Today, Summify announced it has been acquired by Twitter. We couldn’t be more happy for Cristian and Mircea. They worked very hard for their success and have made us all proud.
Summify applied to the Bootup Labs January 2010 cohort under the name ReadFu. I remember it clearly. Boris was skypeing with the shortlisted applicants in November 2009, and after speaking with Cristian and Mircea, I could tell by the look on his face that he found a winner. Having not talked to them myself, I admit, I was a bit more skeptical. I wasn’t a fan of the idea that they were presenting, but then Boris reminded me of our own rule. “We don’t back ideas, we back PEOPLE”
After a few more conversations with Cristian and Mircea, I was sold. By January 2010, Mircea and Cristian moved to Vancouver and got started. In that time, they developed their first product, ReadFu, which was similar to Snap.com, but after not being satisfied with their initial traction, they decided to pivot. Summify was born. I’ve been a user of Summify ever since and look forward getting my emails every morning. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next.
From everyone at Bootup Labs, we wish you success at Twitter.
Our good friends at Xtreme Labs put together this infographic showing the state of the CDN mobile industry.
I’m excited to announce today that I am joining BCIC as CEO. This role allows me to pursue my passion of making BC the best place to start a tech company in the world <full stop>. We have what it takes in this province, and I’m excited to continue to push that agenda forward within such an influential organization.
What this means for Bootup Labs
When Boris Mann and I started Bootup Labs about 2 years ago, we had big dreams of helping Vancouver be a great place to start internet companies. We thought that if we focused on the entrepreneur, everything else would work out, and we were right. I am extremely proud of what we have created in that time. We did our best to make a positive difference in the fates of the entrepreneurs. We had the honor of working with 8 crazy-awesome groups of founders building 8 crazy-awesome companies. Since we brought in our first group of companies in January 2009, there has been one acquisition, one that didn’t work out so well, one is generating positive cash flow, and five others have attracted additional financing in one form or another and are continuing on their quest to change the world for the better.
I’ll always be available to the founders of those companies, but for at least the next 2 years, my primary focus will be to build BC’s technology eco-system from my new desk at BCIC. Bootup Labs continues to get inquiries and applications from local and International entrepreneurs who want to be considered for the acceleration program, but for now, Bootup Labs will not be considering any new applications. There is most definitely a need for a strong acceleration program in the Internet sector in BC and my hope is that someone will pick up where Bootup Labs left off. If you’re that person, or know someone who is, please get in touch.
Bootup Entreprenuerial Society
I have been very careful to ensure that my decision to leave Bootup Labs does not affect the good work that the Bootup Entrepreneurial Society is doing. Last week I resigned from the Board of Directors in order to remove any conflicts between BCIC and BES. I’m truly honored that Boris Wertz of W Media Ventures has agreed to step up and take the Chairman role. Maura has written about this on the BES Blog. In fact, there has been some confusion about the difference between the for-profit ‘Labs’ and the non-profit ‘BES’. Hopefully this helps to simplify things: From now on, anytime you see Bootup, it will be only be referring to the non-profit.
I would like to thank all of the people who believed in Bootup Labs and supported us over the past two years. We couldn’t have done it without you. And a special thanks to those who founded, funded and mentored 8 new companies into existence.
Finally, we endeavor to be being open and transparent. If you have any unanswered questions, please leave a comment and let me know. I’ll do my best to answer you as quickly as I am able.
NOTE: I hit post on this one a little too early. I had more to add/edit, but oh well. Let’s just say… to be continued.
What worked at Bootup
The absolute number one thing that made Bootup Labs work was picking great founders. We never picked teams based on their idea, because in virtually every case, ideas change and become something else by the time they leave anyway.
Earn respect from founders. These people earned the “entrepreneur” title for a reason: They chose not to listen to people telling them why something can’t be done, or needs to be done a certain way, and are just doing it. In fact, I would guess that if you’re a mentor or investor and and entreprenuer *is* listening to you, they’re probabaly just humoring you to get something else they want. Usually more money from an investor, or an strategic introduction by a mentor. As a mentor or investor, the best thing you can do for a founder is get out of their way. They’ll call you when they need you.
That said, our mentor program had the most effect on the success of the companies. Looking back, I feel that we could have probably done even more in this area.
Accepting teams as cohorts and having them work out of a common space created an automatic support group that reminds founders that they’re not alone. Most of the Bootup Labs founders are friends now and will probably be friends for life.
Funding the teams and taking equity in return really made it feel like we were all on the same team. It’s the difference between playing poker for money and playing poker for fun.
Highly technical teams worked the best, especially ones that had a co-founders.
What didn’t work
Popular seed accelerators in other cities have a big angel or two bankrolling the entire program. At Bootup Labs, our program depended on raising money from angels. The BC VCC program helped, but it wasn’t enough for me to convince enough angels to invest in such a radical structure for two main reasons. 1) There are very few local angels who generated their wealth by starting an Internet company. It was hard for many of them to believe that starting an Internet company required so little capital. The model just didn’t seem feasible to non-Internet veterans. 2) We took the fun out of it for them. Many angels *are* angels because it’s fun to pick a few founders they like, invest in them, and help them where they can. Asking an angel to invest in a fund kind of defeats the purpose of being an angel. The consensus was that they’re more comfortable investing in companies as they emerge from the Accelerator.
Our friends at HootSuite are coordinating an API Hackathon tomorrow.
HootSuite is opening up an API to allow add-ons to popular social media dashboard. This is a chance to create mash-ups and add extensions which users can add-in to customize their dashboard and so buying like is effective.
Saturday, Nov. 13, 11AM – 5PM
HootSuite HQ = 37 Dunlevy St., Vancouver, BC
HootSuite crew will be on-hand including Developer David Chan, CEO Ryan Holmes, CTO Simon Stanlake and Community Wrangler Dave Olson
I’m very proud to announce Summify, FoodTree, and CompassEngine have successfully completed the Bootup Labs acceleration program. They joined our program in January and since then have proven to be a world-class group of entreprenuers. It’s been a humbling year, and I’m honored to have had the chance to work with such a smart and dedicated people. The founders have put their blood sweat and tears into their companies and have all made huge progress. Their achievements have not gone unnoticed. In fact, each company has already closed a small additional round of financing from very experienced investors, and are now ready to take in their next round of investment. They’ve been working hard at tuning their investor presentations and are ready knock it out of the park.
This Friday October 22nd, we’re kicking off Bootup Labs Investors Days here in Vancouver. If you’re an investor and want to attend, please contact us for an invite code.
Next week, October 26th-29th, we are all headed to Silicon Valley to pitch some of the worlds top VC firms and Super Angels. If you’re an investor in the valley and would like to meet the teams, please contact us. On top of that, they are participating in the C100’s 48 Hours in the Valley program, and we will all finish the week off by teaming up with our friends at Metabridge to throw a reception at Kick Labs in San Francisco. If you’re in San Francisco, feel free register here if you would like to join us for a drink on us next Thursday. We would love to see you.
A special thanks to all our mentors for all the support you have given to us over the past year.
As we approach Bootup in the Valley on Oct 26-29th, we are all working hard to prepare FoodTree, CompassEngine, and Summify to pitch investors. I’ve decided to share what we currently feel is the most modern tactical advice for founders who are preparing to raise Series A Internet investment.
Write a speech first. DO NOT TOUCH POWERPOINT yet. A speech is just a story that is well thought out, prepared, and mostly memorized. Do not even think about what would be displayed on the screen behind you until you feel like you could stand up and tell your story from beginning to end and get your point across without any slides at all.
In general cover the following areas in your speech, all weaved into a cohesive story:
- First, tell a customer story. Personify one of your customers, and walk through, from their point of view, how they use your product.
- Now that you explained how one customer uses your product, explain how many of them you think there are, and how you arrived at that number. For god sake, DO NOT quote Forrester or some other research company. just say “based on our research from multiple sources…”.
- Next discuss how you will get to those other customers. Describe current user acquisition channels, including which ones worked, and which didn’t. Also mention how much competition there is for those customers, and the sources of that competition.
- After you get your customers to the site, explain your funnel ie. percent of visitors who convert to registered users, and percent that convert to paying customers. Describe your acquisition costs, churn rates, and calculated life-time-value. Describe how the billing model works. ie freemium, recurring, ads, etc. ONLY in the case of massive user growth, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “I don’t know how we will make money”.
- Now explain why you are the perfect team to make this happen, including advisors. Do not read bios, but tell the story about how their past is relevant to your venture.
- And finally, how much money are you asking for. Who else has invested. When and how much they invested. Don’t forget your email address and cell phone number.
After the speech is written create a set of slides to support the more complex parts of what you’re saying. Each slide should only have one thought on it, and not much text. Graphs, screenshots, photos that reinforce the point you’re trying to make are all good examples of what a slides should have on them. Sometimes, a demo is appropriate. If you need to have text, one line in the center of the screen will make the right impact.
If you can help it, do not operate the computer. Before you deliver the pitch, give your co-founder a version of the speech, and highlight the keywords where your co-founder should change to the next slide. When you start your pitch begin talking and don’t look back at the screen. If you’re interrupted, by the investor, that’s usually a good sign. Engage in the dialog, and if you’re lucky, you get to dump the pitch all together and just have a conversation.
I attached some slides I put together for a presentation I gave back in 2009, which might help give some perspective on the different types of pitches.
You should also make sure to have the following documents handy:
- Deck – Make sure you create a second set of slides that is for emailing around. It should be much more text heavy, so it can be read as a PDF.
- A one-pager with the following sections, (Thanks to AngelList for these):
- High level, one-liner description: The Facebook for the Dog Community
- Product description, including links to a demo
- Social Proof – What other notable investors or advisors are involved?
- Traction – Describe customer or revenue growth
- Team – Bios of each founder, and key team members
- Market/Competition – two sentences on size and why you’re better
- How much are you raising?
- How much have you raised previously? from who?
- If you referred to the specific investor, by who?
- Proforma – 18 month growth projections based on historical data.
- CapTable – a spreadsheet of who owns the shares of the company.
Hope this helps founders as they begin to raise a Series A round. Good luck!