Launch Party Vancouver 1-9 in Photos

At our first LPV in September 2007, we had 120 attendees and a handful of startups and at LPV9, we had 9 amazing companies and over 500 people in the room.  To me, this just proves Vancouver is for Startups and our community is growing.  Here’s a snapshot of LPV over the years.

LPV 1 – September 27, 2007
Section 3, Vancouver
120 attendees, 6 Startups

Photo Credit: Phillip Jeffrey

LPV 2 – Launch Party with a Twist
December 5, 2007
The Republic
Special Guests – Mike Macadaan, Shira Lazar, Bill Wetherell, David Robinson & Heather Vescent from Twiistup in Los Angeles.
200 attendees, 6 startups. Check out the Video here

Photo Credit: Duane Storey

LPV 3 – January 28, 2008
The Lamplighter
250 attendees,  6 startups

Photo Credit: Philip Jeffrey

LPV4 – May 21, 2008
The Republic
300 attendees, 7 Startups

Photo Credit: Ianiv & Arieanna

LPV5 – September 18, 2008
Unwine’d
300 attendees, 6 Startups

Photo Credits: Tris Hussey, Raul Pacheco

LPV6 – February 26, 2009
Uber Lounge
350 attendees, 6 Startups

Photo Credit: Bobby Dassler, Ianiv & Arieanna

LPV 7 – June 2, 2009
Uber Lounge
400 attendees, 7 Startups

Photo Credit: Jason Brown

LPV8 – Under the Launch Party with Dealmaker Media
September 16, 2009
Circa Resto Lounge
400+ people, 8 Startups

Photo Credit: Bootup Labs

LPV9 – June 17, 2010
The Roundhouse
Special Guests: C100 Organization, iNovia Capital, Dealmaker Media
500+ attendees, 9 Startups

Photo Credit: Jeremy Lim

Thanks for all the fun and support over the years.

To view more LPV photos or share some that you have taken, please add them to our Launch Party Photo Group on Flickr and tag them with LPV#.

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!

How to Build A Web App Business with Freshbooks CEO, Mike McDerment

How I met Mike McDerment
In July 2008, my company Strutta was selected out of over 100 applicants to be one of 11 companies to demo at Twiistup 4. Our team, dressed in white to celebrate the launch of our new white label contest platform, descended on the Viceroy in Santa Monica, CA to make some noise.

On top of attracting some new customers and dominating the Skee Ball table in the Twiistup Arcade late night (oh yes, I did!), I met some really great people including Saul Colt, the Smartest Man in the World, who introduced me to Mike McDerment, the CEO and Founder of Freshbooks.

I really enjoyed meeting Saul, Sunir and Mike and learning more about the itch that caused Mike to start Freshbooks.  Upon returning to Vancouver, I continued to hear rave reviews about his company and read stories of how the Freshbooks team went out of their way to deliver exceptional customer service time and time again. It was abundantly clear that Mike and his team had successfully started and built a customer driven product and organization. Not an easy feat!

Vancouver Enterprise Forum, November 24
So, when I sat down with the VEF Ops committee last May to help put together a wish list of engaging speakers for the year ahead, Mike’s name immediately came to mind. Lucky for us, Mike happily accepted our invitation to come West to share his start-up story and answer your questions at the VEF on Tuesday, November 24.

How to Build a Web App Business, November 25
While Mike is in town, he will also be delivering a very informative workshop on How to Build a Web App Business at Earl’s V Lounge in Yaletown on November 25 at 9am.  Mike will cover everything from building your app and your team to marketing, product management, metrics and financing.

For an entrepreneur, who recently graced the cover of Entrepreneur magazine as the Founder of 1 of 100 Brilliant Companies that has attracted more than 1M users, I trust Mike knows a thing or two about building a successful web app business.  Sign up now while there are still some spots left!  Tickets are $100, includes lunch and refreshments.