Don’t blame the system

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Mark Evans has started an interesting conversation around my tweet (part 1 aim for success, part 2 the VCs respond).

I am sick of hearing there is no money for #startups in Canada. BULLSHIT! It might be there is no money for YOUR startup in Canada.
David Crow

I posted my comments about building a culture of better informed founders and early employees. But then I realized that maybe all of my comments are aimed at misbehaving children. When the real intent should be to correct the parents. That’s right I just called most startups and their founders, misbehaving children. But the culture is broken. It is broken with technologists and designers looking for handouts.  It is broken with every Tom, Dick and Sally calling themselves an entrepreneur because they think since they’ve had a “great idea” someone should give them money so they work on it because they are the next Zuckerberg.

This is ass backwards. And it’s part of the problem.

Something for Nothing

You don’t get something for nothing. There is no such thing as a free lunch. There are very few people that might invest in you to work on your dreams. Your parents. Your spouse. If you are lucky, your children. It is the belief that “I should get funded because I’m a good person” or “I went to university” or “I worked for a startup” or “I built a prototype” or “I have a pitch deck”. It is thinking like this that is absurd.

“The reason most founders think there is not enough capital is that they get rejected when they go looking for it. And one of the main reasons they get rejected is that their opportunity does not fit what VCs are looking for” – Mark MacLeod (@startupCFO)

Raising institutional capital is about building a business that matches the expectations and risks necessary to provide returns to the investors. Not every business should raise growth capital. And that is okay. Not every business is fundable at every moment in time. That is okay too. We need to get better at helping educate founders and early employees and others about how to demonstrate their ability to build a successful business and mitigate the risks associated at the different stages of corporate development.

Abundance and Scarcity

Are we suffering from a shortage of entrepreneurs? NO! We are suffering from a shortage of amazing companies. There are structural complaints about the system and some have trickle down impact on early stage companies. The limited number of LPs. The difficulty in VCs in raising funds. But even in difficult environments there are winners, look at Mark McQueen’s post about the truth of VC returns. Even during the dark days, there are VCs generating returns and getting a part of the carry.

The reason that we talk about Rypple, GoInstant, Radian6, Q9 Networks, Dayforce, Kobo, Achievers, Lightspeed, Shopify, because they are successful companies or building successful companies. They are able to raise money or get acquire or operate profitably. They are looking at how to effectively deploy capital to grow intelligently and faster.

We don’t have a shortage of entrepreneurs of good ideas. We have a shortage of great businesses. Mark’s argument is that even if you invested in the big Canadian deals early, you would still be struggling. This is a hard game. It’s a game, that I am just starting to understand the scale and scope of from a different viewpoint.

Use the Force or STFU!

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

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I think we need to stop bitching about the systemic things that we can not change as entrepreneurs. It’s not any easier to raise money for a Canadian in the US, unless you have the pedigree, connections, demonstrated traction and mitigated risks necessary. However, if you are able to raise capital in the US, you’ll find that US investors have more capital to deploy, are more aggressive in deploying capital. You will also see that Canadian VCs face a different marketplace and structure, invest in more companies as a percentage of funds under management, and can be successful. These are not things you can change directly. We can lobby, we can vote for MPs and MPPs and political parties that support the structural changes. There are others like the CVCA and NACO that are also lobbying on behalf of their members.

“Instead of focusing on the things you can’t change, focus on the things you can change.” – Juniper

So rather than worrying about whether we should follow a Yozma model or a Helsinki model. You should worry about the things that can change. Go read about accretive milestones and getting traction. And figure out how to mitigate the risks associated with your business. Go get customers! Go build a successful business. Because if you build a successful business, they will come.

I am sick of hearing there is no $$ for #startups in Canada. BULLSHIT! It might be there is no $$ for YOUR startup regardless of location
David Crow

Growing successful companies

I am sick of hearing there is no money for #startups in Canada. BULLSHIT! It might be there is no money for YOUR startup in Canada.
David Crow

Mark Evans (LinkedIn) wrote a blog post about my tweet. The blog post captures much of my sentiment and frustration around entrepreneurs. I commented about entrepreneurs learning about how to build a successful, high growth emerging technology companies. And there are lots of ways to learn what is considered a successful company. And a great way to learn is to learn from others that have been in the trenches. Debbie Landa (LinkedIn) and her team at Dealmaker Media have done most of the hard work for you.


They have brought together a great event. Attending the event won’t bring you investment. It won’t make you a successful company. But it might increase the odds. They are bringing together an amazing set of entrepreneurs. And they are bringing them to Toronto and Montreal to share their experiences, stories about what worked and didn’t work for their companies.

Local Events Matter

You can and should get your ass on plane and head to New York City and San Francisco to attend events. But you don’t always have to. There are advantages to attending these events locally.

  1. Local connections can help you see The First Rule of Real Estate – you can find and connect with local talent. Whether that is for funding, moral support, hiring, etc. There will be people you do not know yet. Easy way to find them out.
  2. Travel costs are less for regional travel. If you live in Ottawa or Montreal or Halifax, you can make it to Toronto or Montreal by plane, train or automobile for a lot less than travelling elsewhere.
  3. Travel time is lessened. You can spend a day.

This all assumes that the event is providing amazing content that you would travel to consume.

World Class Content

The content that Debbie and team have assembled is unbelievable. If you don’t know who these people are, my advice is take a little bit of time and use the GOOG. These are entrepreneurs that have seen the ups and downs, the ins and outs of successful businesses.

Every single person is worthy of a keynote presentation at a larger conference. This is not a vanity presentation. They are on stage sharing information about their specific expertises in building successful businesses. It’s not Mark Organ talking about random things, which is fun, but Mark Organ talking about leveraging disruptive technology in fund raising. Holy crap! You want to learn how Mark used AngelList, LinkedIn and other tools to raise 2 of the most impressive rounds of capital in Canada…quickly.

Every single person speaking, every one, will be providing expertise about what they did to build a successful company.  Here is the list of presenters in Toronto:

You want more details, check out my first post. Do your homework. But this is an amazing opportunity.  The lineup is different in Montreal. It includes 2 of my close friends, but they are 2 of the best people in helping startups become successful. Mark MacLeod and Alistair Croll . Unbelievably kind and intelligent people, who beyond that know WTF it is startups need to do to become successful. They like the others are the best of the best.

Our Commitment to Successful Companies

There are initiatives like Startup Visa Canada and the Upside Foundation that we strongly support. And we’re committed to helping provide education to entrepreneurs to help them to build successful companies.

We’ve committed to provide a limited number of $100 discounts. I am not going to tell you how many. If you are building a successful startup, and you want to hear the tactics and advice of other entrepreneurs that have been massively successful in building their startups, sign up now and save $100 before the discount expires.

  • GrowTalks Montreal – February 19, 2013Register use promo code: startupnorth
  • GrowTalks Toronto – February 21, 2013Register use promo code: startupnorth


Build It

There is this idea you keep telling friends about… you know it is promising because a day or two after you mention it, they circle back via email “I’ve been thinking about X and it would be pretty cool, any progress with the website / app?”

Or perhaps you just found some new tech that seems promising… no justification to implement it at work, but you are itching to take it for a test drive.

Well sometimes you just have to build it. 

Put it out in the world. Even a rough prototype. And if it is interesting… it might take on a life of it’s own. Who knows were it might lead… a startup? a new job? fame? fortune? Often enough big things have pretty humble beginnings.

Still on the fence? Fine, let us sweeten the pot. How about you build something awesome this weekend (anything you want) and we (care of LinkedIn Hackday) give you a new Macbook Air (assuming it is the most awesome thing built at the hackday). I’ll be the judge of awesome (well a few of us)… but I can already tell, what you are going to build is awesome!

This week LinkedIn Hackday comes to Toronto. It is free. You keep your code. The only rule? Start development Friday (advance planning is fine).

Register here to build it:

LinkedIn Hackday