All roads lead to Toronto

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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.

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