The day the punk music died

Joe Strummer by Simon White at Toronto Calling
Photo by Simon White in Toronto Calling exhibit

It’s been 9 years since Joe Strummer passed away from an undiagnosed congenial heart defect. Joe Strummer and The Clash were my biggest musical influence. I eagerly awaited the release of The Future is Unwritten (and I’m now the proud owner of a Region 2 DVD from My friends Scott Berkun, Roger Chabra, Saul Colt and others have reminded me about how important Joe was both musically and politically.

Joe Strummer by Simon White - Toronto Calling
Photo in my living room thanks to Lee Dale, Kristin Heeney and Simon White for the best friends and a special gift

“And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanised. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.” — Joe Strummer

It was Billy Bragg’s post this morning that connected connected Joe’s view on worker and humanitarian rights explicitly for me to the Occupy movements.

Thanks Joe!

NYC vs SF – Startup Costs

The team at has provided a fun infographic about the operating costs for a startup in New York versus San Francisco.

Toronto for Comparison

  • Coporate Income Tax Rate – Small Business 15.5%
    • Canada – 11%
    • Ontario – 4.5%
  • Salaries for Employees
    • Software Engineer – $75,000
    • Executive Assistant – $35,000
    • Graphic Designer – $50,000
    • Project Manager – $75,000
    • Web Developer – $55,000
  • Personal Income Tax – 31.15% (assumes range from $40k-$81k)
    • Federal – 22%
    • Ontario – 9.15%
  • Cost of Office Space – $1.67/square foot/month ($2o/square foot/year) (using general listing for A grade space from OfficeZilla)
  • Cost of Utilities/Taxes/etc – $12/square foot/year ($1/square foot/month)
All in all we’re not too bad.

Startup Costs - NYC vs SF

SMASH Summit in NYC

SMASH Summit East 2011Dave McClure and the 500 Startups folks are producing a great looking conference focused on “hack-tics” of customer acquistion. They ran a similar event in April 2010 in SF. – check out tthe presentations on SlideShare and the feedback. At the event speakers provided examples based on real usage and data. David Cowling provided a list of the social media statistics by different speakers (stats current as of May 2010 — so you hope they are crazier 14 months later), they reinforce the power of mass media platform and while fragmented the web/mobile is a great way to reach people (customers, prospects, leads, fans, haters, almost everyone).

  • Twitter has 105,779,710 users. 300K new users per day. 600 million search queries per day. 175 employees.
  • Salesforce thinks that their Youtube channel has the ROI equivalent of 35 super efficient sales reps
  • Facebook says sites that have added Like button have seen triple growth of fans
  • Stumbleupon 2010: 10 Million users, 115,000 Facebook fans, 600 Million stumbles/month, 1 Billion ratings, 45 Million URLs, 50,000 discovers/day
  • Top 5 countries after the US for Facebook usage/traffic: UK, Indonesia, Canada, France, Turkey
  • 70% of Facebook traffic comes from outside the US, 10% increase in the last year alone
  • 37% of tweets originate from mobile devices
  • Most of YouTube’s views are from videos older than 6 months old, invest in a content strategy.

I am hoping that Michael McDerment might apply to tell the FreshBooks metric story at the SMASH Summit. He first gave this talk at DemoCamp back in 2007 but he continues to evolve it based on the FreshBooks business. It’s one of my favs. And given the updated focus on both acquisition and retention it makes it a perfect opportunity for FreshBooks.

SMASH Summit will feature presentations and case studies on strategies, tactics, and “hack-tics” used in successful internet campaigns across multiple platforms—from search to social to mobile. Led by both tech geeks and savvy marketers, you will walk way with new tips and tricks for pumping up your customer acquisition and retention. In 2010, SMASH Summit debuted to a sold-out audience including speakers and attendees from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Apple, Google, Virgin America, National Geographic, Mint, Twilio, Sony, Slideshare, and many others.

I am hoping to attend because I want to see some of the approaches used to acquire customers for $0 dollars. Why? I spent part of Monday, in my role as EiR at VeloCity, asking students and entrepreneurs how they could get to 10,000 (or 100,000 or 1,000,000) users in 30 days with a $0 budget. I’m curious to see both the tactics and the tools that other high traction startups are using to attract and retain customers. Apparently I’ve been spending time understanding marketing and sales automation (again).

Great list of speakers including the infamous Dave McClure (@davemclure), Charlie O’Donnell (@CEONYC), Victoria Ransom (@wildfireapp) and others.

The Science of Word of Mouth

B2B Marketing Guide by KISSMetrics

The team at KISSmetrics has provided a B2B Marketing Guide infographic. Some of the facts I found interesting:

  • 85% of B2B marketers invested in event marketing in 2010
    • 28% of this group plan to increase their event marketing investments in 2011
  • 69% of B2B marketers intend to try new digital marketing approaches in 2011
Lots of great stuff. Make sure you also check out A Startup Marketing Framework by April Dunford and 10 Marketing Lessons for Early-Stage Tech Startups by Mark Suster. Great contexts to better understand B2B Marketing.

B2B Marketing Guide by KISSMetrics

Keep on rockin’ in the free world

Photo by Frank Wuestefeld Some Rights Reserved CC BY-NC-SA
AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Frank Wuestefeld

Don’t go in to the light! A couple of days ago it was the 5th anniversary of my heart attack at DemoCamp. I am really luck to have friends like JayJoeySuthaLeila and Greg who understood the symptoms and were caring enough to protect me from myself. I’m very lucky we were at MaRS, because for the heckling I do, the first rule of real estate was my friend. Location, location, location. And I’m really thankful for the spectacular care I received at Toronto General Hospital.

I missed what was one of the most important early DemoCamps, it takes almost these 5 years to play out, but look at the schedule.

  1. Skydasher/Feedcache: Skydasher is Tucows latest super-secret attempt at bringing great services to Webhosters and ISPs and their customers. Feedcache is a big, queryable cache of syndication feeds that application developers can play with. Presented by Ross Rader and Joey deVilla, developer relations dudes at Tucows.
  2. BlogScope: Online analysis and visualization tool for blogosphere. By Nilesh Bansal, grad student from database group, University of Toronto.
  3. BumpTop: Next-generation desktop organization software powered by a physics engine. Presented by Anand Agarawala. Video also available.
  4. Joshua Wehner – Rails based web application
  5. semanticPAL – learnable natural language user interface from nSM Semantic Modules Presented by sasha uritsky

On the schedule were BumpTop and Blogoscope which eventually became Sysomos. Both of which were acquired approximately 3.5 years after their inital DemoCamp presentations.

I often get asked why I continue to do this: DemoCamp, StartupNorth, Founders & Funders. I’ve tried to write about my motivations about this community of crazy, under-appreciated technologists, designers, entrepreneurs. I think that this is a special place. I’ve met a lot of good friends. I’ve learned a lot about great people. I hope that I’ve been able to make Toronto a better place. And I wonder what my role should be going forward. This is my hobby. This is my passion. This is my distraction. I do it because it makes me feel better.  It’s just too bad that this isn’t a real gig. I tried at Microsoft. Mark Relph and John Oxley really understood the power of a strong Canadian emerging technology and startup community. It was time to move on. Others think they can manipulate, own and harness the power of loosely connected pieces where the only benefit is in providing a space for the collisions to happen. I like to think of my role as conductor. How do I get the right people to collide so sparks happen.

I’m left thinking I’m very proud of all of the entrepreneurs that I’ve met in the past 5 years. I’m thankful for how much each of you has helped me. And if you feel like I’ve been dishonest or untruthful, please let me try to rectify that. If I’ve ignored you, it’s because your message wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Help me hear you. And to everyone who has become a friend. My table, my bourbon bottle and my office is always open. Please keep on making Canada a place that I am proud to be a citizen.

Mesh is TO’s most important DIY conference

Mesh Conference is Toronto’s most important DIY conference.

Copyright All rights reserved by geoperdis

That’s right Mesh Conference is a DIY event. It’s the Do-It -Yourself endeavour of small dedicated group of individuals. And you can see each of their personalities and interests in the schedule and speakers. Rob Hyndman (@rhh), Stuart MacDonald(@stuartma), Mark Evans(@markevans), Mathew Ingram(@mathewi), and Mike McDerment (@mikemcderment) have been working very hard since 2006 to build a world-class that has attracted renown speakers, mayors, and attendees. The secret is that Mesh is an event that all of them want to attend. The reason they invest time and effort into this event is because it is really for them.

Ingram, Hyndman, Evans, MacDonald - missing McDerment
Copyright All rights reserved by photojunkie

Why is Mesh Toronto’s most important DIY event?

There are great events ranging from my DemoCamp to EcommerceCamp, from MakerFaireTO to Open Toronto, TechTalksTO to HackTO.  There are a great number of local events that have emerged. The thing about Mesh is that it started in 2006. Over 5 years ago, shortly after the first BarCampToronto. And since the very first Mesh, it has always had an air of professionalism that others should strive to obtain. Mesh from the very first event was an event that was world class. It was Canadian in size (about 1/10th the size of a US event). But it has always been DIY, it has never felt DIY.

Rob, Stuart, Mark, Mathew, Mike and Sheri deserve true accolades for building an event that defines the emerging technology, emerging culture, emerging policy in Canada. Thank you!

I hope to see everyone at the Allstream Centre this week.

Apps for Heatlh

Apps for Health 2011I am not a huge fan of design contests as a motivator or educational tool. However they seem to work, there are business plan competitions like Moot Corp, SIFE Student Entrepreneur Competition, MIT $100K, among others. They do define external criteria, timelines and rewards help structure the process. That aside there is a new competition happening at Mohawk College in Hamilton focused on building “technological solutions to real-world challenges sponsored by health care organizations”.

Ever since I had a heart attack at DemoCampToronto6 I have had a renewed interest in personal health technologies. This shouldn’t be a surprise given that my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (ask me about how a 17 year old makes decisions about educational programs, and I did seriously want to be an orthopedic surgeon until I realized I’d have to work with sick people). I’ve been interested in reimagining personal health technology:

I have friends at BodyMedia, Massive Health and other organizations that are doing some amazing things. I am fascinated with the change in delivery and practice engagement that Canadian companies like HelloHealth and Myca. So I am impressed to see  Apps for Health that presents a series of challenges:

Teams are then required to do the necessary research, design and iteration to build a presentation. You can think about this as the initial pitch session whether for funding, recruiting, customer development, etc. Teams create a 10 minute presentation that “demos” the solution.  The goal is to concisely present your idea and demonstrate:

  • Must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the health care problem
  • Must be clinically useful in the health care environment
  • Must be created by team for purpose of the competition
  • Must be technologically feasible
  • Degree of completion
  • Cohesive presentation

What’s the best way to present this? Technical details? Screen shots? Demos? Simulators? etc. Up to each team. You need to demonstrate impact and win hearts and minds. I think I’ll look at forking out the $50 to attend including the drive to Hamilton.