Startups

Taking equity in startups as a consulting firm

I’ve been asked by a number of design agencies, development shops, and other consultants how they can work with startups. Part of this is understanding what types of services startups need and what their budget is. The other part is these firms thinking of themselves as investors, and wanting to have a piece of a product company that may pay off beyond just hourly consulting fees. Much of the material is slanted towards design services, but is generally applicable to any service provider. Early stage tech startups don’t have a large budget for brand design, and since their customers and...

Committed to building Vancouver’s startup community

I’ve been in an introspective mood lately. It’s 2014, 10 year since I returned to Vancouver. 10 years of working with web technology and community building. What has changed about Vancouver, and where is it heading? How long does it take to level up a startup ecosystem?

Stages of early stage tech investing

How much to raise and what stage your company is at is a constant question asked by founders and investors alike. Describing the stages of tech investing is my attempt to categorize what I am seeing in the market today. For any new business, traction will trump everything, with lots of customers using the product on a daily or monthly basis being a great indicator. There are many “it depends” for these stages and dollar amounts, and they also reflect common numbers in Vancouver / Canada. For example, a business model that focuses on Enterprise sales is going to need...

You Can’t Outsource Product

One of the many tricky things about building a web startup is that you can’t outsource product. As a web startup, your web or mobile app is your company, your sole purpose for existing. Why do you think you can outsource it? When you outsource building your product, your company is missing out on most of the important things that go into building a successful company. Sure, you can hire freelancers or a consulting shop to build you something. And that’s what you’ll get: something. As long as you keep paying the bills, the typical consulting shop will write code...

Build more startups in Vancouver

Last Thursday, Jesse Heaslip wrote ‘Two Problems with (Vancouver’s tech community) and Three Ways to Fix it’. If you don’t know Jesse, know this: he’s crazy-irrational-passionate about the Vancouver tech community. For proof, I offer the fact that he organized 40 tech events that were attended by 1600 people in 2011. Talk about impact! Jesse lists the two problems as: 1. How do we get companies to the stage where there is interest from acquirers? and 2. How do we get those companies to stay? First of all, for a really great backgrounder on startups in Vancouver and the various...

Vancouver’s Talent Are Like Raw Resources

I had a brief clip air on Global TV BC this evening, commenting on the news that Facebook is opening a temporary office in Vancouver. Here’s a link to the written article. Thanks to Greg for tracking down the Global TV News Hour clip (starts at 15:20). I do think that the difficulty in getting a US Visa is a contributing factor to make Canada / Vancouver an attractive place to put an office. It was back in July 2007 that the Microsoft opening an office news broke. Looking back, the Microsoft office out in Richmond was basically a non-impact...

Startup Riot Seattle 2012

I’m just getting back from 2 days in Seattle. In general, I’m trying to spend more time there, getting to know what’s happening in the Seattle community and seeing if Vancouver can connect more regularly (Cascadia!). Startup Riot is actually run by a team from Atlanta, with Sanjay Parekh playing the front man. The event is run as a pitch contest, including feedback from experienced entrepreneurs as judges, plus several keynote talks and lots of opportunity for connecting with other attendees. Here’s the description and agenda for the day. I loved the event. It was well run, it was curated1...

Ship Your First Version (Fail Money)

If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long. Matt Mullenweg I had a great off-the-mic talk with Eric Woodward. We’re really aimed at the same thing, just that I try and encourage people in public and crush their dreams in private. Eric is right about fast follow / barrier to entry, but I think this tension of shipping quickly and iterating is still important. I remember a time when Leonard Brody suggested getting a bunch of engineers together in a room and coming out 18 months later. This was, of course, something like 5...

Moving from selling services to selling product

Moving from services work to having a successful product is probably one of the hardest things to do. Well, perhaps no harder than doing any startup from scratch, but the benefit in doing it from a services company is that you have a built-in way to bootstrap yourself. As a single consultant or small development shop, you work for a number of clients on different projects. You might become known as an “X” shop, where X is some particular framework or programming language, being the go-to team when the complex or large projects come up. You get to learn about...

I want to vote with my dollars that the Vancouver tech community is important

Allen Pike posts about how important homes for startups are and what his experience has been like here in Vancouver. Here’s the closing sentence: Bringing startups close to one another is, dollar for dollar, more helpful to the Vancouver ecosystem than tax breaks ever could be. Allen Pike, Homes for Vancouver Startups Once again, I realize that my gut agrees with this 1000%, and it has for years.

What Support / Feedback Service Should You Use For Your Small Company

Let me start by saying that it feels like we’re actually in a golden age of great online support & feedback tools. I’m sure there are more than the ones that I’m listing here. Also, at different times, I’ve recommended each of these tools for a specific purpose - many of them have broad feature sets. With that in mind, I recently did a mini-analysis of 5 different services that provide support & feedback functionality. I was analyzing from the perspective of a small company that is just starting out, for a mainly B2C product, with desired features covering both...

What I’m obsessed about

Brad Feld is finding a lot of noise in the system, saying he is noticing: …lots of drama that has nothing to do with innovation, creating great companies, or doing things that matter. I expect this noise will increase for a while as it always does whenever enthusiasm for startups and entrepreneurship increases. When that happens, I’ve learned that I need to go even deeper into the things I care about. Brad Feld What I'm Obsessed About At Work So, he identifies areas that he is obsessed about, and is going to dive deeper into them. It’s pretty easy to...

Vancouver tech needs to wake up

Brent Holliday writes about what is needed for BC’s technology industry to succeed, which is itself a follow on to Jevon’s StartupNorth post on Canada’s next 5 years. I have some further thoughts on the five areas that Brent discusses:

Help startups by getting sh*t done (or get out of the way)

Sadly, no matter how much you might want it, you can’t will an innovative eco-system that generates new companies into existence, you have to let one grow. As Dave ten Have said recently, entrepreneurial activity doesn’t come from central planning. So, while it seems like a lot is being done, in my opinion at least, it is mostly splashing and thrashingand not much forward momentum for the people that all of this is supposed to be helping. via rowansimpson.com I agree with virtually everything stated in this article. Some particularly good parts to expand on: Both incubators and accelerators have good definitions....