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.

Lean Startup Day @ MaRSDD on Dec 3, 2012

Lean Startup Day Toronto - Dec 3

The team at MaRS and JoltCo are providing local access to The Lean Startup Conference Livestream. Sure they’ve been crazy enough to invite me to host the event and a panel, but that shouldn’t keep you from attending. This is a full day event, it starts early (because we’re EST) and continues late (because the conference is PST).

The event is divided into 2 streams:

  1. Stream 1 – Hands on stories, workshops and discussion with people in the local ecosystem
  2. Stream 2 – Livestream of the conference from California and the program looks outstanding with Matt Brezina, Danny Kim, Jocelyn Wyatt, Stephanie Hay as well as the usual luminaries (Eric Reis, Steve Blank, etc.)

Great opportunity to connect with other founders and entrepreneurs. Talk about what is working, what hasn’t worked, and what else you can try. The benefit of having a strong community like we do in Toronto, is that we can get together and share. The community is not an end in of itself, it is a means to an end. And while entrepreneurship can be lonely, there is an accessible community of other entrepreneurs, mentors and others that can help.

First, you need to put yourself in a path for these unexpectedly good things. Second, you have to be able to see these serendipitous events — you have to make the connections. And third, you have to be able to act them. The definition of luck is that you were willing to do something.” Lane Becker

Toronto, Vancouver, Waterloo, where is Montreal?

Startup Genome Ecosystem Ranking

The state of the Canadian cities in the StartupCompass Startup Ecosystem Report 2012 (Get the Report) is interesting. The Startup Ecosystem Report 2012 lists 3 Canadian cities:

  • Toronto # 8
  • Vancouver # 9
  • Waterloo # 16

It leaves Montreal out of the top 20, it might very well be # 21. But it is very hard to determine without the full report that is due out later in the year. I also find it very strange, given the strong Montreal supporters in the  “Local startup ecosystem supporters” listed in the document:

The data reminds me of other analyst driven research companies (think GartnerAltimeter, etc.). The methodology leaves it open to bias. But it is a great stick in the sand based on our own community survey responses.

“The index is based on data from more than 50,000 startups around the world who are using the Startup Genome’s Startup Compass, an automated analyst in the cloud that helps businesses make better decisions via benchmarks and actionable recommendations.”

It will be interesting to continue to read the report and lessons for Canadian entrepreneurs.