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.

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.

 

Free ticket to Make Web Not War!

On May 7th we welcome another great tech event to Vancouver, and we’ve got a ticket for you!

Make Web Not War is one of Canada’s first cross-platform conference showcasing the latest techniques and technologies available to the ever-evolving web community, jointly sponsored by Microsoft and Open Source communities across Canada.

It promises to be chock full of great presentations, panels, and discussions around tomorrows web and web community, and you’re going to have to scramble to get tickets because it’s sold out.

Unless, of course, you’re reading this blog post!  That’s right…we’re giving away a free ticket to the event for the person who can tell us in the comments why they deserve it. Comments need to be less than 140 characters to qualify.

More details on the event:

Here we will explore the power and flexibility of new web paradigms, technologies and applications – including the Microsoft web platform, Open Source applications, cloud computing and mobile – to help you develop the ultimate web experience for your clients.

The wars of “platform religions” are over. Embrace the reality of today: mixed environments, interoperable applications, Open Source in harmony with commercial software, PHP on Windows and Azure cloud.The new technology era of pragmatism is here, and MWNW is about bridging the gap between different platforms, communities and developers of all trades and backgrounds.

Tips, tricks, community, open source, cloud, software, developers, platforms, paradigms…this was the hottest ticket in town and we’re giving you a shot at going!

Comment below, 140 characters, on why you deserve to be there. Get an extra chance to win by tweeting a link back here with this message:

“Missed a ticket to @WebNotWar in #Vancouver? Let @bootup know you deserve their extra ticket! Click here: http://bit.ly/fbELcT”

Lean Startup Conference from Agile Vancouver (Discount!)

If you’re anywhere near a startup these days you’ve heard and are likely practicing agile development and lean startup methods to push your endeavor forward. It’s a movement that’s sweeping the entire technology ecosystem and Vancouver is lucky to have a few of the movement’s visionaries stopping into town to discuss the topic in detail.

Agile Vancouver is bringing the Lean Startup Conerence to Vancouver on May 5th and 6th, taking place in the Vancouver Airport Hilton.

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear a collection of industry leaders shed light on lean startup methods and best practices, while connecting with your colleagues in the regional technology sphere who are practicing and refining lean practices in their own businesses.

Register Now

Tickets are still at early-bird rates of $150 for the weekend, thanks to sponsors…but the organizers are generously offering our Bootup audience 20% off tickets by clicking here.  They’re also a co-founder deal gets you a second ticket for half price, and their group deals chop 20% off of every ticket as well. Head over to the conference website for these details.

Agenda

The agenda for the weekend is packed with thought leaders from the lean startup movement. The first day will feature speakers and panels, with the second day offering you the chance to deep dive into specific aspect of lean development with some of the conference’s most exciting presenters. Below are a few of the people you’ll see at the Lean Startup Conference…

Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits

These two co-authored “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development for Tech Startups”. Brant has been bringing technology products to market for 17 years, and Patrick has two startups under his belt and is deeply involved in LA’s lean startup community (he’s also a 500 Startups mentor).

Ash Maurya

Ash founded USERrecycle, wrote Running Lean, and is probably worth the price of admission all alone. His personal blog is a rich resource of lean startup principles and will be speaking on functional application of techniques to move quickly, be decisive, and iterating for speed, learning, and focus.

Owen Rogers and Steve Jones

Owen and Steve employ agile practices at Pulse Energy to develop SaaS solutions for large customers, and should have a fresh and unique perspective on the subject for having transitioned their team into a hybrid form of traditional and lean development methods to reflect their company and customer profile. Steve is also a Canadian paper airline champion, which is always worth noting.

Rob Walling

Rob runs about a dozen lean software companies and wrote “Start Small, Stay Small“. He’s an advocate for hyper-fast go-to-market processes and writes SoftwarebyRob, one of the web’s most popular startup blogs.

Lots More

That’s just a primer; the list of speakers and presenters is chock full of founder insights, investment perspective, and practical agile methods for technology builders and entrepreneurs. The entire agenda is here.

If you’re already going or grab your ticket in the next few days, let us know! A bunch of us Bootuppers will be there, so let’s connect!

This Week in Tech Events, Feb. 28 – March 5, 2011

Bootup will be hosting a startup workshop with Danny Robinson:

Co-Founder’s & Captables

Here are some other local startup events worth checking out this week:

The Lean Startup with Eric Ries hosted by BCTIA

Introduction to Samsung Bada Platform hosted by WaveFront

  • Thursday, March 3 8:30-11am
  • WaveFront – 1055 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
  • Free

6th Annual Women In Film Festival – Digital Media Forum

  • Friday, March 4 9:ooam
  • Vancity Theatre – 1181 Seymour Street, Vancouver
  • Tickets $75, WIFTV members and $90, non-members

If we missed  your event, feel free to let us know by leaving a comment below.

For more tech events and news, you can also check out our media partner, Techvibes.

This Week in Tech Events, February 21-25, 2011

Good Morning Vancouver!  Hope everyone had an amazing weekend and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine.

This week is a busy one in tech as the VEF, BCTIA and Bootup are all hosting events we think you should check out:

Clean Tech Panel Discussion: How to Capitalize on Current Business Opportunities hosted by the VEF

  • Tuesday, February 22nd – 5:30pm
  • Vancity Theatre
  • If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, your outta luck.  This one is Sold Out!

Social Marketing Kung Fu, Yellow Belt – “Listening Everywhere” with Dave Olson hosted by Bootup

  • Wednesday, February 23 – 5:00-7:00pm
  • Bootup Entrepreneurial Society – 163 West Hastings, Suite 200 Vancouver
  • $30 for non-members

Mac McIntosh – Marketing for Leads and Sales hosted by BCTIA

  • Thursday, February 24th – 8:00am -12:30pm
  • The Sutton Place Hotel
  • Tickets are $155.
  • Friends of Bootup can receive 20% off by using the Promo Code: Bootup when registering.

If we missed  your event, feel free to let us know by leaving a comment below.

For more tech events and news, you can also check out our media partner, Techvibes.

The Art of the Investor Pitch with Boris Wertz

There are many posts, books, and seminars out there already that cover how to pitch investors.  As entrepreneurs, it is important to realize that there are many ways to pitch investors and each investor is different. For instance, some investors may care more about the team than the idea where others may want to see real traction before they invest.  The most important thing you can do first is identify the right investors for your business and learn everything you can about how and what they invest in before reaching out.  The right investor will be more than just an injection of cash. The right investor will bring loads of value in the form of mentorship, connections and added credibility.

Considering that Boris Wertz is one of Canada’s most notable super angels, we thought it would be helpful to learn his tips on pitching early stage investors.  As an angel, Boris has invested in more than 20 early stage consumer Internet companies in the Pacific Northwest including Summify, Sparkbuy, Tynt, Suite101.com and Techvibes to name only a few and sees his share of approximately 150-200+ pitches per year.  Out of those 200+ pitches, he many only invest in about 5-6 companies,  which means you have to be pretty stellar to cut through all that noise and land a term sheet.

Step 1 – How to Find the Right Investor
I know you are busy building a company but you have to poke your head out of the garage once and a while to meet other entrepreneurs, angels etc. and get to know the influencers in your community.  Through your interactions and presence at events, you will quickly learn more about the types of investors you should consider approaching.  Boris stressed that you really need to do your homework before you start knocking on doors, so you do not waste anyone’s time.  Once you have compiled a list of investors, dig deeper to find out more about the stage (early stage vs. later) what sector (software vs. ecommerce), business model (b2b or b2c) and geography each investor is interested in as well as who you know that can personally introduce you.

Step 2-  The Warm Introduction
As I have learned first hand and Boris noted in his presentation, it is always best to get a warm introduction to an investor rather than cold call or shoot off an email out of the blue.  An introduction from someone an investor trusts and respects could make all the difference in getting you a face-to-face meeting.  And when you finally do get an introduction – don’t send the investor a 20 page business plan ahead of time. Just an executive summary with a link to your product will do.

Step 3-  Nail the Pitch
Nailing your pitch is way easier said then done but if you have done your homework and been introduced to the right investors, you are off to a great start.  Boris and many Internet investors I know look at the team first.  A strong team can weather many storms and iterate and pivot when needed.  The idea will change, so Boris recommends that in your first meeting you:

  • pitch yourself not the idea
  • show a product demo
  • focus on a the high level concept, rather than digging deep into the long term plans and financials
  • keep your pitchdeck to 10 slides. Something Guy Kawasaki also preaches

What Not to Do:

  • Ask Investor to sign an NDA – If you ask for an investor to sign an NDA, you may not even get past your first slide. Investors see hundreds of pitches every year and chances are there are many other entrepreneurs, who are working on a similar idea. If you ask your investor to sign an NDA, you look like an amateur.
  • Share a detailed business plan and financials. In your first meeting, going into too much detail is not necessary.  Explain what problem you are solving first and show a demo of the product if you can.
  • Schedule a 30 minute or more meeting – Any meeting longer than 30 minutes is too much for Boris. If you are pitching an investor and he starts asking questions, seems engaged and you go over the allotted 30 minutes, that’s probably a good sign.  If you aim to deliver your presentation in less than 20 minutes and allow time for questions, you will be in good shape.

Remember, every investor is different.  Boris likes to spend time getting to know you before he invests. Other investors will be quicker to write a check.  Venture Capitalists usually take 4-6 months, if not more to paper a deal.  So, the be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to raise funds.

Boris’ Presentation
If you missed Boris’s presentation, he has posted the presentation on his blog here.  Thanks again Boris, for dropping by.

What Have You Learned?
As always, we love hearing from you too. If you have an investor Do or Don’t that you learned a long the way, please share with the rest of us in the comments below.

NOTE: Next Bootup seminar will be on February 23 – Social Marketing Ku Fu, Yellow Belt “Listening Everywhere” with Dave Olson. Sign up. He rocks!