in Canada, Startups

Shit, that was a big year. Now we make our move…

2011 was an important year for Canadian Startups.

We had some exits. Over $1bn worth. We needed that. The more important thing is that a lot of those exits were by entrepreneurs who “get it” and who are going to be re-investing in startups here in Canada.

Now we have a handful of funds who have money to deploy. Many of you probably don’t remember the good old days when there was no money to go around. I once saw a startup panhandling on Queen St West to raise money for some Dell servers. No joke.

This was also a big year because it was one of the first in which we saw deals getting done in Canada by US based investors. That’s good because it keeps us all on our toes and it forces local investors to compete on market-driven terms.

The biggest problem now, as far as I can tell, is that we are out of excuses. There is money, talent, and the need to build more quality startups.

So get to work.

In the early days of Democamp there was an obsession with quality. I think it probably stemmed from our (Toronto’s) own insecurity with itself. There was no identity or real history to draw from, so we had to be careful to make sure that everything that came from the community was world class. It wasn’t always but we tried. We need to get really obsessed with the quality of stuff we turn out in Canada in the next year. No more being cheerleaders for mediocre shit. We need to be OBSESSED with setting the bar high.

We need to go a step further now. We need to set the bar for world class. Now is not the time to slow down.

Part of the problem is that we don’t have a single voice to tell our story. Techvibes is doing an amazing job covering EVERYTHING, but it doesn’t have personality. Startupnorth is editorial and a lot of preaching (like this post). That doesn’t help much either. I hope a voice emerges in the next year that has the time and economic model to really tell the story in Canada. It would be good if Mark MacQueen quit his job as a banker and just blogged fulltime. That guy has it right.

If you are still reading, you should put your name in for the founders and funders dinner in toronto in February. I promise it will be good.


  1. Go for it! There are lots of 2, 3 or more timers like you that we need back out there making things happen.

  2. Indeed, Canada is now erasing the bad memories of the poorly performing VC industry that got caught during the 2001 crash. They put the whole tech startup sector in the penalty box til about 2010 roughly. 2011 was definitely a paramount year in that the corner was turned. The data points being a) real exits, b) higher round valuations, and c) powerful new VC funds. 
    Good call Jevon on calling 2011 a turning point.

  3. We too here in the Hamilton Start-up environment, strived for quality in our own recent StartUpWeekend and for the most part, that was achieved. Our winners of same are in a startup bootcamp in NYC, our second place team has rec’d funding and incubator space and our third place team is working on finalizing their seed money deal….so for the most part, quality happens! 2012 will be a real winner for us here in Hamilton and from what I see in visits to Montreal and Waterloo too…it’s a Canuck success thing, eh!

  4. Great post! Lets raise our standards and get to work! I think there are a handful of great companies and a heck of a lot more potential to be great ones that will have an amazing 2012. It will be a good year.

  5. I think we will see some big exits from waterloo companies as well this year. It will be fun to watch. 

    The other thing I would like to see is a tighter connection between the Toronto/Waterloo communities. 

  6. I totally agree. The Toronto/Waterloo bridge needs to be built as I don’t think one exists in enough people’s minds. Maybe the GO train will help a little but it will also take some effort that I am certainly willing to put in ;)

  7. What date is this Founders/funders event and is there a cost attached?  Agenda?  Could not find info and the link here is to a form only.

  8. Nice post.
    Personally, I think StartupNorth is the voice (if it isn’t, it easily could be). Do you know what you call someone who writes about stuff that they don’t actually do? A journalist (or worse, an academic). And lord knows NOBODY is interested in what journalists have to say about anything (and academics have no clue how hard stuff really is in practice). :) 

  9. Jevon, I love the sentiment. And the message is great. But $1b seems light…

    We need more consistent exit data and frankly no one has done a good job. We (at Capital West) cobbled together a Capital IQ/TechVibes/People We Know Tech M&A database for our own use.  We are hiring a student to complete the curating of 2003-2010, but we did 2011 ourselves and will update in January.  Here is the preliminary data YTD: 159 tech related M&A (includes public tech companies), $4.76 b in announced value. Top deals by announced value (well, and some were reported value): Q1 Labs $650m, Zarlink $633m, MOSAID $568m (not yet done), Algoritmics $370m, Radian6 $331m, SiGe $295m, MKS $292m, Bridgewater $211m, Northern Digital $199m (not IT really), Adenyo $137m,  Coradiant $130m.  A very good crop of >$100m deals, but a few were public already.

    I will update you and David when we have a more robust look at the past decade of deals. If we are going to celebrate successes, we need to all have the successes at our fingertips.  Crowdsourcing will help a lot!

    Keep up the good work.

  10. Jevon,

    You’re right, 2011 was a big year and, hopefully, it sets the stage for a better and as interesting 2012. As much as it would be great to have a Canadian “TechCrunch”, there are lots of healthy voices support the scene, and perhaps a vibrant market will bring out more of them. I’m trying to do my part at Mark Evans Tech. :)

    cheers, Mark

  11. I agree Brent and we are continually working to improve the StartupNorth StartupIndex as well.

  12. Cost is TBD but we’re targeting $125/person. Date is Feb 16 during Social Media Week. 

    Best starting point is the form. It is an INVITATION ONLY event.

  13. I’m inspired by the passion here. There’s clearly strong sentiments behind the post and the comments, however I don’t think the problem – or problems – to address are clearly spelled out. And having clarity is really important if it to be voiced or else the message gets lost and then we’re kinda back at square one. 

    Who is the voice speaking to and for what?  To get the attention of VCs or graduating students or experienced business people who can give a neo-CEO advice on a business plans and how to do the VC gauntlet?  I think the voice is to multiple audiences so the voice needs to adapt and target those specifically. 

    Good post, great comments. Happy New Year all.

  14. Hello, this is the voice.

    I am speaking to whoever the hell will listen. They are the right ones.

  15. Congrats on your funding announcement. Great to see Silicon Valley money in Canada. Back in my day – mid 90s – all we had were greedy Toronto types who invested, fired the founders and killed the baby before the software could go commercial. It was the worst environment for Crossing the Chasm. Sure there was money pre Y2K but most of it was toxic.

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