Announcement: Launch Party to Host Opening Reception of the GROW Conference

Launch Party, a launchpad event for early stage tech startups, is teaming up with Dealmaker Media’s GROW Conference to host Launch @ GROW for the Opening Reception in Vancouver on August 17th, 2011. The event will attract over 600 attendees including top tier investors, entrepreneurs and influencers from across Canada and Silicon Valley. And we are looking for 15 of the hottest Canadian tech startups from Vancouver to PEI to showoff their wares at the event.

Nominate your Startup
All you have to do is create and upload a two-minute video describing your company to the Launch @ GROW Startup site no later than June 17 for consideration. Tell the world what makes your startup unique and why you should be one of 15 companies to demo at Launch @ Grow.

In order to be considered, you must:

  • Have launched within the past 18 months or plan to launch at GROW
  • Be a Canadian company
  • Have a demo or live site for voters and judges to view
  • Startups that have demoed previously at Launch Party in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton or Victoria can still enter Launch @ GROW

Voting Starts June 17
On June 17, the first round of voting will begin! At that time, you should rally your friends and local tech community to get out and vote because the top 25 startups with the highest ranking will move on to the Semi-Finals.

Semi-Finals
A panel of expert judges will review and rank the top 25 startups to determine the 15 companies to headline at Launch @ GROW.  From shiny boardrooms to quaint coffee shops, our judges hear all kinds of startup pitches everyday. Take this into consideration when creating your 2 minute startup video entry for the contest.

Danny Robinson, Martin Ertl and Maura Rodgers at Launch Party Vancouver 9

Pitch Live on Stage @ GROW
4 startups will be selected on August 17 to Pitch Live on Stage at the GROW Conference on August 18. You need to register to attend @growconf in order to be considered for the Final 4.

We will be telling the world about this Startup Competition and the Launch @ GROW event, so go enter now.

Follow the Launch Party Canada Team List for Updates.  Hashtag #LPGROW:

  • Ken Bautista – @kenbautista
  • Janis Behan – @janisbehan
  • Saul Colt – @saulcolt
  • Mack Flavelle – @mackflavelle
  • Tina Hoang – @t1nah
  • Satish Kanwar – @skanwar
  • Christian MacClean  – @fourslice
  • Danny Robinson – @dannyrobinson
  • Maura Rodgers – @maurar
  • Sonia Ryan  – @sonsryan
  • Derek Shanahan – @dshanahan


Startup Legal 101 – What’s the deal for startup financings?

Last Wednesday, Bootup and Contractually hosted a Startup Legal 101 session on the ins and outs of structuring financings for startups, with Mark Longo and Brock Smith from Clark, Wilson.

Here’s the slide deck that Mark and Brock presented:

 

Key points from the presentation included:

  • Getting your startup incorporated and organized properly, with advice from a lawyer with expertise working with tech startups, can smooth the path to a successful financing later (and save you time & money later).
  • In addition to raising money from investors, startups should look to other forms of funding, such as government programs like IRAP and SR&ED.
  • When raising money from investors, startups need to comply with securities law. For seed and angel financings, this means making sure that the shares are issued under an exemption from the requirement to file a prospectus.
  • For raising money from seed and angel investors, common financing structures are –

(1) ‘light’ preferred shares: the investor is issued shares that have certain preferences over the founders’ common shares — for example, on the sale of the company, the investor may have the option to get their money back, plus a minimum return and before the common shareholders get any sale proceeds, or to convert the preferred shares into common shares;

(2) convertible debt: the investor invests by lending money to the startup company, and that loan is convertible to shares at the time of the Series A financing (or when certain other events occur; and

(3) common shares.

  • Convertible debt has become more and more popular for early-stage financings in Vancouver, following the trend in the US.
  • Many other financing structures are possible depending on what the entrepreneur and the investor would like. However, opting for simpler, well-understood structures can facilitate later financings (it’s easier to explain the structure to later investors).

* * *

Big thanks to Mark and Brock for highlighting how startups can prepare for raising financing.

Got suggestions for future Startup Legal 101 sessions? Send them to Martin Ertl, at martin [at] contractual [dot] ly.

Frameworks vs. Experience

The lean startup movement – the way we think of it today, at least – began in 2008 when Eric Ries identified a set of trends he believed encapsulated the startup landscape as it had evolved. In very broad and simple terms, the lean startup methodology can be summarized as:

  • Agile software development methodology
  • Free and open source solutions whenever possible
  • Customer-centric rapid iteration to create a minimum viable product

(you can read Eric Ries’ first blog post here)

Since then, lean has become a mantra for many entrepreneurs – and the lean startup movement has been picked up and iterated by many in the form of books, blog posts and conferences. As a young tech entrepreneur in Vancouver I was invited to attend the Lean Startup Conference last weekend and share my thoughts. The conclusion? Not all speakers are created equal, and there is an unfortunate bias for presenters within the lean startup community to focus on frameworks over real world examples. The speaker who stood out the most was Rob Walling, who spoke brilliantly about “what worked for him” as oppose to “here is the way it is.”

Why “here is what worked for me” works
Rob Walling of softwarebyrob.com is a serial web entrepreneur who runs a number of niche web and SaaS companies. Although his room presence was arguably less than that of other speakers he more than made up for it by delivering relevant and valuable information for those of us sitting in the audience. Rob’s lecture was powerful because instead of providing step-by-step instructions to success or a “this is how things are now” speech he simply described what worked for him.

Taking us through a series of slides which outlined how he had acquired various web properties over the years and repurposed them gave me a deeper understanding of a process most often described only at a higher level. Most importantly, I learned about Rob’s specific failures, and why they happened. Most speakers tell you that they failed at some point during their delivery (it seems to be a rite of passage to be allowed to speak at these things) – but few tell you tangibly how, or what they learned. Patrick Vlaskovits, for instance, introduced himself as an entrepreneurs who had burned through two startups, but never told us what they were or why they failed. Lessons are best learned through tangible examples, not high level frameworks.

Frameworks versus experiences
Frameworks can ultimately operate to an entrepreneurs detriment because they simplify  the learning process and detach us from having to think about the why. Although we all must learn from the mistakes others have made, when we simply apply frameworks other’s have given us we skip the part where we are allowed to draw our own conclusions from other people’s experiences. Some speakers at #leanstvan trended towards simply providing models for understanding (or worse – models for success). With the exception of strictly informational talks, I would greatly prefer to hear more tangible experiences and less conceptual, extrapolated frameworks. The speaker who says “trust me, here is the lesson I’ve learned” is far less valuable than the one who says “here is what happened to me, draw what conclusions you will.”

The lean startup movement provides many frameworks for entrepreneurs, however those speakers who teach us more about the tangible experiences which led to those frameworks have arguably much more to offer

Andrei Pop is a tech entrepreneur in Vancouver – he runs the web development and strategy company IDEAhack and is involved with a number of other startups in town.

Jimmy Ho and Mentor Connect

Next week is Mentor Connect– a speed networking charity event designed to create connections between tech (mobile, web, games, etc.) entrepreneurs and mentors (angels, VCs, entrepreneurs, etc.)

We figured we’d chat with the man behind the curtain, Jimmy Ho.

1. Jim, tell us about yourself and where you’re coming from and what you’re doing these days.

My name is Jimmy Ho. I am original from Toronto and I graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Computer Science degree. I have experience as an engineer at both Electronic Arts and Microsoft.

I started my first startup, NeverBored Studios, with my friend/classmate Thomas Ang. I ran the business in Waterloo for 1.5 years, but left on good terms because of differences in vision.

I moved to Vancouver and now currently work as an engineer for Microsoft Vancouver (BigPark). I volunteer my time with Entrepreneurs International Organization (EIO) and am a member of Vancouver Entrepreneurs Toastmaster Club.

2. What is Mentor Connect?

Mentor Connect is a speed networking charity event designed to create connections between tech (mobile, web, games, etc.) entrepreneurs and mentors (angels, VCs, entrepreneurs, etc.). Attendees can enjoy speed networking, opening mingling & networking, and raffle prizes.

Event Details:
Date: Monday, May 16, 2011.
Time: 6:30PM-9PM. [Private reserved section]
Location: Ceili’s Restaurant, 670 Smithe Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2C9.
Price: $10/person or $15/group(2-3).

Purchase tickets at TheMentorConnect.eventbrite.com.
All proceeds will be donated to Big Brothers Vancouver.

Note: Mentee application submissions(here) for the mentor speed networking portion end May 9, 2011 @9PM. However, people can come watch the speed networking session and enjoy the rest of the evening.

3. Why are you putting Mentor Connect together?  Where did the inspiration come from?

Originally, I had a desire to start a project and the inspiration for Mentor Connect came about when I was assisting with EIO’s sponsored entrepreneurship course, “The First 99 Milestones”. The content speaker for that night was Thealzel Lee and a student had asked her a question about becoming an angel and how one could tell who to invest in.

One of Thealzel’s answers included her recommending mentoring (other start-ups) and the idea stuck with me.

Since then Mentor Connect has transformed from a single idea to an event that was created and made possible by the Vancouver entrepreneurial community. I personally see Mentor Connect as a way for individuals to really connect with mentors, organizations, and entrepreneurs in Vancouver.

4. What are your thoughts on the start up scene in Vancouver?  Where are we winning?  What do we need to work on?

I see Vancouver’s startup scene growing especially with Danny Robinson/BCIC supporting various organizations and programs in Vancouver. Vancouver’s greatest strength is that it is a great place to live and labour/talent costs are much lower compared to Silicon Valley. Vancouver’s weakness however is that labour/talent costs is irrelevant if a startup is not in a growth phase. Most startups in Canada lack the know-how and experience to quickly get to this stage in their start-up, whereas Silicon Valley has an influential community of experience that entrepreneurs can tap into (funding is also easier to obtain in the Valley from what I hear). Many organizations such as Bootup, AceTech, and EIO look to fill in this gap to create a community of development and support for entrepreneurs in Vancouver, thus Vancouver’s outlook is great.

5. What’s next? After mentor connect what other projects have you got on your radar, are there any other big events you’re excited to attending or organizing?

At the moment, I believe that anything is possible, but I do look forward to the next Vancouver Launch Party.

BCIC Town Hall with CEO Danny Robinson

How are we going to make BC the best place in the world to start and grow technology companies? Well, BC Innovation Council’s CEO, Danny Robinson, has a plan. And we all have to help.

Yesterday at the BCIC Town Hall, to a packed room at SFU Segal Graduate School of Business, Danny shared BCIC’s mission, strategies and guiding principles that will help to fortify BC’s technology ecosystem, and support the creation of thousands of new technology jobs in BC.

Prior to the Town Hall meeting, Danny wrote a blog post outlining these strategies and principles. At the meeting, which was also viewable via webcast, Danny explained BCIC’s plan in further detail, ensuring us that are to be no holes whatsoever in the technology entrepreneurial ecosystem. Danny further stated that this new mission can not be completed by one person, or one organization alone – that in order for BC to become be THE technology hub of North America, the startup community has to work together.

BCIC’s intention is to actively monitor the quality and availability of the support programs available to BC entrepreneurs, and ensure that there is always somewhere, in every region, for entrepreneurs to go for help in every stage or technology sector. Whether companies anchor, exit, or fail, BC will still benefit from the knowledge and experience gained. As Danny stated, “Never believe anyone that says they did it right the first time.” Those failures mean that they might get it right the next time. Or even the next time.

BCIC is also currently developing software to be able to track and help entrepreneurs as they progress through the stages with their startup companies.

An important item to mention, is that everything BCIC does, or plans to do, is going to be fully transparent. All of their plans will go up on their VOTE site, for the public to give feedback on, before they happen. And every year, program ideas available to entrepreneurs will go back up on VOTE, to re-evaluate them, and see if anyone has any suggestions to improve on them.

Entrepreneurs have already been pitching program ideas on the site, and voting and commenting on them. BCIC is reviewing all suggestions and will be responding to each of them. An entrepreneur added Bootup Garage to the list of Programs on Vote.BCIC.ca and it is the top Voted suggestion on the site.  Thanks so much to everyone who voted and commented.

Lastly, Danny reminded the crowd that we, the entrepreneurs in BC, need to start telling our stories “loudly and proudly.” Not enough people know that major startups like Flickr and HootSuite were started in Vancouver, BC.

At the end of the presentation, Danny opened up the floor to questions, and those watching via webcast could also contribute via twitter throught the hashtag: #BCICTownHall.

The webcast and Danny’s presentation slides are now available online, or below, for those that missed the first Town Hall, but if you already have ideas or suggestions on how to improve BC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, make sure to drop by http://vote.bcic.ca/ to contribute them.