JobLoft post Dragon's Den

JobLoft2All this talk of Dragon’s Den got me thinking about Job Loft, a map based job website for the retail, food service, and hospitality industries.

For those of you who don’t know… Job Loft made a great pitch on Dragon’s Den, was offered $200,000 for 50% of the company, and had a bad first date with the Dragons, who by the end of the meeting tore up the $200,000 check. The clips are embedded for your viewing pleasure after the jump.

All’s well that ends well… and despite the Dragon’s Den debacle, Job Loft is doing great.

After one year in business they have already sold over 12,000 job postings – targeting industries with 67% turnover was a good idea. Job Loft is expanding across Canada – localizing the site into French to conquer Quebec. And a new hosted / embeddable job site has been added to the product mix. What about funding you ask? Well after the check was torn up on national tv, a number of investors came knocking – with a much higher valuation.

An exception to the Dragon’s Den Curse? Maybe. I would attribute it to their positive attitude. From their blog: “So what did we do the day after that boardroom meeting? Business as usual.” And sure, Job Loft is in a monstrously competitive industry, but a laser focus on being “the #1 destination in Canada for online recruitment within retail, food services, and hospitality” has served them (and their customers) well. My guess is that the dragons are kicking themselves for not investing in Job Loft.

Contact: Chris Nguyen, Director of Business Development

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Freshbooks opens up

Freshbooks announced today that they are releasing a mature API. From what I understand, this is a direct result of their hiring of Ben Vinegar some time ago.

Why does this matter?
Freshbooks is demonstrating a very mature approach to growing their available market by opening an API as mature as they have. Typical approaches, often forced under the gun of results-hungry investors (ok, that’s a broad assumption), is to ramp up marketing and to put time, money and energy in to branding in order to develop a wider appeal.

Offering an API says 2 things:
We trust our users
Some of the best application builders for APIs are the users themselves. Allowing users, application developers and others to build applications that use your platform might seem bold to some, but for a healthy company with as many users as Freshbooks boasts, it is a critical first step towards longer term relevance and sustainability.

How does it do this? Too many startups spend their time trying to either see, create or define the future. This is fine early on, but it is almost impossible in the long run (believe me, I know!). By taking a validated and accepted product like Freshbooks and opening it up to whatever the future is going to be, you are mixing solid current economics with the opportunity for risk-less future innovation.

We can’t partner with everyone, so we will partner with everyone
When your startup is successful and stable, partnering offers are a dime a dozen. Most end up in a graveyard of blog posts and press releases but amount to very little. By having a solid API, Freshbooks can tell potential partners to “come back and show us what you can do” and they can also attach their own app to other partner-ready platforms such as Salesforce.

Now the test. Will people build the apps that will make Freshbooks the center of the online invoicing world? We’ll be watching.

More analysis here by one of my co-writers on FastForward.

Is Dragon's Den bad for innovation?

Originally posted on

I was talking to Greg Wilson about the Dragon’s Den on CBC. I think that this show has really done a disservice to entrepreneurs and innovators. It might make interesting television for a government network but I think it is doing more harm than good for early-stage entrepreneurs (particularly technology entrepreneurs).

  1. Making venture capital process appear too simplistic
  2. Putting people on stage that aren’t venture fundable
  3. Creating misconceptions for future entrepreneurs

Simplistic Process

The Dragon’s Den basically showed a 5 minute pitch followed by 5 minutes of discussion where the “Dragons” decide the valuation and their investment in a company. There is a significant amount of legal paper work and due dilligence that happens even before most contestants were allowed on the stage. Turning to successful, informed venture capitalists like Rick Segal or Don Dodge for information about the funding process is much better for most (serious, venture-fundable) entrepreneurs. However, this is not good television, and including the details would keep the CBC’s ratings right where they are (there are exceptions, the episode turned out to be pretty entertaining).

People that aren’t venture fundable

Bikini Weenie and FaceForm these are ideas that just aren’t venture fundable. While I’m not a VC, I don’t even play one on the Interweb. I’m pretty sure that these wouldn’t event make it through the door for the “No Harm, No Foul” meetings.

Future perceptions and misconceptions

Are these stellar “entrepreneurs” what future generations of Canadians have to use as role models? My last concern is that the Dragon’s Den show does not raise the profile of entrpreneurship and venture funding, it does the exact opposition. It makes a mockery out of the folks who choose to create new companies, new products and need financial investment to grow. We need to strive to create companies, products, services that are impossible to ignore! We need students and younger entrepreneurs to see ideas, people and products that are transforming our world and the lives of everyday people. What we don’t need is for that kid who was going to write some new software to decide that she doesn’t want to do it, because of an opinion formed when watching this show.

We need to create better stories. We need to find the folks doing more with less. We need to talk about the successes that are happening in our backyards, basements, garages and coffee houses. Flickr was Canadian (Vancouver). StumbleUpon was Canadian (Calgary). Both of these folks are now based in Silicon Valley. We need to celebrate the fantastic entrepreneurs and innovators in Canada. It’s too bad I’m not a film/tv producer, I’d be all over this.