Making the business case

I have spent a lot of time in Halifax in the past year. I have been out for HPX Digital and for 2 workshops with Toon Nagtegaal (LinkedIn). It has allowed me the privilege of hanging out with Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs. I’m going to try to spend additional time in Moncton, Saint John, Charlottetown and hopefully St. John’s (but a road trip like that will require additional planning and spousal support).

My next 2 trip are very different. The first is another workshop with Toon. The second is to attend Atlantic Venture Forum (still working on travel plans).

We are looking for startups that are “at the point where you have to push your business or business idea to the next level”.

The Workshop

Subset of PhaseMap by Toon Nagetaal

The workshops with Toon are interesting. You can read Peter Moreira’s piece on the workshops. The workshop is a Thursday to Sunday ordeal. It’s called an Investor Readiness Workshop. The goal is to put companies through an artificially intense meat grinder and focus on building a stronger investment presentation. The goal is to walk through your business plan, your assumptions, and your traction. Toon provides his guidance from his experience funding companies in Europe and North America. I provide my experiences as an entrepreneur and what I’ve learned living for a short period of time on the other side of the table.

The goal is to provide Atlantic Canadian founders practical advice about refining their business plan. It revolves around Toon’s PhaseMap methodology and software tools.

The PhaseMap methodology helps define and articulate a business case around 4 questions:

  • Do customers need and want my product? = Value Proposition
  • Is there a market, big enough and ready to pay now? = Market
  • Do customers wan to buy from me? = Positioning
  • Can I deliver? = Execution


  • Learn how focusing on your customers pain is the key to defining your value proposition, market and position. Practical real world, in the trenches advice about raising financing from both sides of the table
  • To provide the team with methods and tools they can use to learn more about customers and product/market fit.
  • Provide individual feedback to startup teams throughout the session, both to guide the iteration and strengthening of their startups and to provide strong group learning


Ideally, founders either written a business plan, started the investment circuit, and/or generated a few business models or a Lean Canvas or two. The target audience is companies that are actively raising investment capital. The focus is on how to make the case for your business. How good is your business case and how well you are able to present it? These are the crucial factors founders will learn in how to convince others of the quality of your plans.

How much?

Update: I’ve been informed that if companies are willing to cover their own travel expenses, the good folks at ACOA are willing to make exceptions for companies from across Canada.

The workshop is sponsored by ACOA. If you are a founder based in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, PEI or New Brunswick you are eligible for ACOA sponsorship. The ACOA team has informed me that the workshop is open to any Canadian startup willing to cover their own travel expenses to the region. The fees are divided between the founders and ACOA. Fees for founders are $750 for up to 2 founders to attend. This covers hotel and food costs. The remaining fees are covered by ACOA.


The next workshop is June 6-9, 2013 in Halifax.


It’s a fun, intense weekend that is designed to help startups and founders.

  • Program is open to all Canadian controlled privately-held corporations



DemoCamp Halifax 3 – David Crow edition

logoGreat news. Democamp is going back to its roots (it is happening at a bar this time) and Milan has lined up David Crow to speak. He will be in town because he is working with The Next Phase on some stuff so it seemed like a great time to put him to work.

David is the co-founder of StartupNorth, founder of DemoCamp, co-founder of Nakama (ask him about this one… a wee bit ahead of its time), co-founder of Influitive and is currently in residence at OMERS Ventures. He has a better pulse on the Canadian Venture and Startup community than anyone else. He’s also a father to two of the sweetest little girls you will ever meet.

This Democamp is going to be kept small and 100% focused on great demos from high potential startups. It will be a lot of fun. Think of it less as a conference and more like a chance to hang out with some friends. We are calling it Mini because we are getting rid of the frills but I promise the startups and their demos will be as BIG as ever.

The event is free for Entrepreneurs and Students. We could use a few sponsors to cover costs, so please get in touch with Milan if you can help out. These sponsorships are a great value because they are just meant to keep the event out of the red.

You can register on Eventbrite.

Bay Street & Natural Resources – FinTech in Toronto


Toronto is a center of gravity for financial services. There aren’t a lot of financial technology startups in Toronto. There is a new Toronto FinTech Meetup. FIrst meeting is Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at the MaRS Commons (Suite 230, 101 College St.) hosted by Blair Livingston of Quantify Labs.

Bay Street and Natural Resources

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Blair Livingston LinkedIn , founder of Quantify Labs. Full disclosure: I’m an investor in Quantify Labs. Blair and I share a view that given the technology and talent available on Bay Street there should be a strong financial tech and startup community in Toronto. It is sad that my typing “toronto fintech” into Google results in a Montreal conference as the first result. ]

Google Search for Toronto FinTech

Great cities prosper and thrive, in part, because of their proximity to valuable resources. Arguably, the nearby resources were likely the main reason the city or village was situated in that location to begin with. However, it’s not enough to simply be near resources – gold still has to be mined – and we need to put those resources to work. Indeed, Canada is a country rich in resources; we have diamonds, gold, lumber, oil, gas and everything in-between. Canada’s strong economy is fuelled in part by this abundance of resources.

However, over the last hundred years (or so) new types of resources have emerged – communities, technologies, groups, industries and people. Many of these resources don’t take the familiar form of something tangible and malleable, and for that reason can go unnoticed for a long time.

One Hub to Rule Them All

When we talk about finance, we invariably talk about New York City. We talk about Wall Street, the 1%, and a concentration of capital, services, people and technology that makes NYC one of the financial industry capitals (if not THE capital). It is the density of entrepreneurs, emerging companies and people that are one of NYC’s greatest resources. Consider the effects on start-ups built to service financial companies – this industry has supported, nurtured and allowed some of the biggest financial technology companies in the world to grow and flourish in its ecosystem.

Bloomberg LP, with estimated yearly top line revenues of $10 billion, was started in New York. The city is host to a number of trading venues, back office technology providers, data aggregators and other interesting and innovative companies built on the resource of this community concentration. They even have an accelerator dedicated solely to financial services technology (appropriately named the FinTech Innovation Lab).

In New York, FinTech flourishes by connecting the community and building an ecosystem that leverage existing resources. Financial institutions play a role in supporting the new ecosystem by acting as customers, acquirers of startups and hiring talent that develops in each of the early stage companies. Demonstrated by the support, both financial and at very high management levels, that FinTech Innovation Lab receives. It’s no wonder a large portion of all leading financial technology, especially institutional tech, is coming out of New York.

Where is FinTech in Toronto?

Toronto has a booming financial industry. Our banks are in excellent shape. The combined market capitalization of Canada’s six leading banks is more than $323 billion. And with that kind of market capitalization comes new problems, new opportunities and potentially new tech. The difficulty lies in the regulation, legislation, risk standards and software/hardware requirements. This poses challenges for developers and entrepreneurs in selling to financial services firms. It doesn’t matter if the solution is aimed at the retail (bank branches or individuals), corporate (the mother ship) or institutional (sales & trading, investment banking). Selling to financial institutions is not an easy process. It requires assistance in process, guidance (legal, technical, financial), support, experience and a depth of knowledge that is greater than just hustling.

It is because of the complexity in the go-to-market and technical requirements, why very little innovation happens in financial services technology (aka fintech). It’s like the shadow cast on a wall – it looks menacing, like a panther or some dangerous beast – but in reality it’s only a little kitten. If you understand how to deal with the issues, and properly approach them, they aren’t all that scary (and a little help never hurts).

But, with little innovation comes massive opportunity – there is so much opportunity in financial technology that it’s hard to decide where to begin.
What Toronto needs is to start taking advantage of these resources – a thriving financial services industry. It’s already happening in pockets around the city, but it’s about time we started getting aligned to make a consolidated push together. I have had the opportunity of meeting with/hearing about/noticing some interesting financial tech companies in the city, who include:

  • D+H (payment/lending solutions)
  • Market IQ (data/social sentiment analysis)
  • FINMAVEN (data/social sentiment analysis)
  • eDYNAMICS (salesforce integration and consulting/cloud computing)
  • OANDA (FX trading platform)
  • Quantify Labs (institutional content/CRM platform)

Who else should be on this list? Who are the startups, developers, investors and entrepreneurs that are interested in FinTech in Toronto? If the community is the framework, let’s get the community going. Let’s share stories and guidance on selling, building and launching financial technology. Let’s offer insight and experience into usage and problems. Let’s discuss. Let’s take advantage of one of this city’s most abundant resources. That’s what we want to do, and if you have any interest in financial technology, I would encourage you to sign up for the Toronto Fintech Meetup. We’re having our first ever meeting next Wednesday, April 10th, at the MaRS Commons, just a ‘get to know you’ – no speakers, no schedule, just an introduction to the financial tech community in Toronto.

When I started in finance ask a desk analyst, I was repeatedly told – “it’s too bad, the low hanging fruit is gone” – well I took a walk out of that orchard, down the lane, and stumbled into another called Financial Technology. The fruit just isn’t low hanging, it’s on the ground – we just need a few more people to come help us pick it up.