Photo by Andrew Stephenson

A Golden Age for Indie Business

“the mainstream startup narrative is owned by VC backed startups who’s success and ambition are often measured by the amount of capital they’ve raise. That’s a fine narrative, but not the only one.” – Bryce Roberts on

I have been focused on furthering the narrative of VC backed startups. From the start of DemoCamp almost 10 years ago, the goal was to find venture fundable companies. It also allowed the use of venture funding has become the default proxy for determining the success of companies and the health of the ecosystem. The more venture capital deployed the healthier the ecosystem with more jobs and greater impact. There are a strong number of Canadian venture funded companies:

Is venture funding the only narrative that matters? There are other companies in Canada that are participants and help define the ecosystem?

“there’s a cultural shift towards taking little to no VC investment, staying independent longer (or indefinitely) without sacrificing the ambition for building large, profitable and impactful businesses”
Bryce Roberts

There are crazy entrepreneurs across Canada that are building big, impactful companies.

There are companies that are building outside of the narrative of venture capital and venture funding. They are defining their own rules leveraging distribution and monetization paths to companies outside of the venture narrative. These are important companies. I really like Bryce’s description of these businesses as “indie” and not “lifestyle”. Just like independent music, I think it better represents the ethos and motivations of these business owners.

“Can we provide the resources and networks founders would traditionally get taking VC money, without all the expectations and baggage that come with it? Would an early focus on cashflow and sustainability v. fundable milestones stunt growth or lay the foundation for a more scalable long-term culture? Is it possible to maintain and independent attitude and ethos with an outside investor on your cap table? And could these types of companies compete, and win, against their traditionally VC funded peers?”
Bryce Roberts

It’s exciting to see a venture fund recognize the importance of these independent business. To look at the tools, milestones, connections and content around cashflow, sustainability, recruiting and culture.  Before the funding announcement in July 2014 it was easy to imagine FreshBooks remaining an independent. Mike McDerment has been a fixture in building and supporting independent companies and events like Mesh Conference for the past 10 years. The assumption is that FreshBooks was able to build strong culture and was able to raise financing at their own terms. This is a really interesting time, and it is amazing to see a group of independent technology businesses grow in to large, impactful companies.

As Bryce says, “we’re entering a golden age for Indie businesses”, and I can’t wait to see the companies that it brings.

Featured photo by Andrew Stephenson 

4 thoughts on “A Golden Age for Indie Business”

  1. Saving this one to my phone for a reread on the plane. Well done Dave. It’s striking when you see the list you’ve compiled of companies creating and sponsoring their own communities. These are actual operators bringing people together and helping define what’s really relevant and aligning this with their passions. Leila Boujnane at Idee TinEye as you note is such a shining example.

    Good point as well on the cash invested metric. I’ve seen a shift to more metrics use “total headcount” in the denominator. ExpertFile is just 7 people but I really think they are doing the work of 20+ corporate stiffs. 😉 Thanks for the post. And Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Peter,

      The VC narrative is the dominant one. I was looking at the amazing growth and stories of businesses that shape the community I live and I felt like this is a story that is not well told or well respected. Leila and Paul and the Idee team are the perfect example of a successful company building the community they want to live and work in.

      Congrats on growing ExpertFile to 7. Amazing! Headcount is an interesting metric. I also like revenue per employee. it chanes by industry but hard to compare with private companies.

  2. David, do you know whether anyone has quantified the increase in indie businesses? The final link you included was to a blog post by Bryce Roberts which was written almost three years ago, so by now we should be able to get some idea of trends.

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