Archive for the ‘ Investment ’ Category

Why I regret going to TechCrunch Disrupt

Several months ago I decided to bring my startup from Ottawa, Canada and exhibit in Startup Ally at TechCrunch Disrupt. What better place than Disrupt to absorb insight, meet visionaries and explore the highs and lows of startup culture, funding and innovation? I was going to consider entering the battlefield for Disrupt NY 2012 if I felt it was going to help propel my company forward. This was before Arringtongate and the drama over journalistic integrity, CrunchFund, conflict of interest, infighting and the rest of the crap that ultimately overshadowed Disrupt San Francisco 2011.

I regret the decision to spend my precious start-up cash exhibiting at Disrupt. It was a waste of time, money and being away from my family. It was a side show. A carnival.

My advice to other entrepreneurs? Save your cash, Disrupt is dead.

Here are the facts: Michael Arrington is not the victim. Arriana Huffington is not the vilain. TechCrunch is a blog. It’s a very influential site with a lot of opinionated and influential bloggers who think they know where technology is going. They aim to be the voice of technology startups. It is also a blog that is tightly associated with several angels, investors and venture firms. Some investors work(ed) for TechCrunch. There are conflicts of interest, be them disclosed or not. None of this matters. It’s all noise. Throughout the drama, there was very little discussion about the disruptive start-ups TechCrunch is there to cover. Most of the actual coverage felt like an afterthought. There couldn’t be any meaningful discussion. It was completely overshadowed by the self indulgence and central focus of the event: the dark cloud of Arringtongate. Entrepreneurs like me who paid to participate asked themselves and each other this question:

“Why did I spend money to be here?”

The silver lining? I spent time getting to know some truly disruptive start-ups. I wrote another, more positive blog about that experience. I met some great founders and validated my vision. (albeit, against a heavily B2C, social media & gaming biased crowd.)

I went into TechCrunch Disrupt with eyes wide open…

…I walked away shaking my head.

Don’t get me wrong, Disrupt is a great platform and I am certain one of the competing brands will readily fill the void. I don’t know how tight Arrington’s non-compete is, but if I were running one of the many similar start-up launch events, I’d hire Arrington in a heart beat. I bet you get Paul Carr to moderate too!

Did you go to Disrupt? What did you think? Would you recommend to another start-up to exhibit or attend?

LOL! Openera @Startupfest in Montreal

Yes we are!

“Hey, do you want to go to Montreal for a couple of days and hang with a bunch of start-ups?”

That was my intro to the idea of the first International Startup Festival in Montreal. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but it definitely seemed like an event a bootstrapping startup should be at, if for no other reason than to connect with other startups and share ideas, pains, and opportunities.

Great Event.

Wow. What a fantastic event! StartupFest certainly didn’t disappoint.

Openera at Startup FestWe had the opportunity to hear from serial entrepreneurs who put us at ease that we’re not alone in this, and yes, startups are hard, but that doesn’t mean we should give up (even if it did seem like they were encouraging us to run away as fast as we can!) We gained incredible insight into the The Lean Startup Model, validating that we’re on the right path, and approaching things the right way. We had the fortuity of learning what VC’s and angels are looking for, and what to do, or not do, when seeking funding.

Here are some highlights of Startup Fest.

Here are our highlights from Startup Fest!

Adam Daw is a Hack! Officially.

Adam Daw - Hacker. Winner.

Openera kicked off our activities at StartupFest with our hacker-in-residence, Adam Daw (@adamdaw), competing at Context.io‘s hackathon at Notman House, and wouldn’t you know you know it – he took first place!

Adam Daw, you are a Hacker! What better way to kick things off for us – congratulations Adam! (enjoy the iPad!)

We knew right away…

…this conference was F*@%!ng Different!

There was certainly no shortage of amazing presentation from some incredible speakers. While Dave McClure ( http://500startups.com) (King of the F-bombs!) may have had entrepreneurs and founders curled up in the fetal position crying for mommy with his in-your-face keynote “Why *NOT* do a Startup” (I especially love the term “Wantrepreneur”), thankfully it wasn’t enough to make us run away screaming. Here are just a handful of presentations we attended that had a huge impact on us, as well as links to the decks on SlideShare where available:

“Startups are hard, but don’t give up”

Sarah Prevette‘s awesome napkin slide presentation “Your first Startup” and Tara Hunt‘s “Lies, Damned Lies, and Startups” (The cake is a lie!) – were sharp, witty, and authentic… Definitely the stuff a bootstrapping startup needed to hear to stay motivated.

“Lean, Mean, Startup Machines”

Ash Maurya‘s “10 Steps to Product/Market Fit“, Dan Martell‘s “Understanding the lean model“, and Ed Roman‘s “Lean Startup Cases” provided invaluable insight into the Lean Startup Model, and helped validate for us that we’re on the right track, and are doing the right things.

“To fund or Not to Fund” and “Exit → This Way”

Jeff Clavier‘s “Startup by numbers“, Stephan Ouaknine‘s “It’s all about shareholder value” gave us a lot to think about with respect to funding, VC’s, and Angels. Anand Agarawala took us along BumpTop’s journey from startup to being acquired by Google last year and gave some great advice in “The Art of the Hustle“, and Jeremy Edberg walked us through “A brief history of Reddit, the first YCombinator success“. Both were inspiring and insightful.

Art of the Elevator pitch

Openera at Schwartz's

StartupFest did a terrific job providing entrepreneurs with various opportunities to pitch their ideas to VC’s, Angels, and potential partners and/or customers. This included, pitching to Grandmothers (your pitch/product should be so easy to understand, even your Grandma “gets it”.), delivering your elevator pitch … in an elevator (literally), and, for a handful of startups, the opportunity to pitch on stage to a full audience.

We couldn’t resist: Openera Pitches SmartCloud in an elevator.

We weren’t planning on pitching at this stage in our development, but who could resist doing an elevator pitch, in an elevator, to a couple of VC’s sitting on couches? It was awesome! The feedback was exactly what we needed to hear. Hearing a VC say:

“You’ve got a great idea, you’re going to make money, but you’re not thinking BIG enough!”

Well, that was pretty inspiring. Message received. Thinking bigger!

Startup Fest was about a lot more than just presentations.

Bowling with Hippos

Bowling with Hippos

Way more than just presentations. People. Smart people. Entrepreneurs willing to build something, take chances and help each other. There was a LOT of fun to be had as well. Besides the Montreal nightlife, cuisine and electric atmosphere on the Main…there was bowling with hippos! Feel free to ask Scott Annan from Network Hippo to clarify!

Huge thanks to Phil Telio and his team for spear-heading this fantastic event. We hope to see this event back in Montreal next year!

What did you learn from StartupFest? Do you think this will become an annual event?

How is cloud content management different?

Differentiation is a pretty important topic. I spend a lot of time talking to people who never tell me why they are different from the rest of the world.
“What is the one thing you want prospects or investors to remember about your business?”
Try to remember that specs are not a replacement for differentiation. Good differentiation is active, intentional and well debated. Boil it down. Discover your unique value proposition. In other words, what exactly makes you so different that I will spend my hard-earned cash on you.
Oh, and make sure what makes you different is a good thing. Being the only garage that doesn’t insist their mechanics are certified is not a good differentiator.

Sales, marketing and cloud…audit your processes first!

I don't want an audit.

Hear no evil!

Every business owner loves being audited. (no they don’t) Financial audits are necessary for compliance reasons and help protect your business from undue risk. Some would say they are a necessary evil, but my wife spent her early career as an auditor for Earnst & Young and I don’t associate her with evil. (Happy wife, happy life is my motto!)
So, when was the last time you audited your business practices? Not your books, your business.
  • Why do you do things the way you do them?
  • Are you selling to the right audience?
  • Are your sales and marketing efforts working?
  • Are you spending too much for too little return?
  • Do you have the right mix of talent to meet your goals?
  • Why do your customers buy from you? Why won’t they buy more?
  • Are the things you are doing working?

Are you are satisfied with your results and see a history and a future of steadily increasing profits? Then you are golden. Don’t change a thing. If not, you need an audit. Here are a few more audit questions to ask yourself:

  • who are your partners? why are they your partners? What value do they add?
  • who specifically is your target market? why?
  • how much do you spend trying to get new business?
  • where do you spend the most of your money? why? what’s the ROI?
  • what activities, expenses or programs are helping to sell more? how are they doing it?
  • what activities, expenses or programs are pure overhead? can they be eliminated?
If you can’t answer these basic questions, you are running your business at less than potential profitability. There is a reason companies get audited by impartial third parties. Objectivity & purpose. Ask the tough questions and look for things you didn’t think about that can help your business. You can turn to your management consulting or accounting firm for some questions.
When it comes to asking tough sales, marketing and business development questions to help you sell more, who can you turn to?
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