Jevon MacDonald

co-founder of Startupnorth.ca

You are supposed to break the rules

diving_lessons

Great entrepreneurs truly do not care about the rules.

If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of rules.

Some come and go with the times, others never seem to go away:

  • You are supposed to dress a certain way
  • Finance your company this way
  • You pitch deck should look like THIS
  • You, in your industry, with your product, it’s not the way it’s done

And there are the big rules, the regulations:

Great companies are built by breaking rules. We call them ‘norms’ but they are rigid and they feel real until someone destroys our idea about ‘how it’s done’.

  • Marc Benioff decided to sell software as a service when everyone believed they had to install software on premise
  • Steve Jobs built expensive but beautiful machines when every other hardware company believed they had to be cheap.

and so many more.

And it’s happening, there are more great stories of breaking the rules and the amazing companies that result:

  • Figure1 is breaking the rules in Healthcare
  • Wattpad has done away with not only publishers, but with most of the old creative process

Who else comes to mind?

Sometimes a pure rethinking of technology can completely rewrite the rulebook. Bitcoin is readily looked at as an alternative to fiat currency, something that was unthinkable before a purely electronic currency was conceived.

Breaking the rules goes by many different names like ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’ but they all start with someone rethinking an old way of doing business. When we look back on what they’ve accomplished we often like to call these rule breakers ‘clever’, ‘brilliant’ or ‘strategic’. The truth is that they didn’t get ahead by adding complexity, or navigating what existed. Most of the time they were able to get ahead by pushing aside the rules and focusing on the opportunity.

The rules almost always come to mind later.

As the world becomes more and more ‘wired’ I believe that startups will run in to regulatory hurdles more and more often. Like uber, AirBnB, Lyft and others, the rules sometimes represent a massive opportunity to create efficiencies in a place everyone else thought was off limits.

There are little rules, and there a big rules. No matter which stage a company is at, it’s the rule breakers who get noticed, they are the ones who crack a market open and feed off the the plump center.

Get them out of the building: Travel support from Volta

Graffiti at VoltaWhen Ben Yoskovitz moved to Halifax to join us at GoInstant he left the growing Montreal community and brought a lot of fresh perspective to what needs to happen in Nova Scotia to grow the startup ecosystem.

The #1 thing he noticed was the successful startups were the ones getting out of the building and on to a plane. Spending significant amounts of time in San Francisco, New York or wherever you need to be is an important part of growing your network of people you can rely on to build your business.

Today Volta is announcing a travel support program for startups. You have to be small (<10 employees) and young (<3 years old).

This hits home for me. When I was living in Charlottetown and 19 years old I had my first attempt at a product startup, it was called Blogtrack. It had what seemed like an insane number of daily active users at the time, just under 10,000, and I had no idea what I was doing (still working on that). I also had no money really, certainly not enough to blow on a trip to Boston for Bloggercon. A guy named Lee Brammer at what is now called “Innovation PEI” offered to help cover some of the costs for the trip, which meant it was (just barely) affordable. It was, for me, an eye opening trip, eating dinner at a table for 4 with Dave Wiener, Betsy Devine and Dan Bricklin just about blew my mind.

Anyway, the point is that sometimes you really need to get out there and just do something you might not have otherwise. Good things almost always come from it and the truth is that it can be hard to make up for sitting across the table from someone and really getting to know them.

Atlantic House @ Grow next week in Vancouver

voltadiamond

The buzz has been awesome about the GROW conference next week. Just a few weeks after Startup Fest in Montreal. The summer season is moving quickly…

A Startupnorth we’ve helped organize the Ontario House along with Communitech and the Waterloo community, and now we are announcing that along with Volta we are organizing the Atlantic Canada House.

In this case Reza Kazemipour the San Francisco based CEO of Oris4, a Halifax company, has stepped up and personally funded the house. Amazing to see such commitment from the local community.

The Diamond on Powell street and if you are around, stop by between 6 PM and 10 PM for a drink and see what Atlantic Canadian Entrepreneurs are working on.

We still have a few tables available and if you are Atlantic Canadian company looking to showcase your product to West Coast Entrepreneurs and Investors, apply to Milan @ Volta ([email protected]) and he will hook you up with a table.

Currently, from our neck of the woods we will have Compilr, topLog, DraftCam, EmailOpened, ModestTree and Oris4 with few others to be added to the list shortly.