Rebooting DemoCamp


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DemoCamp was conceived in 2005. I have hosted approximately 30 events (I only missed one and that resulted in 2 companies that eventually exited: Bumptop and Sysomos). It has been 7 years. But the world has changed. There were no accelerators or cyclotrons. There was no iPhone or Android. And while Demo and DemoCamp continue to work (see mHealthDemoCamp, Hamilton, Guelph, Edmonton, Eclipse and others). The format is simple (DIY instructions here).  But I’m feeling like it is time to open a broader discussion about the role events like DemoCamp should play.

mHealth DemoCamp

Craig Netterfield (LinkedIn, @cnetterfield) described DemoCamp as “DemoDay for companies that aren’t in an incubator”.  It was an interesting observation about the role DemoCamp played as a structured social process for entrepreneurs, funders and the community. My challenge is that DemoCamp in Toronto can not continue in the same incarnation. I am hoping to have an open conversation and gather feedback from students, founders, employees, funders about how we make it better. There are lots of events in Toronto. I don’t want to do an event for the sake of an event. I want to build something better, something that solves a need that is a catalyst for success of entrepreneurs.

Sources of Event Inspiration

I keep wondering about what is the role of an event like DemoCamp. Is it one of the following?

  • PR and Awareness
  • Recruiting
  • Inspiration
  • Education
  • Social

Does an event like DemoCamap need to exist?

“Good things happen to you at events” – Nivi

Events are great. They allow individuals an opportunity and to interact in social norms, we are inherently social animals. And events “are the place to meet people who won’t meet with you. People who aren’t available over email or one-on-one go to events to make themselves available”. But it is the social norms or the event dynamics that can make for meaningful experiences. There is an assumption that we should continue hosting events like DemoCamp and Founders & Funders. The assumption is that these events are valuable to entrepreneurs, developers, designers, marketers and others.

The thing about events is that someone has to organize and pay for them. What are the costs? Facilities, audio/visual, ticketing, insurance, bar staff, liquor license, etc. While we strive for $0 or low cost to attendees, there are still hard costs that have to be covered. (And this doesn’t include lost opportunity costs of not working on other things). The Brad Feld book tour event for example had costs of approximately $17000. These costs included books, space rental, food, and staff. The books were the offset/proxy for the travel expenses for bringing a guest speaker. We had basically 2 revenue streams: sponsorship and ticket sales. But the goal was to host an amazing event with a great speaker that derived real value for entrepreneurs and policy makers.

What would you do to completely reboot DemoCamp? How would you change the event? What do you find valuable? Is it worth rebooting? What changes would you like to see?

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ExtremeU 2011

Extreme Venture Partners

Our friends over at Extreme Venture Partners have announced the recruitment for the Summer 2011 Cohort of the Extreme University. We written about the past programs:

The program has historically taken entrepreneurs that need to develop and grow. It has provided them with funding, space, education, access to some of the best entrepreneurs, marketers, business developers and engineers around. While the timeline for success has been different, the companies like Visibli, Uken Games, and Locationary have grown into 3 very strong, very hot Toronto based startups.

The 2011 Program has been updated based on the learnings from the past 2 years. Accepted entrepreneurs get:

  • Seed capital
  • Mentorship
  • Collaborative office space and shared resources
  • Shared Expertise
  • Network and Connections

We can argue about if this is fair market value or not, when compared to other seed programs. The Extreme Ventures team is revamping the details of the program. The changes take one of the best programs available and make it even more compelling for eager, resourceful entrepreneurs. It will really redefine incubator programs.

Why do I say that? Well I spent the first 3 months of development at Influitive living in the XtremeLabs space with the 2009 & 2010 cohorts. I chose to bring my startup and cofounders into this environment because it is the best in Toronto. There is an energy, a vibe of entrepreneurship, community, support and shared pain. There are world-class people like Fred Wilson that visit at the invitation of your office mates (thank you William). XtremeLabs and Extreme VP are launching world-class efforts like Hatch Labs with IAC will continue to bring the best in the world through the space. It is a great environment with the best people I have worked with anywhere – looking at you Farhan Thawar (@fnthawar) and Rick Segal (@ricksegal). All entrepreneurs can benefit from just being in the environment.

Who are they looking for?

We fund technology-oriented companies, with a focus on web or mobile-based software, but we are open minded to different ideas. We are looking for smart and fast-moving teams to participate. Typically all members of the two-four person teams will have strong technical abilities. We are looking for founders who have a unique understanding of a real customer problem and an innovative idea for solving that problem.

If you’re a startup looking for my personal favorite shared space and program you should consider applying to ExtremeU.


Extreme University

extremevpExtreme Venture Partners is hosting a summer program for start-ups called Extreme University. It’s reminiscent of the Trilogy University, which should come as no surprise given Farhan Thawar is ex-Trilogy Software (TU98 to be exact). The Extreme University program is a rapid start 12 week program that aims to bring the rigor and mentoring and connections for start-ups. The program is based in Toronto, but given Extreme’s strong ties to Silicon Valley, New York, and around the globe you can imagine that these companies will gain access to their network.

Applications are due by June 12, 2009. The program runs June 22 to September 4, 2009. And will conclude with a Demo event on September 12, 2009.

What: A summer technology start-up program that focuses on industry networking, technology mentoring and above all delivering a product to potential follow-on funders after only 12 weeks.

Who: We are looking for four smart and fast moving teams to participate. Typically all members of the two-three person team will be deep technically, but at least one of the founders should have a technical background.

How: After you apply and are accepted you will:

  • Get $5,000 (US) per founder in exchange for a 10% ownership stake in your company
  • Move your team to our shared ExtremeU office space at Yonge & King (downtown Toronto)
  • Have weekly mentoring sessions by industry experts in technology, funding, legal, PR, marketing and HR
  • Meet a who’s who of experts at our weekly socials and have an opportunity to practice your pitch and demo your in-progress prototype
  • Have access to local shared resources to accelerate product development (mentors, servers)

When: Applications are due by Friday June 12th, 2009. The program starts Monday June 22nd, 2009 to Friday September 4th, 2009 at the ExtremeU offices in Toronto at Yonge and King. The final demo day will be Tuesday September 15th, 2009 at Demo camp.

It’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and founders to come to Toronto. Work with a group of people at Extreme Venture Partners, gain exposure to a local, national and international network to help you build and grow a new company and product.

Apply Now!