Archive for August 18th, 2008

How Startups will save Venture Capital in Canada

Last night I pitched the audience for the second time on How Startups Will Save Venture Capital in Canada. I first gave this talk in Moncton at Third Tuesday NB and the response was great.

The title is “Why Startups Will Save Canadian Venture Capital”, and it doesn’t let anyone off the hook. It isn’t a criticism, but instead it is an analysis and a call to action for both Angels, VCs and Entrepreneurs. Things are pretty busted up right now and it is time to start talking about what we need to do to make a difference.

My thesis is simple: Startups just aren’t getting started in Canada nearly as often as they should. This isn’t about education levels, creativity or even for a lack of cash floating around this country. This is about ambition.

This is about hustle.

Most entrepreneurs have heard that things aren’t great for VCs right now. LPs are shaky, some funds are crashing, others are just throwing their hands up, and for a lot of startups it seems like no matter how many people you pitch, you aren’t getting anywhere. I tried to put some hard number behind that, and they paint a scary picture.

This goes two ways, and nobody wants to sit around while we all whine and moan that nobody can get funded. It’s time to build companies that are worth something.

We need to focus on building our local startup communities more than ever. Local communities are important because they are far easier for local Angels and Entrepreneurs to connect to, and they also act as a great filter to help find people who need national and international exposure.

Smart funders are going to see these communities as huge opportunities. There ROI for VCs getting connected to the startup community is not only obvious, but well documented. In the US we see VCs hustling in a way that you just don’t see much of here in Canada. Every time I hear a VC rant on about how Canadian entrepreneurs aren’t aggressive enough, it drives me nuts, because they are no different.

It is great to see Third Tuesday’s taking off on the east coast, and events like DemoCampEdmonton really starting to get going (there are 90 signups for their next one!), but we also need to focus on making sure that there are Startup-focused events where people need to answer to questions about their market, operations and sales.

If we can get early stage companies off the ground, then the outlook for VC in Canada starts to look a lot different. Canadian funds will have to compete against American money, but they will start to get to see great ideas and entrepreneurs at the early stage. There are a few missing pieces to this plan, but the point is that it is time for us all to stop fretting and just get on with it.

If we can build amazing startups, the money will find its way.

This is my manifesto for saving Venture Capital. It isn’t sexy, but it just might work.