We’ve been hosting Lunch N’Learns twice a week and so far these talks have been about the nitty gritty details of starting a company, like filing for SRED, setting up your Capital Table properly and how to run your payroll. These are important topics that can get often overlooked while you focus on the bigger and broader issues.
This weeks first talk was given by James Smith from Labarge Weinstein who flew all the way in from Vancouver to talk to the teams about founder relations, raising rounds and how to make it to “Demo Day and Beyond”.
Some of his tips included:
1) Make sure you’ve set up some basic shareholder agreements
2) Unless you’re aiming to please, try and push investors towards Convertible Notes
3) Raising money is not just about the pitch, you should view it as a sales cycle
4) Your syndicate should have a breakdown of “Brawn, Brains and Bros” broken down something along these lines
a. 1-2 Brawns: people that invest $100K-$200K each
b. 1-2 Brains: experts in your space that invest each $25K – $50K
c. 4-8 Bros: people that invest each $25K – $50K and have a huge network for you to leverage
James was also kind enough to devote a chunk of his talk to answering questions about the BDC Convertible note, since the deadline for the teams to apply for it is quickly approaching!
Here’s his full deck:
We recently had a visit from Matthew Harrison, a representative from BDO Canada, who came in to give the companies a talk on how to run their back office. He had some very important tips to share with these young companies, who might not realize how important it is to have an organized, well run, back office.
Here’s some of the insight he shared:
1) It’s important to have a clear, concise share capital table and be careful who you have promised or compensated with shares
2) Make sure you register for sales taxes, even before you have revenue
3) Pay close attention to how you interact with the USA and be sure to research all laws BOTH federally and within the states you’re doing business in
4) Be careful in filing your SRED claim for 2014 as the new rules really focus on documentation and the accuracy of your filing
Check out the full slides to get more tips on how to properly structure and run your back office.
Last Thursday we held our first big event of this cohort. The teams were put through major Mentor whiplash during an all day “Mentor Speed Dating” event. It was definitely a packed house, we had about 100 mentors from all across Canada and the USA who were all there to give the teams valuable information and advice to help them build and grow their companies.
Check out some of the photos from the day and no, we still aren’t giving up who the companies are this cohort !
Today the teams got a visit from Alistair Croll, the co-author of Lean Analytics. He came in to give a great full-morning workshop about how to measure and track analytics. Most people or companies don’t put a huge focus on analytics or don’t know how to, but as Alistair explained, it’s crucial for startups to constantly be tracking and analyzing data. It’s important for young companies to be very aware of what’s working and what isn’t working for them, they need to be able to fail fast so that they can iterate before the money runs out.
During the workshop he covered a variety of topics from what makes a good metric to understanding cohorts to how the Lean Analytics cycle is structured. To learn more, check out this video of Alistair giving a similar talk at Google Ventures a few weeks ago.
Mentor day is tomorrow!
Early in the morning, almost 100 Mentors from all across North America will descend upon Hotel 10 and will dedicate their whole day to providing our companies with invaluable advice and guidance.
The companies have been working around the clock to get their pitches ready, their t-shirts in and their products to a high enough level to impress the Mentors. They’re now in the final stretch of Mentor Day prep and today they were getting some last minute tough love for their pitches. Hopefully, we didn’t stress them out even more than they already were!
Here are some of those golden one liners:
“Everyone else isn’t going to give a shit about you and they’re going to go work with the other seven companies.”
“I think you’re scared, and if you’re scared, you might as well quit the program”
“That is the most negative opener I’ve heard in a long time”
We’ve provided them with all the training we can, now it’s time to see if they’ll shine!
As Mentor Day approaches, the companies are starting to wrap their heads around the importance of the day and how to make the most of it. One of their tasks on Mentor Day is to start figuring out which Mentors they would like to ask to sit on their FounderFuel Advisory Board.
You might be asking yourself, what exactly is the FounderFuel Advisory Board? Is it the same as a standard advisory board? Do the Mentors become shareholders?
It’s more of an honorary position and the board is only active throughout the few months of the FounderFuel program. Basically, the advisors will provide them with support, advice and the guidance it’ll take to bring their company to the next level and be 100% ready for Demo Day at the end of the program.
The companies are responsible for putting together a board of between 5 to 10 Mentors and ensuring that they touch base with them weekly as well as meet with them in person twice throughout the program.
To better understand the relationship between the companies and their Mentors, check out the video below made by Aron Solomon, one of our Mentors.
Mentor Day is quickly approaching and we have events planned all week to help prepare the teams!
This Thursday, February 13th, we bring together almost 100 Mentors from all across North America. These are industry leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and executives who had a lot of knowledge to give. They come to Montreal to meet the newest members of the FounderFuel family, the Spring 2014 cohort companies. During this day long event, the companies will go through what some refer to as “Speed Dating with Mentors”. These are ten, 30 minute sessions, where the companies each get paired up with a group of 10 Mentors to get advice, support and guidance. It’s also during this day that they start to put together their FounderFuel Advisory Boards (but more on that later).
To help the teams prepare, we brought in Cai Rintoul, the CEO of Provender to give a talk entitled “How to Hack Mentor Day”. As a fresh graduate of the FounderFuel program (Summer 2013), Cai was able to give a in-depth perspective about just how important Mentor Day is and how to get the most out of the Mentors.
Here’s are some of the tidbits of info that Cai passed on to the teams:
- Research, research, research. Know as much as you can about the mentors before the day.
- Take advantage of every minute of the day, always be talking to Mentors!
- Make sure you get a business card from EVERY mentor.
- Wear your t-shirt!
This is going to be a busy week! Check back daily to follow the companies progress in their Mentor Day prep!
This morning we got a request from someone who liked our design and wanted us to send him a sticker for his computer and this sparked an idea!
We just got a brand new shipment of stickers in, so why not share the wealth. E-mail your mailing address to email@example.com and we’ll send you some stickers to plaster all over your computer and your friends computers!
Thanks for the idea, Norman!
As a startup, it’s often difficult to pay for services that help you prosper and grow as a company. With limited funds, a company can’t afford to hire a full-time employee to run their back-office or to act as their project manager. Because of this, there has been a growth in companies that offer special deals or completely free services to startups.
Fast Company put together a pretty solid list entitled the “(Nearly) Complete Online Toolkit for Startups“.
They break the toolkit down into multiple categories including: General, Project Management, Marketing and Social Media Tools and list out a total of 18 tools that are almost all free to use.
Any great (free) tool that they forgot to include in their list? We’ll create our very own #FFMob list!
Everyone knows how difficult it can be to get your startup off the ground and get those initial funds. To help better prepare and inform our cohorts we brought in one of their mentors, Charles Morand, from the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Charles came in to meet with the companies individually to explain how they could qualify for the BDC Convertible Note and to answer their questions. Every company within the cohort is eligible for a $150,000 Convertible Note from BDC upon graduation from the program, provided they meet certain terms and conditions.
Since not all companies will receive the note, a lot of the questions asked were about how they could qualify. One of the key points Charles made is that if your company is pre-product then it’s difficult to justify an investment on their part. To help better explain this to the teams he pointed them towards the blog post “The Pre-Product Phase” that Fred Wilson published on his blog this morning.
Fred Wilson makes some valuable points about why it is very difficult to invest in something that is in the pre-product phase. He mentions that, “until I can get my hands on it and use it, I have an incredibly difficult time imagining what the thing is.” On top of that, he goes on to mention that, ”when something is designed in code, it comes to life for me quickly and I can react to it, give feedback on it, and think about it, and consider investing in it.”
These were points that were made clear to the teams today, that one of the conditions for the BDC Convertible Note was that the teams had to be in their “Product Phase”.
The teams have 1 week to decide if they’d like to be part of the Convertible Note program. The pressure is on!