Founders & Funders An Update

I think Jevon and Jonas and Karthik are getting sick of running events with me. Before StartupEmpire back in 2008, I ended up in the Emergency Room at Toronto General for another look at my ticker. This week I ended up in the Emergency Room at Toronto General as we are planning Founders & Funders. I’m ok, I was both times but it does complicate the event planning and invitation process.

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.” Wikipedia

So if you feel like you only got your invitation very recently, i.e., today. It’s my fault, I am sorry, I have been out of commission. It’s a reminder that you should do a startup before you need a body replacement.

Founders & Funders

Here is the update on Founders & Funders. It has been almost 2 years since we ran the last Founders & Funders (thanks for noticing William ;-). We are 7 days from the event and we have 35 remaining spots. Unlike past events, we are over inviting and over selling the event, i.e., first come first served. So if you got an invite but were waiting that might be a bad plan…

How to get an invitation?

“Fortune favors the connected entrepreneur.” @jcal7 #trueuniversity via @hnshah

We’re looking for “interesting” founders. Often this means people that we’ve met at other events, as Founders & Funders are relatively small social gatherings. That doesn’t mean it is just our friends, as I’ve been often accused. But it is entrepreneurs that we’ve met, that are building interesting companies, that have interesting traction. Get someone that we think is awesome to refer you. It’s a social hack (just like me).

Connect with other founders

Daniel Debow

We have also decided to include a brief fireside chat with Daniel Debow at this dinner. We rarely do this sort of thing at a Founders and Funders but 2011 was such a great year we thought it would be fun to look back on the ups and downs of Rypple through the years and how they got to their eventual exit, some of which was written about in Forbes this week.

What’s the point?

Jonas, Jevon and I are founders. We are not an event company. We are not a media company. We have been trying to write content on StartupNorth that is relevant to us as founders. Whether we are raising money, connecting with other where we live, finding talent, or growing a business. We generally charge very close to the cost of the ticket, i.e., there are some slight over head costs but we are not collecting salaries or generating revenues. This is an unfortunate hobby. But I know there are world-class founders and companies across Canada and while there are government supported organizations and purported lobby groups, we are just a bunch of founders trying to do the things that we find useful in building our companies.

Founders & Funders is a social event. It is designed to connect with the people writing cheques and making investments on a social level. To talk about startups and technologies and business models without the constraints of a pitch. Will there be pitches, definitely (How do you know when an entrepreneur is dead? They stop pitching). The goal is to have a highly edited dinner party with “interesting founders” and get them out of their usual pitch oriented conversation with VCs.

Whether this works or not is questionable, but it does bring together founders and funders in a social context.

What’s Your Personality Type? Insights for Lean Entrepreneurs

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Flow Ventures written by Raymond Luk (LinkedIn, @rayluk). Follow him on Twitter @rayluk. This post was originally published on February 1, 2012 on Flow Ventures.

The ancient Greek aphorism “Know thyself” is very relevant to entrepreneurs. Most founders don’t give much thought to how their own personality type influences how well they run their startup. Remember, your reality distortion field distorts yourself too.

The good news is that for the first time since I’ve been building companies, entrepreneurs share a common framework for guiding their startups: the Lean startup. Sure, some people don’t use the right vocabulary and misunderstand Lean. But I find that Lean thinking has permeated the entrepreneurial community, so much so that some founders are following the principles without knowing the term “lean startup” at all.

The bad news is that there’s still a huge gap between the understanding of lean startups and the practice. It’s frustrating to see and I think one reason is founders don’t take into account how their own personalities influence the process. I haven’t seen anyone ask: “How is my own personality getting in the way of being lean?

To help answer that question, I’ve created a list of the top 5 personality archetypes I come across, as well as some things to watch out for if you recognize yourself in one (or more than one) of them:

  • “Smartypants”– You’re very knowledgeable and you want people to know it. You love complexity. You believe that superior intellect and knowledge will close the sale, investment etc.
    • Watch out: you’ll ignore the simple solution (which is often the best one) in favour of something more impressive. You’ll discount what customers say because they aren’t smart enough. You’ll be attracted to innovation vs execution.
  • “Intelligent Architect”– Most engineers have this personality type. You like to build machines and you like it when they work as planned. You like the design phase of projects because there are no customers in the design phase…
    • Watch out: you’re going to be very uncomfortable when your startup is trying to find a business model vs building a product. You can’t architect a solution when you don’t know what the problem is yet. Pivots will drive you crazy because there’s nothing wrong with the code.
  • “The Advocate”– Most sales people (and almost all entrepreneurs) are strong when it comes to selling their vision or advocating what they believe in. In a meeting, especially a brainstorm, you talk rather than listen.
    • Watch out: when you’re trying to find product-market fit, you’d better hone your shutting up skills. You can’t hear your customers’ voices when you’re still talking. You already know your own position, it’s time to listen to others.
  • “The Dreamer”– I saw a pitch deck recently for a hyper-local startup. Great deck, nice screenshots, but within 5 minutes the entrepreneur admitted he probably would never use the product, nor did he think anyone else would. It’s easy to envision success IF everyone used your product. It’s harder to make it so.
    • Watch out: you get excited about building an empire but you have a blind spot when it comes to actual customers and their problems. You’ll overestimate how well your product solves their problems.
  • “Mom and Pop”– One great thing about Lean startups is that founders are getting in close proximity to customers to validate their businesses. Most people start with people they know in their community. If you’re a natural hustler, you’ve probably walked down Main Street knocking on doors and signing up beta customers.
    • Watch out: You’ll hold as proof of your business the fact you signed up 10 restaurants in your neighbourhood. Instead of using (and possibly abusing) them to test your hypotheses, you’ll want to make them happy and get pulled in many directions. Be careful you don’t lose sight of the goal. You’re trying to build a scalable business, not a local consulting company.

Spend a bit of time thinking about who you are. Better yet, ask the people around you and make sure there are no sharp objects close by. There’s no value judgment here. There are no “good” or “bad” personality types. But the sooner you recognize your own personality type(s) the sooner you can get out of your own way.

nosce te ipsum

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Flow Ventures written by Raymond Luk (LinkedIn, @rayluk). Follow him on Twitter @rayluk. This post was originally published on February 1, 2012 on Flow Ventures.

Toronto: Why Are We Here?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Zak Homuth (LinkedIn, @zakhomuthGithub). Follow him on Twitter @zakhomuth. This post was originally published on February 1, 2012. And like many startups, Upverter is hiring.

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Its winter right now, and that means for those of us in the north east its cold. We try to pretend its a good thing; that it keeps us focused. But the reality is we dont live and work here because of the snow, we live and work here because smart people love, more than anything else in the world [pg], to work with other smart people. And, make as many snow jokes as you want, but…

Pay attention to Toronto

Canada is the best country in the world to do business in [forbes], Toronto is the most multi-cultural city in the world [wikipedia] (suck-it NYC ;)), we get tax incentives for R&D [gov], and its the only city within an hour of one of the worlds foremost engineering schools [uwaterloo,coop program].

So, I say again, you should be paying attention. And if you’ve got your shit together you should be trying to figure out how to get a footprint here. Because believe it or not, we dont all want/have to be in the valley [fred].

All that being said, I still get this question a lot

There is a (very reasonable) expectation that YC companies make every effort to relocate to silicon valley as part of the program. And the fact that we have most of our operations in Toronto raises some eyebrows. My answer is really simple: The talent is here and it wants to be here. Sometimes I even go as far as talking about how much further our investment takes us when we spend it here instead of in the US, but at its root its a talent thing.

Toronto isn’t the only place in the world

Its true. I still spend a tremendous amount of time in the valley. And we have customers all over the world. Simply put there is no perfect place for everything. But if youre building a product business, or looking for talent, you could do much, much worse! Toronto is great for talent, and its a great place to live. Oh… and Im sure its not supposed to matter but like my good friend dave [blog] would say, “look at the scenery”.

But, its also a terrible place to raise money. Like I said, nowhere is perfect.

About Me

Upverter is my 3rd startup. I dropped out of highschool, and then university, both times to run startups. I’ve worked in Ottawa, Waterloo, Stuttgart, Bangalore, and Mountain View. I have never lived in Toronto before, so its a first for me, but we’re here because its where our team wanted to be. We are currently 7/7 kick-ass, and 6/7 Uwaterloo engineers who would just rather be here at home in Canada, than down in the valley. Oh, and if you’re smart, we’re hiring.

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Zak Homuth (LinkedIn, @zakhomuthGithub). Follow him on Twitter @zakhomuth. This post was originally published on February 1, 2012. And like many startups, Upverter is hiring.