The Pending Talent Wars

 

CC-BY-NC-ND-20 Some rights reserved by Today is a good day
AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Today is a good day

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?

All roads lead to Toronto

CC-BY-SA-NC-20  Some rights reserved by palestrina55
AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by palestrina55

Regardless of where we fall in arbitrary rankings, Toronto is an amazing city. And it seems that all roads lead to Toronto. With the amazing teams from both StartupFest and GrowConf arriving in the dead of winter.

StartupFest Elevator Tour

Check out the crazy awesome pitches and feedback from StartupFestival in Montreal.

Just look at it this way. Here is an amazing chance to get to hang out with entrepreneurs, founders, investors and other crazies in our ecosystem at the top of the CN Tower. Let me repeat that, at the top of the CN Tower. Before you do the math about how much fun this is going to be, just realize that a ticket to ride up the tower is $23.99 + HST. For essentially the price of the ride up, you get an event focused on entrepreneurs. I do some basic math, you add a drink and some h’orderves  and your at break even. Great chance to have some fun, make some meaningful connections, and potential generation press and relationships that pay off.

GrowTalks

GROWtalksGROWtalks is happening in Toronto and Montreal. I know that Clare, Debbie and team are bringing some amazing entrepreneurs to share and educate. Just like they for GROWtalks at GrowConf 2012 in Vancouer.

GROWtalks is a one day conference focused on how to create actionable metrics, and use them to make better product and marketing decisions for startup success. Industry experts share advice to startup teams on how to improve design, product and customer development, acquisition, retention, and more.

I hear that the list of speakers is set to include the likes of Brant Cooper, Dan Martell, Rand Fishkin and other amazing speakers. This is a great one day event at a reasonable price point, I’m hearing $199 for entrepreneurs, so get access to entrepreneurs and experiences.

 

We’ll have more on both of these events. Get your tickets early!

The Upside Foundation – Give back a little while you are busy taking over the world

One thing that has really been exciting for me in the last 3 months has been the Salesforce Foundation. When Marc Benioff founded Salesforce he committed 1 percent of stock, 1 percent of employee time and 1 percent of licenses to charity. It’s an incredibly small amount of equity and resources but it has had an amazing impact. Google and others have copied it and it has become a widely used model.

I wish I had done the same thing with my most recent startup. I could have benefitted a charity I am passionate about with very little burden to me or my investors. It’s powerful but it is hard to do. Legal structures, convincing co-founders, convincing investors and then there is all the overhead and work of setting up a foundation and managing it.

The Upside Foundation is launching to make that easier. They are creating a foundation structure which you give options to which convert on an exit and The Upside Foundation then donates the proceeds to charity.

The model is simple and powerful – early-stage companies donate stock options to the Upside Foundation, convertible at exit into a small portion of their equity. When a liquidity event occurs, the Upside Foundation sells its options and donates the proceeds to charities in Canada.

The Upside Foundation board is full of some of the best investors and entreprenurs in Canada, including  Rob Antoniades (ON), Mark Skapinker (ON), Mark Macleod (PQ), Gerry Pond (NB) and Ben Zifkin (ON).

I’m excited. Let’s start giving back while we build amazing companies right here in Canada.