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Day 52: JCCM Cocktail. Will you be there?

April 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Next Wednesday, Notman House will be hosting an Entrepreneurs Cocktail with the theme “Good to Great, the startup’s guide to creating valuable products & high-impact companies”.

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The Jeune Chambre de Commerce de Montréal is proud to present, in collaboration with FounderFuel, the SDEVM and Notman House, their Entrepreneurs Cocktail. You’re invited to come meet visionary entrepreneurs who have dared to dream big and challenge the status quo in their industries:

- Magaly Charbonneau, Password Box
- Martin-Luc Archambault, Wajam
- Julien Smith, Breather
- Caithrin Rintoul, Provender, animateur du panel

Through an evening that will combine inspiration, networking and experience, hear them talk about their inspiring journey, vision for the future and how they established strategic alliances with some of Silicon’s Valley major players to take their business ventures to the next level. 

WHY PARTICIPATE ?

- Inspiration: Be inspired by the stories and lesson learned shared by our panelists. 
- Networking: Enjoy a friendly environment to better share and exchange with entrepreneurs present.

THEMES :

- Building to launch internationally 
- Making strategic alliance to take your startup to the next level
- Surrounding yourself with the right team, partners
- Challenges and lessons learned

Check out the event here

Day 51: The Do’s & Don’ts of Rapid Scaling

April 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm

There was an article published recently by First Round entitled The Do’s & Don’ts of Rapid Scaling for Startups. In it, they list out everything that a startup should and shouldn’t do when considering how to grow quickly. Because, after all, don’t most startups want a hockey stick curve in their growth? 

hs_sales-curve 

Here are some of the key take-aways but check out the full article for all the deets! 

1. Have the right mindset for the right time. When you enter a growth phase make sure that everyone is on the same page.

2. Make employees feel accountable for the growth of the company.

3. Always keep moving forward.

4. Remove the bad so the good can thrive. This is crucial, the bad will far outweigh the good and can hinder rapid growth. 

 

Do you have any tips for our teams on how to scale rapidly? 

Day 49: AccelerateMTL, were you there?

April 11, 2014 at 11:46 am

Today was the big day!

The Montreal and San Francisco tech communities were brought together for AccelerateMTL at the historic Rialto Theatre on Parc Ave. This year’s focus was Scaling Innovation. The morning featured round table discussions and the afternoon was filled with speakers who gave a behind-the-scenes look at what scaling innovation really means.

Check out some of our pictures from there day: 

Day 48: Silicon Valley – HBO

April 9, 2014 at 11:38 am

Silicon Valley debuted on HBO Sunday night, did you watch?

If not, you can check out the entire first episode on YouTube for FREE!

Day 47: FounderFuel Heads to San Francisco

April 9, 2014 at 9:28 am

On Wednesday, 5 of the 45 FounderFuel portfolio companies will head down to San Francisco to pitch at International Demo Day. For the second year in a row FounderFuel, Seedcamp (London) and Startmate (Australia) are joining forces to show the Valley that there are top notch startups located all around the world. In total there will be 17 companies from all corners of the world pitching their companies. This exclusive event is put on in conjunction with AngelList, meaning that you have to be a registered investor in order to attend. Let’s just say the pressure is on! 

microphone

 

The 5 FounderFuel companies that are attending are:

1. Kiwi Wearables
2. Now In Store
3. Provender
4. Tattoo Hero
5. Transit App

To see a list of the other 12 companies check out the International Demo Day site.

Are you an AngelList registered Investor who will be in the Valley on Thursday? Come see what our companies have to offer! Register here.

Day 45: Looking for a Co-Founder?

April 5, 2014 at 10:09 am

Finding the right co-founder can be quite a difficult task and one not to be taken lightly. This is the person that you will go through extreme highs with but also extreme lows.  You need to not only be compatible but also compliment each other’s qualities and faults. However, if you pick the wrong person, it is very easy for this relationship to sour quickly. An example of such was recently published on BetaKit and anonymously details a co-founder relationship gone wrong.

woz-and-jobs

We are lucky because we now have a multitude of online services that can help you find the perfect co-founder. Below is a list (although not extensive) of various sites you can use if you are searching for a co-founder.

1. FounderDating
2. Co-Founders Lab
3. BuildItWith Me
4. Find My Co-Founder
5. Startup Weekend

You can also check out this thread on Quora all about finding a co-founder online. 

Do you have any tips on finding the perfect Co-Founder?

Day 44: Only 40 Days Until Demo Day!!

April 3, 2014 at 4:03 pm

It seems like the closer we get to Demo Day the faster time passes. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we installed a countdown calendar saying that there were 75 days left until Demo Day?? 

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The teams are in full stress mode and working 7 days a week to make sure they have an MVP out, achieve high levels of traction, launch successful Kickstarters and/or get lots of valuable press coverage before the big day. Let’s just say they have very high mountains to climb but they’re getting there! 

Tickets for Demo Day are going fast! Over 600 people have already registered. Make sure you get yours before we run out! You don’t want to miss your chance to watch the pitches from our best cohort yet and to mingle with the entire Montreal startup community. 


Day 43: Even the Maple Syrup Industry is Going High Tech

April 2, 2014 at 4:42 pm

It seems like every industry these days is becoming a “tech industry”, but the last one we thought would follow in this trend was the maple syrup industry. Armina Ligaya published an article in The Financial Post yesterday all about how the maple syrup industry is in the process of entering the 21st century.  

syrup

We all might picture the maple syrup industry as one that is quite antiquated, a spout in a tree with a metal bucket attached but it is one that is in the process of undergoing a bit of a renaissance. Since the early days of maple syrup tapping there have always been issues with loss from holes in the tubes which transport the syrup. One of the only real ways to find and fix leaks was to have full-time staff walking around the sugar bush and searching for leaks. That’s about to change though! 

A frustrated maple syrup farmer decided things needed updating and once he realized he wasn’t going to be able to find a technology solution he decided to create his own. He recruited a developer and began to build what is known as Tap Trek Technologies. In her article, Armina describes this as a “system [that] uses solar battery-powered radio units strapped to trees, each unit monitoring the vacuum pressure on about a half-dozen lines and transmitting that information, real time, to a computer or smartphone”.

tap trek

This is a major breakthrough in an industry that has been lagging for decades. It wouldn’t be surprising if it became very crowded in the coming years, after-all it is almost a half billion dollar a year industry in Canada alone! 

 

Day 41: 7 Tips On How To Leverage AngelList

March 31, 2014 at 4:28 pm

AngelList is crucial for young companies to get their names out there and if optimized properly can be a very strong tool. 

We’re at the stage in the program where the teams need to make sure that they’re using every resource that’s available to them, especially AngelList. In order to help them out, Ian Jeffrey gave a talk today on “Leveraging AngelList”. 

AngelList

He went over topics such as how to optimize their company profiles and the steps to take when opening up the fundraising section to the public. 

Here are some of the key learnings that stuck with the teams:

1. Always keep your profile up to date

2. Find a good referrer 

3. Get strong endorsements on your profile

4. Don’t be secretive about your product

5. Don’t open up your fundraising until you have at least one commitment

6. Traction, traction, traction. Without it, people will lose interest in your company/product

7. Shoot for as much social proof as you can. 

Do you have any hacks for AngelList? 

Day 40: Bringing Product Management to a Scaling Startup (Guest Post)

March 28, 2014 at 11:13 am

[This is a guest post by Isaac Souweine, Head of Product Management at Frank & Oak]

Isaac

Early stage startups don’t generally need a discrete product management function, a point I’ve made here. As startups scale, however, most do add product managers to help them deal with increased complexity. Like any major organizational change, the process of adding product management to a scaling startup is at once transformative and full of challenges.

At Frank & Oak, a Montreal-based e-tailer, we’ve recently gone through this exact transition. As Head of Product Management, I’ve worked with our Founders and Head of Technology to manage the change, focusing on four key areas: defining the product manager (PM) role, setting a weekly rhythm, establishing key operations, and solidifying our tools. The results are a work in progress, but I hope nonetheless worth sharing here.

PM ROLE

When introducing the PM role, it was important for us to communicate clearly but iteratively. Not everyone has the same idea of what a product manager does, so we tried to be specific about what tasks PMs could own while sharing a vision for what the role could accomplish. At the same time, we allowed the role definition to coalesce over a few rounds of coffee chats, emails and formal meetings. By taking an iterative approach, we were able to customize the PM role to the specific organizational and team context at Frank & Oak.

Introducing the PM role also meant managing its perceived downsides. The addition of product managers can feel disempowering: developers suddenly have less control over feature definition and priority, while stakeholders have less access to the developers who solve their problems. While these perceptions can be discussed, we found the best approach was to simply show the value of the role with great specs, clear prioritization, prompt action on bugs and so on. When it comes to selling the vision of product management, actions definitely speak loudest.

WEEKLY RHYTHM

In an office, a week is a meaningful block of time, with its own natural rhythms. This makes it an ideal vessel for building a product team culture. At Frank and Oak, we now start each week with a 30 minute Monday Morning Kickoff. The Monday Kickoff was especially useful during the first few weeks of our new organization as we were iterating on the PM role and product team relationships. It remains our forum of choice for addressing key process issues, maintaining cross-team communication, and setting a good tone for the week. To soften the blow of starting Monday morning with a meeting, we serve free breakfast. St. Viateur bagels make culture change much tastier.

The focal point of the Monday Kickoff is the No Fail Goal, a cultural element we borrowed from Pollenizer, an Australian startup studio where I worked prior to joining Frank & Oak. A No Fail Goal is a non trivial task or milestone that can be closed in one week’s time. The goal is announced on Monday and results are tracked the following Monday. It’s a simple process, great for clarifying priorities and motivating teams without a lot of process overhead. The practice was designed for Pollenizer’s 3-person startup pods, but it’s translated extremely well to the complexity of a scaling startup.

To close the week, we’ve adopted another Pollenizer specialty, Drinks and Demos. On Friday at 4 PM, we buy beer and chips and invite people to present their designs, feature launches, test results, data insights and so on. Originally created for the product team, the session now extends across functions and serves as a nice capstone for the week’s work. It’s also a good forum to introduce new hires and entertain guests.

KEY PROCESSES

PM’s spend a good deal of time creating processes that support the work of developers and designers. In a scaling startup, new process layers are a double edged sword. On the one hand, team members appreciate that business growth requires bureaucratization. On the other hand, no one really loves bureaucracy. Like the PM role itself, introducing process is ultimately about showing value. Simply put, process should make people’s lives better. Persistence is also crucial, as some processes take time to bear fruit.

One process area we looked at early in our reorganization was issue tracking. It may seem obvious that developer work should always be tracked, but in a fast moving startup many things “just get done”. Ensuring that user stories get written for all development work can therefore be a fundamental culture change. It’s well worth the effort of course, and in our case we found a few weeks were all it took until consistent issue tracking was second nature.

Another process area we have worked to solidify is release rhythm. With the exception of our mobile team, we have not introduced formal sprints, so our release process boils down to weekly backlog reviews, PM-driven QA, and code pushes as needed. This approach provides flexibility, low process overhead, and the gratification of getting code live quickly. It does lack the rigor of more formal approaches, a limitation we try to make up for in part with the weekly No Fail Goal.

As our basic development cycle has solidified, we have invested more time in building a product roadmap. To build co-ownership of our first roadmap, we held broad-based brainstorming sessions followed by regular communication as the plan took shape. Our first roadmap projected out for 3 quarters. It was a great exercise, but it did not produce a stable operating plan. We are now moving to a 90-day prioritization cycles as inspired by the process run at Pandora.

Tying in with our 2014 goal setting, we are also making a bigger push on metrics. Beyond solving technical problems like incomplete data instrumentation and non-unified data sources, we’ve found that becoming data driven is also mostly about cultural change. In an early stage startup, decisions happen quickly and are often based on intuition and authority. As our product team matures, we are working to make sure that proper data is available, understood and at the center of goal setting and decision making. One project we’re still working on is metrics screens around the office so that key statistics are visually present at all times.

TOOLS

Like any organization, our tools express and reinforce our team culture. Here’s a list of some of the key tools we’re using:

  • Issue Tracking – We use Pivotal Tracker for issue tracking. It’s a great piece of software, though the fit has been awkward at times since we are not running sprints or closely tracking velocity.

  • Wireframing – We use balsamiq for wireframing. It’s a fantastic tool with an easy learning curve. Our UX process is a mix of wireframing and direct design in Photoshop and Illustrator.

  • Analytics – Thanks to our amazing BI maestro, we’re currently transitioning our analytics from RJ Metrics, which is a great dashboarding tool, to Looker which is much more powerful for ad hoc analysis.

  • Documentation – We use google docs for just about everything. There’s still a few .ppt and .doc files that get passed around, but we’re on a mission to phase out all attachments that don’t end in .xls.

  • Testing – We use a mix of optimizely, in-house tools, and taplytics for mobile. We track all tests in a single archive and circulate results regularly via email and in meetings.

  • Group Chat – We use hipchat to foster communication. It’s been a big improvement over gchat and the price is competitive compared to some of the other solutions we looked at.

  • Archiving – We have been trying to crowdbase as an archiving tool, though with limited success. This has less to do with the tool and more to do with the challenges of implementing our documentation plan in a fast-growing company.

WHAT’S NEXT

In a fast growing startup, it’s hard to say what’s next. We have big plans though, so please stay tuned for another post in a few months with updates from Rue St. Viateur.

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Thanks to our content guru Kirsten Weisenburger for reading a draft of this article and to our PM team Eric Azran, Nima Gardideh and Jeff Talajic for their comments and for being awesome.

 

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