Douglas SoltysAlso, to follow up on Roger Chabra's request: we find most comments are submitted via 'back channels' and not the email address. We have a hypothesis that people want to ask questions (the series is incredibly popular) but want to keep it anonymous. Thoughts on using some sort of anonymous submission box? Y/N/M?
Tiko 3D, the company behind the Tiko Unibody 3D Printer, has wound down operations, despite raising almost $3 million from its debut Kickstarter campaign. Backers yet to receive a Tiko 3D printer, which users have described as faulty and inaccurate, will not receive a refund.
James M WoodsI was a backer and received mine in mid December. I've built a large number 3d Printers so this was just to back what looked like a cool project by a young Toronto/Oshawa team and not my main rig. Its been a roller coster ride of bad communications from their team, an unwillingness to listen to their community and an overall disappointment. I also backed another Toronto 3D printer that year called the NEA 3d printer. They never shipped a printer but offered significant partial refunds after trowing in the towel.
Its sad about the Tiko, its a cute device but not up to par with other kits I have. I hope they open source the software and let the community take over. It might still have a shot.
1 day ago · 2
Justin Policarpioi remember seeing them at the OCE Discovery Conference a couple years back when they first launched their campaign and me and my business partner saw the thing, and we both kind of thought, this thing is going to have a lot of trouble at that cost.
Lots of people don't realize you can get a very comparable prusa printer for a few hundred bucks that prints with much better resolution
Hi StartupNorth, interested to know your thoughts. Reaction here to stories yesterday about recent spate of exits, including sale of BlueCat, has been overwhelmingly positive (actually, not a single dislike-y emoticon deployed on two posts I made on the subject), but in other venues (Twitter, comments under my BlueCat story at the Globe site, and some private conversations) I've seen some of the kinds of reactions we've traditionally had from some quarters in Canada - with comments like, Our tech companies sell out too soon, for too little, We'll never have a national champion in tech if this continues, We're destined to be a branch plant economy, etc etc. Seems to me there's quite a disconnect between pundits, government types, other lamenters, and people like you who actually create and build innovative companies, participate actively in the ecosystem and create wealth. I know most of you are heads down and extremely busy building your companies, but would be curious to hear what you'd say in response to those on the other side of the argument - many of whom play an active role in shaping the discussion and policy-making related to the innovation sector. ... See MoreSee Less
Hongwei LiuSean I think it's two different contexts. On SN, no one would say to their peer "congrats on graduating UoT, but hey you should have gone for Stanford." It'd be a dick move. But the "pundits" are saying "it'd be nice if we had more Stanford grads too."
edit: the former is congratulating someone on years of hard work. the latter is a more general policy discussion
Matthew Basil GardnerI'm with Hongwei, I think what we want to see shifting on a macro level is a discussion people would have here separately from looking on the micro level of an individual sale, financing, etc.
I would never fault a Founder for taking a buyout that makes them happy (unless it really screwed others over directly) but the macro shift we need starts way earlier in a company's lifespan in my opinion. It starts with the smaller and less risky funding rounds we see here, how comfortably founders are acceptably allow to pay themselves/live before an exit, and the frequency at which offers come in here compared to in the valley (and a lot more). If we want more billion dollar exits here, IPOs, etc. the messaging and funding that early stage startups encounter here needs to change. You can't take someone who's been at it for years and change how they feel about an offer, it's a mindset that reverbs here from the moment you start your business.
2 days ago · 2
John Philip GreenSean, I think Hongwei nailed it. In this forum we celebrate each other as peers, and we expect each other to operate in each own's economic self-interest. How could we not celebrate Richard and Michael for such an astounding achievement!
Separately, we may feel, as Canadians and armchair policy makers, that it would be great to have more Canadian companies get big and remain independent.
Varun MathurI want to help build the next tech-equivalent of Starbucks, being based here in Canada, preferably. It will happen over decades. Have patience, my anonymous troll friend in the Globe and Mail comment section. I am working hard, just for you.
While I have your attention, may I point out what you have done for me ? Nothing, at all! The amount of financial support available in Canada to fledgling tech entrepreneurs lags, by a factor of 1000, to the US (private) and to China (public). So if someone here is able to have any sort of an exit - than in itself is a spectacular achievement. Good for them!
Do you know by comparison how much we are spending on Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations ? $500 million!
Funding tech entrepreneurs with crazy ideas is not a national priority here. Our free market doesn't have the US-like private capital; and our government does not fund this as a national priority, unlike the Chinese who are spending $338 BILLION towards high-risk early stage tech startups.
Here is an idea - in the next election, why don't you vote for someone who promises to make tech entrepreneurship a national priority ? Someone who is not afraid to point out how Canada by and large missed out on the enormous creation of wealth which has happened in the past 18 years in the technology sector despite having the people talented enough.
David OssipSean SilcoffDaniel Debow I am more surprised that no one has commented about the rumors of the next budget increasing including rate of capital gains. Almost as is the federal govt is encouraging successful entrepreneurs to leave Canada and build elsewhere.
2 days ago · 6
Michael SerbinisNot every company in every sector is meant to be a global standalone giant. You've got a responsibility to your mission and also to shareholders. I congratulate all who've sold recently - encourage them to have fun, live, enjoy and think about new projects to get involved w when they're ready to jump back in.
2 days ago · 33
Julian D LegrandFrom what I see right now, and maybe I'm seeing things a bit differently, as a country we're more or less building a strong foundation and ecosystem that is feeding itself with exits from companies that aren't necessarily looking to be "global giants." At least, not yet.
By having more early-stage companies that exit to larger players, we grow our community and investor attention, which I don't think is a bad thing. More people will look at Canada for investment and, at the same time, founders here will refine their own abilities to build and scale, putting them in a better position to go for big-builds in the future. I don't think strengthening foundations and using exits to learn and grow is a bad thing right now. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Mark SkapinkerSean: I think that many of the experienced folk on StartupNorth, and those responding to you here, see that the Canadian industry does not need huge companies to create huge success and an incredibly successful industry. Bluecat (and the Hyatt brothers) is a great example of the type of success that we celebrate and hope for many more of! The reality is that history has proven that you can only create Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Uber, Apple in California. Nowhere else in the world does the infrastructure of multi-stage investors, talent, customers, culture exist to be able to do that – not in a huge tech marketplace like Israel, New York, Boston nor upcoming Toronto/Waterloo. And, as we saw with Nortel, Blackberry, Nokia – sometimes big players leave havoc behind them and do not feed a growing industry. With each Delrina, Workbrain, Radian6, Bluecat that grows and gets acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars, we create an incredibly talented and motivated infrastructure that gets stronger and stronger. Israeli high-tech companies raised an all-time annual high of $4.8 billion in 2016 with $10 billion in exits without ANY huge companies. The Canadian market is finally seeing a massive growth in investor interest, and fabulous exits like Bluecat – with many more like this, its as good as it gets!!
1 day ago · 13
John StokesFounders have a common goal for their startups - creating something that matters. Recognition that you have built something that matters sometimes comes through having strong revenues or a large, engaged user base, and sometimes it comes through a sale of your company. And when someone buys your company for $400M there can be no doubt that you have achieved something that matters. This community appreciates that external validation and rightly recognizes it and congratulates founders such as Richard and Michael Hyatt. Those on the other side of this argument fall into two bucket: 1) They have an innate understanding of the value of the business opportunity that has been left on the table by selling it at that time, and also have a good appreciation of the personal circumstances that might influence the sale, or 2) they have a misconception that long term ecosystem success will occur overnight and doesn't require continual recycling of experienced talent, ideas and supportive capital. I doubt that anyone posting on other news sites falls into the first bucket ....
1 day ago · 11
Stuart MacDonaldSean - Haven't seen you in a while, hope you're well. Good question. As mentioned above, there are sort of macro economic policy issues (e.g. "Canada should have more global champions") and individual/team success metrics (e.g. "you sold your company - nice work!") at play, which don't necessarily jive. It's much easier for a broad readership to wag a finger because they are primarily thinking of the policy stuff - and, frankly, many can't start to grasp the incredibly complex and often very personal concepts involved with deciding to sell - or not sell - a company. Said another way, it's much easier to say "XXX shouldn't sell because there's this policy objective at stake" when you're not the one with 99% of your net worth, and that of investors, tied up in a thing.
1 day ago · 1
Jeffrey DoucetI believe the sports term for this is "Arm Chair Quarterback"
1 day ago · 1
Naman KumarIf founders and management team are satisfied with the outcome, no one else (not even investors, let alone policy pundits) can really argue otherwise. What you can do, however, is to make sure the successful ones to stick around so their learnings and money can enable the next generation of builders.
Big congrats to the recent sales. The fact that the amounts are in 100s of millions is a mark of the high degree of success, and also a huge bonus for the Canadian community.
1 day ago · 2
Rob HendersonWhile I see both sides of this argument, to me the most exciting part is that we are seeing 100m+ exits as the new the norm where previously we were celebrating much smaller exits. If this keeps up, more money will enter the system and exits will continue to increase in value...and in my view this is when we will start seeing Canadian based tech giants.
Malcolm LevyI absolutely agree with your comments here Sean. Completely on point.
1 day ago
Chris Snoyeryou know at a poker game, when a guy gets lucky on a couple of hands and quickly cashes out with his money? That's not happening in this case. They sold a company for 100m, and stuck it right back into the startup ecosystem. Now, 400m. Keep rolling, brothers...
1 day ago · 2
Ian KoGreat idea to reach out through this group Sean! While I could see and understand how some might develop that perspective, I like to believe that we can grow it in a different way from what we've seen down at Silicon Valley / the other major tech hubs (that sort of rode the wave of the DotCom boom, for which Canada wasn't relatively well positioned for at the time). Canada also has a bunch of defining traits that could shape its tech industry in a bunch of ways, like its opportunity to develop more infrastructure / industrial technologies, instead of the service-oriented focus down South. There will be a lot of buyers from emerging countries in the next decade that are just entering the fold.
Pragmatically speaking, I've also noticed how many serial entrepreneurs eventually wind up as venture capitalists or startup incubator leaders. I find this proliferation of "trainers" & funders will help to surely and steadily build our industry over time.
TLDR: I believe it'll take patience and good industry collaboration to grow a uniquely Canadian tech industry. BlueCat's sale was definitely a step in the right direction - dollars & data aside, it put us on the map, and that's what's important right now.
24 hours ago · 1
John SteticLong time reader, first time commenter.
As a Toronto startup founder and someone who's been through two acquisitions by US companies, and now working on a start up in San Francisco, I've become even more acutely aware of the difference between Canada and the US.
1. Silicon Valley has been building the tech startup ecosystem for over 75 years, Canada is maybe 40 to 50 years behind.
2. In the earlier stages, being able to be beside your customers is critical in many cases. We just have fewer customers in Canada and more importantly, fewer big customers who want to take a risk on a start-up. Canadians are more risk averse.
3. The network of who you know makes so much of a difference - if an entrepreneur has the right network, the funding opportunities are that much better. The networks in the US are that much stronger.
Trying to compare ourselves to the US is just a fruitless exercise in many cases. So many good points in the comments above: Let's build success at a Canadian scale, let's keep investing the funds, let's work together to build a supportive ecosystem and let's keep growing and innovating. Good things come out of that.
13 hours ago · 4
Allen LauFor those who have any negative reaction towards a $100+ million exit, I would suggest them to start a company, build an amazing product, build a team of hundreds of amazing employees and then sell this company for hundreds of millions of dollars before making any comment :-)
It is really really hard!!!!
Mark Twain once said a man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way ....
However - as I mentioned here many times before - we need to have the ambition to build big, independent tech companies here that would become the next Google, the next Disney, the RBC, the next Allianz, etc. If we don't this, we will be colonized. We don't want that.
But aiming high does not mean selling a company for hundreds of millions of dollars is considered as a failure. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Any exit more than $100 million is no small feat and we should celebrate. But we need a handful that will go all the way!
4 hours ago · 8
Peter CarresciaI will reiterate Michael Serbinis point - not every company is meant to be a global standalone giant. Unless you've sat at the boardroom table or mgmt meetings, gone through uncertain sales forecasts, deeply understanding the competitive situation a company is in, and its future prospects, it is ridiculous to criticize a mgmt team and board who decides to sell.
"Entrepreneurs have struggled silently. There's a sense that they can't talk about it, that it's a weakness."
This article basically sums up my Summer. I spent the whole time not sleeping, eating either nothing or too much and not working out.
I gained 20 pounds and was exhausted constantly. During the weekends, I'd sleep for 12 hours straight.
I thought I was being effective and productive, but I wasn't. My work suffered, my health suffered, my relationships with the people I cared about suffered because I felt like I couldn't talk about it with anyone.
Worse of all, it never seemed to be enough. Every time I'd talk to people in the startup scene it always seemed like they pushed harder. They did a hackathon, went to the gym, did a pitch meeting and still managed to show up at the meetup in the evening.
It's a toxic competition that I really found it hard to stop caring about.
But eventually Fall came around and I changed (not because I wanted to but because I was really burnt out). I started sleeping. Used the Ivy Lee Method. Started going to the gym. I was honestly shocked that I was being more productive than ever. I was happier than ever as well.
I'm hoping that as a community we see more active discussions about this sort of thing. Startup life is amazing and I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world, but it can also be incredibly hard, and there's no reason why we can't be open and honest with each other about the stressful moments along the way. This sort of transparency has the opportunity to save lives and allows us to learn from each other in a way that we might not otherwise be able to. ... See MoreSee Less
Alison Livey GibbinsThere should be a "Steady Sixteen" or "Humble Hundred" list of companies. Those that have golf club shaped growth curves (with the angle of the golf club shaft when the club is teed up) rather than hockey sticks. Slow, steady, sustainable. Most likely bootstrapped and self-financing versus venture-backed.
Bobby BhathalIn my last year of university, I put away as many distractions as I could, which included bodybuilding, school, and diet. I got to about 262, heaviest in my life and recently am about 15 months out of that period. Currently sitting at 224 and slowly learning how to manage time better. Splitting you time and business time is very very hard when its all you think about
Tian-Yuan ZhaoAnyone here have any advice on "maintaining a healthy relationship with your parents" as an entrepreneur? Especially if your parents are remote? My parents live in Winnipeg and I'm currently in Toronto. I've recently begun to discover that I have difficulty talking to my parents and relating with them as they have ZERO business background. I basically find it difficult to explain what I do to them and that they have a hard time understanding me, what I'm going through, and what not. I'd love to talk to someone who may have gone through something similar as I am right now. I love my parents dearly but just struggling with maintaining a healthy emotional connection to them. Also of course, if you're an ethnic minority such as Asian, that could help, because I have to say this is definitely a part of it too.
As part of the #NACOCommonDocs project, we are holding consultations in a variety of cities.
For Montreal, we're inviting founders -- both experienced and first timers -- to come and give us feedback on the docs we've created. Specifically, what questions do you have about early stage term sheets? If you are doing a founder-led term sheet, what do you pick? What information or education do you feel you're missing?
We'll walk through the documents we've created so far, and have an open discussion to gather feedback on what is common and "market" for Canada.
For lawyers, investors, and others that are very experienced with early stage term sheets, we have events on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. Please leave a comment if you would like to be invited to those consultations.
For more information, read the Common Docs background: nacocanada.com/commondocs/
Brilliant, in-depth profile of Chamath - worth subscribing to the Globe and Mail just for this. This is a story every Canadian needs to read - puts into perspective Canada's "human-focused values" and why they are important.
Humble roots - parents sought asylum in Canada - originally from Sri Lanka which was ravaged by war for decades. Went on to play the pivotal role in the growth of Facebook. Worth a US$1 billion. Owner/part-owner (?) in the Golden State Warriors.
Now on to bigger and more social and humanity impacting ventures. For instance, involved with "Glooko" - to help people manage their diabetes (420 million people in the world suffer from it). "The grail for Palihapitiya is the development of a smart, artificial pancreas to help regulate the digestion of sugar. "
Salar AliAntonio Martinez describing Chamath in Chaos Monkeys (a great read for anyone who fancies the inner-workings of these behemoths): "After an all-night high stakes game, Chamath walks out fifty thousand dollars ahead. Deciding he needs some German rolling iron stat, he goes to a BMW dealership. The salesman, spotting a badly dressed kid, gives him the cold shoulder and refuses a test drive. So Chamath heads over to the Mercedes dealership across the street. There, they don't ignore him, and he buys a car for cash on the spot. Then he drives back to the BMW dealership with his new Benz, finds the sales guy who blew him off, and shows him the sale he lost. That's who we're dealing with here."
Collage has raised $5M in seed funding from Diagram to bring HR and insurance in Canada into the digital age. They are the first platform to provide Canadian businesses with an all-digital solution to quote, buy, and manage their benefits plans online, with the ability to seamlessly integrate that plan with Collage's HR software.
Relevant to the startup founders and entrepreneurs in the group that have gone through the struggles of setting up benefits and continue to dedicate significant time to managing HR for their business.
I don't want to open up a round of Uber-bashing here, but this is a post worth reading.
Why post it in StartupNorth?
Diversity wins. There are lots of data about the value in diversity of gender, religion, national origin, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, politics, and pretty much every other axis on which humans can be partitioned. It reaches from the board room to the locker room, from small volunteer groups to 11-digit companies. The "startup industry", globally, is populated overwhelmingly by white, straight, 25-35 year old, middle-class-or-better, university-educated men. (The funders are similar, but 10-20 years older.) Canada seems no exception.
On this score, I don't think Silicon Valley can be fixed. The economics, education, social structure, demographics, and especially incentive structure are all wrong. It's just baked in too deeply. People are fighting the good fight, but you can't fight a waterfall with a straw.
Canada, on the other hand...I think we have a chance. I think if we respond to stories like the Uber one with not only condemnation but reflection, if we're honest about where we need to improve and we celebrate people living the value of diversity, and if we take advantage of the diversity present in the cities and countries that surround us...we can win.
We often talk, as a community, about how we can be as good as Silicon Valley: funding, exits, comp, talent, quality of life. On diversity, though, I think we can be so much better. We have to be. ... See MoreSee Less
As most of you know, I left Uber in December and joined Stripe in January. I've gotten a lot of questions over the past couple of months about why I left and what my time at Uber was like. It's a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told while it is still fre
Thibaud Maréchal100% agreed Mike, we can win, altogether, big time! #canadastrong
6 days ago · 3
Kamil RextinYou got approved mike. I see why your thumbs would hurt. Definitely agreed with everything and silicon valley is ivey league straight white men on both sides. The funders have a bias to fund makers who act look and have the same background as them. There are some edge funds poping up that focus on diverse teams. I remeber listening to Tristian Walker (ex foursquare and Walker and Company) on diversity on the Recode podcast I think. Great lessons there
6 days ago · 1
Sabaa Quao"Canada, on the other hand...I think we have a chance." YES!
6 days ago
James MartindaleI suspect Uber will pull the trigger in their HR team now this has gone viral. There is not a lot of "ethics" in the sharing economy, like everything else, it is people wanting to get rich. Air B'n'B is more concerning than Uber. People need to open their eyes to the ridiculous rise in rents in Toronto and the demise of inventory.
Varun MathurIt is not a question of diversity - but about sexual harassment (which can be perpetrated by someone of the exact same "diverse" background as you) and sexism in the workplace (someone from the same gender can play an enabling role). People of diverse backgrounds can be assholes too - what do you do then ?
As a startup - you can't parent people into being better human beings. You are not the government, you are not framing laws, you are not defending them. What you can do is create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everybody; and those who don't fit, let them go quickly.
Hiring a diverse workforce is in itself not a solution to the precise problem described here. People sometimes bring their own cultural baggage, and not all of it is good ("well in my culture we treat women like this" kind of nonsense)
Something like changing the focus away from a regular "bro-culture" evening alcohol driven session to coffee chats is more meaningful. Encouraging family meetups of employees could be another. Encourage folks to bring their kids to the office - these are the kinds of things which can ensure people put up their best behavior.
Lesley Dort-LendvaiSadly Susan's story is all too familiar to me. In two different incidents at an enterprise software company I worked at, one of my young female employee's and a female colleague were both told by HR to plan their work around their alleged offenders/men, even though they had hard evidence and witnesses. In one case the message from the head of HR was blatant. He's our top performing sales rep!! ...so you know what the means. No action was taken. We have a very long way to go across North America - Canada too!! I can say from first hand experience - the typical "old boys club" mentality prevails over and over again! Sadly. The sentiment among most of my female peers is that it's not even worth going to HR.
5 days ago · 6
Gareth MacLeodA couple notes from my reading of this:
- This is a case-study in why you have to get culture right the first time, and very deliberately promote inclusivity/sensitivity. So many people in this story should have known better and didn't.
- Travis tweeted "Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired."
- The only person named by title is the CTO, who she says she reported illegal threats to, and he did nothing. If Travis' earlier strong statements about firing anyone who thinks this ok is true, then the CTO has to go.
5 days ago · 5
Jana ReidI've experienced enough sexism and misogyny in the workforce that I've started a retail store instead of having to work in a startup (or corporate) environment. You are already losing women here in Canada. Wanting to do better isn't enough.
5 days ago · 8
Simon MillsVery well said. Like you mentioned, Canada has a real opportunity to separate ourselves from the Valley and be better. We know that in the long run, diversity wins the day. Huge opportunity and differentiator for Canada if we can get it right
5 days ago
Andrew StanbridgeWill be interesting to see this unfold and how much Uber chooses to share.
5 days ago
Mike BeltznerPutting aside the well intentioned patriotism: good feelings and pride won't solve this or make Canada better than anywhere else. Actions will:
- collect the data; report the data; set goals on the data
- begin using Rooney rules or similar
- don't solely rely on government support for things like parental or bereavement leave
- don't question "does diversity make stronger teams," but instead question "does lack of diversity make stronger teams"
- set an expectation that everyone acts as an ally to their colleagues
In my (limited) Toronto based experience with Canadian startups, it wasn't much better than what I've seen in Silicon Valley - just a smaller scale so easier to intercept and course correct.