Will you bet on VenCorps?

The VenCorps machine has been ramping up lately and it got a further injection of excitement with some posts in the last week.

The premise of VenCorps is this: You record a video of your “pitch” and upload it. The “crowd”, that is the Vencorps community, then votes and chooses some winners. Those winners then go on to be vetted in a traditional investment process involving angels and other sources of funding. Chosen startups then get some amount of funding.

VenCorps isn’t the only new Canadian video-pitches-for-financing site to launch, fundfinder.com, which also connects your pitch to a “crowd” of would-be investors. The difference being that VenCorps uses the Cambrian House software to help manage the selection/voting process. The end result however (videos of startups pitching) looks quite similar.

We first covered Vencorps in January and at that time we were told that they would be making more announcements at the end of the month, but it seems to have taken almost 5 more months to see any sort of public activity. This is no doubt the result of some of the problems Cambrian House has been having.

I decided to poke around and, as you might have guessed, I managed to find some differing opinions. Overwhelmingly, from community members to current and former employees, the sense is that this is truly a last stand for Cambrian House, and had Sean Wise not come along with money from Spencer Trask, that things would look a lot different right now.

One of the overwhelming reactions I did get was that Cambrian House CEO Michael Sikorsky is a brilliant guy who took this thing as far as anyone could have. I think we need to applaud Michael and the entire team for doing something worth doing here in Canada. I have no doubt Michael will be back with something great again.

So the question I have is: Will you bet on VenCorps? Will the best startups in the Canada, and the world, flock to VenCorps to pitch themselves? Will there be enough investors and money to make it attractive?

I think it is possible for this to work. It takes guts to attempt something like this.

However, the model has failed a few times already, Cambrian House has proven that it has serious flaws, so VenCorps is going to have to do more than just re-apply that model with a more direct financing spin on it. In a video that Cambrian House recently posted (included below), they say that VenCorps will focus more on teams than on ideas, and that the lack of focus on teams was one of the downfalls of Cambrian House.

The thought that lingers in the back of my mind is whether or not VenCorps should have attached themselves to Cambrian House or not? My gut reaction was a big No, but you have to weigh that against the fact that the Cambrian House crew have probably learned a few things about community building in the last couple of years.

Will you pitch on VenCorps?

Spring Acquisitions: Meriton Networks & Sirific Wireless

As promised… we have a couple spring acquisitions:

Meriton Networks, an optical networking infrastructure company based in Ottawa, has been acquired by Xtera Communications. Meriton had taken venture financing from: Desjardins Venture Capital Group, Newbury Ventures, Nomura International, Primaxis Technology Ventures, RBC Capital Partners, VantagePoint Venture Partners, VenGrowth Capital Partners, Skypoint Capital. The acquisition price has not been disclosed.

Sirific Wireless, a fabless semiconductor company specializing in CMOS RF transceivers based in Waterloo, has been acquired by Icera. Sirific had taken venture financing from: Agilent Technologies, BDC, Celtic House, GrowthWorks, Hunt Ventures, Intel Capital, Solowave Investments, TD Capital, and Tech Capital. The acquisition price has not been disclosed.

Hat tip to Mark McQueen of Wellington Financial, who described the exits as follows:

Although details weren?t announced, these don?t feel like successful exits. Probably somewhere in that middle of pack for that vintage. Neither company had announced the kind of revenue generating customer traction (think Dragonwave and Clearwire) that drives a home run. And they both raised tens of millions over 8 or so years. Yes there was value built (which the strategics can afford to fund and harvest) but after that long these are deals where the clock ran out.

Sounds like a little portfolio spring cleaning to me.

Razzle.ca is no more, sort of

Razzle LogoRazzle.ca, who we covered both when they launched and when they botched their few shipments of products, is now dead.

I do not know they guy(s) behind Razzle, but I am guessing that they have learned a lot of lessons with this startup. I am guessing it is only a matter of time before they come back with something else, and I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully next time there will be no fake forum posts, questionable explanations or “supplier issues”.

A family member of mine did order a set of headphones from Razzle and they came brand new, unopened and in perfect condition. The placeholder page says they are “rebooting” the site, but I get a sense that the founder just felt overworked and under-appreciated. A few too many mistakes will sink any startup, and this appears to be an example.


It appears that despite the message on their website yesterday, Razzle is up again and has a pair of refurbished headphones for sale.