Does Canada Need Another Accelerator?

growlab_logo2You may have already heard the news – Canada is getting a new tech accelerator. I am extremely excited to be working with the team behind GrowLab and the amazing group of mentors, investors and supporters who have committed to building something pretty sweet here in Canada. I have had the opportunity to work with Boris (previously my boss!), Debbie, Jason and Leonard in the past and have a tremendous amount of respect them. But, enough about the news, lets talk accelerators. Continue reading

Advisors: What Are They Good For?

Why is this song in my head?

Time and time again I get the privilege of meeting very early-stage entrepreneurs who fall victim to the myth that advisors add significant value to their company. Bull. In fact, I would argue that they devalue your company and here is why.

As my colleague at iNovia, Karam, so adeptly quoted Paul Graham:

“An advisor is just somebody who doesn’t believe in you or your idea enough to invest in it.”

Continue reading

Entrepreneurship is a Passion, Not a Program

I was deeply moved yesterday when I read Vivek Wadhwa’s post A Better Formula for Economic Growth: Connecting Smart Risk Takers. He directly dispels the theory of clusters, research parks, university tech commercialization programs and every other top-down approach to create innovation and entrepreneurship. I highly recommend you check it out.

I completely agree with this notion and started thinking about what entrepreneurship really is and how to build a striving tech eco-system in a given area. Continue reading

Two Months as a VC

I originally planned on writing a post titled “Two Weeks as a VC” sharing my early experiences in this new world, but things got a little busy as I was able to hit the ground running. As anyone who has a blog says at this time of year – I hope to make blogging a higher priority this year.

I wanted to share some quick observations and experiences from my first 2 months working as a VC. So far it has been great being on “the other side of the table”, but a lot different than my previous experiences in the angel space and as an operator running a company. Continue reading

Self Expression is a Tough Business

A few days ago Fred Wilson wrote a post about Tumblr claiming that much of its success could be attributed to self expression. I would agree with this and experienced it firsthand at Nexopia.

But, there is a challenge with sites like these and lots of difficulties in building long-term sustainable businesses. The issue stems from sites that experience incredible growth as they are seen as “cool” among the masses, generally young people, that use them. The problem with cool, is that it is not sustainable. This is true both on and off the web. Can anyone name a fad or product that was cool 20 years ago that still is today? On a side note, I am waiting for the day that tattoos are no longer cool. Man, there are going to be some people with a lot of regrets. Anyone know of an innovative tattoo removal company that needs investment? Continue reading

Some Love for the Edmonton Tech Scene

I have been back in Edmonton for 3 years and dove into the tech scene from the minute I returned. At that time things were pretty quiet. Fast forward 3 years and we now have Startup Edmonton, a strong DemoCamp community and additional community building initiatives driven by both the public and private sectors.  More importantly, we are starting to see more people who appear to “get it”.  “Getting it” consists of the realization that thriving tech communities are built from the bottom up by individuals and not by throwing money and programs at it from the different levels of governments.  These can be used to accelerator growth, but they will not create it. Continue reading

A New Path for Venture Capital in Canada?

Jevon MacDonald wrote a great post about the venture capital industry in Canada. In it, he highlighted how we tried to follow our “big brother” to the south and raised some large funds just like the big boys on Sandhill Road, but failed. Jevon proposes that it is now time to forge ahead with our own path in Canada and bring together entrepreneurs, venture investors and governments to work towards some mega-exits in the future.

First off, I love Jevon’s passion and completely agree with the direction he is proposing – building great entrepreneurial communities (thanks for the shout out to Edmonton!) and seeing a new breed of venture investors. But, I can’t help but think this is not really a new path, rather the same one that our “big brother” started on after the dot-com crash. Continue reading

The Builder-Extractor Ratio

This past weekend Chris Dixon wrote a blog post titled “Builders and Extractors” that resonated with me more than almost anything I have read before. For about the past 10 years I have been passionate about this same topic and have explained my position to people countless times, of course, not nearly as articulated as Chris was able to.

About 10 years ago, when I was in my 2nd year of university, an opportunity came to me from a friend of a family member (that should be the first warning sign) of an amazing investment opportunity supposedly leveraging debt instruments and bank lending ratios to produce amazing returns. Yes, it did turn out as sketchy as it sounds. However, I learned a ton about myself and those around me through this experience. Continue reading

Working Towards a Minimum Viable Product

One of the hardest things for a company to do is work towards the first launch of a product. It is no coincidence that many products, and companies, emerge from an idea that someone just threw out there for people to use. Generally these products are far from complete and missing tons of useful features, but the basic concept provides a user the ability to do something that catches their attention.

Some of the hottest startups today fall under this assumption. The first iteration of Twitter was built in 2 weeks inside a company known as Ideo as a side project. The first revision of Facebook was built in a month from a Harvard dorm room. Foursquare was launched as a simple iPhone application with limited functionality other than to tell your friends where you are. Continue reading