GrowLab on tour

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Ok, it makes me laugh every time I read GrowLab. The only way it could be better is when someone describes the GrowLab companies as “GrowOps”. They really did a great job in creating a corporate name that has a set of nuanced meanings (well maybe it’s not so nuanced).

Our friends from GrowLab are heading out on tour to find their next cohort. They are coming to:

  • Toronto – February 13, 2012 Register
  • Waterloo – February 14, 2012 Register
  • Montreal – February 15, 2012 Register
  • Edmonton – February 22, 2012 Register
  • Calgary – February 23, 2012 Register

Sounds like an interesting night with Daniel Debow (LinkedIn, @ddebow), Debbie Landa (LinkedIn, @deblanda) and Jason Bailey (LinkedIn, @YVRJason) talking about startups, entrepreneurship, building companies in Canada, getting connected in the Valley, GrowConf, incubators and other fun things. The panel conversation is:

Are you an Entrepreneur or a Wantrepreneur?

What makes you different from other entrepreneurs trying to build start-ups? You are competing with thousands of entrepreneurs for the same resources, talent, and capital. How are you going to make sure that you attract the best people and funding? Is it about who you know or is it about how great your product is or the reach you have in the community?

In Toronto that I get to host the above conversation, it means that I’m going to have to represent for the “Wantrepreneur” side. Because there is too much awesomeness with Daniel, Jason and Debbie representing the “Entrepreneur” side. It should be a fun event and a great time for entrepreneurs to get or stay connected with each other. This is a great group to provide deep insight into the experience of building companies in Canada and selling them to Silicon Valley powerhouses.

Given the tour includes stops in Bucharest and Budapest, I can guarantee that someone will mention Summify (congrats guys).Also excited that Debbie and Jason will be joining us on Feb 16 for Founders & Funders.

Extreme Startups

Extreme Startups

Rob Lewis and TechVibes is reporting that ExtremeU (you can read our past coverage 2009, 2010, 2011) has launched a new Toronto based incubator that leverages their experience over the past 3 years. Mark Evans provides additional details that includes “$7-million in funding from Extreme Venture PartnersOMERS VenturesRho Canada VenturesBlackBerry Partners Fund and BDC.”

Extreme Startups includes a who’s who of  the Toronto startup scene as mentors:

  • David Ossip
  • Daniel Debow
  • Anand Agarwala
  • Michael McDermentt
  • Ameet Shah
  • Albert Lai
  • Leila Boujnane
  • Ali Asaria
  • Noah Godfrey
  • Ray Reddy
  • Rick Segal
  • Salim Teja
  • Derek Seto
  • Nick Koudas

Congrats to Andy Yang, Sunil Sharma and Amar Varma in getting this thing launched. Plus how can this not be awesome with Andy Yang as Harold and Sunil Sharma as Kumar in Extreme Startupping.

Andy Yang and Sunil Sharma go EXTREME STARTUPPING


An incubator for grownups…

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David Crow and others (Huffington Post, TechCrunch) have suggested we’re experiencing an incubator bubble?

Incubators are built for the young. Students exiting school are already living the ramen lifestyle. That means they’re cheap, they have no kids, no meaningful obligations and there’s a good chance they’ll work close to 24/7. It sounds dreamy, if you’re an investor.

I’m old. I have kids. I’m not moving to Boulder or California for 12 weeks. I don’t play games in the office or do busy work. Why aren’t there incubators for me? I look at the incubators like 500Startups, YCombinator and TechStars and that is what I want. I just can’t participate. I can’t do the work and change my family life the way they’ve structured it.

What I need from a incubator is…

To Pay My Own Way

While new graduates come cheap, grownups are capable of paying their own way. I’d rather work with someone who has some skin in the game over so-called low-cost labour. I’m willing to make an investment in a startup as a career choice.

While most incubators offer low, bordering on zero, salaries that barely cover living expenses for someone living on the ramen diet. This doesn’t work for me. I need to be able plan for my family and my kids. What I need is something closer to an executive MBA program or a sabbatical. Continuing education programs are interesting because current employers and banks will let you borrow against your assets to get started. It requires larger savings or a working spouse to be able to fund my family during the initial startup experience. I’m willing to buy in to make this happen.

Hunger, Drive

Many new graduates will compare working in a startup with a plain old job. This startup thing is cool and all but it’s a ton of work and my buddy working at AcmeTech is already done work for the day and playing XBox online. Building a business offers you freedom. Freedom from what? Corporate politics, busy work, crappy work, basically the standard boredom of the 9 to 5. How can you value that if you’ve never had a shitty boss?

I work for more than myself. My family and their future is what drives me forward everyday. I work hard when I’m working. When I’m not, I’m with my family and friends, I’m taking my kids to hockey, piano etc. What I’m not doing is placating my boss with more busy work.

I want to build a successful business for me.

Access to Mentors

Tell me if you’ve seen this. You’re sitting around a table discussing your projects and companies. Someone leaves the table early. One of the people remaining at the table proceeds to lay out in detail why that guys venture is going to fail. Why didn’t you tell him that when he was here?

The solution is for the guy who left early to get a cheque from the remaining person. As soon as she writes that cheque, she’ll sit that guy down and tear him apart and he’ll be better for it. Startups can drown themselves in mentors and advisors. I want to be at the table everyday with people truly invested in my project. Failure for no reason is not an option.

Learning The Right Skills

If you have a job today in technology and aspire to be an entrepreneur, typically the first step is to quityour crappy day job. You don’t have a team and project for your new business so you start consulting to pay the bills. You’ll be a great consultant, you’ll learn how to sell your hours, how to find clients, how to deliver services well. Skills that have almost nothing to do with taking a product to market. Once you head down this path, the likely destination is lamenting over some pints how “I was going to do product back when I left my job”.

Startupify Me

Startupify certainly wasn’t conceived as an incubator for grown ups, however, it does fill a lot of these gaps. While it likely constitutes a pay cut, we pay you to work on startup projects learning new technologies and the startup game. We partner you with established businesses who have a proven track record of creating sustainable businesses that deliver value to their customers. Everyone at the table has skin in the game. We go into our client companies, find and develop opportunities to build differentiated software to grow the stand alone value of their business.

If you have work experience as software developer and are ready to join the entrepreneurial revolution, we should talk.