Less boardrooms, more dinner tables.

People have become really good at pitching. The art has turned in to a bit of a science and if you do ever find yourself in front of a room of people it is par for the course for you to “nail it”. The pitch, it seems, is dead media.

It’s time to stop obsessing with your pitch and start building relationships.

If you are going to raise financing for your new product then you need to learn what it means to build relationships.


We started Founders and Funders on the basis that you would never want to accept investment from someone you couldn’t eat a meal with. What better way to find out than to eat a meal with them? It works incredibly well.

You need to find ways to end up at more dinner tables and in less boardrooms.

Also: Eat with your mouth closed ya filthy animal.

Funny story. When I was raising an angel round for my latest company I met a fairly prominent investor for lunch. I ordered a $15 sandwich combo. He got two doubles of Grey Goose, the Rib Eye, and a glass of wine. Then dessert! The shithead then stuck me with the bill! I kid you not. He then got in his car and drove off, I contemplated calling in the DUI. The hell if I was going to let him invest in my company. It was worth the $120 it took to figure it out.

I tell every entrepreneur that story, and I name names!

Then there was the time I met with Steve Anderson at a crowded bar. You should consider an invitation to meet an investor at a bar or restaurant a golden ticket. Steve came in, he was starving. I was a bit nervous so I didn’t eat much but we shared some appetizers. He was cool as shit and I knew I wanted him in my round before that meeting was over. Having a coffee and being forced to sit in a corner of a busy bar helps you get almost every “is this guy/girl legit? can I talk to him/her without needing to watch myself?” sort of stuff out of the way.

I met another investor at a Yogurt shop (he gave a fake name and told them my name was Mike). Another one in a Tiki bar and another in a co-working space.

Get out of the boardroom. Loosen up. Your pitch sucks but your product is cool, and you are even cooler.

It’s indescribably beautiful!

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On the surface this might not seem like a Canadian success story, Eloqua was acquired by Oracle for $871MM. Eloqua by all appearances is a publicly traded company with headquarters in Vienna, VA. But they are probably the best kept secret in the Toronto technology community. Eloqua was founded in Toronto in 1999 by my friend and co-founder, Mark Organ (LinkedIn,) along with Abe Wagner (LinkedIn) and Steve Woods (LinkedIn, ). This is nearly a $1B dollar deal that was born and breed in Toronto (yes, I can do basic math it’s $129MM short but that’s pocket change and unlike when Siebel acquired Janna in 2000 for $975MM at the time of the deal the price changing with the Siebel’s stock price, this is an all cash deal). I had started figuring that it would be Salesforce that acquired Eloqua, so I am surprised that it is Oracle, and so soon after their IPO. Here is a great analysis of the marketing automation industry and the assessment for Marketo, Act-On, ExactTarget, etc.

Congratulations to all of the Eloqua employees. I continue to hear stories about an amazing group of people including:

It’s an amazing story that still has a big chunk of the product development team based in Toronto. Congrats to the entire Eloqua team and alumni.

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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