Acceptance is the last thing you really need

We’ve made progress as a startup community in Canada. I don’t have to tell you that a lot of things have changed in the last few years and there is now a supportive and powerful set of networks across the country that have made building a startup sexy again. David has chronicled some of it recently.

It’s nice to feel loved.

We all like to feel that we are in the company of unjudgemental an accepting friends. Those who take us as we come and don’t ask questions.

As an entrepreneur, that’s the last thing you need.

To put it simply: nothing is easy about being a startup. If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it, and more people would be successful at it. It’s hard and it’s like that for a reason. People who try to make it look easy don’t get it. Those who make their stories of success sound easy are hiding some part of the truth.

The next time that your idea or product is celebrated without reproach or question, then you should be suspicious. Those who celebrate you just because you are a startup, or a smart entrepreneur, have an ulterior motive. Something else is going on. Sometimes that is ok, but you can’t live in that world all the time.

Put yourself in the company of those who will tell you that you are wrong, foolish, and naive. Make sure that you are sent back to the drawing board and told to come back fighting.

Make sure that you come back better every time.

Even if your idea is the best one anyone has heard in years, those who really want you to succeed will help you find the holes and to figure out where to go next.

I’m not advocating a negative view of startups, but I will promise you that criticism and analysis will get your further in this world than pandering.

So, the next time you are at a startup event, or having coffee with someone you’ve just met, don’t be afraid to say what needs to be said or ask the questions that need to be asked.

The art of knowing when, and who, to ask for feedback is a critical skill in building a startup. Like all aspects of building a startup, smart timing is the most important part of getting what you need.

Week in Review

The Mark secures Angel financing

The Mark NewsThe Mark, a community contributed online op-ed magazine, has secured a round of angel financing from David Ceolin, former CEO of Digital Cement; Jordan Banks, former CEO of JumpTV and former managing director of eBay Canada; and Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications and co-host of CBC’s The Dragon’s Den.

This all-star line up of angel investors have provided capital so the Toronto based startup can add hundreds of new contributors, further develop the platform, and build content distribution partnerships. The company was founded by Jeff Anders, who saw the news media landscape in Canada being redrawn and launched the site to provide Canadians with a forum for news, commentary, and debate.

The Mark is founded on the idea that thousands of credible Canadians have important things to say but cannot reach a national audience. Many want to publish their ideas but have no forum in which to do so. Two million Canadians live abroad and have a deep understanding of the countries and organizations within which they live and work, and yet no publication collects and shares their insights. For these great Canadians, here and abroad, The Mark will be their platform.

At its core The Mark is a national movement to record Canadian ideas and propel the people behind them. It is a collection of thoughts and a tool for facilitating interdisciplinary dialogue and debate between outstanding Canadians.

The Mark recruits contributors using two criteria: professional credibility and a connection to Canada. We do not select contributors based on how they vote, where they live, or what language they prefer, and we certainly don’t dictate what they write. The result is a community of thinkers and doers that reflects all points of view on politics, business, science and technology, and the arts. Though we encourage contributors to express their bias, The Mark is not anchored to any one ideology itself. You think, we curate.

Instead of focusing on facts, The Mark emphasizes analysis. What are the implications of the facts? What trends are emerging? Who are the personalities behind the headlines? What should be done? The Mark’s expert contributors are on the ground making the decisions that ultimately become news; they are in a better position than anyone to answer these questions. The value is in the analysis: it’s not what you know, it’s what you think about what you know.

The Mark is a library that sheds light on the dusty old question of what it means to be Canadian. It reveals an underplayed side of the Canadian identity: innovative, creative, opinionated and proud to express it, ambitious, and driven to the far corners of the earth to make a difference.

While obvious comparisons could be made to Now Public or The Huffington Post, since The Mark is focused on reaching Canadians, to size the market opportunity perhaps the closest analogues are sites operated by the likes of The Globe and Mail and The National Post.

To compete with these established brands The Mark is focusing on amassing a collection of influential individuals to contribute opinion pieces. Compared to major newspapers, The Mark has a far more efficient system for creating and delivering content, having cut out cost centers like labour (35% of revenue) and newsprint (25% of revenue). And so the assault on newspapers continues.

This financing provides further proof capital is coming back online in 2010. It is shaping up to be an exciting year with plenty of room for commentary on… The Mark.