The Pending Talent Wars

 

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Did you know that accelerators are heading for a shake out? We’ve talked a lot incubators, accelerators and cyclotrons. And the proliferation of the accelerator model is generally positive, it started me thinking about a possibility for slightly different model. One that Kevin Swan posted an insightful comment on the talent shortage for Canadian startups. I don’t think I’m the first to propose this, but it starts to make sense. Incubators/accelerators don’t need to only hasten the formation, creation and ideation of companies. They are fertile grounds to accelerate people. And it’s not just incubators and accelerators, companies participate in HackDays to find talent.

Need proof?

Vuru acquired by Wave Accounting

Vuru founders Cameron Howieson and Yoseph West reached out to the Wave Accounting team for advice on building a free, web-based financial services tool. Over time, the two companies traded notes as Wave took on a an informal advisory role, and that led to a sense that Vuru’s talent and direction were something that would be well suited to the Wave Accounting mission. — Darrell Ethrington, Aug 21, 2012 in BetaKit

Vuru was a 2 cofounder team in the FounderFuel (full disclosure: I am mentor in FounderFuel and I now employed by Wave Accounting investor OMERS Ventures). They were building a “investment tracking tools aimed at managing personal finance, which is not something Wave currently offer[ed]“. It was a great fit, a team that had the entrepreneurial culture to make a difference at Wave and a product that filled a known product roadmap gap.

Algo Anyhere acquired by 500px

Ok, before Zach Aysan slaps me for being totally incorrect. AlgoAnywhere was not in an incubator or accelerator program. But they had raised a seed round and were building very interesting technology.

The 500px founders met Algo Anywhere at their Pixel Hack Day last year, and were impressed by what the team brought to the table. Algo Anywhere’s tech was originally intended to be sold on an SaaS basis, providing companies with the data crunching power of sophisticated recommendation algorithms, without the need for those to be developed in-house or hosted on a company’s own servers – Darrell Ethrington, July 9, 2012 in BetaKit

The interesting point here isn’t about incubators or accelerators. It’s about founders of early-stage companies looking for relationships and gaps in the market left by other players.

Pulpfingers acquired by 500px

It seems that 500px has been strategically acquiring companies. It looks like both Pulpfingers and Algo Anywhere were part of the PixelHackDay (see photo from TechCrunch). Which gives 500px access to see designers, developers working in their domain space. It’s a great way to round out the product roadmap, Pulpfingers was a iOS discovery application. And they aren’t alone. Hootsuite acquired Seesmic and Swift.

Built to Last versus Built to Flip

I’m not arguing that founders should be looking to build companies to flip. There is lots of conversation about building lasting value. I’m arguing that companies that have raised capital to scale are looking for alternative methods to acquire talent. Get access to the API, build a meaningful service, acquire shared customers and go forward, it’s Biz Dev 2.0 (as Caterina described back in 2006). What’s new to the game for Canada (well Canadian startups) is that for the first time since RIM we are starting to have web startups that are reaching scale and are able to acquire talent, teams and companies. The goal isn’t to look for a acqui-hire or a manquisition, but to look at where working with an existing company or API gives you immediate access to distribution or monetization that you might have to work harder to build on your own.

I’m betting that companies like Wave Accounting, 500px, Influitive, Hootsuite, Shopify,Freshbooks, Top Hat Monocle, WattpadUpverter, Chango, FixmoDesire2Learn, Lightspeed are all actively looking for teams that are building on their APIs or filling product gaps (it becomes a buy versus build decision).

If I was a developer or looking to get into an incubator program, I’d start looking at the hackathons and APIs that are aligned with my vision where I could accelerate customer adoption.

Events

APIs and Developer Starting Points

Find an API (be it local or otherwise) that aligns with your vertical, figure out if you can solve one of your immediate challenges (like distribution and customer acquisition). Maybe strike up a conversation with the product teams at shop. But build something that delights customers and users! Go! Now!

Who has something built on one of the above APIs?

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

How many innovative Canadian startups are there?

Earlier tonight the good folks at CIX announced a group of 20 who will be presenting at the eponymous conference on November 27. Congratulations: Frank and Oak, Scribble Live, Shopcaster, SiteScout, UrtheCast, Yactraq, Celtx, PenyoPal, Wajam, Sweet IQ, Livelenz, Payfirma, VidYard, Influitive, PrintChomp, 360pi, Viafoura, Nulogy, EmployTouch, and Jibestream.

This list is a nice start, no doubt, but what the announcement immediately got me thinking is the following… there are easily another 200 startups (probably many more than that) worth recognizing, joining, financing, and cheering on.

So this post goes out to all the hustlers and hackers across Canada who are burning the midnight oil. The founders who take it upon themselves to get out of the basement and face the hecklers at DemoCamp and other events. The funders who take their nth coffee meeting of the day with a bright eyed but green CEO to iterate on the deck together. And the early employees that take a chance on someone’s dream over the cushy corporate gig.

We’ve lined up a discount to the conference just for you: CIXSTARTUP

Marketing, Robots and Startup Hacking

Chuck Norris Approved

These events are Chuck Norris Approved.

The best part about a health entrepreneurial ecosystem is the diversity of events. Toronto is rocking a variety of events, ranging from conversations to socials. But there are a lot of grassroots events where designers, developers, marketers, and technologists can get involved. There are lots of things going on beyond the usual social activities. My request, is that you refer a student or a colleague that you think might be interested. This is a great way for someone to start participating and get to the next level.

Mesh Marketing

This one is aimed at marketers. It is happening November 7, 2012. It is not purely a startup marketing event, i.e., there is not an abundance of focusing on core core value proposition and user engagement. It is an event where there is distinct benefit to companies in the learning about Acquisition and Activation and Referral. There are a crazy number of marketers that have built and sold startups (see Jennifer Lum think Quattro Mobile) and those that are defining new techniques (see Kristina Halvorson think content strategy) and others that I think are doing a great job (see Hicham Ratnani think Frank And Oak).

“Canada has good engineering and technical talent but a shortage of sales and marketing talent.” Kunal Gupta, TechVibes

So, here’s a chance to gain access to world class marketing content. It’s relatively inexpensive, there are a few tickets left. And the after party is a fundraiser for our friend Michael O’Connor Clarke’s family.


The meshmarketing after-party on Nov. 7 is a fundraiser for the family of Michael O’Connor Clarke. http://t.co/NtlQ9vZN. All welcome!
@meshcon
mesh conference

 StartupWeekend Toronto is happening November 9-11, 2012. It is an event where designers, developers, marketers can come together and explore. The idea is that the artificial time constraints create the right environment to experience and understand what working in a startup is like. It might or might not produce a fundable startup, but it will produce potential founders that have experience working with each other. It’s a great event. At last check, there were a few wait list spots for non-technical individuals to participate.

Get Your Bot On!

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Hardware is cool again. I love seeing a rise of hardware, manufacturing and physical bit based startups in Toronto. Did you know there are companies like Upverter? Panda Robotics? Pebble (alright Allerta was a Waterloo company but headed to greener pastures before their Kickstarter campaign)? Get Your Bot On! is a three day event where you can learn along side newbies, hobbyists, and pros to build a robot. Let me repeat, you can build a robot. That’s amazing. Read Leila’s blog post about it. They will provide everything you need to build a robot.

Friday Nov 23 – Sunday Nov 25, 2012. Register to attend.

AngelHack Toronto, Dec 1-2, 2012

Still looking for an opportunity to hang with Leila Boujnane, Dan Martell, Amber MacArthur, Jesse Rodgers and me. Then AngelHack is a great way to build something in a 24 hour window and have the chance to get feedback and be entered in the larger AngelHack contest. Winners will get 6 weeks of mentorship in Silicon Valley (and the prizes include travel). It’s a great way for young developers to either kickstart a company and start to build a network beyond their local community.

“All participants are expected to work on the honor code and respect the rules below. Overall, if you come with a great idea, build something on the spot, and present us a meaningful new hack that can improve peoples lives (even if only in a humorous way) then we are pretty impressed.”