Wednesday, October 17, 2012

VC Whisperer Thought #3: Quebec City Conference 2012 - A Breath Of Fresh Air

In just under 2 weeks, some of the largest investors in the world will converge on Quebec City, as part of an invite-only conference, appropriately called "The Quebec City Conference"  (QCC). This is the kind of conference that we need more of, especially in Canada. There are enough demo days, startup drinks, and other forums for entrepreneurs to meet each other, and for entrepreneurs to meet investors. However, there is definitely a clear lack of places for investors to meet other investors and for GPs to meet LPs in Canada. The Quebec City Conference fills that void, and more importantly, brings the right people and money to Canada.

For many years, I've been saying that the current Canadian venture capital ecosystem is fundamentally broken. There are many causes...too many to cover in just one post. And while many valiant efforts have been made to encourage more entrepreneurs and more startups, the money and returns simply haven't materialized as expected. Why is that?

  1. First, venture funds are still primarily financed by various government entities and public funds. Governments have completely different incentives, and often impose stifling measures on the venture funds that they finance. Relying solely on government sources of capital also makes the entire industry extremely vulnerable in the long term - not good if you're trying to create a sustainable ecosystem. 
  2. Second, no venture funds have really taken any risks. No one has gone out and built a fund that does things differently in Canada. No one is thinking outside of the box. 
The kind of meetings that will take place at the QCC will hopefully help to attract and diversify the pools of capital that are available to canadian funds. And they will hopefully encourage conversations that will generate new ideas to turn the industry around.

An area of particular interest to the VC Whisperer at the QCC is the Public Policy Forum on Venture Capital and Innovation. There should be good discussions on the role of incubators and accelerators, on new VC models, and on the role of government. As always, you will find my thoughts here...

Getting investors together is necessary if we want to fix the broken VC ecosystem in Canada.

Friday, August 3, 2012

VC Whisperer Thought #2 - Don't Get Ahead Of Yourself

I often hear first-time entrepreneurs have grand plans for their business. They want to raise thousands or millions of dollars, buy assets, and set up offices. This is a waste of money. For the love of god, please don't spend one penny more than what is absolutely necessary to acquire a customer or validate your product or business model in some way.

The hurdle that has to be overcome with any business is getting to profitability - generating enough revenue so that you aren't losing money. Your chance of success goes way up if this bar is set very low.

While this sounds simple enough, so many entrepreneurs get lost in their vision or their dream, that they lose sight of this simple rule.

Don't get ahead of yourself. 
Don't spend a dime unless you absolutely have to, or until a customer is paying you. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

VC Whisperer Thought #1 - It's Not The Size Of The Boat, But The Motion Of The Ocean

Motion is important. I see too many entrepreneurs focused solely on the "boat" - their product, their business, whatever problem is nagging at them in that moment. If it's a problem, they spend too much time thinking about it. If it's a product, they spend too much time perfecting it, designing it, and adding to it. They think that success depends on some specific output, or one specific result.

In reality, none of these things matter. The only thing that matters is motion. What I mean by that is that it's important to be doing something, and not so much what that something is. In a startup, you often never know where things will lead. But when you're out there, talking to people, doing things, releasing product, getting feedback...when you're moving...that's when good things happen. You talk to a guy, who knows another guy, who connects with a potential customer, who gives you great feedback, etc...

This is not only good advice for entrepreneurs, but for the thousands of bright people looking for work.

Don't stay still. 
Don't be paralyzed. 
Keep moving and good things will happen.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

VC Whisperer Thoughts - The Launch Party

Today, the VC Whisperer is excited to announce a new type of blog post that will be featured here - VC Whisperer Thoughts. These won't be my typical "people often ask me" posts. I realized those took me a lot of time, and often by the time I got around to finishing them, the post was no longer as relevant as when I began. They will be shorter, more concise, and more focused on a specific thought I've had that day - halfway between a full blown post and a tweet. This way, you should start seeing more regular content here. The "people often ask me" posts will not go away however, but will be far more sporadic.

Hope you enjoy! As soon as posts start going up, please leave a comment and let me know how you like the format.