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When Jevon and Jonas and I first met back in 2006 it was because we shared an interest in early stage, emerging technology companies. We were excited to have found other people in Toronto that were interested in the same things. Startups. Technology. Emerging business models. Funding. It was great. It was early days, it was easy to connect with others to figure out who was interested. And to move things forward. We wrote about the stuff we found interesting, hosted events that we wanted to attend (anyone remember StartupEmpire), and have tried to be tireless promoters of high potential growth technology startups in Canada. We’ve tried to connect engineers and designers. But as the community has grown we’ve done a very good job outside of repeated participation at events in connecting potential cofounders.
How do you meet a cofounder?
This is where Founder Dating comes in.
FounderDating brings together super talented entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and skill sets to start innovative new companies. All too often you know people with similar backgrounds and skills sets to your own. We help you find co-founders with complimentary skill sets.
The thing that Founder Dating brings that are crucial:
- High Quality – everyone is screened for quality and readiness. Applications and members’ identities are confidential (many have jobs still) but a few of the folks who are part of the network are founders or early employees from: Stackmob, Snapfish, Zynga, Gilt and Loggly, just to name a few.
- Balanced – member base is 50% engineers/50% non-engineers
As Paul Graham says, “Not having a cofounder is a real problem. A startup is too much for one person to bear.” It’s true you want someone complimentary in skill sets, but you also want someone who is going to be able to weather the ups and downs with you.
What Founder Dating is Not
- They are not “speed dating for cofounders” – they don’t do speed dating, never have, never will.
- You do NOT need an idea to apply. Just need to be ready to start something or at least work on a meaningful side-project (20ish hrs/week).
- This is NOT only for first-time entrepreneurs – a huge % of our members are repeat entrepreneurs
- FounderDating is NOT a meetup/event – per the above, we’re an online network and as first introduction to your round and the community you’re invited to an initial event but the power is in the network you become a part of.
We need to unlock Founder Dating for Toronto. Get on it!
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I was reading an excerpt from Noah Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship) about Founder Dilemmas: Equity Splits and it struck home. Equity splits and distribution are often the key issues related to power imbalances, perceived injustice and tension amongst cofounders.
In Noam’s dataset, 73% of founding teams split equity within a month of founding, a striking number given the big uncertainties early in the life of any startup. The majority of those teams set the equity in stone by failing to allow for future adjustments to equity stakes if there are major changes within the team or the startup…
Setting the early equity split in stone is one of the biggest mistakes founders can make. With their confidence in their startup and themselves, their passion for their work and their mission, and their desire not to harm the fragile dynamic within the nascent founding team, cofounders tend to plan for the best that can happen. They assume that their early, high levels of commitment will last long into the future, rather than waning as the challenges of founding begin to sap their passion for the idea and for each other. They assume that no adverse events will change the composition of the team.They also tend to take a very short-term view of the factors that should affect equity splits.
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, and a founder will choose to leave the company or have the choice made for them. The question is how do you create a set of agreements that is fair to all of the cofounders. Often we think that standard employment and shareholder agreements cover much of the difficult situations that we can encounter with cofounders. But as cofounders it starts by really understand what you each are looking for, and then making sure your agreements cover the specifics of your situation.
- How should we divide the shares?
- How will decisions get made?
- What happens if one of us leaves the company?
- Can any of us be fired? By whom? For what reasons?
- What are our personal goals for the startup?
- Will this be the primary activity for each of us?
- What part of our plan are we unwilling to change?
- What contractual terms will each of us sign with the company?
- Will any of us be investing cash in the company? If so, how will this be treated?
- What will we pay ourselves? Who gets to change this in the future?
A couple of things. I think all founders stock should vest. I like it when founders purchase their initial shares with a one-time acceleration clause for a small percentage at purchase (3-5%). I like when founders’ stock reverse vests with a traditional one year cliff. The initial vesting acceleration is because things can change at 6 months and it seems fair to value the capital risk that each founder has taken at purchase. And the one year cliff because it is standard. What I’ve seen a lot is founders that don’t do the small initial accelerated vesting clause.
The other thing I like to see is an Employment Agreement with Termination clauses, in particular, an acceleration on vesting regarding “Termination by the Corporation without Cause”. I like to see a single trigger acceleration with 6-12 months of stock vesting on termination without cause (I’m not alone). The goal is to be fair and to protect each cofounder and the corporation if things don’t workout.
What tips do others have for equity splits? acceleration clauses? terms? That as cofounders we should put in our agreements.
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StartupNorth contributor Ray Luk (LinkedIn, @rayluk) announced the launch of Scalability Inc. (@scalabilityinc). It’s a great service that provides backoffice services including bookkeeping, accounting, government filings, payroll, record keeping, and human resources. It’s the combination of tools and the people with the expertise to help with timing that can make a huge difference. Ray seems to have nailed a need in the marketplace with Scalability Inc.
It’s great to see startups building these unsexy tools, and sharing their experiences. It’s particularly interesting to see how many Canadian startups are playing in the unsexy backoffice space. Scalability Inc., Wave Accounting (announced $12MM from Social+Capital), TribeHR ($1MM from David Skok at Matrix Partners), Shopify ($22MM from Bessemer), Dayforce (acquired by Ceridian), it seems like Canadians like critical business apps.
What are the must have tools that you are using in your startup’s back office?
Sales & Inventory
Analytics & Business Intelligence
Accounting & Payroll & Expenses
Bookkeepers & Accountants
What are you using in the back office? Who are the consultants and providers that we’ve missed?