StartupDrinks – YYZ, YUL, YYT, YQM, YYC, YHZ, YFC, YSJ

StartupDrinks LogoFriendly neighbourhood reminder that tomorrow, June 30, 2010, is StartupDrinks (well tonight in Saskatoon & Regina). On June 30, 2010 you can join entrepretreneurs in:

Jevon is going to be hanging out in Halifax. Ray is going to be in Montreal. Jonas, Bryan and I are planning on being at Grace O’Malleys (aka Granuaile), 14 Duncan St, Toronto, ON.

It’s a great opportunity to get out of the office. To be social. To connect with others that are struggling building companies like you. What will we be talking about? We’ll be talking about “How to grow your traffic from 1k to 35k on $0” and other things. What do you want to talk about?


Student Technopreneurship in Alberta

What is technopreneurship? I’m guessing that it’s technology entrepreneurship. The Government of Alberta Advanced Education and Technology has a program for “young entrepreneurs” (crap, I guess by the Alberta definition I’m now old). The program is a business plan competition run by post secondary education institutions and non-profit community groups. It’s a pretty cool deal to support the existing institutions.

The program essentially provides $20,000 to winners ($10,000 for high school students) plus “incubation services” and mentorship. I hope the “incubation services” and mentorship are provided without fees to the winners. Though with it looks like some of these services are financed through the Alberta Innovation Voucher Pilot Program, that offered vouchers of up to $10,000 or $50,000 to cover 75% of services by approved service providers. These programs are not directly related, but it does show a preference to a network of approved providers and funding redirection.

There’s a lot of great things going on in Alberta. How can you fault an organization that links to DemoCamp (BarCampEdmonton) as part of their networking advise for entrepreneurs?  They are venture programs like AVAC Ltd. that are actively investing $79M in Alberta. You can see deals being done like Tynt Multimedia that included Montreal-based iNovia Capital on their latest $5M round, and Calgary-based CoolIT Systems. There is a lot of work with the Alberta Deal Generator, and the Banff Venture Forum that are driving interest and attention. And there are deep entrepreneur led grassroots efforts with STIRR in Calgary and DemoCamp in Edmonton.

Will you bet on VenCorps?

The VenCorps machine has been ramping up lately and it got a further injection of excitement with some posts in the last week.

The premise of VenCorps is this: You record a video of your “pitch” and upload it. The “crowd”, that is the Vencorps community, then votes and chooses some winners. Those winners then go on to be vetted in a traditional investment process involving angels and other sources of funding. Chosen startups then get some amount of funding.

VenCorps isn’t the only new Canadian video-pitches-for-financing site to launch,, which also connects your pitch to a “crowd” of would-be investors. The difference being that VenCorps uses the Cambrian House software to help manage the selection/voting process. The end result however (videos of startups pitching) looks quite similar.

We first covered Vencorps in January and at that time we were told that they would be making more announcements at the end of the month, but it seems to have taken almost 5 more months to see any sort of public activity. This is no doubt the result of some of the problems Cambrian House has been having.

I decided to poke around and, as you might have guessed, I managed to find some differing opinions. Overwhelmingly, from community members to current and former employees, the sense is that this is truly a last stand for Cambrian House, and had Sean Wise not come along with money from Spencer Trask, that things would look a lot different right now.

One of the overwhelming reactions I did get was that Cambrian House CEO Michael Sikorsky is a brilliant guy who took this thing as far as anyone could have. I think we need to applaud Michael and the entire team for doing something worth doing here in Canada. I have no doubt Michael will be back with something great again.

So the question I have is: Will you bet on VenCorps? Will the best startups in the Canada, and the world, flock to VenCorps to pitch themselves? Will there be enough investors and money to make it attractive?

I think it is possible for this to work. It takes guts to attempt something like this.

However, the model has failed a few times already, Cambrian House has proven that it has serious flaws, so VenCorps is going to have to do more than just re-apply that model with a more direct financing spin on it. In a video that Cambrian House recently posted (included below), they say that VenCorps will focus more on teams than on ideas, and that the lack of focus on teams was one of the downfalls of Cambrian House.

The thought that lingers in the back of my mind is whether or not VenCorps should have attached themselves to Cambrian House or not? My gut reaction was a big No, but you have to weigh that against the fact that the Cambrian House crew have probably learned a few things about community building in the last couple of years.

Will you pitch on VenCorps?