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“We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” – Will Rogers
It’s true now even more than when Joe Kraus (@jkraus) wrote in 2005 (original post), “it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur” (see Mark Suster’s brillant post on the startup explosion and on changes in the software industry). But is there too much of a good thing? Mark Evans asks if there “are too many startups?”. I think the question that Mark is really asking is not are there too many startups, but is it too easy to become a founder.
We put a lot of focus on the founders of early stage ventures. But let’s face it, not everyone is or should be a founder (See: Founders versus Early Employees). We need to start and grow companies. This is more than just a whole bunch of 1 and 2 person pre-seed startups. We need people to want to cut their chops at Wattpad, Wave Accounting, Well.ca, Lightspeed Retail, Fixmo, Shopify, Kik, Hootsuite and other startups. People that can grow a company to 500 million users and beyond.
“Being an early hire at a startup gives an individual the ability to make tremendous impact on an organization as it grows – and both the founders and those hires should know it.” David Beisel
We need to create companies that create opportunities for employees to become their Chamath Palihapitiya and Andy Johns or Adam Nash. There are a number of Canadian startups that are poised to break out. All they need is a few key people to make a huge difference. I tried to highlight a mix of founders and the people behind the scenes on the Hot Sh!t List (2011, 2012). There are the founders that we always talk about, but there are people behind the scenes that are driving.
“Cross-pollination among companies is what drives so much of innovation, so I would not project a lot onto this event” – Brett Taylor (@btaylor)
We’ve seen a number of young founders build brillant products and then move to new roles. Josh Davey (@joshdavey, LinkedIn) founded BurstN and is now killing it at Chango. Daniel Patricio (LinkedIn, @danielparticio) founded Pinpoint Social and is building products at Jet Cooper. Ben Yoskovitz (LinkedIn, @byosko) founded StandoutJobs and NextMontreal, is now the VP Product at GoInstant. There are lots of opportunities at Canadian startups for entrepreneurial employees to make a huge impact!
Looking for a gig at a Canadian startup? Check out the StartupNorth Job board which features jobs like:
- Content Manager / Marketer, RateHub.ca, Toronto, ON, Canada
- Senior Ruby on Rails Developer, Quandl.com, Toronto, ON, Canada (Downtown)
- Operations Engineer, mDialog, Toronto, ON, Canada (Downtown)
- Senior Software Developer (Full Stack) @Uniiverse, Uniiverse, Toronto, ON, Canada (St. Lawrence Market Area)
- Talent Acquisition Specialist, Wattpad, Toronto, ON, Canada (Yonge and Sheppard)
- Insanely smart web developer, Top Hat Monocle, Toronto, ON, Canada (Yonge and College subway station)
- Web Developer (LAMP), TheRedPin, Toronto, ON, Canada (Downtown Toronto)
More reading on starting your own vs joining a startup:
What’s interesting about the Round13 Capital announcement today isn’t the size of the fund – they are targeting $100MM. It isn’t the people who are involved – they are amazing. It isn’t the LPs – they are different. The team, Bruce Croxon, John Eckert and Scott Pelton, are bringing together a group of entrepreneurs to serve as mentors. This is not uncommon in the US with a number of funds like SoftTech VC, Felicis Ventures, Founders Fund and similar to Founder Collective (if you are interested read the Kauffman Foundation’s Do Entrepreneurs Make Good VCs? [PDF]).
“Venture capital firms with a greater fraction of entrepreneur VCs have better firm performance. The positive relation between entrepreneur VCs and performance is stronger for venture capital firms specializing in high-tech industries and in early-stage investment.”
— Do Entrepreneurs Make Good VCs – Entrepreneurial Finance and Innovation Conference – The Kauffman Foundation
The Round13 Capital team has done an amazing job of bring together founders with exits as both LPs in the fund, and more importantly as mentors for their portfolio companies. This is a critical differentiator for Canadian entrepreneurs. Hopefully the Round13 fund will close and they can start funding Canadian entrepreneurs soon.
- Mike Alkier (LinkedIn), cofounder OmniLogic
- Christopher Barnard (LinkedIn), cofounder Points.com
- Dave Charmandy (LinkedIn, @dmc1962), founder Darwin Dimensions & cofounder Lavalife
- Paul Chen (LinkedIn), founder FlowNetwork and founder Fortiva
- Randall Howard (LinkedIn, @randallh), cofounder MKS
- Nick Koudas (LinkedIn, @koudas) and Nilesh Bansal (LinkedIn), cofounders Sysomos
- Daniel Langlois, founder Softimage
- Haroon Mirza (LinkedIn, @haroonfmirza), Shahzad Malik (LinkedIn), and Faizal Javer (LinkedIn), cofounders CognoVision
- Ray Reddy (LinkedIn), founder PushLife
- MIke Serbinis (LinkedIn, @mserbinis), cofounder DocSpace and cofounder Kobo
- Michel Vulpe (LinkedIn), founder i4i
This is great new for Canadian entrepreneurs!
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Wattpad announced today a $17.3MM raise from Khosla Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, Union Square Ventures and Jerry Yang. This is huge.
“It has been recognized as highly significant due to having two top-tier US funds investing at this level in a Canadian-based consumer internet company.”
We are seeing Canadian entrepreneurs build companies and demonstrate global traction. The changes to foreign investment related to Section 116 changes in the Tax Act, have allowed Canadian companies to go big and stay home. The changes to Section 116, coupled with the desire of Canadian entrepreneurs to go big and stay home. Evidenced by Wattpad’s big raise, Wave Accounting’s $12MM series B from Social+Capital, Hootsuite’s $20MM round from OMERS (sure they’re not foreign capital but its a big round), Shopify’s $22MM ($7M series A + $15M series B from Bessemer), Beyond The Rack’s $36MM raise, Fixmo’s $23.4MM Series C from KPCB, Achievers’ $24.5MM Series C from Sequoia, and others. There are startups and there is capital. It’s possible to build a growth company in Canada and raise foreign capital. The game has changed for Canadian VCs, geography limitations can help these funds identify early but it potentially will relegate many to second tier status if they can not enable their startups beyond their geographies.
The great thing in talking with many of these entrepreneurs is that they want to build successful companies in Canada. Allen Lau, CEO of Wattpad, mentioned that his desire was to grow a large successful company in Toronto. He is not looking to move the company. The same is true of my conversations with Kirk Simpson at Wave Accounting, Tobi at Shopify, Mike at Freshbooks, etc. There are a lot of reasons to want to be way from the tensions and pulls the exist in the Bay Area. Canadian startups have access to great talent. While there is some pull between the different startups, many of these companies aren’t competing with each other for employees or mindshare. Just check out Shopify’s recruiting video and tell me why you wouldn’t choose to work for Harley and Tobi instead of a financial institution or a government organization.
It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in Canada. It’s a great time to work for a startup. You should check out the opportunities on the StartupNorth job board.