2010-01-22T18:15:44-05:00My buddies at Xtreme Labs teamed up with MTV and Crackberry in putting together a Relief App for the BlackBerry device. You can read the press release here as well as heading over to the Crackberry store here to get it. Also from the TechVibes...
My buddies at Xtreme Labs teamed up with MTV and Crackberry in putting together a Relief App for the BlackBerry device. You can read the press release here as well as heading over to the Crackberry store here to get it.
Also from the TechVibes Interview:
"We spoke with Xtreme Labs Vice-President, Farhan Thawar. He explained that the aim of the application is three-fold:
2010-01-18T06:42:56-05:00Wired Magazine is all about failure in the latest issue. The science of it along with the requisite people talking about the oops, never giving up, etc. I hope the VC community in Canada, the people who run start up programs in Canada, etc, all...
Wired Magazine is all about failure in the latest issue. The science of it along with the requisite people talking about the oops, never giving up, etc. I hope the VC community in Canada, the people who run start up programs in Canada, etc, all read this stuff and try to remember that lots of time, failure equals experience which can lower the odds of failure round two. People who have failed should, by this act of failure, gain experience and become more valuable.
Fail fast, learn, rinse, and repeat.
Now that Wired's got it on the cover, maybe it will become mainstream and even acceptable.
2010-01-18T06:27:49-05:00I leave all things philosophical to the professionals and my best friend. The good or evil debate that is Microsoft? Best handled by others. But from a Start-Up perspective, you can learn from MSFT every now and then. Change the Rules: When you are getting...
I leave all things philosophical to the professionals and my best friend. The good or evil debate that is Microsoft? Best handled by others.
But from a Start-Up perspective, you can learn from MSFT every now and then.
Change the Rules:
When you are getting your ass kicked and you've exhausted your normal 3x then get it right strategy, change the rules. That would be what Microsoft is doing with Bing, the decision engine. Not a search engine but a decision engine. You make it your default 'decision engine' not your default 'search engine.' At CES, wandering the Microsoft and the special BingLand exhibit, I tried an experiment after seeing some of the ads for Bing. I went up to 10 different Microsoft employees and played the role of knob trade show attendee. It was easy, I was myself. I walked up and asked the obnoxious "How is Bing a better search engine than Google?" Ten out of Ten: Google is a good search engine, we are an amazing decision engine. Or a slight variation. Then, got a demo targeted at a decision I'm likely to want to make when I type into the box. Brilliant (and about phreakin time). I watched others around me nod with acceptance of the Microsoft answer and demo. I watched others come up, ask a variation of my knob question and get a solid, non-arrogant, helpful, relevant answers.
Lesson here for you: Either read the Blue Ocean book, or simply change the rules so you are in a category of one. It will be interesting to watch the market share numbers.
[Note: This isn't a debate on Bing vs. Google, just an observation on strategy]
2010-01-18T05:54:17-05:00For years I've been telling you about the amazing programs and services the Canadian Government offers businesses. Now, I get to practice what I've been preaching. The Canadian Trade Commission Service is a shining example of Government programs that not only work but exceed expectations...For years I've been telling you about the amazing programs and services the Canadian Government offers businesses. Now, I get to practice what I've been preaching. The Canadian Trade Commission Service is a shining example of Government programs that not only work but exceed expectations on a number of levels. The Trade Commission has over 150 offices worldwide that are dedicated to helping you expand your business. Everything from market assessment assistance, finding qualified contacts, and helping with problems, there are hundreds of people around the globe who get measured on how great you become. These programs are amazing. In addition to direct advisory services, Canada has booths in many of the major shows worldwide. For 2010, I'm going to have a presence at Mobile World Congress, CeBit, and CTIA. The total cost for all three of these shows is under $10k. Tack on the airfare, food, hotel, etc, and I'm all in for around $20k. That's for all three major events. Beyond just the booth space, the various trade commissioners have set up press interviews, supplied marketing assistance, arranged meetings with business partners critical to my success, and much more. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of working with many of the Trade Commissioners. This honour and pleasure continues in my start-up capacity. To date, I've yet to find anyone associated with the Trade Commission who hasn't been off the charts great. Case in point: Leanne Lalonde. Leanne is a Trade Commissioner based out of Ottawa. Midnight. 2a. Sunday afternoon. These are just three of the time stamps from email I've received from Leanne. She thinks, acts, and works like an entrepreneur. She is an incredibly hard working professional dedicated to my success. That's a far cry from some faceless Government bureaucrat. Susanne Schmidt-Knobloch from Vienna and Anne-Marie Parent from Madrid have also been working overtime to ensure the Mobile World Congress event is productive and successful for Fixmo. These professionals are delivering advice and services that are invaluable to our success. In Ontario, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade maintains offices worldwide as well as hosting trade missions around the globe, including trade show booths. Bryan Harvey, Mauricio Ospina, and Gilles Chatelain are just three of the power team that is Ontario Exports. Bryan, I've known for years. He has been instrumental in helping hundreds of companies here in Ontario. I had the pleasure of meeting Mauricio when looking into CTIA. For 45 minutes, he enthusiastically discussed his programs, ideas to grow Fixmo, and was simply over the top in wanting to offer up assistance. Ditto with Gilles and CeBit. If you are an entrepreneur in Canada, you can't afford not to take advantage of the Trade Commission Services as well as the many other programs here in Canada. From extensive tax and research credits, Provincial export programs, to grants and direct investment opportunities there is no better country to start up a business than Canada. I've believed it then and I believe it now. Fixmo, Start Up, VC [...]
2009-12-30T10:27:52-05:00Rule 1: Hire people smarter than you and get out of the way. Rule 0: Team up with an off the charts smart partner and increase your odds of winning by a factor of 100x. When I first kicked off this idea, the single most...
Rule 1: Hire people smarter than you and get out of the way.
Rule 0: Team up with an off the charts smart partner and increase your odds of winning by a factor of 100x.
When I first kicked off this idea, the single most important thing I knew I had to do was get a partner who would lock onto this idea, go way beyond my thinking, and be my trusted ally to get this baby over the finish line.
Meet Shyam Sheth, my partner.
Shyam is a former Google rockstar having been involved in the Google Mobile App development as a Product Manager. The man is a product delivering machine. His CV is loaded with shipping product. He's smart, customer focused, passionate, and has been contributing to the company exactly 6 second after he met up with me. He's been quietly (but firmly) working the product side of the house.
Note it says "team up" not hire. I didn't hire Shyam, we teamed up and have spent 100s of hours together on products, ideas, roadmaps, etc. Together; as a team. We aren't hung up on titles, egos, etc. We have both put in big chunks of our own money, are equal, and we are in sync when it comes to where we want to go. We, together are now on the hunt for smarter people: see rule one.
And he has 1.8 million fans! From October 2008, I bring you my partner and mobile Gmail which has been viewed 1.8 million (and one; me) times:(object) (embed)
2009-12-30T01:04:03-05:00[Warning: Long post, sorry] It's been slightly over 24 hours since we kicked off the beta over in Crackberry Nation. I thought it would be useful to give you an inside look at what happened, what when right, wrong, etc. The objective here, as always,...[Warning: Long post, sorry] It's been slightly over 24 hours since we kicked off the beta over in Crackberry Nation. I thought it would be useful to give you an inside look at what happened, what when right, wrong, etc. The objective here, as always, is to help you and your start up. Crackberry Nation was the right call: Simple put, I made that call because I believed, based on my knowledge of the Kevin's readers, the application would get smacked around really hard and if we passed muster with the CB Nation crowd, we'd be well on our way. And, true to form, a stompin we a gettin. Exactly as we wanted. Answer people's email....immediately: My core belief on beta software is that if somebody takes the time to download it, try it, and then give you feedback of any kind, respond to them with a personal note as soon as you can. Within 3 minutes (I clocked it) of Kevin's post, we had 100 downloads. Within 5 minutes of that (8 minutes total), the first feedback came in and I answered it, 300 emails later into the night, I was still pounding on the keyboard. Then we have twitter stuff, then Crackberry started forum comments, as well as comments on the blog post itself. My happiest emails, for the last 20+ years, have always been those magic words: Thanks for your prompt reply. We will, of course, put in an auto-responder to ensure people know we got the note. We now have two extra people tracking and logging the bugs, etc. The core of any good company is how you treat your customers and what they say about you. You can get "product wasn't for me but, wow, great people" and that's win for many reasons. Raising capital? Trust me, investors simply Google/Twitter/Search for this stuff to get sense of your culture. I know, I did it for eight years. Beta Testing - Target the Crowd: If I could buy a round for the entire Crackberry crowd, I would for one core/top reason: The idea of an actual 'beta' is not dead? Got a BlackBerry application you want actually tested with people who will really test it, understand it will have bugs, etc? CB nation. The lesson here is that whatever your product/service is, use care. We/I could have done a blog post, had people re-tweet/blog, etc, and get feedback. No problem. It made far more sense to go to the source and target a focused/hard core group to get a mass number of people kicking the tires all at once. It was solid squeeze and a solid pile of feedback. If you believe in the fail fast theories ( I do), this process works. This crowd would give us the back to the drawing board message loud, clear, and fast. So far, so good. Friction-Free: I'd like to take credit for this brilliant insight but I got slapped into reality by my co-founder/partner. We had a fairly good sign up plan for the beta. You signed up, gave us a pin number, we validated, did this, did that, sent emails, etc. All great coding, process. All stupid, my bad. Plan B was ask, open it up, send it out, and those people who become rabid love it/hate it, will phone it in. Ah, yup. Hundreds did. Lesson: Get it out there and let the people speak. Friction-Free trumps process every time. And I should have known better anyway because the gang at Xobni had it down to a science. If we are half as good as those guys, we're picking out the yachts. Via la Competition: This is the best part for me. Cutting deals and teaming up. It's a massive market (Thank you RIM and Google). If you have a product, code, etc, and you'd like to partner up, email me, we are here to grow a massive business you can be part of. Hopefully, for others, rising tides will lift all our boats. Lesson here: Check your ego at the door, ignore titles, don't be a control phreak an[...]
2009-12-28T18:44:25-05:00I first met Kevin Michaluk of Crackberry fame over the Internet when the BlackBerry Partners Fund was first started. Kevin came up with a zillion ideas for contests, giveaways, and just about anything that would promote the developer community around RIM's BlackBerry devices. When I...
I first met Kevin Michaluk of Crackberry fame over the Internet when the BlackBerry Partners Fund was first started. Kevin came up with a zillion ideas for contests, giveaways, and just about anything that would promote the developer community around RIM's BlackBerry devices. When I met Kevin at the first developer's conference it was pretty clear that he had the admiration and respect of developers, rabid BB users and the vast majority of RIM employees. Memo to self: when doing anything on the BB platform, involve Kevin.
Fast forward to today. Our little adventure we call Fixmo is ready to roll out some beta code and there isn't a better place to do this then inside CrackBerry Nation.
Fixmo is entering beta and if you have a BlackBerry device and would like to help kick the tires and give us much needed feedback, stop one is CrackBerry Nation. From there, you'll be guided to the beta, find out about the product, and join the beta. I'm delighted to be working with Kevin and the CrackBerry team. We'll be rolling out some interesting things over the next few weeks and we'll be keeping CB Nation in the loop first so I heartily encourage you to sign up to get the Crackberry blog and be a part of something really fun: CrackBerry Nation.
To read about the beta, go here.
2009-12-28T16:30:56-05:00My good buddy Michael Hollend has joined TorQuest Partners. Michael is probably one of the nicest and smartest investment professionals on Bay Street. TorQuest is a mid-market firm that invests in the big money rounds, typically in the $15 - $100 million range. They invest...My good buddy Michael Hollend has joined TorQuest Partners. Michael is probably one of the nicest and smartest investment professionals on Bay Street. TorQuest is a mid-market firm that invests in the big money rounds, typically in the $15 - $100 million range. They invest in a wide range of transactions that don't just span technology. From the website: TorQuest's private equity funds seek control or joint control through management buyouts, leveraged buyouts, and recapitalizations in companies that operate in established industries. TorQuest is a generalist firm with deep relationships across many different industry sectors, but has developed particular competitive advantages in the most attractive sectors of manufacturing, business services, financial services, food, consumer products, and chemicals. TorQuest is focused primarily on opportunities within Canada, but has made a number of successful U.S. investments as well. Preferred Deal Size: Equity Investment of C$15 - $100 million per transaction Enterprise Value of C$40 - $250 million Investment Preferences: Corporate Spin-Off Entrepreneurial Transition Management Buyout PIPE Investments Growth and Expansion Capital Recapitalizations An great example happens to be Lowepro photography bags which I swear by. I've taken this stuff all over the world, including Antarctica, and these bags just rock. This is from the TorQuest website: ----------- Business Description DayMen Photo Marketing LP is the trademark holder of Lowepro, the worldwide leading brand of protective carrying bags and packs for imaging and electronic equipment. DayMen and its subsidiaries oversee the design, manufacturing, marketing and merchandising of Lowepro products, which are distributed through DayMen's wholly-owned operations in Canada, US, UK and Germany as well as through third party distributors in over 90 countries. In addition to Lowepro branded products, the DayMen companies distribute a number of other photographic and consumer electronic products and accessories in the imaging and photography industries. Investment Thesis TorQuest has invested in DayMen based on the Company’s outstanding track record of growth and the prospects for continuing on its growth trajectory. DayMen will continue to benefit from the worldwide growth in the imaging market and the growing importance of photographic accessories to retailer profitability. DayMen also has a number of identified opportunities to enter new markets. Lowepro is the leading brand in the industry and is known for its innovative designs and quality. Finally, DayMen and its subsidiaries are led by an outstanding management team, which has partnered with us on this acquisition. ----------- Congrats to TorQuest, you scored big in landing Michael. [...]
2009-12-19T23:25:25-05:00[updated to fix methodology/method point made by Tim] One of the things Start Ups usually excel at is support. It is one of those weirdly inverse things I've seen over the years. A one or two person company goes nuts with respect to support, answering...
[updated to fix methodology/method point made by Tim]
One of the things Start Ups usually excel at is support. It is one of those weirdly inverse things I've seen over the years. A one or two person company goes nuts with respect to support, answering emails around the clock, sending out compiled fresh daily code, etc. Success follows, company grows, and support does't keep up, gets an automated ticket systems, etc, etc.
In any event, here is a great little investment of 2 minutes with respect to giving the support person power to get stuff out to users vs. being an after thought of a company or lost in big company political mess.
Jing is a screen capture application with some pretty powerful features. The product is Mac/Windows and there is a free version. Here's what Casey, your friendly technical support guy, did to quickly (2 minutes) show the Mac users all about the product. The obvious next step is to include this link in the welcome or thanks for downloading email.
It's well done and is a good example for you to imitate with your own company.
Another method of getting the idea across is to give the user a tour of what it is you are attempting to offer. My good friend Matt Dunn founded a company called Say It Visually. Matt and his team create a really good/short animated story about what your company or software does. They do it in a fun way so people will stick around and get the message. One good example is what Indicee has done. You can see it right on their home page. Landing on the home page and getting information immediately is always good thing. Getting it in a more lively, fun manner is even better. Give Matt a call, he is uber-smart and worth twice whatever he charges you.
The larger message here is that there is no excuse for your customers to be confused or lost. The upside of the internet, fast bandwidth, always on, etc, is the ability to deliver issue focused videos (Jing) and big picture stories (SayItVisually) for low cost.
2009-12-17T22:07:21-05:00Overhead while I was hanging out with a bunch of start-up folks: Her: "How was your holiday party last night?" Other her: "It was pretty good. We invited the VCs but they didn't show up so we really did have a great party, we could...
Overhead while I was hanging out with a bunch of start-up folks:
Her: "How was your holiday party last night?"
Other her: "It was pretty good. We invited the VCs but they didn't show up so we really did have a great party, we could be ourselves, ya know, a real party."