Toronto Startup Digest

I am proud to announce that I’ve recently become a co-curator of the Toronto [Startup Digest], joining Will Lam in curating a weekly list of the highest quality tech/startup events in Toronto. [Startup Digest] has spread like wildfire from Silicon Valley to locations around the world and I’m excited to be joining the team.

As a long-standing recipient of the Silicon Valley [Startup Digest], I was always pleased with the quality of events that were mentioned in the curated list emailed once each week. The Toronto [Startup Digest] will maintain this quality and will include and highlight the top tech and entrepreneurship events in the Greater Toronto Area (and Waterloo). We won’t cover all of the events, only the best ones!

Here are 5 things that [Startup Digest] will accomplish:

1. We want to promote the entrepreneurial lifestyle and the culture of DOING, to help change the world into a better place.

2. We want to strengthen the pre-existing entrepreneurial communities no matter how small or large they currently are

3. We want to create stronger bonds between entrepreneurs through relevant events where the startup community physically meets each other.

4. We want to promote the cross-pollination of ideas and people that would not otherwise interact.

5. We want to empower the leaders in these startup communities and give them the tools and inspiration to create a huge difference.

(view source)

If you would like to subscribe to the weekly [Startup Digest], please register online.

Otherwise, if you are running an event in Toronto (GTA) or Waterloo, please leave the details in a comment below, email me or contact me on twitter. If the event is targeting rock stars, it’ll get on the list!

Geeks Love Halloween

The rumors are true. Technology geeks do have a thing for Halloween. Mashable scoured the web and found some great pumpkin carvings well representing the current state of web technology and social media. The Twitter Fail-Whale (below) is great and there’s a fantastic carving of Diggnation hosts Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose.
See more at: 12 Awesome Social Media Halloween Pumpkin Carvings.


Source: Scott B. on Flickr via Mashable!

The iPhone App Store is also cashing-in on the Halloween frenzy. The App Store is promoting its “Halloween Apps & Games” section where you can carve virtual pumpkins with “iCarve” and play Halloween-themed games.


One notable oddity, a game called Attack Of The Zombie Bikini Babes From Outer Space was launched in the App Store two days ago. Smort (rumored to be Smule’s Evil-Twin by Techcrunch) launched the game. As TechCrunch puts it, Smort looked at common themes popular within App Store games, and generated a list: Bikini Babes, Zombies, Bombs, and Bloodshed. This game is the result of that (innovative? smart? creative?) thinking. What are your thoughts? (see video below)

Personally, I think this is really smart. Now, although this game doesn’t necessarily look that compelling, I think that Smort has the right thesis: Research. Build. Launch. Iterate. Repeat. App Store trends are constantly changing. Therefore, monitoring user behavior and download trends can lead to new learnings about your target audience.

My advice: If you’re a startup/entrepreneur, go research your market (do a quick market survey if you wish), build your app and launch it! Review your analytics/metrics, iterate and launch again quickly. There are some app-hungry consumers out there.

What Tina Seelig Wished She Knew When She Was 20

Over the last week, I had the opportunity to start and finish Tina Seelig‘s new book “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20“. The book delivers a series of stories — among other things — each seemingly designed to teach a lesson or prove a point; a number of stories discuss very innovative and creative solutions people undertook to solve real-world problems and to create value. Together, these pearls of wisdom can inspire the uninspired, and give a gentle nudge to those needing a push to get going.

In her book, Tina discusses the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (“STVP“), and how it looks to create “T-shaped people” — described as having a depth of knowledge in at least one discipline and a breadth of knowledge in innovation and entrepreneurship. I think this is a fantastic approach, and that this recipe is the right combination to create truly successful entrepreneurs. It would be nice to see some Canadian schools taking that approach. She also discusses her class-turned-global innovation assignments, that have become the Global Innovation Tournament — I’m hoping to participate in a judging capacity for the Toronto contingent this year — but of course, I’d rather be in the competition itself. Maybe I’ll get a chance if I make it into the Stanford GSB next year!?

Later on in the book, Tina begins discussing risk profiles of entrepreneurs (I can relate closely with this), and I found it quite interesting to read that apparently most entrepreneurs don’t see themselves as big risk takers. Only after some reflection did I understand what she meant. To paraphrase her text, “After analyzing the landscape, building a great team, and putting together a detailed plan, [entrepreneurs] feel as though they have squeezed as much risk out of the venture as they can. In fact, they spend most of their efforts working to reduce the risks for their business.”

Wearing my VC hat, this actually makes a lot of sense. We, as VCs, constantly look at how well entrepreneurs de-risk their ventures and we calculate our willingness to invest by how well an entrepreneur has evaluated their market opportunity, filled their management team and advisory board(s) with competent and complimentary folks, and developed their technology to a stage where it can be demonstrable. Essentially, the reward that entrepreneurs can receive for successfully de-risking their venture is generally referred to as a better valuation from VCs, and consequently, higher equity ownerships for the entrepreneur(s) at the table.

I recommend this book to CEOs and decision makers that need to reignite their creativity as well as to students aspiring to do great things, but who are waiting for permission to do so from some authority figure. In this book, the author acts as an agent of empowerment to allow the reader the feeling that they should embrace their skills and capabilities, and act on their desires to create products, services and organizations that can change the world.

What have you envisioned that could change the world? I dare you to chase that opportunity.

Have you recently dropped everything to take on a new challenge? Share your story below! Was it worth it?

Building Businesses

Sitting down to write a whitepaper, I figured I’d find a good model to start with first! I was told to check out some of the whitepapers over at Khosla Ventures — and it was a gold mine of great information. I thought I’d go ahead and share it with you.

They have 2 main sections for “entrepreneurial resources:” (1) industry views, and (2) building businesses.

There are some fantastic whitepapers in these categories:
– entrepreneurship
– people & management
– product management
– sales effectiveness
– risk management

If you know of any other publically available sources of great whitepapers like these, I invite you to please leave a comment below, or Tweet it with the hashtag #UbiquitousVC

Global VC Blog Directory

Attention all entrepreneurs and start-ups!

A comprehensive list of VC-authored blogs have been compiled by Larry Cheng, a Boston-based VC. The list was ranked by number of Google Reader Subscribers as of May 2009.

If you’re getting serious about pitching for venture dollars, I suggest that you start subscribing to some of these blogs (just add them to your Viigo feeds).

It’s important for entrepreneurs to know about a number of things before pitching for dollars:
1. Understand the psychology of VCs
2. Understand the business models of VCs
3. Understand how to pitch VCs
4. Understand how NOT to pitch VCs
5. Understand WHEN to pitch VCs
6. Pitch VCs with a focus in your business sector
7. Don’t pitch VCs with your competitors already in their portfolios
8. Know your pitch cold
9. Spend a few extra minutes on the slide deck
10. Know the risks associated with your business (model) and suggest mitigating strategies
11. The list goes on…

Many of the blogs listed in the index will give you lots of tips in these areas. Happy reading!

Top Social Networks for Entrepreneurs

I subscribe to this outstanding weekly email from The Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship. This week’s email discussed a recent post on Mashable, that highlighted the top 10 social networks for entrepreneurs.

In summary, these sites will help businesses/entrepreneurs to find other entrepreneurs, potential customers, or partners.

Here is the top 10 social networks for entrepreneurs:

1. Entrepreneur Connect
2. Partner Up
3. Startup Nation
4. Linked In
5. Biznik
6. Perfect Business
7. Go BIG Network
8. Cofoundr
9. The Funded
10. Young Entrepreneur

I’m doing my best to get connected, and maintain profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter. As time permits, I am going to explore each of these sites. Feel free to extend an invite to link up.

All-nighters, Caffeine and Better Colons?

For all you busy finance geeks, and entrepreneurs working 80+ hour weeks buzzing on caffeine from your last quad-americano from Starbucks, there’s a little bit of good news for you!

A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows that brewed coffee contains soluble fiber which aids in digestion, helps the body absorb nutrients, and fight cholesterol. An article from Scientific American gives some interesting statistics and insight:

According to the National Coffee Association, 82 percent of adults in the U.S. drink an average of 3.2 cups of java every day. A traditional eight-ounce (237-milliliter) cup of coffee could contain as much as 1.5 grams of fiber and 3.2 cups nearly five grams of fiber. But, of course, a “cup” is relative these days. A “grande” (medium size) cup at Starbucks, for instance, is 473 milliliters (or 16 ounces) and could pack as much as three grams of fiber, about the same as a raw apple and 20 percent or more of the average American’s daily intake.

But that does not mean you should drink coffee in lieu of veggies and whole grains to up your fiber intake, says ADA spokesperson Katherine Tallmadge. “There are so many other sources of fiber [that are healthier]. Should you drink tons of coffee to get those benefits? No,” she says, noting that coffee also contains caffeine—around 100 milligrams per cup. It is far better, she says, to get fiber from a variety of foods that do not contain caffeine and are also packed with other healthy compounds, such as protein and vitamins. “It’s the whole diet that’s important,” Tallmadge says, adding that she would not recommend more than two cups of coffee a day.

So there you have it. You can have your coffee and digest better too.

Video Games, Web 2.0, Upcoming Tech!

There are countless articles on the web talking about Second Life and the announcement of PlayStation Home, the new game for the Sony PlayStation 3 that allows you to put a player in Sony’s virtual world and interact within a next-generation online community. As Sony describes, it is going to be a “Free Download to Allow Broad User Interaction in Highly Detailed Community Environment; Opens Door to User-Created Content, Collaboration and Commerce”.

There is a more detailed description of the comparison and evolving world of gaming here, if you are interested.

It looks like we’re seeing a migration of Web 2.0 into Gaming 2.0. It’s going to be interesting to see what other video games are going to be released in the upcoming years that incorporate user-generated content and community-oriented structures. Which game is going to be the next blockbuster? Could gaming start to include website links and content? How integrated could these video games become with the web? Is it possible that we might see commerce systems integrated into video games, such as seen in Second Life? Who wants to guess the first day we start to see Google AdWords on the side of a video game? Or, how about a user in a gaming community advertising Amazon products in association with what attributes or “knowledge” your virtual character has developed. My guess: December 14th, 2008 at 8:37 am Eastern Standard Tiem. Random? Maybe. What do you think?

I just found a really cool innovation coming to the gaming world, and perhaps online shopping too! Researchers in Germany developed a 3D animation technique that allows a high-resolution scan of a person to be super-imposed onto another person’s or character’s movements. This technology was originally developed for use in 3D video, but it may be possible to get yourself scanned somewhere and use the generated file to integrate your own 3D scan into your own virtual world video games. Too limiting? Maybe.

Okay, how about this … online clothes shopping!

The problem with shopping for clothes online is that it is too hard to imagine how clothes are going to fit. Solution: using this 3D technology, you can use your 3D scanned shape to virually “see” these clothes on YOUR frame. (and if you’re entrepreneurial and decide that you want to develop this idea, all I ask is for an honourable mention , and a few shares of the company if you’re feeling generous…)