Interesting Reads – July 10 2014

Two interesting articles that I’ve come across this week:

1. Failingforward.org publishes a document discussing the art of making a failure reports based on the same model that the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) have used for years to help keep their organization moving forward without giving into the crippling fear of failure:

http://goo.gl/sV72RF

2. I also found the below article on the boom in Pre-IPO funding to be incredibly interesting as well. Whether you are an investor or a startup looking for financing, this article is a must read:

http://goo.gl/6dzvtj

Happy reading!

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Cash for startups – Part 1

One of the most common questions that I get during my day-to-day conversations with startups is:

“What’s the funding landscape here in Ontario and Canada?”

One of the first steps that you will take as a startup is to start figuring out funding resources that are available early on in the form of non-dilutive government grants. Here in Canada we have access to a plethora of non-dilutive grants from varying forms of government (federal/provincial/municipal/academic) that are a key asset to our startup communities and entrepreneurs. In part 1 I have gone through the best resources for federal grant access from a small business or startup perspective…check it out:

Federal Grants:

A great place to start your search is through the funding portal which aggregates a good list of funding opportunities on all levels of grants (not just federal):

Funding Portal – http://www.marsdd.com/funding/

Concierge is a new service that you can call a real person (see phone number below) and discuss your business idea. It is Concierge’s mandate to connect and/or point you in the right direction of funding for your specific technology type (whether it’s software, hardware or even a movie) and company stage:

Concierge Service – http://concierge.portal.gc.ca/ Phone: 1-800-457-8466

Don’t forget the awesome SR&ED credit program – probably one of Canada’s greatest assets for small businesses and startups. If you are in need of people to help you understand this program and need help formulating your SR&ED filings let me know and I can help connect you:

SR&ED Credit – http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/txcrdt/sred-rsde/menu-eng.html

Lastly a more specific opportunity is the Canadian Digital Media Network’s (CDMN) Soft Landing program which provides funding for specific business travel requirements to meet new customers or investors:

CDMN Soft Landing – http://www.cdmn.ca/soft-landing-program/overview/

These are great starting points and hopefully jumpstart your research! Any and all feedback is appreciated regarding these resources and as always if you need more information regarding any of them feel free to reach out to me on twitter at @d0b0. 

Online Tools and Resource List

Back to the blog to start sharing updates on new learnings from my current job as a startup ‘helper’ of sorts in Kitchener-Waterloo’s Communitech Hub. 

There has been much written about how early implementation of tools that help organize startup teams can significantly improve your likelihood of success as well as your ongoing efficiency as a team. So check out this PDF that has a lot of great resources categorized by utility:

http://bit.ly/1l1ulef

Any and all feedback is appreciated,

Sam

Business Plans

Time to write a killer business plan? 

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time both in workshops and online researching how to build that killer business plan that’s going to anyone’s company to the next level. What I’ve discovered so far is that there really is no template for success when making a business plan (I know this may be obvious but its incredible the variation and quantity of suggested templates available). There are however key sections that need to be covered that I have found in any worthwhile template. Below I wanted to present a layout that I have since found to be the best (in my opinion) for a solid start to your business plan that can be used for pitching to potential investors (and business competitions). 

Angels/VCs/Investors

1. The People – I know this has become more obvious recently, but to reiterate: most research and studies point to the fact that most big money investments in risky (yet possibly rewarding) ventures are made based majorly on the people in the company. The people section not only requires explanation of who is in the company and their credentials but more importantly how they fit into the company and how they complement the skills that the other employees have or don’t have. 

2. The Opportunity – For me being in the high-tech start-up space it is easy to get bogged down in the technical aspect of the inventions’ opportunity, BUT remember that anyone who is going to invest in your company wants to know HOW you are going to make money (sales!). What’s the death of most startups? Nope not the tech, its lack of SALES!

3. The Context – This is really where you get into some the nitty gritty of the regulatory environment, financial environment, and any other factors that are external to the opportunity that you as the entrepreneur have to adjust and accommodate for regardless of how good your technology/idea/service is. 

4. Risk and Reward – What are your major risks? What can cause your company to fail in the next week? Month? 6-months? Year? 5-years? After explaining these risks, the most important part is to discuss how you plan to mitigate these risks with or without the resources you have at your disposal. It is also important to discuss different paths to success and different paths to the reward (financial, ethereal) that you and your shareholders seek. 

 

Additions? Recommendations for new sections or more refined section focus? Let me know in the comments

Cheers,

Sam

Accounting for Poor Start-ups

Hey All,

Thought I would share a nice addition to my start-up arsenal. 

If you are looking for a cheap and robust option to the expensive accounting software packagers out there I would highly suggest taking a look at GNUcash . It is a perfect example of what open software can do to enable SMEs to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace.

So far I have found some reliable forums and websites dedicated to discussing options and different ways of manipulating the software package to do anything that I might want to do at in basic accounting. I’ve yet to stress test it to some serious options and scenarios, but thats mostly due to my lack of accounting knowledge and understanding than it is to the software’s ability. 

Pros: Free, Multi-platform, very flexible, and highly customizable

Cons: Lacks support and built-in (ready-to-go) customization that other packages have, tougher learning curve for non-accountants to pick up

 

Cheers,

Sam

Camping Trip

Time for some more pictures!

I went to Blue Creek Campground outside of Banff, AB last weekend and truly enjoyed some very nice September scenery. The rivers were low as it was late in September, but the colour of the water was as spectacular as ever. Theres something to be said about the calmness of a quick moving river full of ice-cold glacier run-off. Here are some of the best pictures I have to share: 

2012 09 29 16 52 03

2012 09 29 16 50 44

2012 09 29 16 20 12

2012 09 29 15 58 40

And then of course we find a lone cow in the middle of the road…only in Alberta:

2012 09 29 15 15 43

And then of course, nothing like a nice campfire to wrap up a beautiful day:

2012 09 29 23 10 42

 

Cheers,

Sam

Patent Searches

I thought I would touch on a couple take aways that I have found while doing a patent search regarding my startups upcoming product. Please feel free to comment and add anything that you find more important or if I’ve missed anything crucial (which is quite likely). 

The first couple basics to take note of, and when I say take note of, I mean actually write down and record in an excel sheet or word document are: 

Patent #: (country where its from #) example: US 2012/02020202

Inventor(s) Name – I like to just put the first name that is listed as that is usually the primary person on the patent but adjust according to your preference

Assignee – company/foundation/university 

Patent Date – I have seen references that say that the file date is important as well, but have yet to see why this is pertinent

Related patents – usually provisional patents, or earlier iterations of this design/invention that is drastically different from this design is important to look at just for your knowledge as well as help you further understand the progression of this invention. 

Invention title – self-explanatory

Abstract – I like to use this as it gives me a brief summary for my records. I don’t usually write the whole abstract but I take bits and pieces that are important in understanding the overall device. 

Invention Description – I use this as a space to describe what I have gleaned from the overall patent information. Mostly description of important claims made and important milestones met for the invention. 

Invention Category – This is a nifty location to put in some key phrases to categorize the patent. I find this helpful as it makes me figure out and think about where this invention fits within the space that I am looking. 

Software (y/n) – If it is a piece of software, I like to just make note of that because then there are some special considerations to be made regarding its documentation such as platforms made for/standalone?/licensed/sourced/object/executable form etc. 

Lastly, I like to put down in my own words how this patent fits into the industry it is invented for as well as any disadvantages and limitations it may have purposefully listed or are not listed but I can criticize from my own knowledge and understanding of the marketplace. And if there are any listed companies within the patent either as suppliers for parts or end customers I record those just so that I know where products are being sourced from and where they are going to if possible. 

Hope this helps if you are in need of some guidance in this area. Like I said earlier, if you have any more suggestions please comment as I do not consider this a perfect list and would like to improve it myself if possible. 

Cheers,

Sam