Archive for the ‘Early Stage Companies’ Category

The Eagle Has Landed

March 5, 2008
I crossed the classic entrepreneur’s divide earlier today. I had been steadily cleaning out my office over the past couple of weeks, knowing the day was drawing near when I would walk out the door, maybe for good. Then, it was announced our work group had been re-organized, a new boss had been hired (about 10 years my junior), our reporting structure had changed, and I knew it was my time to go.

I scraped up all the vacation I had owing to me — six calendar weeks — and with the blessing of my current boss, will spend the time pursuing my life-long dream of a start up. As I said to him “I just can’t shake this feeling that I want to change the world.“ I was somewhat flattered when he seemed a little disappointed, and not really all that surprised when he didn’t try and stop me, either. I think we both knew it had been in the works for a long, long time.

It gives me six weeks to get some traction on prototype development, and maybe even get started on the fund-raising process that I formally started at the Financing Your Vision seminar a little while back. To this point, I have been attempting to keep both my full-time job and the start up plates in the air at the same time. However, it felt as if each day that went by when the start up ideas weren’t moving ahead quickly, was a day when opportunities were slipping away.

I was surprised to find myself feeling a little melancholy — which is not what I expected, at all. I felt I contributed a lot over the course of my eight years with my current employer. As the last couple of hours ticked away, my ego allowed me to believe someone would rush through the door and say they couldn’t live without me. But that visit never came. I sent out a note to my co-workers, put a ‘gone fishin’ sign under my office number, filled out the vacation request, and just walked out the door. If this current chapter of my career really is over, it was a really weird, last day.

At the end of the six weeks, I’ll be at another fork in the road; given one final opportunity to decide which way to go. Return to the Dilbert world of beige cubicles, performance evaluations and office politics, or follow the yellow brick road. However, like a corny commercial that is running on TV at the moment; “Sometimes to move ahead, you have to leave something behind.“ That’s exactly how it felt today. But tomorrow, it’s on to the business of creating value, building brand and becoming the new, new thing.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterButzi

On Business Planning

February 28, 2008
Most business plans are too big. As I type this, I’m looking at a 200-page plan created by an entrepreneur who wants to use it to raise money.It simply won’t work. Investors only have a little bit of time to manage the initial stages of contact with entrepreneurs. They use a funnel-shaped process that rapidly culls the number of interesting companies they see every year from hundreds down to a tiny handful. They don’t have time to deal with hundreds of massive documents.

By contrast, I’m also looking at a plan that raised $750,000 of angel money last year. It’s 12 pages long. Of course, a lot more information was needed to close the deal, but the entrepreneurs were very smart: they put just enough into the business plan to start the investor conversation, and had a truly comprehensive diligence document prepared.

The 12-page document would win out over the 200-page document every time, particularly when it’s backed up by careful preparation for rapid, intelligent diligence on the merits of your company.

I talk to companies about their business plans every day. At least once a week, I get a business plan outline that is really an outline for a due-diligence binder. I got one in e-mail today. It will create a plan that will be too big to be useful.

Here’s a suggestion. Before you start to write a huge business plan, do a “flyby”. A flyby is a single-page, double-sided document that gives extremely short answers to the questions you will have to address in your business plan. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to give concise, compelling, and meaningful answers.

Here’s a sample (but no means definitive) set of questions to answer in a flyby:
• What are you going to do?
• Who will care?
• Why is this better than what’s being done now?
• Who else is doing the same thing? In other words, who will fight with you for money at the customer’s wallet?
• Why should a customer give you money instead of a competitor (on a case-by-case basis)?
• How many customers exist? How much do they spend on this
problem now? How would your product change this?
• What prevents somebody else from doing this too? Why are you unique? How can your IP be protected?
• Who’s involved? Why are they good at doing this? Why are they better than anyone else?
• If you had a ton of money, what would you do with it to allow you to succeed? Why is this better than bootstrapping (why is VC money needed)? With this money, what would the next four years look like? Will you need more, or is this first batch of money enough?
• How will the investors make a profit?

Once you have the answers to these questions laid out cleanly, take them to someone for comment. You can bring them to CTI, take them to the Alberta Deal Generator or to any of the Angel networks, and get some feedback. You can then expand a revised version of these questions out into a pretty decent business plan.

October 3, 2007 | Registered CommenterThe Startup Guy

Peer-to-Peer Loans Continue “B&M Breakers” Trend

February 28, 2008
Those of you who watch “Dragons’ Den” may remember a very clever business scheme where people could trade Canadian dollars for US dollars through the Web at vastly discounted rates.This is just one example of a trend where activities normally thought of as regulated, traditional and “physical-world-based” have been re-cast in Web-based business models that show exceptional promise.Another very conspicuous example of this is “Prosper”, a peer-to-peer lending scheme that has more liquidity than it can possibly use.

Quite a few Alberta companies have caught on to this trend, and are well through the process of re-thinking traditional business models. It’s a bit early to report on some of these yet, but watch this space for more news.

October 31, 2007 | Registered CommenterThe Startup Guy

Innowest 2007

February 28, 2008
November 14th, 2007 – Carriage House Inn, Calgary, Alberta”Creating a Culture of Innovation: What are you doing about it?” – a one day interactive networksing call to action!

Innovation is about thinking outside the box. InnoWest 2007 is our Innovation Edge – we are putting on a different kind of event.

This day is not all talking, it is making changes and getting things done. Bring your passion and commitment. Be a change leader. Come and be innovative.

These Innovation Champions will be actively participating throughout the day, contributing their opionions, their ideas for actions, their enthusiasm and their wisdom.

Be With the Innovation Champions – and contribute your ideas at the Innovation Brainstorm, share your experiences in the Breakout Action Sessions, see how others have done it and talk to the policy and service people about how you might strangthen your innovation at the Innovation Marketplace.

hear how successful entrepreneurs innovate
share innovations you want to get off the ground
get one-on-one coaching on how to build a successful action plan or fill gaps in your current plan
set up collaborative meetings for new people in your network
Innovation is not a solitary pursuit. the format of this conference is InnoWest’s new way of interacting – let’s see if this process works for you. It is about letting go of control to allow innovation to happen. It is an innovation network in action.

Get action on an innovation project you want to happen and take away specific tasks that will move you forward into the future you want to see.

For more, click here.

November 1, 2007 | Registered CommenterThe Startup Guy

What to do when a Reporter Calls

February 28, 2008
Everyone in a startup recognizes what a boon an interview can be. It’s literally worth thousands and thousands of dollars; it can get you employees, it can find you money, it can send customers to your door.But it’s a scary thing, too. I’ve personally been deeply embarrassed a couple of times when I was mis-quoted, and, I admit, a couple of times when I wasn’t. Now I can laugh about it, but, at the time, I wanted to head into the back-country with 6 years worth of groceries (for why NOT to do this, go see Into the Wild, now playing!).

The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business has a great article today called “What to do when a reporter calls”. I’ve printed it out and put it on the wall. It’s superb advice.

If you have a subscription, it’s online.

If you don’t subscribe to the online edition, well, you may have to resort to the environmentally lamentable paper edition! Or you can e-mail me and I will send you a copy. I won’t post it here for obvious copyright-issue reasons.

November 1, 2007 | Registered CommenterThe Startup Guy

Vote for MileMeter

February 28, 2008
Hey, everybody.Have a peek at the Amazon Web Services Startup Challenge.

One of the contestants, MileMeter, is someone to whom the CTI EIR (that’s me) has given some advice (because of some Calgary ties to the company).

They’re in the running for some Amazon funding. If they win a competition, they get some real help. Part of the judging is some online voting … so have a peek at the link above, and please vote for them if you can.

The idea behind MileMeter is simple: if you’re willing to allow a simple telemetry device in your car, then insurance companies will only charge based on the miles you drive. It’s a much more equitable way of determining the cost of personal vehicle insurance. Everyone knows the actuarial tables insurance companies use have some built-in inequities, and MileMeter can solve some of these problems. It won’t make a difference to the incomes of the insurance firms, but will move costs closer to the source. Of course, it may also make insurance prohibitively expensive for high-mileage drivers with bad records, since the low-mileage and low-accident drivers will be subsidizing them. On the other hand, low-mileage-drivers with near-perfect records will get a huge break. As all this gets sorted out, drivers must be reassured that the mileage-polling devices have no possibility of tracking movements or providing incriminating or even merely mildly-invasive data to people who should not have it.

MileMeter is a very clear example of how the fusion of wireless and Web technologies are creating new product categories that can make a big difference in the way we do business. If you examine their business model in detail, it has the potential to make similar, industry-wide changes in the insurance-agency industry to the changes the online travel sites have made in the travel-agency industry.

It’s going to be very interesting to watch.

December 1, 2007 | Registered CommenterThe Startup Guy

Alberta Startup Index Posted on Tech Vibes

February 28, 2008
Tech Vibes has been posting “Startup Indexes” for a number of major cities/areas across Canada, and they just recently posted one for Alberta. It can be found here:

If you know of any companies that should be on the list but are missing let them know!

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkraftdinner

Calgary’s Simmering High-Tech Community Set to Explode

February 28, 2008
A great post covering the Guy Kawasaki event and some of the exciting high-tech news in Calgary!

January 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkraftdinner

On Ethical Tattling

February 28, 2008
Here’s a pretty interesting question, submitted via FaceBook:

If you are bidding on a job, and it is between you and a competitor of yours as to who will get it…and you have some very damning information about that competitor (like for example they have had their funding cut off and are in danger of going bankrupt as an example), is there an
ethical way to let the client know this without it reflecting badly on you?

The worst possible downside is quite unpleasant: you give your potential customer the dirt on your competitor, they don’t check into it and just give you the contract … your competitor finds out what you’ve said … and you were wrong. Lawsuit country. Your customer won’t trust anything you’ve said. The gloves will come off everywhere you and your competitor face each other.

What about taking care of your customer? If they are damaged by an engagement with a competitor and you can prevent it, do you have an obligation to say something in advance? Probably not. After all, you don’t walk around spontaneously helping companies with their pre-contract diligence, so it rings rather false to develop sudden solicitousness when you have something to gain.

This doesn’t mean you have to ignore the situation. For example, you can quite ethically disclose your financial information at the same time as you say something like, “This is a tough industry. Here’s proof I’m solid, and, no matter who you use as a supplier in the end, I suggest you get this level of information about them.” This way, you:

  1. Give your prospect good sound advice about diligence (which has the advantage of being absolutely true)
  2. Demonstrate your solidity
  3. Make absolutely no representations about your competition

And you get to stay out of court.

February 8, 2008 | Registered CommenterThe Startup Guy