Archive for 'entrepreneurship'

eBook for Technology Entrepreneurs

Recently a group of talented individuals in Ottawa launched an ebook on Technology Entrepreneurship. It’s relevant to any technology startup that wants to be successful in their domain. It covers various topics of interest from Business Models, minimal viable products to managing employees and more.


The editors are none other that Dr. Tony Bailetti (Technology Innovation Management, Carleton University) and Brian Hurley (President and CEO, Purple Forge Corp), with a forward by Denzil Doyle (Chairman, Doyletech Corporation.

It’s available on Amazon, check it out you won’t be disappointed.



By Natasha D'Souza

Lead To Win sessions starting Oct. 30th 2012

Are you (or someone you know) serious about establishing and growing a business?  Do you think you have the next killer idea/product/service but don’t know how to go about starting a successful, growth-oriented business?  Do you already have a business, but your growth has stagnated, and you need to figure out how to reinvigorate it?  If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then the Lead To Win (LTW) Bootcamp is for you.


The LTW Bootcamp will provide company founders with:

  • The knowledge necessary to establish and grow a successful business;
  • The confidence, encouragement and motivation to succeed;
  • The foundation to sell to first customers, raise funds and attract talent;
  • Access to a large and diverse business network;

All tech founders are welcome, as well as founders starting businesses in any sector.

The next session of Lead To Win is scheduled for October 29-30-31 and  November 27-28-29, 2012, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The 6 days of training are free, but you must apply!




By Natasha D'Souza

Ottawa’s Coral CEA invests in four Toronto based startups

Coral CEA, a not-for-profit open innovation network based here in Ottawa, has invested $120,000 in four companies located at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ). What is the DMZ? It’s a workplace and incubator designed for young entrepreneurs. It’s members have access to overhead and business services, which means students and alumni can fast track their product launches.

Companies involved in the investment include:

  • ARB Labs Inc. designed a software application that that allows any video display to create an immersive 3D effect – without the need for goggles or glasses
  • Greenguage Inc. developed a software tool for smartphone and Web that blends mobile technology with the green movement allowing monitoring of Corporate Social Responsibility efforts
  • HitSend Inc. offers an online platform to enable and enhance community-based change by tapping into the community’s collective voice
  • ViaFoura Inc. created a cloud-based plug and play user engagement and gaming platform for online content sites

 Check out what the DMZ is all about below:

By Carolynn Lacasse

IRAP’S VC Pitchfest and What It Means for Ottawa

Below is a guest post by friend and local entrepreneur Kyle McInnes, co-founder of Pretzil, who was a participant at the IRAP “PitchFest”.  The views are entirely his own and I exercised massive restraint by not changing some of his comments (but couldn’t resist the picture).

The IRAP pitchfest happened recently on Wednesday, February 8th at the new OCRI (now “Invest Ottawa”) building at 80 Aberdeen in Little Italy. I thought I’d summarise the event for those that couldn’t make it and provide a little insight into how I think the event could be improved.

When Scott first blogged on StartupOttawa about IRAP’s VC pitchfest, it obviously touched a nerve with IRAP and the Invest Ottawa crowd. During the whole application process and through the event, I probably heard it indirectly and directly referenced at least a few times. The post brings up some really valid criticisms of the pitchfest idea including the fact that there was zero transparency on the part of IRAP as to how they went about selecting companies to present. Scott’s criticism that IRAP’s mandate doesn’t include this kind of work is something I’d have to disagree with. IRAP’s explicit mandate is to “Help you grow stronger, grow faster, grow bigger through innovation and technology.” I would argue that IRAP bringing VCs to Ottawa is a clear way to fulfill its mandate.

Overall, the VC pitchfest was a fun event, but I take issue with the way it was managed. It was clear that IRAP is still figuring out how best to connect companies and investors, and as someone who went through the whole event, I can think of a few ways that it could have been run more effectively.

1. Selecting Companies – At the event, I spoke to one of the VCs in attendance to get his impression on the selection process. The VC told me that he hadn’t even been asked by IRAP or Invest Ottawa as to what kind of companies his fund was looking to invest in. Personally, I think it would have made far more sense for IRAP to ask the VCs what kind of companies they want to invest in, and then search Ottawa to connect those companies to the interested VCs.

2. Focus – The IRAP pitchfest had a wide variety of companies pitching. The pitchfest included companies pitching everything from intelligent video hardware to an online wedding registry service. It’s great to see the breadth of companies and talent here in Ottawa, but companies are more likely to get funded if you focus on an industry. IRAP needs to put hardware companies in front of investors who fund hardware companies and mobile companies in front of mobile-focused funds. This will surely increase the likelihood of someone getting funded.

3. Keep it private – The whole event was a little too public. Companies were expected to pitch to a group of investors in a room filled with other startups, IRAP representatives and Invest Ottawa employees. I’ve heard from numerous startups that have raised money that the most effective use of your time is to carefully handpick investors and meet with them to set milestones and expectations. Openly pitching to a group of investors that are possibly interested feels too much like a “spray and pray” versus “sniping” approach.

4. Feedback – IRAP was very eager to help the startups perfect their pitch. During the process, I had to do 2 mock presentations in front of a small IRAP committee as well as an IRAP rep came to my office before pitch day for a private consultation. It’s good to see IRAP so keen on helping but I would have liked to get feedback from real entrepreneurs rather than a panel of government employees. IRAP did a great job of bringing VCs into this pitchfest and it would have been helpful for them to bring in entrepreneurs with experience raising money to help the startups who were about to pitch.

The IRAP pitchfest addressed a clear issue that Ottawa has a hard time attracting VC funds to the city. IRAP proved that it can entice those investors to come to the city, but we need to make sure these investors are meeting talent they’re looking for. In the end, IRAP managed to bring almost a billion dollars to the city. IRAP should continue to work to bring this type of money to the city, but make better use of everyone’s time. For those looking to raise money, the following funds were present and worth researching:

Tandem Expansion Fund ($300M)
SummerHill Venture Partners ($200M)
Real Ventures ($25M)
Ontario Investment Accelerator Fund ($30M)
OMERS Ventures ($180M)
Extreme Venture Partners ($50)
BDC ($190M)

The next time Invest Ottawa and IRAP get involved in bringing companies and investors together, I’d like to see them connect investors and companies in a more structured, transparent and focused approach. The most important thing is that somebody gets funded, because it will send a message to other funds that Ottawa talent can’t be ignored. With enough investments, hopefully these funds will open Ottawa offices and create a strong investment community. That’s when we all win.

By Scott Annan

Sam Zaid gives you a step-by-step plan for funding via

In case you haven’t heard, is the hottest “startup for startups” with an all-star lineup of successful entrepreneurs who share their founder recipes on how to do everything from getting amazing press for your startup (Adrian Salamunovic) to building a content strategy to drive millions of readers to your blog (Dan Martell).  Past and upcoming authors include Jeremy Olson (Tapity), Cameron Herold (1-800-GOT-JUNK), and Aaron Hall (DressRush, Member of 500 Startups).

Today we launched the newest Play with local startup celebrity Sam Zaid on how to raise money for your startup.  I had the chance to sit down with Sam (CEO of and winner of 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt) to talk startup funding and he had some great insights on how startups should structure their business and focus on milestones to make funding much more straightforward (and successful).

Here are some of the highlights:

  • How to determine when you need money and alternative funding mechanisms
  • Do your research and hand-pick investors that will be a good fit
  • Setup milestones for your business.  Check with investors to see if they’re the right milestones
  • How to know when you’ve nailed a pitch
  • Tips on how to negotiate the best terms (and to get term sheets)

Raising money is a prerequisite for most startups – especially startups that want to scale and are working on the BIG idea.  If you’re launching a new startup or thinking about raising money in the future – you should buy this play NOW – not the night before your first pitch.

(note: I’m affiliated with the website… but I still think its ingenious!)

By Scott Annan

Global Entrepreneurship Week

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011 is celebrated during the week of Nov. 14th-20th 2011.


There are various events in the National Capital Region and the OCRI website has details on some of them.

Lead To Win will be celebrating their successes on Thu. Nov. 17th from 4-7pm. To follow the conversation follow the hastags #leadtowin #GEWnews on Twitter.

Carleton University’s Technology Innovation Management program are also hosting an event for their students and those interested in attending the program.

Are you having an event? Let us know when and where.

By Natasha D'Souza

Why your startup will fail: you never (really) understood the problem

Useless solutions

I meet with 3-4 entrepreneurs per week to talk about their startups.  Each discussion starts with a very informal pitch about their business or product.  Almost every time there are two core (and maybe the most important) topics that are missing or glanced over too quickly:

  1. The specific user pain, and how BIG it is
  2. Why they’re solving it

Instead the focus of the pitch is on the brilliance of the solution.  And although the solution may be brilliant, I usually tell them they’re concentrating on the wrong thing right now.

What most startups should be focusing on in the early stages is identifying – I mean pacifically, on a nano level – is the pain they’re solving.  And then the most basic way to solve it.  By rooting everything the company does for the first year on the market problem – and not on an elegant solution – is a much more logical approach to profitable discovery, is more likely to please users, and keeps you grounded when things get tough (which they always do).

And so… yesterday we launched a premium play – a detailed step-by-step project plan – for entrepreneurs on how to test a product idea quickly and inexpensively through refining your product idea, keyword analysis, A/B split testing a landing page, and using adwords to drive targeted users to signup for their solution.

We built it based on our experience at Mercury Grove and by talking to dozens of very successful entrepreneurs (there are three new product validation tests going on right now by uber famous entrepreneurs using this methodology – I bet you can’t find / name them, because they’re doing it the right way, without attaching their names to it… yet).  Even startups who have been working on their product for months (or years) can benefit from getting a good pulse on what the market really wants.

So don’t be surprised the next time I talk to you when I suggest you go and run this play – I’m betting it will help you build a better product faster.  Or, you can go buy it first and then come and talk to me – especially right now while it’s 80% off!

Oh, and if you can guess who is running the market validation tests (and which products) in the comments below, I’ll give you the play for free.

NOTE: Regarding the second thing that startups don’t work into their pitch – “Why they’re solving the problem”… your PR will easily be 20 x more effective if you can start your pitch with a specific, personal story that puts your idea into context.  Seriously, it will make it a lot easier for journalists’ to cover you if you can do this well.

By Scott Annan A Great Resource for Entrepreneurs


As a startup entrepreneur, you have to be really good at lots of things to build a world class business – creating a business plan, raising money, IP protection, viral marketing, getting customers, etc….  I know a lot of entrepreneurs, and none of them are experts in all these areas, but they need to execute like an expert to grow their business.

So what do you do?  Well, if you’re well funded, you can hire experts with these skills.  Otherwise, you have to read a lot of blogs and books, seek out experienced mentors or advisors, and ask a lot of questions until you are an expert.  Which takes a lot of time – something no entrepreneur has enough of.

Which is why we launched  The service incorporates concepts, advice, and recommendations from experienced entrepreneurs and packages them into executable, step by step actions that you need to take to nail a part of your business.  Each activity is called a “Play” – “How to pitch a VC Play”, “How to get on TechCrunch Play” – which when combined adds to your “Startup Playbook” of activities that you can execute.  Each Play has three sections:

  1. Brainstorming
    Full of content, videos, presentations that explain the concept and provide a place for you and your team to brainstorm ideas about the Play
  2. Tasks
    A checklist of all the specific activities you need to execute with detailed instructions on how to complete them – which can be assigned to team members with a due date
  3. Files / Templates
    Excel, powerpoint, and document templates that you and your team can collaborate on.

For example, say you wanted help Incorporating your business.  In that play there is brainstorming sections with information on choosing a name, selecting a location (federal or provincial, Canada or US), and deciding on structure (LLP, INC).  There are tasks for each of the brainstorming activities as well as filling out documents (which are in the files section), doing a name search, registering the company, and a bunch more very specific things that you can check off as you complete “the Play”.

Each Play tells you how long it should take to run, how many people you should need, and level of experience needed to execute.  The cost for a play is between free and $99.

What’s cool about it is that it can save entrepreneurs days or weeks of trying to figure this stuff out on their own, when so many other entrepreneurs have already done it.

The sites currently in closed beta.  Check it out at


By Scott Annan

Lead To Win for Women launches

Lead To Win is a popular boot camp for entrepreneurs starting or growing a business. They are now launching Lead To Win for Women in order to help more women entrepreneurs to succeed.


If you are a women with an idea and are serious about launching a profitable growth-oriented business in Canada’s Capital Region, or you have already founded a business and are trying to develop strategies for growth, then Lead To Win for Women (LTW) is for you.

What is Lead To Win for Women?

  • LTW is a 6 day program spread across 2 sessions
  • Each day runs from 8:00am – 4:30am
  • The program takes place at 3500 Carling Ave. (the former Nortel campus located at Moodie Drive and Carling Ave.)
  • All co-founders can attend all sessions (regardless of whether they are men or women)
  • Founders for all sectors are eligible (not just tech founders)
  • You will learn everything you need to evaluate your idea, improve it, and bring it to the market, or grow your opportunity
  • You will have access to mentors, experts, and other founders who will help you develop your opportunity

The next LTW sessions are scheduled for Oct 25-27 and Nov 22-24

Applications are now being accepted so if you or if you know any women entrepreneurs encourage them to apply.

By Natasha D'Souza

Mercury Launch: Ottawa Accelerator for Startups

I’m really excited to announce the launch of a new accelerator in Ottawa for web and mobile startups called Mercury Launch.

As I’ve often said, Ottawa has world class talent and the purpose of Mercury Launch is to rally the startup community to support entrepreneurs, build some world-class companies, and start celebrating our successes.

The program is similar to Y Combinator, TechStars, Founder Fuel, and Grow Labs with one notable exception.  You have to be in Ottawa to participate.  We’ve long been an exporter of talent in Ottawa.  It’s time we start helping ourselves and to put Ottawa on the map for the amazing companies that we build!

We will be selecting 4-5 companies to start a 3-month program beginning in September, 2011.  Each company will receive $25,000 in seed funding, a kick-ass office space (working with people like you who want to change the world), access to amazing mentors and key customers, and help launching your product on a global stage.

We’re actively seeking seasoned mentors and brilliant startups – so please check out the site, tell your friends, and be part of an exciting new chapter of the Ottawa startup scene!

We will be releasing additional information over the next couple of weeks including our all-star list of advisors, mentors, funders, and first class of startups!  You can follow the progress through our new twitter account here.

(ps. Huge cred to Robert Saric and the team for building the new website.  Thanks Rob!!!)

By Scott Annan