It’s indescribably beautiful!

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On the surface this might not seem like a Canadian success story, Eloqua was acquired by Oracle for $871MM. Eloqua by all appearances is a publicly traded company with headquarters in Vienna, VA. But they are probably the best kept secret in the Toronto technology community. Eloqua was founded in Toronto in 1999 by my friend and co-founder, Mark Organ (LinkedIn,) along with Abe Wagner (LinkedIn) and Steve Woods (LinkedIn, ). This is nearly a $1B dollar deal that was born and breed in Toronto (yes, I can do basic math it’s $129MM short but that’s pocket change and unlike when Siebel acquired Janna in 2000 for $975MM at the time of the deal the price changing with the Siebel’s stock price, this is an all cash deal). I had started figuring that it would be Salesforce that acquired Eloqua, so I am surprised that it is Oracle, and so soon after their IPO. Here is a great analysis of the marketing automation industry and the assessment for Marketo, Act-On, ExactTarget, etc.

Congratulations to all of the Eloqua employees. I continue to hear stories about an amazing group of people including:

It’s an amazing story that still has a big chunk of the product development team based in Toronto. Congrats to the entire Eloqua team and alumni.

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?

Summer’s over, but it feels a little like Spring

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Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Let the Sparks Fly! written by Mark Skapinker. It is a delightfully positive outlook on the prospects for the Canadian startup union. Mark is Cofounder and Managing Partner at Brightspark, which earlier this week was awarded CVCA’s deal of the year award.

Normally this is the time of the year that really stresses me out. It is late September in Ontario, summer is over, the leaves are starting to change colour, and while it is still pretty nice out, it’s real clear that it is downhill from here to winter, with warm days more than seven months away.

But something in the local tech industry feels a little different, and it feels like things are getting better. Some of us have been lamenting the state of the Canadian VC industry for years now, and Rim’s woes should by all rights make the local scene seem even bleaker – but people in the industry don’t seem to be listening. A whole lot of activities that are happening seem to signal an awakening spring and everyone seems just a little more optimistic.

Of note are more entrepreneurs pitching really interesting offerings. I keep meeting Canadian entrepreneurs with great ideas, great opportunities and a yearning for success.

Surrounding that are a number of exits from local companies – most notably (for the industry and especially for us at Brightspark, where we saw more than a 23X return on our investment) is the Radian6 sale to Salesforce.com. This exit proved that great, money-making businesses can be hatched in Canada with local talent, local VCs and a positive outcome for the local economy. Add to that a series of other small acquisitions along with some interesting exits.

And then there are the new micro-funds which are growing despite the stalling of the traditional industry, with experienced and talented managers helping a new series of companies – I am referring to our colleagues – Duncan and Robin at Mantella; Matt at GoldenVP; the teams at Xtreme, bnotions and Real Ventures; Daniel at Klass Capital; Bill Dinardo; and Joel at Trilogy; all who are making a very meaningful difference to our industry. MaRS is expanding, IAF is investing, I hear some traditional Canadian VCs may be finalizing new funds, and the government funds continue their part in providing capital.

We aren’t out of the woods yet, but it definitely feels like now is a great time to be part of the Internet, software, mobile, Cloud, and payment industries. Markets are growing, and these industries are creating value while the rest of the economy questions itself. If this really is a marathon, now is a great time to be heading out.

If we can keep up this momentum and deliver a few more winners, we may look back at this time as the period when the new Canadian industry started thriving.

At Brightspark, we remain thrilled with our VC fund’s performance. Our multiple exits puts our performance way ahead of top quartile funds anywhere in the world. And we think the remaining companies in our portfolio have the potential of taking our fund to new levels. Our focus on investing in great teams, markets we understand, and with an early stage fund of entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs is paying off really well.

To those people who have written off our participation in the industry, we continue to focus on remaining a significant part of this industry, and we think the next few years could be very exciting for our funds and the Canadian industry.