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FounderFuel + Guru

August 31, 2015 at 11:48 am

There’s a dark side to entrepreneurship that’s often overlooked: a lack of emphasis placed on health.

We want to address this issue head on, so we’ll be working with a nutritionist during the Fall 2015 cohort (8 days away!) to ensure that our teams are taking care of their health as much as their startup. We’re also very excited to announce a new partnership with the team at Guru, who believe that energy should not come at the expense of health. Their energy drink is crafted with natural and organic ingredients. 

Guru

Four beneficial Guru ingredients and their health properties: 

Echinacea
Also known as purple coneflower, it is a popular herb present in western herbal medicine. Echinacea is an immune system stimulant often used during the first signs of a cold or flu. Thank you purple friend.

Ginseng
Ginseng is a popular herb that has been used throughout history as an energy and libido boost, however additional benefits of taking ginseng include memory improvement and weight loss.

Guarana
Guarana is a creeping shrub native to the Amazon.
It contains twice as much caffeine as coffee and stimulates the heart and central nervous system. It’s also purported to increase mental alertness, long-term memory and stamina.

Green Tea Leaves
It’s known as a powerful anti-oxidant and has a beneficial effect against age-related degenerative diseases. We explained earlier on this blog how  natural occurring caffeine is extracted for a good 100 mg of energy.

See you soon! 
- The FounderFuel Crew 

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Mentor 101

August 28, 2015 at 10:26 am

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As we rev up for our new cohort, we’re focusing on rebooting our highly valued mentor network. Last night we hosted our first ever Mentor 101, where we discussed the details of the program and how to be an invaluable resource to the teams. Next up, we’ll be posting our fresh Mentor Manifesto, which outlines all expectations and perks. Stay tuned. :)  

As always, if you’d like to be a mentor for future cohorts, reach out to us at info@founderfuel.com.

Don’t forget to check out our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages to stay up to date on what’s going on here at FF.

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See you soon!
- The FounderFuel Crew 

Mentor Network reboot

August 25, 2015 at 4:38 pm

FounderFuel 116

Making FounderFuel better is an iterative process. When I started thinking about running an accelerator last summer, I came up with top priorities both in the short and mid-term. This was done by talking to a lot of people inside and outside of FounderFuel. Of course Ian and Emma had a lot of great insights to share. John finally got me thinking right about the pitch as the blueprint. It seemed to me that the  the program, except for a few improvements, was already in good shape. The real work would be with people. I tweeted at the time:

“Starting Friday I will obsess about Founders, Funders & Mentors. Will apply everything I learned about networks to the accelerator space…”

I started my journey by focusing on founders. My first priority was to better understand their needs at the early stage. All of the time spent understanding and choosing great founders directly affects the quality of your Alumni Network. Because of this, the Alumni Network is one of the greatest assets that an accelerator can have after running for more than a couple of years. As time goes by, this network grows and renews organically. Just like a good gardener, you plant good seeds by working with excellent founders, and you take care of those seeds by putting enough time and energy into working with them. After a while, your garden – your network of founders and alumni – becomes almost self sustainable.

After a first year, I feel I have a better grasp of what we can do better, how to improve the Alumni network for all. Still a lot of work to do, but I am confident about it.

I have been a founder myself for more than a decade and I have worked with founders as an advisor/mentor for at least another 5 years. I understand the dynamics involved in building a product, a team and a market, all at the same time. I also know that the network that you build around yourself is key to your success (and survival).

The next step for me was rethinking the mentor network. This was harder. Hard because I “inherited” FounderFuel; there was a legacy there that I needed to understand better. I did not want to be that guy that changes everything when starting in a new role. But I felt our mentor network needed a refresh. Working with Emma, we reviewed exit interviews from previous years, and I took a full year (2 cohorts) to better understand mentor dynamics with founders. I took note of what works well, what doesn’t work so well, what could be easy to fix and what would definitively wouldn’t be.

Managing a mentor group is not easy, and it’s not just “functional” –  it involves a lot of marketing and PR too. I did not feel I would improve our network just by growing it; it needed a major overhaul. I wanted this to be an objective process, as much as possible (we don’t have so much hard data on mentors/founders interactions). Starting right after Demo Day we began meeting with Founders and employees from Alumni companies to get feedback on Mentors in order to narrow the list. We looked at people who work the closest with founders, provide the most value, have been the most responsive, have attended the most events, and have worked with the most companies. Then we had to make some tough decisions.

I started by looking at the full list of the 175+ mentors who had registered since the beginning of FF in 2011. Then I started a fresh new list, with these goals in mind:

 * At least half (if not more) of the network should be “peer mentors”, co-founders with a track record of building startups, shipping product, developing markets and fundraising.

 * We needed more mavens, inter-connectors. We have a really close-knit and dense local network, but startups also need ways to get into new geographies and markets.

 * We needed more diversity. After a while, it did seem like our mentor network was an old boys club. I had in mind the complete opposite.

 * Mentor availability is not fixed. Time goes by, the ups and downs of business and family might make your involvement different after a while. That’s perfectly fine. We will now use two years “soft commitment” to being a mentor. I will reach out to everyone with a short questionnaire on mentoring.

 * We have too many mentors, I want to bring down the list to about 100. This means not everyone will be renewed. This is not an automatic process, it will be highly manual (and hopefully does not feel subjective).

Rebooting will take time.This means that the mentor network will be a bit unstable and wonky for a couple of months. To alleviate this, we will be hosting “mentor 101″ sessions  for all newly onboarded Mentors. We will also be hosting two new events: a local “startup mentor meetup” to support the growing community of mentors inside and outside of FounderFuel, and a series of workshops by and for mentors (call this mentor-peer-mentoring if you will).

Another consequence of the reboot is that our site and mailing list will be reworked. While we gather data from mentors, we will not have an external list. We will, however, keep an internal mentor list available to our Fall cohort.  This will take us at least a couple of weeks, while we discuss with everyone in our existing mentor network.

We would not be able to do this without you. Our goal is to work more closely with our mentors and to meet most of them in person (or over skype/hangout). With almost 200 mentors, this is a daunting (yet important) task. We expect to complete this process by the end of 2015. We are also putting a few systems in place to complement the organic matchmaking we have been using. Feedback – both from and about mentors – is crucial for us.We have a lot to learn. Feel free to write me (sylvain at founderfuel dot com) or Emma (emma at founderfuel dot com) with comments and questions.

- Sylvain Carle, GM @ FounderFuel

FounderFuel Founder Talks

August 24, 2015 at 10:35 am

One of our favourite series throughout the program is Founder Talks. 

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Every Wednesday afternoon we invite one experienced entrepreneur to chips and beer with the teams. Founder Talks have evolved into an informal chat about a topic of the founder’s choosing, or the story of how they built their business, followed by questions from the current cohort. 

So far we’ve hosted  Stephane Marceau (OMsignal), Marc Gingras (Foko), Ethan Song (Frank & Oak), Dax Dasilva (Lightspeed), and Dan Robichaud (Passwordbox). We’d love to add some females to our list! 

If you or anyone you know would be interested in stopping by during the fall, please reach out to the team at info@founderfuel.com. We look forward to hearing from you! 

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The Countdown is On!

August 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

Teams have been chosen, offer letters have been extended, and welcome emails have been sent – the FounderFuel Fall 2015 cohort is just around the corner. We’re extremely excited to be welcoming a whole new batch of entrepreneurs, and we can’t wait to see where they’ll be in just four short months. 

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A note to founders entering the program: we once had a CEO describe the four month process as amazingly difficult and insanely incredible all at the same time. It will be incredible; we hope that you learn more about yourself, about working with others, and about building a business in a shorter period of time then you thought possible. But it will also involve struggle (as it always does). Ben Horowitz put in best when he wrote: 

“The struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place. 
The struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer. 
The struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right. 
The struggle is when food loses taste…
The struggle is not failure, but it causes failure…
The struggle is where greatness comes from.”
So here’s to your impending greatness, and whatever must happen for you to get there. We hope you’re ready.

Be sure to stay tuned for all events, articles and announcements – what we do would be vastly different without the MTL and wider Canadian community on this ride with us.

See you soon,
- The FounderFuel Crew 

 

Our Reading List

August 19, 2015 at 11:14 am

I once read a tweet that just kind of stuck. It was from Carolyn Kopprasch, Customer Happiness at Buffer, and it read:

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.36.29 AM
Ditto about this tweet, from Joel Gascoigne, Co-founder and CEO at Buffer: 

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.40.24 AM
(Needless to say, Buffer seems pretty cool…)

After reading these tweets at right around the same time, I’ve often thought about whether maintaining a traditional ‘work/life balance’ is really a beneficial way to exist at all. Maybe it’s best to share the knowledge we attain at (almost…) any time of day (whether that be via books, conversations, movies, etc.) with our coworkers and friends. 

With that in mind, we’ve created a list of what we’re reading, and bits of the books we’ve so far found most interesting. What should we read next?  

Elon Musk 
By Ashlee Vance 
elon musk 2
“He points out that one of the really tough things is figuring out what questions to ask,” Musk said. “Once you figure out the question, then the answer is relatively easy. I came to the conclusion that really we should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask.” The teenage Musk then arrived at his ultralogical mission statement. “The only thing that makes sense to do is strive for greater collective enlightenment,” he said.”
 

The Alliance
By Reid Hoffman
the alliance
“As much as companies might yearn for a stable environment and employees might yearn for lifetime employment, the world has irrevocably changed. But we also can’t keep going the way we’ve been going. Trust in the business world (as measured by the proportion of employees who say they have a “high level of trust in management and the organization” they work for) is near an all-time low. A business without loyalty is a business without long-term thinking. A business without long-term thinking is a business that’s unable to invest in the future. And a business that isn’t investing in tomorrow’s opportunities and technologies—well, that’s a company already in the process of dying.”   

The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money are Challenging the Global Economic Order 
By Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey 
crypotcurrency
“…the entire human populace is now taking charge of the means of production and changing the rules of the game. “They’re making their own freaking currencies, for God’s sake…” 

Creativity, Inc.
By Ed Catmull
creativity Inc
“Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.” 

The Hard Thing About Hard Things
By Ben Horowitz 
the hard thing about hard things
Anthony remained calm, looking him in the eye, and said, “Frank, I will do exactly as you say. I’ve heard you loud and clear. This is a terrible moment for you and for us. Allow me to use your phone, and I will call Ben Horowitz and give him your instructions. But before I do, can I ask you one thing? If my company made the commitment to fix these issues, how much time would you give us to do that?” He responded, “Sixty days.” Anthony told him the clock had just started ticking and left his office immediately. It was good news: We had exactly sixty days to fix all the problems and make the deployment work. If we did not, we were done. We had sixty days to live.”  

Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry 
By Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff
losing the signal
“In the technology sector failure is often a precondition to future successes, while prosperity can be the beginning of the end. If the rise and fall of BlackBerry teaches us anything it is that the race for innovation has no finish line, and that winners and losers can change places in an instant.” 

Have you read a great book recently? Let us know! 

- Ella 
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A Call for Freelancers!

August 17, 2015 at 10:01 am

Photo via Unsplash

Many startups within the FounderFuel network are in hyper growth. For that reason, we always try to keep an eye out for individuals interested in freelance work. Further, 17 FounderFuel companies have listed openings (remote and non remote) on Angellist.

If you’re interested in working with a portfolio company, send us an email at info@founderfuel.com. Include a short blurb about what you specialize in, your typical rates and your contact information, and we’ll pass your info along from there. In the event that your dream job isn’t currently available, we’ll keep your name on file and our eyes peeled for when something does come up.

Thanks! 

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Life Lessons for Entrepreneurs

August 13, 2015 at 11:01 am

blog post

One of my favourite parts of the internet is ease of access to minds we most admire. 

This manifests itself in a number of ways; most glaringly, we’re able to read the thoughts of others, multiple times per day, in the form of 140 characters or less. We have Reddit AMA’s, allowing virtually anyone to pose any question to the likes of President Barack Obama, Elon Musk and Bill Gates. If we’re really lucky, brilliant, successful and busy humans just brain dump into a blog post for our viewing pleasure. They don’t even have to write books anymore. 

In the spirit of this, our connected world, we’ve chosen our most recent top five lessons about work, life and being an entrepreneur. Here goes: 

Guard your Gates
“…Not just what you eat and drink (though this will have a profound impact), control what you read, what you watch, what you listen to, what notifications you allow on your phone, where you spend your time, who you spend it with. Guard your gates with care.” 
- Nick Crocker, “Thirty Things I’ve Learned”

Routinize Yourself
“Take the president’s advice and ‘routinize yourself,’ eliminating as many decisions as you can from your life. With the remaining decisions, don’t waste your time pondering — just decide.
- Francesco Marconi, How I Found Purpose / Michael Lewis, Obama’s Way 

Work Hard 
“It’s difficult to do a great job on work you don’t care about. And it’s hard to be totally happy/fulfilled in life if you don’t like what you do for your work.  Work very hard—a surprising number of people will be offended that you choose to work hard—but not so hard that the rest of your life passes you by. Aim to be the best in the world at whatever you do professionally. Even if you miss, you’ll probably end up in a pretty good place. Figure out your own productivity system—don’t waste time being unorganized, working at suboptimal times, etc.  Don’t be afraid to take some career risks, especially early on. Most people pick their career fairly randomly—really think hard about what you like, what fields are going to be successful, and try to talk to people in those fields.”
Sam Altman, The Days are Long but the Decades are Short

Stop Dreaming
“You know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream? And you know that if you don’t have a pencil and pad by the bed, it will be completely gone by the next morning. Sometimes it’s important to wake up and stop dreaming. When a really great dream shows up, grab it.”
- James Altucher, 20 Things I’ve learned from Larry Page

Embrace The Struggle 
“Life is struggle. I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship. Embrace the struggle.” 
- Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing about Hard Things  (Ok this one is a book. Forgive me.) 

What did I miss? 

- Ella 

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Alumni Updates: Spotful

August 11, 2015 at 10:49 am

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Spotful (FF S15) has hit the ground running since their recent graduation from FounderFuel. 

Some updates from one of our newest alumni:
A brand new name 
beautiful new site
A feature in VentureBeat 
New uses of their product
A brand new CTO (who was absorbed from another FF company – more to come on this in a separate blog post by guest writer Moody Jones)

They’re now on the hunt for the perfect MTL office space and are in the midst of raising a round. Interested in learning more or know of a space that can accommodate a growing 15 person team? Reach out to Andrew Murray, CEO, at asmurray@bespotful.com.

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How to Kill It in Your Founderfuel Interview

August 7, 2015 at 11:29 am

FounderFuel is wrapping up its most recent recruitment season. With our next cohort beginning in the fall, we’ve just completed the final round of interviews. I sat in on a few to understand what works and what doesn’t. Here are a few of my observations: 

1. Keep it Simple 
Simplify what, at it’s core, makes you different and special. Have a fundamental philosophy and approach. Boil your idea down to its most basic structure and summarize it from there. If you cannot explain the basis of your startup and how it will impact the end user, you’ve lost us. 

2. Vision over Analogies 
It’s natural to analogize your startup to a service that already exists. We understand best what we already know. Sometimes saying you’re the Uber of (blank) does work, but I would venture to say that even when it does, it’s better to approach your pitch from a different angle. Here’s the thing about this industry: we must constantly seek out what we do not know. Innovation comes from vision, not analogies. Foreignness is good – try to embrace it.  

3. Be Prepared to Be Unprepared 
Your deck may not have all of the answers. You will most likely be stopped mid presentation because something isn’t perfectly clear. Don’t continue until everyone in the room is in complete understanding of the topic that caused the pause. This is okay. Know your space as best as you possibly can, but be comfortable letting us know that you don’t have all of the answers yet. We’ll be tackling your problems together, and that’s what makes this whole thing so damn exciting. 

If you’d like to apply (or reapply), we’d love to speak to you (again). Stay tuned, applications will open again in the Fall! 

- Ella 

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