thoora community, an online service that helps people discover the hottest news stories. Before you dive in to the online conversation, Saul believes it is important to “Listen! Listen! Listen!,” and set the tone for the brand. For instance, some brands may be more conversational and playful, other businesses may be more formal.  It’s important to pay attention to the way people are conversing and interacting online before you introduce yourself.

The Courting Phase
When Saul was at Freshbooks, he followed many of their customers on Twitter.  One day, one of their customers tweeted that she had been stood up by her date.  Saul saw this person’s tweet and replied back under the Freshbook’s account  -“We would never stand you up!”  The next day he followed up by sending the same person flowers from Freshbooks with a note that said “We think you are awesome!”   As a result, this customer wrote a cool blog post about Freshbooks.

I was a bit floored when I received the flowers.  Saul’s right, they’ve never stood me up, always kept their word and made my billing life so much easier.  It was a great gesture and it won me totally over (even more!) as a customer.
<3 Freshbooks. @chelpixie

By sending flowers, Saul showed that Freshbooks was listening and cared about their customers.  If he had sent flowers in the hopes of getting something in return, then Freshbooks may not have been able to turn that first encounter into a long lasting customer relationship.

Love takes Time
“Never expect anything in return,” says Saul.  Building relationships and getting to know your customers takes time.  As a community manager or startup founder, you have to make that extra effort to get to know your customers first and follow through on your promises.  You can’t just send flowers and expect your customers to fall in love with you. You actually have to be there for your customer when there is a problem or pick up the phone when she calls.  If it is your goal to “execute extraordinary experiences everyday,” then Magic will happen. The Magic that Saul is referring to is word of mouth marketing.  If your customers genuinely love you and your product, they will talk about you as @chelpixie did for Freshbooks.

“Now that we found love, what are we gonna do with it?”
When you are in love, you need to constantly be thinking of ways to keep the conversation and flame alive. Saul believes the same holds true for customer development. Rather than say everything you need to say at once, he suggests breaking the “conversation up into little chunks” to keep things interesting and go beyond customer expectations.

For example, one of Saul’s favorite promotions of all time was a cereal contest giveaway he did during the early days of Twitter.  One Monday, Freshbooks decided to hold a Twitter Contest. Saul tweeted “What was the Best Song Ever Written?”  and was overwhelmed with the response!   Even though customers did not probably expect to receive a box of cereal, Freshbooks ended up sending out 100 boxes of cereal with $25 gift cards from iTunes.  For less than $2600, they engaged hundreds of customers online and exceeded their expectations by delivering more than they initially promised. As a result, more than ½ the people, who won blogged and tweeted about the contest.

I just won a box of cereal from @freshbooks. how cool is that …?! @chuise

Hiring a Community Manager
Dressed in a Thoora.com sweatshirt with Thoora logos emblazoned on his Nikes, it is evident that Saul completely submerges himself in a brand and believes that a community manager position should not be outsourced or a jr. position.  A community manager needs to be able to interact with and have conversations with many different types of people from customers to press.  In addition, a full time employee is constantly thinking about ways to make YOUR brand stand out.

Tracking your Success
As a person, who lives on his iPhone, Saul sets up RSS Feeds and Google alerts for all of his keywords and uses Twitter tools like Hootsuite to notify him instantly when someone comments on Thoora or messages him personally.  He also tracks competitors, listens to competitor’s customers and keeps a private Twitter list of all people, who RT.

In addition, Saul is not afraid of taking calculated risks and will try 100 things a month.  He keeps a notebook of every crazy idea he has ever done. Even though he is not motivated by numbers, Saul always hits his target.

Here’s what some of the attendees had to say about Saul’s talk:

Merci Buckets @saulcolt
Many thanks to Saul for flying out last week to share some of his secrets and wisdom with us.

Please come back and visit us soon!

This Week in Tech events – April 6- 10, 2010

I hope everyone had a relaxing Easter break because this week is a busy one for tech events in the city. Better clone yourself as there are a bunch of events on Tuesday evening alone worth checking out.

Startup Drinks

  • Tuesday, April 6
  • 6:00pm
  • On the Edge Pub – 303 Columbia St., Vancouver
  • Free

Media Leaders Meetup

  • Tuesday, April 6
  • 6:00pm
  • Granville Room – 957 Granville St., Vancouver
  • $12.89 per ticket

F5 Expo Tweetup

  • Tuesday, April 6
  • 7:00pm
  • Ceili’s Irish Pub – 670 Smithe St., Vancouver
  • Free

F5 Expo

  • Wednesday, April 7
  • 8:30am
  • Vancouver Convention Centre EAST WING – 999 Canada Place
  • Tickets start at $30

Miss 604 – Blogging to Drive Business Book Signing

  • Saturday, April 10
  • 10am – 1pm
  • London Drugs – 710 Granville St. (Downstairs), Vancouver
  • Free

If we’ve missed an event, please add it below as a comment.

Upcoming Bootup Events
If you would like to be notified of upcoming Bootup only events, please sign-up. You can choose what type of events you want to be notified about from networking to investment pitch opportunities.  We’ll email you several weeks before events to let you know about registration deadlines and other important dates.

NSERC Scholarship Program Overview

Most startups are short on cash and human resources.  Usually, we have more projects on our Wish lists then people to execute them.  Is it worth it to hire an engineering student for only 16 wks to complete one of your projects?   Sarah Antonakos from NSERC dropped by Bootup last Monday to answer our questions and go over the NSERC Industrial Scholarship & Fellowship Programs in more detail:

1.  Undergraduate Program: Industrial Undergraduate Student Research Award (I-USRA)

  • 12-16 week FT placement program
  • For Undergraduate students studying Natural Sciences or Engineering
  • Students must have a minimum of a B average and be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Co-op students are eligible
  • NSERC will pay $4500 for a 16 wk placement and Organizations must contribute a minimum of $1125 on top of that  (the top-up salary is negotiated by the Organization and the student)
  • Students can hold up to 3 awards throughout their undergraduate career
  • Each organization can hire up to 15 students per year (April 1-March 31st)
  • Application reviewed in-house by NSERC
  • Program Officer: Claire Saumure – claire.saumure@nserc-orsng.gc.ca

2.   Post-Graduate Program: Industrial Post Graduate Scholarship (IPS)

  • Students must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada; applications will also be accepted from qualified foreign candidates and had a first-class academic standing (a grade of “A-“) for the last two years of study
  • Students must spend a minimum of 20 percent of their time (at least 50 days per year) at the sponsoring organization on activities related to their thesis project
  • IP Agreement applies to this program, which can be the biggest barrier and delay process. Note: It usually works out for the best interest of both parties.
  • NSERC will pay up to $15,000 per year for a full-time Award and Organization must contribute a minimum of $6000.
  • Application reviewed in-house by NSERC
  • Program Officer: Klara Konya – klara.konya@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

3.   Post Doctoral Program: Industrial R & D Fellowship (IRDF)

  • It’s a 2 year program.
  • Candidates must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada at the time of their nomination
  • Must have received a Ph.D within the last 5 years and cannot have worked in the Industry for more than 6 months.
  • NSERC will contribute $30,000 per year/$60,000 total  to the salary and Organization must contribute a minimum of $10,000 per year for a 2 year program (the top-up salary and fringe benefits are negotiated by the Organization and the post-doc)
  • The average salary in 2008 was approx. $55,500.
  • Organizations should offer comparable salary for a similar position not eligible for the Award.
  • Reviewed by Federal Government Employees, not in-house.
  • Program Officer: Sarah Antonakos – sarah.antonakos@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

Before a company can apply for an award, they should complete Form 183B – Application for Organization Eligibility.  You must be approved before you hold any awards and once approved,  eligibility is valid for 6 years.  Organizations can apply for several awards during that time. It takes 6-8wks on average to be approved but it can be even faster than that.  Just make sure your application is complete before submitting.

Award evaluation times vary, from 4 weeks for the undergraduate award to 8 weeks for the post-doc, so make sure you submit your application enough in advance of when you want the student to start. When you are applying for an award, fill out the appropriate Award Forms and include a copy of your latest Balance Sheet.  NSERC wants to make sure that you are financially viable and can support the student for the life of the Award.

Students cannot work from home.  You must have an office or research facility.

If you are not sure whether these awards are right for you or worth the time, send an email to the NSERC program officer to find out if your project and organization would be a good fit!  You can also contact Vancouver’s Regional Officer, Megan Griffith – megan.griffith@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

If you are a startup, who has experience applying for and receiving NSERC awards, we would love to hear your thoughts.  Was the investment of time filling out the application and working with the student (s) worth it?

“The Brand of Me” with Shira Lazar

On March 18, our good friend Shira Lazar, flew up to Vancouver to present at Social Networking in Transmedia Hollywood: A Strategic Master Class presented by DigiBC and DFAIT.

Shira was joined by other social media specialists from LA, Darcy Jouan, Peter Huh & Gregory Markel, who spent the day discussing transmedia storytelling and how to engage audiences across multiple platforms including mobile and social networking sites.  For example, Darcy discussed the TV Series, Ghost Whisperer and how they created a series of webisodes to create a themed experience for viewers both on and offline.  The webisodes named The Dark Side were spawned by fans of the TV series. The purpose of the webisodes was to allow the audience to experience something beyond what they experienced from week-to-week on TV. In return, both audiences tuned in on and offline as the series runs parallel.

Shira’s presentation focused on her personal brand and how she bridges the online and on air worlds together using multi-media platforms.  Here are Shira’s “Five Steps to Becoming a Media Empress”:

  1. Be you! People can see through a fake brand of image, and it’ll drain you to maintain something that you’re really not. Once you embrace your authentic voice, you’ll find your audience and your audience will find you.
  2. Balance PR/buzz with actual work, i.e. new content and projects. As much as it’s great for everyone to see you at that party or getting interviewed by a cool outlet, it can only go so far. If you’re not continuing to challenge yourself and your audience with some real projects outside of publicity than you’ll lose engagement. Your brand isn’t just about you, but the conversation you create and what you contribute.
  3. Maintain a consistent presence on and offline. As powerful as all these online tools can be to make an impact and be heard, meeting your network and community in person is the incing on the cake.
  4. Think multi-platform. Whenever you have an idea, think of how you can integrate other mediums to get the message out there.
  5. Call yourself a media empress. Michael Jackson actually pegged himself the King of Pop, and he delivered that above and beyond. Don’t wait around for someone to discover and brand you. You have the power to create what and who you are now — and as we all know, perception is reality.

Shira and I sat down during lunch to discuss her presentation.  At the end, she gives a shot out to some of her favourite Vancouver peeps!

Lunch with Shira from Sonia Ryan on Vimeo.

Many thanks to DigiBC for letting me attend this event on behalf of BES.