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.

 

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Bootup – We are Just Getting Started.

As many of you have heard, Bootup Labs Managing Director and Co-Founder, Danny Robinson recently accepted the role of CEO of BCIC.   There has always been a bit of confusion with the Accelerator and the Non-profit b/c we share the Bootup name and understandably so.  But, BES has always been an independent organization. We have our own team, an independent Board, have to make our own money and raise our own funds. When Danny moved on to BCIC, the only thing that changed was he stepped down from our Board and Boris Wertz of WMedia Ventures stepped up as our Chairman.

In the past two years since we started Bootup Entrepreneurial Society, we have organized more than 40 of our own events and supported many other associations, organizations and international companies in their efforts as well.  These events include mentor talks and workshops, Democamps, Mentor speed dating, Co-Founder speed dating, Launch Party Vancouver, Facebook Developer Garage and more.  We have seen companies like UnbounceMobifyHootsuiteAyogoGistYowza and Weddingful attend and launch their companies at various BES events and continue to thrive.  We are their biggest fans and we want to see all of these companies and more hit it out of the park.

We have come this far with a team of 2 full time employees and the support of some amazing volunteers including Mack FlavelleParveen KalerLyal AveryBoris Mann, Angela Baldonero, Jodi Day, Tina Hoang, Ross Howard Jones, Alexa BoothJordan Behan, and Derek Shanahan, a rock star Board of Directors,  our sponsors and countless others, who have stepped up to help at many of our events.

What’s Next – Bootup Garage, an open space for Founders to Bootup
Bootup (BES) has always had an open door policy. We love having people drop by, plug in and work away while they are visiting from Toronto, SF, Boulder and even France.  Working in an environment like this is exciting and inspiring.  And as an entrepreneur, who’s first startup’s HQ was in my garage, I really appreciate and thrive on being surrounded by others, who are taking the same risks or have been there and can help me navigate through the sometimes unpredictable and challenging waters of entrepreneurship.

With this in mind, BES is launching the Bootup Garage Pilot Program.  The Bootup Garage is something we believe every healthy startup ecosystem needs and we want to create a space where Internet founders and developers know they can come, connect and hack away on their idea in a very supportive, collaborative and inspiring environment.  It is not meant to be a co-working space, where you rent a desk on a monthly basis.  The space will support new ventures from their earliest single-founder ideation stage through small-team prototype development, until the startup has achieved proof of demand and is ready to accept funding or establish their own workspace.

Mentors
We have lined up dozens of mentors already, who love Vancouver and want to support Canadian entrepreneurs.  Mentors will be on site, hosting office hours on a weekly basis (if not more) at Bootup Garage and you can set up meetings based on their schedule.  Everyone from Jason Bailey of Super Rewards, Boris Wertz of W Media Ventures, Boris Mann of IQMetrix, Angela Baldonero of Return Path, tech artist Kris Krug, David Ascher of Mozilla Messaging and Stewart Butterfield of Glitch and Flickr are on board and we are just getting started!  The list and mentor calendar will be posted soon.  Thanks to everyone for your support.

Funding
Bootup is a non-profit, supported by many wonderful partners and sponsors including BCIC, who has been a big supporter of us before Danny ever interviewed for the CEO job.  While BCIC has funded us again this year, which includes this pilot project, we are also talking to many other private and government organizations to help us in our mission to support and inspire entrepreneurship in BC and Canada.  If you are interested, please contact us or come to our Open House: 

Open House
On December 1, from 12:30-2:30pm – we invite you to an Open House at Bootup – 163 West Hastings St., Suite 200. Come find out more about the Pilot program, ask questions, meet other entrepreneurs and mentors and check out the space.

If you are interested in the new space, sponsorship or being a mentor, you can send me an email – maura [at] bootup [dot] ca or jeff [at] bootup [dot] ca or sonia [at] bootup [dot] ca, come to the Open House on Dec. 1st or connect with all of us at Launch Party Vancouver 10, http://lpv10.eventbrite.com

Bootup Names Boris Wertz as New Chairman

Maura Rodgers, Danny Robinson, Dave Shea, and Boris Wertz. Photo Credit: Raul Pacheco, #LPV5

The Bootup (BES) board is filled with entrepreneurs and investors, who are committed to helping the Vancouver startup ecosystem grow and thrive including Danny Robinson. Danny has acted as Chairman of the BES board since our very first meeting and has done an amazing job helping us stay true to our mission to inspire and support Canadian Internet entrepreneurs.

Over the past two years, Danny has invested in 10 new Internet companies (8 via Bootup Labs), co-founded BES and Launch Party Vancouver with me and mentored many other startups. I have known Danny a long time both professionally and personally. But anyone, who has seen Danny interact with startup founders can easily see that rolling up his sleeves and working with entrepreneurs is the thing he loves the most about his job. It’s truly inspiring to watch a founder(s) Danny has worked with take an idea, get traction and go on to build a great company.

As of today, Danny is leaving Bootup to become the new CEO of BCIC. Board member Boris Wertz of W Media Ventures has accepted the role as BES’ new Chairman. Like Danny, Boris is incredibly passionate about entrepreneurship and has invested a lot of his time and money into Vancouver’s startup ecosystem. We are really excited to have Boris step up as Chairman to build on what Danny has started. In addition, Jeff Magnusson has joined me as the interim COO at Bootup to help roll out our plan for a cool new space for Founders, which we will be sharing more details about very soon.

Thank you, Danny for sharing your knowledge and passion with us. We will miss you around here but are incredibly excited that you will be able to continue your work at BCIC. We think they are pretty darn lucky to have you and wish you all the best in your new role.

More good things to come in 2011!

Maura Rodgers, Danny Robinson, Dave Shea and Boris Wertz – Photo Credit: Raul Pacheco, #LPV5″

How to Be Acquired by Microsoft

Jon Gelsey, Director of Corporate Development from Microsoft joined us in Vancouver yesterday to share some insights on the process that he goes through when considering to “buy vs. build:”

  1. Adjacency – For starters, Jon said they look for companies that are “adjacent to the core business.”  In some instances they have bought companies that are not necessarily adjacent but something they know they could benefit from moving forward. A perfect example of this is their acquisition of Aquantive in 2007, which they knew would help better monetize Microsoft’s online content.
  2. Valuation – Considering valuation and doing a model helps Jon decide how much more money they will make by buying your company today vs. developing the technology in-house and releasing it in 8-10months.  “At the end of the day, a valuation is all about what someone is willing to pay for you,” Jon said.
  3. Think like a VC – Since everything moves really quick in the tech industry, Jon needs to think like a VC and have an asymmetric risk return.  Models are imprecise.  And at the end of the day, Jon and his team have to decide that based on their model and the assumptions is this acquisition “directionally correct.”  What matters most to Microsoft is taking market share and keeping it.
  4. Market Traction & Technology –  Two girls in a garage with a few users vs. 20 people in an office with real customers makes a difference.  Microsoft is looking for traction, credibility and getting another point of “query share.”   That said, Jon stressed that the size of your company, number of employees, and price is all ultimately irrelevant.  Microsoft will happily consider buying a two person company or a larger entity.  However, they sweet spot is a company with less than 50 employees because of the low organizational impact.
  5. Team and Culture – This is something Microsoft looks closely at.  They have passed on deals for cultural reasons.  While culture is important, Jon’s team looks for good documentation, coding and hiring practices.  And after a price is negotiated, Microsoft will hire an independent third party of your choice to delve deep to find out if your code actually does what is advertised.
  6. Location – Microsoft has bought and invested in companies all over the world.  Location “matters only as much as it becomes a friction point.”  If Microsoft can manage a company remotely, then borders and location are not an issue.
  7. Patent Portfolio – As a startup, you probably don’t want to be spending your money on filing patents.  VCs like Brad Feld would like to abolish software patents all togther. Jon stressed that “any technology is replicable” and if you are concerned bout people stealing your ideas, don’t share your core IP.  Jon mentioned that Bruce Sewell, Apple’s Lawyer believes that a “patent is worth pretty much what it costs to process it.” Execution is what matters.
  8. Get Noticed – If you want to capture Microsoft or any acquirers attention, focus on building a quality company. Execute! Execute! Execute! Don’t worry about the exit.  Jon said, “Performance is the best advertisement.”

And once you do get noticed, be organized.  Eliminate as many friction points as possible to getting the deal done.  If Microsoft asks for your latest financials and historical projections, turn it around fast.  Let them be the bottleneck.

As you build your company, Jon recommends working with good attorneys, practicing good corporate hygiene and engineering practices and fully understanding all risks of the deals you sign.  If there are any weird contracts you sign or deals you do along the way, these can affect your success and possibility of a future exit.

Microsoft also invests in companies as a syndicate investor but they did lead the round for a multi-touch screen company called N-Trig in 2009.  “We will only invest, when we sign a commercial deal along side it,” Jon said.  Investing is a great opportunity for both sides to build a relationship that could lead to an acquisition down the road.

If you are interested in exploring a deal, all you have to do is send Jon an email jgelsey@microsoft.com and he will happily take a look at it.

Many thanks to Jon for taking the time to come to Vancouver to meet with us and to Fasken Martineau and BCIC for helping us bring Jon to town.

If you have any other mentors you would like to connect with – leave a comment here and we will see what we can do.

Launch Party Vancouver 9 Wrap Up

When we started LPV in September 2007, our goal was to shine a big bright light on the startup community and help connect entrepreneurs with investors, potential partners and their peers. Looking at photos from the last 9 events, it is clear that our community is growing and that the best of Canadian tech has consistently showed up to support and celebrate the latest crop of Internet startups in the great Northwest. It’s our hope that the startups you have seen demo at Launch Parties 1-9 will grow into the next generation of Canadian super angels.

Martin Ertl of Contractually, LPV9 Startup Competition People’s Choice Winner
Photo credit: Jeremy Lim

Our ninth edition of Launch Party Vancouver on June 17th was definitely our biggest event yet.  As Debbie Landa tweeted, LPV9 was definitely a “who’s who of Canadian tech.” We were thrilled to have Chris Albinson, Katherine Barr, Dan Martell, Debbie Landa, and Anthony Lee from the C100 fly up from Silicon Valley as well as Chris Arsenault and Shawn Abbott from iNovia Capital in the house.  A great big thank you to all of our out of town guests for making the trek to Vancouver.  Go Canada!

Chris Albinson of the C100 Organization and Panorama Capital
Photo Credit: Jeremy Lim

Put your hands together for…
We rely on public and private donations and a whole lot of sweat and sometimes tears to make this all possible.  Many thanks to Sonia Ryan and volunteers Melissa Joaquin, Angela Baldonero, Tarlan Klo, Tina Hoang, and Laurent Munier for working the door and helping us set-up.

We could not do any of this without the backing of our LPV9 Partners:

  • BCIC – the lead organization charged with advancing innovation and commercialization in British Columbia.
  • Canpages – fastest growing local search company in Canada with a nationwide API for smart phone application developers.
  • Clark Wilson – BC’s Law Firm for Business. Mark Longo & Brock Smith are the go to guys.
  • HSBC – the world’s local bank with startup banking packages.
  • Fasken Martineau – a leading international business law and litigation firm. Keith Spencer and Shahrooz Navabi are the real deal.
  • Strutta – the platform for creating online contests and the brains behind the LPV9 Startup Competition.
  • Lonsdale Rentals – the place to go for all of your corporate and private party rental needs. From bar rentals to glasses, they have it all.
  • Pixstar – Pixstar Photo booths provide the perfect memento to remember any party.
  • Mission Hill – Mission Hill has an amazing selection of Okanagan wines. They featured Rigamorole red and white at LPV9.
  • Russell Brewing – committed to brewing 100% natural, real Canadian beer. And it shows!
  • Jeremy Lim – Check out Jeremy’s awesome LPV9 photo set on Flickr and contact him for your event.

Our Media Sponsors rock:

  • Techvibes – our favorite technology blog does an amazing job highlighting all of the LPV9 startups and covering daily tech news in cities across Canada and the United States. And best of all, Techvibe’s President & Editor, Rob Lewis always shows up as promised   ——->
  • Startup Digest – All you have to do is enter your email address and choose your favorite hubs to receive the best startup events in your inbox every week.  Jon Chui runs the weekly Vancouver newsletter.

Thank you all for making LPV9 so great!

Metabridge 2010 or Bust

After having a successful exit, I look back and found that in the early days the biggest challenge wasn’t the great idea we had, it was getting people worth talking too, to listen to what we had. – Steve Wandler, Founder of Metabridge

Last Thursday afternoon, Danny Robinson of Bootup Labs drove a big blue Suburban filled with 6 other entrepreneurs from Vancouver to Kelowna for the 2nd annual Metabridge event.  After a late start and a pitstop in Hope, BC to refuel at the iconic Hope Drive in & Restaurant, we were on our way!

Photo Credit : @dshanahan of Foodtree.com

Derek Shanahan of Foodtree, Lyal Avery of Outcome 3, Mack Flavelle of Compass Engine,  Cristian Strat of Summify and Dean Prelazzi of BCIC were all brave enough to make the trip with Danny at the helm. Both Derek and Cristian are from out of town so I was really happy they could join us and take in the beautiful scenery on the Coquahalla.  No companies were formed but many ideas were shared and my belly hurt from laughing so hard on the road to K-town.

Photo Credit : @dshanahan of Foodtree.com

Day 1
We arrived in Kelowna just in time to catch the bus to the Quails Gate Winery for the Welcome reception.  It was great to see so many old friends from Metabridge 1 including Ethan Anderson, Founder of Red Beacon, Peter Haubrich, Founder of ORIC, Jason Richards of Vineyard Networks and Gary Symons, Founder of Vericoder.  Unlike the first Metabridge, the room was full with many attendees from Vancouver and I was not the only female entrepreneur in the room.

Photo Credit : @dshanahan of Foodtree.com

Day 2
A pitch breakfast for attending startups kicked off Day 2 before a day of Golf or a Sparkling Hill Spa tour.  There were only 8 companies in attendance last year and over 30 startups at Metabridge 2.  Since I spent the day catching up on work, I did not get to experience either afternoon adventure personally but I heard that a full round of golf at the Okanagan Golf course was hands down the better choice!

Photo Credit : @stevewandler of Metabridge

Metabridge ended with a networking dinner at Earl’s Restaurant on the water. Various visiting VIPS were assigned seating throughout the venue and acted as hosts for each table.  I was paired up with Lars Lekkie from Hummer Winblad and Amy Leger of HuStream and Brent Bolleman from Axel Partners joined us.  I can’t sit still for very long so, as soon as dinner was over I was table hopping and mingling.  Without naming names, I made many great connections, who I intend to keep in touch with in the future.

Photo Credit : @dannyrobinson of Bootup Labs

Thanks
Many people were thanking Steve Wandler, the Founder and organizer of Metabridge throughout the evening and he deserved all the props he was getting.  It takes a lot of hard work to pull an event like this off successfully.  Luckily, he had the help of Chantelle Kshyk, Event Manager from Ostec, who is absolutely fantastic to ensure everything ran smoothly and left attendees raving.

Bring Back the Boat!
When I caught up with Steve at the end of Day 2 to thank him as well, he turned to me and said “I don’t want to just hear how great the event was.  I want to hear how I can make it better and better.”  To which, I replied – “well, I have a couple of ideas…”,  which includes a boat, Dale Fuller 😉 and a few other suggestions I will share with Steve the next time he is in town.

Photo Credit : @stevewandler from Metabridge 1

All and all it was a great event!  Kelowna has a growing and very supportive tech community.

Thank you Steve, Robert Fine, Chantelle and the entire Kelowna Tech Community for being such great hosts. You are welcome at casa Bootup anytime.

Bootup Partners with BCIC to Support and Promote Startup Ecosystem

At our Paul Kedrosky mentor event on November 19, we announced a BCIC/Bootup partnership before Paul’s talk. Since then, the ink has dried and I have had the pleasure of interacting and working with many members of the BCIC team including “the Deans,” Lin Kishore and Lindsay Thom.  Both organizations are committed to helping build a strong startup ecosystem that encourages innovation and offers digital media entrepreneurs the potential for long term success.

“Bootup Entrepreneurial Society fulfills an instrumental role in the acceleration of technology start-ups to competitively position British Columbia in today’s global technology space,” said Dean Rockwell, CEO of BCIC.  “BCIC is dedicated to develop entrepreneurial talent and to drive the commercialization of technologies and we are pleased to partner with BES in their efforts to make our province a desirable place to found and build digital media start-ups.”

Through this partnership, BES plans to expand its International Mentorship Program to include regular talks and workshops by leading business development and marketing experts. In addition, BES will work closely with BCIC to raise awareness of BC’s burgeoning digital media startup community locally and abroad.

Wantit.bootup.ca
On top of that, we really want to hear from you.  We started wantit.bootup.ca last month to get your feedback and suggestions.  Two of the ideas posted on the Wantit site are already in motion:

  • Mentor Speed Dating – Mack Flavelle of Compass Engine has come forward to organize a Mentor Speed Dating event on February 10.  If you are interested in being a mentor or looking for mentorship, please sign up at mentors.bootup.ca and Mack will get in touch with you.
  • University Connect Program – Jon Chui is working on a plan to support student entrepreneurs. More information to come.

Go to Wantit.bootup.ca if you want to add or vote for your favorite suggestion.  If you want to help make some of these things happen like Mack and Jon, please contact me or comment below.