The Pending Talent Wars


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Did you know that accelerators are heading for a shake out? We’ve talked a lot incubators, accelerators and cyclotrons. And the proliferation of the accelerator model is generally positive, it started me thinking about a possibility for slightly different model. One that Kevin Swan posted an insightful comment on the talent shortage for Canadian startups. I don’t think I’m the first to propose this, but it starts to make sense. Incubators/accelerators don’t need to only hasten the formation, creation and ideation of companies. They are fertile grounds to accelerate people. And it’s not just incubators and accelerators, companies participate in HackDays to find talent.

Need proof?

Vuru acquired by Wave Accounting

Vuru founders Cameron Howieson and Yoseph West reached out to the Wave Accounting team for advice on building a free, web-based financial services tool. Over time, the two companies traded notes as Wave took on a an informal advisory role, and that led to a sense that Vuru’s talent and direction were something that would be well suited to the Wave Accounting mission. — Darrell Ethrington, Aug 21, 2012 in BetaKit

Vuru was a 2 cofounder team in the FounderFuel (full disclosure: I am mentor in FounderFuel and I now employed by Wave Accounting investor OMERS Ventures). They were building a “investment tracking tools aimed at managing personal finance, which is not something Wave currently offer[ed]”. It was a great fit, a team that had the entrepreneurial culture to make a difference at Wave and a product that filled a known product roadmap gap.

Algo Anyhere acquired by 500px

Ok, before Zach Aysan slaps me for being totally incorrect. AlgoAnywhere was not in an incubator or accelerator program. But they had raised a seed round and were building very interesting technology.

The 500px founders met Algo Anywhere at their Pixel Hack Day last year, and were impressed by what the team brought to the table. Algo Anywhere’s tech was originally intended to be sold on an SaaS basis, providing companies with the data crunching power of sophisticated recommendation algorithms, without the need for those to be developed in-house or hosted on a company’s own servers – Darrell Ethrington, July 9, 2012 in BetaKit

The interesting point here isn’t about incubators or accelerators. It’s about founders of early-stage companies looking for relationships and gaps in the market left by other players.

Pulpfingers acquired by 500px

It seems that 500px has been strategically acquiring companies. It looks like both Pulpfingers and Algo Anywhere were part of the PixelHackDay (see photo from TechCrunch). Which gives 500px access to see designers, developers working in their domain space. It’s a great way to round out the product roadmap, Pulpfingers was a iOS discovery application. And they aren’t alone. Hootsuite acquired Seesmic and Swift.

Built to Last versus Built to Flip

I’m not arguing that founders should be looking to build companies to flip. There is lots of conversation about building lasting value. I’m arguing that companies that have raised capital to scale are looking for alternative methods to acquire talent. Get access to the API, build a meaningful service, acquire shared customers and go forward, it’s Biz Dev 2.0 (as Caterina described back in 2006). What’s new to the game for Canada (well Canadian startups) is that for the first time since RIM we are starting to have web startups that are reaching scale and are able to acquire talent, teams and companies. The goal isn’t to look for a acqui-hire or a manquisition, but to look at where working with an existing company or API gives you immediate access to distribution or monetization that you might have to work harder to build on your own.

I’m betting that companies like Wave Accounting, 500px, Influitive, Hootsuite, Shopify,Freshbooks, Top Hat Monocle, WattpadUpverter, Chango, FixmoDesire2Learn, Lightspeed are all actively looking for teams that are building on their APIs or filling product gaps (it becomes a buy versus build decision).

If I was a developer or looking to get into an incubator program, I’d start looking at the hackathons and APIs that are aligned with my vision where I could accelerate customer adoption.


APIs and Developer Starting Points

Find an API (be it local or otherwise) that aligns with your vertical, figure out if you can solve one of your immediate challenges (like distribution and customer acquisition). Maybe strike up a conversation with the product teams at shop. But build something that delights customers and users! Go! Now!

Who has something built on one of the above APIs?

What makes a startup “disruptive”?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or This post was originally published in April 17, 2012 on

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I had coffee recently with a VC who talked about how “disruptive technology” was a key part of his firm’s investment approach.

On the surface, it makes sense. After all, “disruptive” is impressive because it sounds like something that could make a difference and, in the process, attract a lot of users and be worth a lot of money.

But after thinking about it, I began to wonder what “disruptive” really means and, in particular, what makes a startup truly disruptive. Is it a product that leaps ahead of the competition in a major way? Is it a product that solves a problem or a need in a new or different way? Is it a product that’s easier to use or less expensive than what exists?

  • Is Wave Accounting, for example, disruptive because it launched a free online accounting service into a market in which most players were offering a fee-based service?
  • Is 500px disruptive because its elegant and service displays photographs so beautifully.
  • Is Engagio disruptive because it offers a “social inbox” at a time when people are getting messages from multiple sources.

In many respects, “disruptive” can be defined in many ways. This makes it an alluring but, arguably, difficult creature to discover and identify. For one investor, disruptive may be one thing but it entirely different from another investor.

The problem with “disruptive” is it’s a sexy term for entrepreneurs and investors to throw around. Suggesting your product is “disruptive” is easy to do and get away with because it can be difficult to argue otherwise because “disruptive” is so slippery. How many times have you heard an entrepreneur proclaim their technology is “disruptive”?

The reality is we love “disruptive” because it’s elusive, multi-faceted and difficult to pinpoint until a startup enjoys success. Then, everyone can confidently say: “I know Instagram/Pinterest/Path, etc. was disruptive when I first saw it”.

So, how do you define “disruptive”?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or This post was originally published in April 17, 2012 on

Who Will Be Canada’s Hot Startups in 2012?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or This post was originally published in January 3, 2012 on

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The flurry of high-tech deals last year saw a bunch of promising startups snapped up – Zite, Rypple, PostRank, PushLife, Tungle and Five Mobile to name a few.

The encouraging part of the Canadian landscape is the growing number of high-quality startups being created and, thankfully, funded. It means that rather than having M&A activity “hollow” things out, there are more startups ready to step into the spotlight.

So, who are the Canadian startups that warrant our attention in 2012?

Who’s going to grow in a major way, attract a significant number of users and customers, launch exciting initiatives, or be acquired. Granted, it’s a subjective list but it is an interesting way to speculate on companies that will capture the spotlight this year. If you leave a comment, I’ll update the list.

To get the ball rolling, here are some of my choices for the “Hot Startup” list:

  • ScribbleLive, the world’s leading real-time content creation and publishing company whose clients include Reuters, AP and FA.
  • WineAlign, which cracked the 100,000 unique visitor mark for the first time in December
  • 500px, one of the leading places to display and share beautiful photography
  • Pressly, whose technology is helping publishers create mobile Web sites that embrace the “swipe and read” functionality of apps
  • QuickMobile, one of the leading event and conference mobile application developers
  • Atomic Reach, which makes it easier for brand to discover, publish and market content
  • Wave Accounting, which recently raised $5-million to drive growth of its free online accounting service
  • Keek, which offers a video-based social network
  • Fixmo, a mobile security company that recently raised $23-million
  • TribeHR, which develops human resources service for small and medium businesses
  • GoInstant, which is creating technology that lets people co-browse a Web site at the same time.

Note: ScribbleLive and Atomic Reach are digital marketing clients of my company, ME Consulting.
Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or This post was originally published in January 3, 2012 on