Bootup Puts A Bow On It and Passes the Torch to Launch Academy and Van Pixel Crafters

On June 12, Bootup Entrepreneurial Society hosted our last #hurrah to celebrate the past three years and say thank you to our many supporters, advisors, and all of the entrepreneurs, who hustle hard everyday to build something that matters in Vancouver.

I didn’t get a chance to say all of the things I wanted to last night. So, if you will indulge me, here goes…

It’s in Our Blood.
One of the questions I was frequently asked over the past three years was why were we doing this?  If you are an entrepreneur, you will understand my answer was quite simple: From our amazing board and mentors to our GSD organizing committee, we were and forever will be entrepreneurs. And when you have risked it all and sold your house to seed fund your startup, helping other entrepreneurs is just part of your DNA.

As fellow Yankee and local Vancouver entrepreneur, Paul DeJoe of Ecquire so eloquently wrote in his popular Quora response about What it feels like to be a Startup CEO:

You start to see that the word “entrepreneur” is a personality. It’s difficult to talk to your friends that are not risking the same things you are, because they are content with not pushing themselves or putting it all out there in the public with the likelihood of failure staring at them every day. You start to turn a lot of your conversations with relatives into how they might exploit opportunities for profit. Those close to you will view your focus as something completely different because they don’t understand. You don’t blame them. They can’t understand if they haven’t done it themselves. It’s why you will gravitate towards other entrepreneurs. You will find reward in helping other entrepreneurs.

Finding reward in helping other entrepreneurs was at the heart of everything we did at Bootup.   One day last March, I recall looking around Bootup and noting an international mix of entrepreneurs from Belgium, Czechlovakia, England, Singapore, Canada, and the US, working out of our office. I kid you not. I loved that they felt welcome at Bootup and that many of them were choosing to start their companies here, in Vancouver. It was a very cool moment for me and something you can’t really quantify.

By the Numbers.
I have worked with and met some incredibly talented people and I am really proud of what we have accomplished over the past three years. While there are many things I can’t quantify or measure, I can tell you that our team:

  • Organized 100 startup events and supported many others like Metabridge and Grow Conference.
  • Welcomed 10,000 attendees
  • Launched 95 companies
  • Hosted more than 30 startup talks with experienced mentors like Brad Feld, Dan Martell, Mike Macadaan, Paul Kedrosky, Dave Olson, Guy Kawasaki, Jonathan Ehrlich, Matt Galligan, Tom Higgins, Patrick Lor and many others
  • Launched Bootup Garage Pilot Program and had over 40 signups
  • Worked with 40 Local Mentors and hosted regular office hours at Bootup including Boris Wertz, Jason Bailey, Ryan Holmes, Dennis Pilarinos, Danny Robinson, Milun Tesovic, and David Ascher to name a few
  • Brought 8 startups to SF on a road trip to pitch Valley VCs
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
You have all made a huge difference and helped many.  Thanks again.
Passing the Torch.
If you are looking for great startup events and programs for entrepreneurs, here are two organizations you need to check out and get behind:
  • Launch Academy a collaborative community space for tech founders and hackers was founded by Ray Walia, Jesse Heaslip and Roger Patterson. It is everything that Bootup Garage aspired to be and they are just getting started. If you are looking for a place to start your company and learn from the best, you should apply now. Their space is presently located in the GrowLab open office.  We need this in Vancouver. Support this and get involved.
  • VanPixelCrafters is a community driven organization recently founded by Boris Mann and Mack Flavelle. Boris and Mack have been organizing popular tech events like Democamp, Lean Startup talks and HackVan since I have known them. Vanpixelcraft will continue to put on community tech events targeted at the web, software, and design craftspeople of Vancouver and share your startup stories on their blog. If you want to help out or contribute, you should get at them.
As for me, I am still here to help.  I will be focused on working with Mike Edwards at Initio Group, my startups, supporting the groups above and personally, trying to spend more time with my growing family.
It’s been a good run!  Thanks for everything.

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!

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″