Halifax Pop Explosion

I had a great time at NxNE. It wasn’t representative of the time I’ve spent at SxSW. But this is probably a good thing. I was on a panel hosted by Dave Senior of Playground Inc. with Michael Litt (@michaellitt) of Vidyard and Raja Bhatia (@raja) of Confluence Labs. Great fun talking about startups, traction, funding, teams, marketing, etc. It’s funny, it was a great panel, I spent a lot of time heckling Mike. But I guess the reviews were positive. Because my friend Meghan Warby (@withoutayard) invited to Halifax to attend Halifax Pop Explosion.

I have a few confessions:

  1. I have never been to Halifax.
  2. I am going because I get to see my friends Jevon (@jevon) and Ben (@byosko)
  3. I am putting together new material

I’m in Halifax from Tuesday, Oct 16 until Friday, Oct 19. It’s a short stay, but I am choosing to be home for dinner on Friday with the kidlets. I’m looking for food recommendations, a place to have a pint, and some sights. Any suggestions on where to eat?

I’m also putting together a new presentation. The program description for my talk, titled How to Start a Startup, is:

Everyday more and more web startups are getting founded by entrepreneurs tenured and new. However, most abandon basic business pillars when building a venture in the digital economy. Not every start-up requires the same advice, but there a similar threads that apply to almost every company attempting to build a new digital product. We will be discussing the 5 things every startup must have to succeed.

I need to build a new talk and slide deck. I was thinking I could do something fun, like try to only build a presentation using quotes from The Social Network. Which in looking through the IMDB quotes could be surprisingly difficult.  I need to make this presentation a little more fun. Otherwise it’s going to feel like a “how to” guide for the basics of a startup. Which isn’t a bad plan, but I’m not sure I would sit through an hour long talk. Maybe I can use Paul Graham’s Want to Start a Startup:

  • The Idea
  • People
  • What Customers Want
  • Raising Money
  • Not Spending It

And just intersperse stories I have from Influitive, Maintenance Assistant and the startups I’ve worked with. I think coupled with Thomas Tunguz’s Your startups top 3 priorities

  • Distribution
  • Monetization
  • Engagement
I guess I can talk about my experiences along The Startup Curve. And since I’ve never seen the Acquisition fo Liquidity or Upside  of Buyer, my experience will be limited.
Paul Graham's Startup Curve

Strangely I haven’t given a presentation in what feels like a long time. It’s a good time to build a new deck that is engaging and fun. Maybe I need to start with a simple hypothesis and build out the supporting materials.

Featured Image: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Steve Dinn

Blogging More

I wrote my first blog post for DavidCrow.ca, roughly 11 years ago on the day Douglas Adams passed away from a heart attack.  It is hard to believe that I have been doing this unsuccessfully for 11 years. Strangely, I had my heart attack roughly 5 years later on May 30, 2006, maybe heart trouble is the common thread through my blog.

I need to get in the habit of blogging more. I have been woefully neglectful of my blog. Unlike Joey, who seems to have found time to blog multiple times per day. I need to follow the advice of Mark Suster and Fred Wilson (more), and just make blogging part of my daily activities. (I probably need to try to make other things like a walking desk part of my daily activities too). I’ve written a lot of posts for StartupNorth, but I haven’t been as dedicated to my own blog.

Here are some of my favorite posts:

 Back to it I guess.

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.

185 Days Later

Zombie Walk 2010

It’s been like a great zombie movie. There’s interesting zombies, lots of gore, non-cliche characters, man vs zombie, and at least one human idiot (hello, my name is David).

Actually it’s been an amazing 185 days (just over 6 months) since I announced that I was leaving Microsoft.

MSFT 9-24-2010 thru 3-24-2011

The good news is that as a Microsoft shareholder, my departure did not appear to greatly affect Microsoft’s stock performance (closed Sept 20, 2010 at 25.13 vs Mar 23, 2011 at 25.81). This means technically my leaving added 68 cents a share. While my giant ego would be incredibly bruised being the cause of $5.712B increase in value because of my departure (8.40B shares outstanding *  $0.68/share change). I am pretty sure that most of this change is unrelated to me, and more related to Kinect, Phone 7, and other product sales performance). But as an egomaniac, I’ll claim I’ve added $5.7B of value to the economy ;-). But I digress.

I found a co-founder. We started a company. We’ve hired a team. We’re raising money. We’ve built a product. Talked to potential customers. Threw that product out. Started again. Talked to potential customers.Listened. Formed a hypothesis. Gathered feedback. Iterated. Measured. Tested. Deisgn. Built. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It is completely different than my experience at Microsoft. And completely worth it.

Don’t get me wrong. It has been difficult. There have been arguments. I’ve been sick as a dog, twice. Payroll is still a bitch. Dealing with government agencies full of red-tape. Trying to write here and at StartupNorth has been difficult.  I’ve been on planes. Trying to build products. Trying to raise my girls. Trying to stay healthy (unsuccessfully – see SxSARS below). I keep helping other startups: here’s looking at you BuzzData, Attachments.me, and TribeHR.

I’ve been heads down for so long that I forget that there are other things going on in Toronto and around the world. I skipped SxSW for the first time in a few years, though I still managed to get the dreaded #SwSARS. It is a very strange experience being sick and not being able to work, even when you want to, versus just taking a sick day when you work for a big company. The fact that I’ve been mostly unavailable because I’ve been stuck in bed and medicated, makes me wonder how long this will continue. I can’t wait to feel human again, and I can’t wait to get back to talking with customers and building. But since the team kicked me out of the office yesterday, I’m home again fighting this zombie virus.

It’s been a fun 185 days. I’m looking forward to the next 185 days and the changes it will bring.

 

Goodbye Microsoft, so long and thanks for all the bits

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/2049233526/
Photo by Stuck in Customs

Can you believe that it has been 1230 days since I announced I was joining Microsoft? I’m guessing a lot of people lost out on that one in the over/under pool. Well, it has been a fantastic 3 years, 4 months and 7 days so far, unfortunately there are only 4 days left until it’s over for me. Effective Friday, September 24, 2010 I will be leaving Microsoft Canada.

I’m heading back into the fray. Or as John so eloquently puts it, I will be starting on a new path, with some old friends and the plan is actually quite simple:
Have fun and try to take over the world responsibly. I’ve spent the past 3+ years talking to entrepreneurs about programs like BizSpark and trying to help them build on the emerging Microsoft technologies and platform. I’m looking forward to getting back in the trenches and using customer development to build and ship products.

I’m not alone. There are a few of the folks that I’ve worked with or been lucky enough to call a friend that have also left Microsoft in the past year including: Don Dodge, Adam Kinney, Scott Barnes and others. This didn’t impact my decision to leave, it’s more just a curious observation.

As a sidenote, I’m pretty sure that John will be looking for a ISV DE (in non-Microsoft acronym speak: a developer evangelist focused on independent software vendors). What does an ISV DE do? Here’s the ISV DE job description from Belgium.

The ISV Developer Evangelist mission is to drive platform adoption and revenue growth with depth and breadth ISVs. The ISV Developer Evangelist is focused on winning ISV adoption of Microsoft platform technologies by working with ISV senior technology decision makers within these organizations. This is accomplished by collaborating with the ISV PAM (Partner Account Manager) to build a well-managed, mutually beneficial alliance that drives revenue growth and expands the reach of strategic Microsoft products within the partner’s solution portfolio.

It was a great time to be a part of the Developer & Platform Evangelism team at Microsoft Canada. And if I’d consider working with John Oxley (@joxley), Mark Relph (@mrelph) and the team again in the future. If you’re looking for a fun gig working with ISVs including startups and emerging companies, make sure you follow up with John.

Meet with me in Vancouver

Grow Conf, Aug 19-21, 2010 Vancouver, BC

I’m heading to Vancouver for the Grow Conference. If you’re a startup, an investor or a service provider in Canada you should be at this event. Read my Top 5 Reasons to go to Grow. (Random note: I’m surprised that Peer1 or Q9 or MyHosting or iWeb or RackForce didn’t see this as a potential sponsorship and marketing event. Further evidence that tech startups are the Rodney Dangerfield‘s of Canadian businesses).

Bootup LabsI’ll be in Vancouver Monday, August 16 through August 20. On August 19 & 20, I’ll be at Grow Conference (I am currently open for breakfast on the Thursday August 19 if you’re interested). I am staying downtown so if you’re up for breakfast, lunch or dinner and you want to talk startups, product/market fit, marketing, BizSpark, technology, or better yet if you can show me where to get a bourbon manhattan. I’ll be working out of Bootup Labs, 163 West Hastings Street – Suite 200, Vancouver, BC and WavefrontAC, 1055 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC.

I’m looking to talk to entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors, policy makers, technologists and designers. I’d love to learn about new companies in Vancouver that are:

  • Building on the Microsoft stack including Azure, SQL Server, Silverlight, Windows Phone 7, IE9, and other emerging Microsoft technologies. I’m happy to chat about BizSpark and other programs available for startups.
  • Not building on the Microsoft stack, I’d still love to talk to you. I’d love to learn about your choices whether they be PHP, Rails, Android, iPhone, AppEngine, BigTable, Hadoop, Solr, Cassandra, RIAK, VoltDB, open web, etc.
  • Startup fund-raising and Vancouver. I’d love to get an entrepreneurs take on the funding scene. What’s it like to raise capital form W Media Ventures, GrowthWorks Vancouver, VanEdge. Who are the angels? What works? What’s broken?
  • Pitching StartupNorth. We get a lot of submissions of standard press releases. I’ll tell you what works in getting our attention and maybe this can help you get the attention of other bloggers and more credible press.
  • How to demo like a demon! I’d like to see entrepreneurs demo their wares. Come show me your software, the coolest thing about your solution, something that changed your life. Real software always makes me happy.
  • Emerging business models and go-to-market strategy – I’d love to talk about new pricing models, new consumer advertising models, economic and growth models that will allow startups to monetize and survive.
  • Health 2.0 – I’d love to see startups in the patient care space, new health tracking, personal health informatics, aging population support. I think this is a fantastic market segment, though highly regulated, but it’s a area that I have a personal interest in.
  • Social CRM – Microsoft just release CRM5 (ok CRM 2011). Salesforce continues to evolve their platform. There are new competitors like Jive and Lithium. I keep looking at HighRise and BatchBook for my personal contacts. Love to chat about the space, the players, what customers are looking for, etc.

These are all just suggested topics. I’m in town, I actually don’t have an agenda for 3 days.

Find time on my calendar and book a meeting with me at tungle.me/davidcrow


Questions for most promising startups

logo-tia BCTIA has published their criteria for the 2009 Technology Impact Awards. The submissions are due on March 13, 2009. As a start-up there are tradeoffs about participating in these award programs. Depending on the program there might be a cash prize, introductions to funding sources, press opportunities, etc. Or it could be a giant waste of time. You have to evaluate each program individually. I think the BCTIA program is a good balance of Recognition and Exposure. It is really about growing and supporting the local technology ecosystem.

My favourite part about the TIA awards is the submission criteria. I think every start-up should be able to answer these questions [PDF 48.9kb]. 

Summarize why this submission should be considered for Most Promising Start Up Award category and explain the relevancy of the business concept based on the following four equally weighted criteria and using the listed questions as a general guideline:

  1. Value proposition
    What problem are you solving?
    For whom?
    How will you make money?
  2. Competitive differentiator
    What differentiates your product, service or technology from alternative solutions?
    What is your sustainable competitive advantage?
  3. Market opportunity
    Please be specific as to the addressable segment of the market you are targeting.
    How large is your market?
    What is the nature of the competitive landscape?
  4. Management team
    Who are the key team members and board/advisors?
    Why does your team have the ability to execute on the business plan?

The questions are perfect for early-stage companies to identify the problem, how you’ll make money, the market opportunity and the differentiators. (The application puts a further limitation of 2000 words).

Why not give it a try?

If you’re a Canadian start-up write a blog post that is less than 2000 words that answers the above questions. Send me an email or a tweet, just @reply me, with a link containing your answers to the question. I’ll retweet the submissions and see if I can share some recognition and exposure.

Anniversaries

Today is my 1 year anniversary at Microsoft Canada. I’m guessing there are a lot of unhappy gamblers in the pool. It’s been a fun year. May and June are always full of surprises and changes, fortunately this year the changes were much less scary and exciting. Less scary.  Anybody remember DemoCampToronto6? Unfortunately I don’t, it has been 2 years since the infamous BarCampER where I had the misfortune of having a heart attack. So I look forward to making it through May without any surprises.

And it’s been 1 year since I joined Microsoft. Can you believe it? Hopefully you didn’t loose too much money on the pool.

The Year in Review

SxSW 2008 - 148

I attended a lot of conferences and events this past year. It felt like I was on the road a lot.I had a great time meeting people, hearing about what you were building and your mixed reactions to Microsoft. Some very positive. Others much more negative. I shouldn’t be surprised at the distribution of reactions and responses, but I think I was most surprised by the positive. I hadn’t really expected to become the public face of Microsoft Canada at many of the events. And I’m pretty sure that providing real-time bourbon-fueled support wasn’t in my employment contract, but apparently if you buy me bourbon I’ll provide substandard support. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Microsoft ecosystem but I’ve been introduced to great people like John Bristowe, Mack Male, Derek Hatchard, Colin Bowern, Mark Arteaga and others across Canada. I continued to meet folks in the *Camp sphere including Vincent & Phillipe, Patrick Lor, Cam Linke and others. And best of all, I keep getting to see my friends and acquaintances around the country (you know who you are).

Places to Go, People to See

Community Participation

Jon Udell asked that we hold off evaluating his joining Microsoft:

Wait until the evidence is in, then decide for yourself. I’ve been in this game for a long time. I think my record of pragmatism and agnosticism speaks for itself…

Well it’s now been a year. And I want to know what you think? Good? Bad? Otherwise?

What can I do to make the next year awesome for you? the community?

MeshU – How to Demo like a Demon

Leila and I are all done our presentation for MeshU. Unfortunately, we have a major FAIL for knock’em down TinEye demo, Leila and I just failed to manage the demo machine and the screen resolution. Not the best example. The basic take aways are pretty simple. Demoing is about telling a story to excite the audience about your company, solution, product. Very simply put demoing is about software. Tell me the problem you are solving then show me the damn software.

  1. What problem are you solving?
  2. Why do users want it?
  3. Remember to slow down and breathe.

We did not cover the differences between demos and pitches. A demo is not a pitch. A pitch may contain a demo. Let’s be honest, we’re all here to see the problem and how your software solves it. Once you’ve captured the attention of individuals, the conversation will naturally flow into details about the company, the team, the development environment, etc.

Many thanks to Ryan Feeley for the visual refresh.

Resources

Presentations

Pitching

Demoing

Example Demos

Business Plan

How to Demo like a Demon

David Crow + Leila Boujnane W00t! Leila and I are part of the MeshU schedule. We are co-presenting a session titled “How to Demo Like a Demon“. The original title was Raise Money, Win Friends and Get Laid (aka How to Demo and Pitch for Fun and Profit). The idea, we need to teach entrepreneurs how to present and communicate their ideas. We’re really trying to help improve the quality of pitches, demos and presentations.

Raise Money, Win Friends and Get Laid  (aka How to Demo and Pitch for Fun and Profit)
Co-presented with Leila Boujnane, Idee, Inc.
Boring! Get off the stage!
How many times have you wished you could say this to a presenter at a conference? Or a demoer at DemoCamp? This workshop will help developers understand that doing demos is a marketing task because it generates demand for the software.
Technologists and designers need to be able to create demand for their ideas. They need to be able to tell compelling stories that convince audiences that there is ‘wow’ in what they are doing. Successful demoers are more likely to raise money, have friends, and get laid.

I’ve talked about my awe of the MeshU line up previously, and now that the line up includes me, no serious, the rest of the lineup is fantastic. The rest of the MeshU lineup includes a fantastic program. If you’re looking for a meaningful conference in Toronto, MeshU is only $239.