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What to Include in an Investment Package

What to Include in an Investment Package

If you are looking for investments for your startup but not sure what pieces of information investors will need, READ THIS ARTICLE!!!! We will be going over documents needed for investment submissions and making sure your more than ready for potential investors. To begin, we will be looking on how to share this type of confidential data with investors.

Data Rooms

To share documents and confidential information about your startup what you will need is a “Data Room,”this is a very safe location that is created by the seller where important data is placed to be viewed strictly by the investor or anyone else who is significant. These data rooms can be created virtually and many firms provide them. Datarooms.com, Drooms, etc. are just some of the few that provide safe due diligence with information like this. In addition to this, you also want to make sure you can track open rates, so then your data is actually being useful to investors. If you see a file being opened more frequently then others than make sure that file is your priority and ensure it is updated frequently.

Documents

1. Historical Financial Statements 

(Here is a Template)

This information is important to investors as it provides a means of analysis and helps evaluate your startup’s financial performance. Your historical financial statements also help determine future trends as well as future expectations on your financial runaway for your startup. However, different financial statements relay different types of information. For example, a Balance Sheet will state your assets and liabilities and represent what the company is actually worth. Income Statements will state your income and how much things are costing you; this is very important for investors as they would like to see growth. There are many different financial statements you can have, but it is good to have a wide range of them in order to be more transparent with investors. Below are examples of a Balance Sheet and Income Statement from Walmart.

Balance Sheet (See Template)
Income Statement(See Template)

2. Business Forecast 

(Here is a Template)

What this is, in essence, is a prediction of future developments in your current startup through many aspects. Whether this may be in a sales aspect, technology advancement, or anticipated expenses, this all helps with budgeting and giving an investor a better understanding on what to expect in the upcoming years. It also helps them gauge the potential future growth according to anticipated business environment changes. There are a few places you can check out to see how exactly to create your own business forecast, Chron, JumpStart, and Entrepreneur.com. Below are also snippets of brief business forecast’s to give you a general idea of what investors expect.

Business Forecast

3. Customer List 

(Here is a Template)

A great way to begin talking about this is by describing what exactly is a “Customer List.” This is a intangible asset which means it is a non physical, non financial asset. Investors would like to this because they may find the demographics of the customers very helpful in making their decision. For example if your product was designed and made for teens but majority of your customers are middle aged people, then there is a mismatch and something is off. They want to see a realistic market potential sized and addressable market. It is mostly for transparency within your startup and making sure that your product or service is indeed reaching it targeted market. Although you may be reaching your sales or profit goal, analysing the customer list may tell investors that you are hitting a different and maybe a smaller market; in fact, it may decrease long term growth and potential. In addition to this, keeping the privacy of your customer lists is also very important and should only be provided to serious investors, do not post or upload customer lists online as it is a breach of your customers privacy. Below is a mock example of a very brief customer list example for general needs.

Example of Customer List

4.Customer Contracts 

(Here is a Template)

A “Customer Contract” is a legal agreement between you and the consumer by whom the service or goods will be received. In addition to this, the customer must be paying for the goods or services. Signing a partnership with another company is not a customer agreement if there is no monetary exchange for a good or service. An example, to represent this would be if Facebook partnered with Uber and created a new database of information. This is a partnership, not a customer engagement because there was no monetary exchange whatsoever. On the other hand, if Facebook paid Uber for all their data, then this would be a customer contract. As you can see, it is important for investors to know about these customer contracts as it may have potential growth for your startup in the future. Only include customer contracts that consist of big amounts of money relative to your startup and ones you may feel are appropriate.

Example of a Customer Contract

In addition to this, letters of intent are also great ways to show customer agreement with the service or product you are offering. Check out this article to learn more about it in more detail.


5.Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)/ Churn (SaaS) 

(Here is a Template)

MRR = Revenue/ month

Churn Rate= # of clients lost in period/ # of total customers at the beginning of period

Let’s begin off by diving into MRR ( Monthly Recurring Revenue). MRR is essentially a measure of your revenue stream on a monthly basis. This is applicable to companies who operate on a subscription basis and get recurring revenues and also companies who also make regular single transactions that may not necessarily reoccur. Examples of a recurring revenue type of model is Bell, Netflix, Spotify, etc. A startup with monthly recurring revenue is also more attractive to investors as there most likely is stronger retention rate. For companies who have regular one time transactions the MRR can be calculated using the average amount for each month.

Moving on, the “Churn Rate” refers to the percentage of clients who stopped and discontinued commitment to the service they signed up for. An easy way to remember this is through an equation.

(Churn Rate= # of clients lost in period/ # of total customers at the beginning of period)

Sample Charts

MRR Chart
Churn Rate Chart

6. Employee Contracts 

(Here is a Template)

This is a signed agreement between an employer and employee; it is vital in protecting employee rights and also employer liabilities. Aspects such as salary, general responsibilities, duration of employment are all addressed in this document. Investors maybe be interested in this info as they want to know what type of team your startup consists of and if it is well balanced. For example if you had a high paying programmer compared to other programmers in the startup, investors would like to if it makes sense especially if the startup isn’t as widely scaled yet. Every dollars matters and it matters even more when it’s the investor’s dollar. In addition to this, a “Non-Disclosure Agreement” would also be in the employee contracts and this is very important to include. This prevents any vital information regarding the startup to leak out to the public or competitors who may utilize for their own profit.

Below is a very brief employee contract meant just for example purposes.

Employee Contract

7.Details on Competition

(Here is a SWOT Template)

Competition is present in every industry in the world and there is a good chance you have a good set of competitors in the field your startup lies in. It is important to address these competitors for both yourself and investors as you want to be as unique as possible to order to differentiate. You can analyze your competitors in a number of ways but a common way is to complete a SWOT analysis on potential competitors. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What this analysis does is that is looks at competitors through internal and external aspects and makes sure you are being able to differentiate them. Accept your weaknesses as a startup and continue building upon your strengths. Identifying and sharing threats early on ensure transparency and makes investors more aware of the whole market situation. Below is an example of a SWOT analyse on a pie company.

SWOT

8.Cap Table 

(Here is a Template)

This is one of the most important documents an investor is interested in and one document you should not miss in your submission. The “Capitalization Table” shows ownership segments within the company, including shares, options, and equity. Everyone who has a stake in your startup MUST be in this document so then valuation of an investment is valid and accurate. This is a table which also has to be updated regularly. In essence, every line you add to the table should add value to the company because it shows investors, employees, and partners that there is indeed a successful vision which they also believe by. Furthermore, there isn’t necessarily a proper way to format this table, just make it simple, organized, and easy for investors to understand.

Example of a Cap Table

9.Option Pool Information

An option pool helps to acquire top talent for your startup and entice people to stay with your company. This is done by offering them stake in your company. Where does this stake come from you may ask? There is actually a dedicated percentage of your startup dedicated to your employees, obviously if you opt in to do it. A scenario to represent this could be as such, you start up your own company in the field of creating innovative energy sources. You want top talent, so you hire a few grad students and someone who also has worked at other places to guide your startup the right way. In the beginning of their time at your company you can offer each of them a certain percentage of the company stake, this can be in the form of stocks assuming you are a public company. Let’s assume each year they get 200 individual stocks for each person which they can buy at the price at which they first joined the company at ($5 dollars). If they leave, they do not get to redeem any of the stocks they have. Over time, they tend to work harder and harder to make the company more successful essentially increasing the stock price. After 4 years each of them has quantity of 800 stock parts and the stock price is now $50 dollars. If they sold the stock at this point in time they would have made an instant profit of $36,000. {(800*50)- (800*5)}= 36,000. This is what drives employees and creates an urge to join your startup compared to others. Investors want this information because they want to know that dedicated percentage that you allocated to your employees and seeing if it makes a difference.

Cap Table with the Option Pool Option

The final step investors are going to do is call many large vendor customers and ensure there is indeed a legitimate business taking place. The investor wants to make sure his money is going towards the right investment and think of this call as a reference check. They want to know how the customer feels about you first hand and how their experience has been with you. Depending on the industry, investors will also ask customers if the product or service has made their job easier and if it is something sustainable.

You must understand that for a investor their money is very important and will want to know everything and anything their money is going towards. It’s best to be transparent with investors and provide adequate financial details with strong analyse on your competition. Investors have been through this many times and being prepared with all this information puts you ahead of the curve.

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How to Build Traction Starting from an MVP

How to Build Traction Starting from an MVP

A vision without traction is merely a hallucination. Cultivating and creating a successful startup is more than just offering a product or service, it’s a consistent effort of building, measuring, and learning. However, one of the most important factors to venture capitalists (VCs) is traction and measuring the potential success of your product. In regard to measuring traction for your startup, below is a list of what potential investors will value when looking for investments.

Minimal Viable Product

Let’s begin off with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This is not a beta or prototype you are launching it’s rather a product or service you make to see if there is a market for it. You are trying to learn what your users want and don’t want and minimize the amount of time you spend on creating features or aspects of the product which is not valuable. Believe it or not, many big companies we know today originated from an MVP.

Dropbox

A good example to represent this is cloud database company called “DropBox.” Their MVP product was essentially a video which showed what they wanted to do and a signup form for people who were interested in the idea and wanted to be early adopters. Almost overnight, there were over 75,000 signups all with only a 3-minute video of Dropbox and not even an actual product of the software. If you are very early in your startup, make sure there is indeed a market for your product or service using an MVP. This is a valuable aspect to present to investors if you haven’t created real customer data points yet.

Below is a list of more MVP’s which you may find very interesting and see how the actual product which has derived from this has changed.

1. Airbnb

Airbnb

Co-founders of Airbnb needed help paying their rent in San Francisco. They also noticed lots of business conferences around; hotels were very expensive in their area. They wondered if strangers would pay to live in someone else’s house for a night. They provided all the facilities and tested out their product assumption using the interface you see above. Creating a website like this especially in the type of technology we have right now would cost you couple hundred dollars max.. If you have no idea about coding then check out ShareTribe, it is great place to create a peer to peer marketplace website and they take of everything for you. You get to focus on building your customer base and they take care of everything that’s technical. Base plans start at $100 a month and this is definitely a great way to see your your product has a market fit without spending tens of thousands of dollars into something that hasn’t been validated yet. In addition to this, hiring university students in computer science is also a great cheap alternative as well.

(MVP is estimated to be $100/ month and 2–3 weeks of coding)

2.Groupon

the point

They first started off creating “the point” which was a platform for bringing people together for fundraising or boycotting a retailer. This platform failed and from this they created Groupon. They used a customized wordpress blog and didn’t invest any time in developing a coupon system or designing a new website. They just took whatever resources they had and made a MVP out of it. It definitely was not scalable but it did answer Groupon’s questions for them. To recreate this type of MVP a simple subscription to “WordPress” will work as well. Relaying information on your own customizable wordpress website is great and more importantly relatively cheap compared to investing in a dedicated server and a team maintaining the site.

3.Buffer

Buffer

What Buffer did for their MVP was create a landing page where they showed what it would do for potential users; if you were interested, you could sign up as a paying customer. If you still weren’t sure as to why you wouldn’t join, it you could still sign up for their email alerts and executives would reach out to to find out why you weren’t convinced to use the platform. Hundreds of people responded and the demand for Buffer was evident. This strategy helped give valuable feedback and find out what users really wanted out of the service. In today’s day and age creating a landing page to show potential users is very simple. The only real aspect of what is being invested is essentially your time to review and analyse what users are saying about your potential product or service.

You can use WordPress for $10–33 dollars a month and creating the static landing page will take a few days.

4.Zappos

Zappos

The founder began off by posting photos from the local shoe store and uploaded them to this website. He then checked if anyone was interested and if there was he would go to the store and buy the shoe and then sell it to the customer. Doing this overtime he found out there was indeed a need for this type of service and answered his question if his product would be accepted into the market. Only after that, he invested into infrastructure and inventory. Reselling is becoming very common in the 21st century and online commerce is almost everywhere around the world. To recreate this type of MVP it is very cheap, quick and easy. For example you can get a subscription on “Wix” for $5–10 dollars a month and use a premade template to upload photos onto your site. This process can take as little as a day. There are multiple website builders such as Wix, Shopify and SquareSpace and all with free and paid options as suited to your individual needs.

You can get this website running in 1 day and $5-$10/month on Wix

5.Twitter

Twttr

It was first used as an internal messaging system for Odeo employees and it picked up so much that the monthly bill for the messaging system went into the hundreds of dollars. They noticed the demand and prepared to take Twitter large scale and release Twitter publicly. Creating an MVP like this is more expensive than the other options available. Creating a whole messaging system for internal use requires some capital equipment which many startups may not be able to afford. However if you do have a reasonable number of assets and capital equipment then you should consider creating something for a specific group of people then expanding once you see the validation. Another way to overcome this issue is getting a developer on your team who can use today’s available tools to create a messaging system more efficiently and cheaply.

6.Zynga

Zynga

Zynga uses landing pages and adword MVP tests to direct available resources into developing projects. What this means is that they launch ads for games in existing games and if the user clicks on it and seems interested in the new game, then they would continue developing the new game and put more attention towards it. Farmville, Yoville, etc. are all games that were developed this way and based of users interests. This type of MVP is essentially placing ads whiles users are playing games or browsing through Zynga. Sending ads to your own users are virtually free but placing ads through the Google Search Engine costs about $0.58 per CPC.

Creating and launching your own ads take a few days.

7.Foursquare

Foursquare

Foursquare began with a single featured MVP which is essentially a version of the product where design and features were minimal. They started off with user check in and offering gamification rewards. Once they realized users like this they added more features and then tested those out. It was a very repetitive process but in the end it creates a product completely sculpted by users. Although it is still very pricey to outsource work in the creation of making an app as an MVP (50,000–1,000,0000) it is strongly advisable to have a experienced coder who has coded apps before. This saves on a lot of money and you make it completely customizable towards your needs. The whole app making process however takes a number of months. If you are still insistent on hiring a company to create your apps there are few who are great at that (247 Labs, Openxcell, etc.)

This MVP takes 3–4 months to build.

8.Pebble

Pebble

Pebble actually was actually able to get money from investors; however, over time, the money ran out and they needed funding to showcase their research in E Ink displays in watches. They really wanted to find out if people would be interested in a smartwatch that had an exceptional battery and could connect to your phone. They started a kickstarter which had a video explainer describing the product and reached their goal of $100,000 in 2 hours. At the end of the fundraising they had raised 10.2 million for the project and then finally they went to manufacture the product after the evident market demand. Kickstarter is a great way to really see if your product has a market fit without starting to mass produce the product. It’s free to launch on Kickstarter but there is one catch. You need to get all the funding you submitted for, if not you lose the funding you raised. In addition to this there will be a certain percentage kickstarter will take away from each successful fundraising effort. Furthermore, you need to have pictures and a live demonstration of your product in order for you to be valid for kickstarter. This whole process will take a number of days and it will be for. More specifically the Kickstarter team spends 30 hours reviewing your submission and will reply back in 2–3 business days.

If accepted, this costs $0 and 1–10 days to make the graphics/ video. (This does not include promotional campaigns.)

9.Spotify

Spotify

Spotify has a 4 step cycle when it comes to creating and testing out its MVP. “Think it, Build It, Ship it, Tweak it.” Spotify is made up of many small teams and they have many ideas, the way they get this idea validated is by first creating the MVP based off their idea. Then they release it to users very slowly and take in a mass amount of reviews from their MVP. After, they tweak the MVP based off the reviews and users’ thoughts. They used this very process to scale from bottom up. While Spotify’s MVP product was very expensive because of its strong software background, Spotify was still able to minimize costs by creating a complete roadmap of early and cheap prototypes. They only completely launched when baseline of quantity was met.

The next sign of traction I would like to focus upon is customer acquisition. How are you going to reach out to customers? What’s the cheapest way to reach them? How much customer growth have you had? Different traction channels works for a variety of startups and can cause a chain of explosive growth for your venture. A few examples of channels for traction is through targeting blogs and search engine marketing.

A) Targeting blogs is one of the most effective ways to reach out to your first wave of customers and create your presence.

  1. The first step is to find a blog which is in the similar field as your product or service and ensure there are an appropriate number of followers on that blog suited to your needs.
  2. Secondly, reach out and offer your product or service to its readership to develop and build traction. Popular startups such as Code Academy , Mint and Reddit all got their start by targeting blogs. Mint actually gained initial traction by reaching out to mid sized blogs and ensured the bloggers were a good fit for their service. The famous bloggers used to exemplify the service and showcase it while Mint gave them VIP service in return through the service. This essentially grew the customer database.
Search Engine Marketing

B) Another channel to gain traction is through “Search Engine Marketing.” This term refers to placing ads on search engines such as Google and Bing and because SEO is so broad it will be applicable to any startup. This whole SEM process works by finding high-potential keywords which leads to your website or business online. The page that a potential customer lands on is called a landing page, and this is one the most important pages on your website. Key SEM metrics to reflect upon are CTR and the CPC. CTR (Click-Through Rate) is the percentage of people who clicked on your ads compared to the amount of people who actually saw your ads. The CPC (Cost per Click) on the other hand is the amount it costs to buy a click on an advertisement. What this means is how much are you willing to pay to get a potential customer on your website.

www.ancestry.com

A good example of a company that used this method to generate traction is Inflection, this is the company behind Archives.com which was soon to be acquired by Ancestry. They spent over $100,000 a month and dedicated several employees to customer acquisition through this method. Obviously very early startups don’t have this type of resources, but Monahan’s input on SEO is that “even if you decide to send less than 5,000, do it, because you get to have an early base of customers and users and it will create a whole bunch of things that are important in terms of regular metrics.”

The harsh reality is that majority of startups fail, and investors know that, that’s why traction is very important to them and making sure there is a market for that product or service. A MVP (Minimum Viable Product is a great way to see whether or not a business opportunity exists and ensures your long run potential. There are many ways to gain traction and I have showed many examples of it from successful startups who have all taken very different routes. Ensure there is a product market fit and traction will follow. The more traction you have, the greater the chance to catch an eye of an investor and finding external investment. “Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have are enough customers”- Gabriel Weinberg (CEO/Founder of DuckDuckGo)

To learn more about examples of traction feel free to head on over to the article written by us on how letters of intent can increase your startup’s funding success.

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VenturX is a Startup Awards Finalist 2018!

VenturX is a Startup Awards Finalist 2018!

 

Honored that VenturX is a finalist for Startup Awards by Startup Canada

It was a beautiful night that took place at Le Gare and Ubisoft in Montreal with multiple categories recognizing the hard work and accomplishment of diverse entrepreneurs. It was truly an honour to be recognized by an incredible organization such as Startup Canada among our extraordinary peers and award recipients.

About Startup Awards

Each year, hundreds of nominations pour in from across Canada, and thousands join us as we celebrate the regional winners at local, grassroots ceremonies in startup spaces and education hubs.

Nominations for the 2018 Startup Canada Awards will open in February 2018.

The winners of the Startup Canada Awards are selected by an esteemed adjudication committee which consists of a diverse group of leading entrepreneurs, ecosystem builders, and previous Startup Canada Award recipients. Regional and National Adjudications committees to be announced.

This year, we are delighted to announce 6 regions for the 2018 Startup Canada Awards: British Columbia, Ontario, the Prairies, Quebec, the Atlantic, and the North! The Startup Canada Awards culminates in October 2018 with a red carpet Grand Finale in Ottawa celebrating the national winners. Click here to register for a regional event near you or the Grand Finale today.

Objectives of the Startup Canada Awards:

Celebrate those working to advance entrepreneurship in Canada;

  • Increase awareness of the importance of strengthening Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and culture
  • Incentivize efforts and elevate the ambitions of the Canadian entrepreneurial community
  • Nominations for the 2018 Startup Canada Awards will open in February 2018.

The winners of the Startup Canada Awards are selected by an esteemed adjudication committee which consists of a diverse group of leading entrepreneurs, ecosystem builders, and previous Startup Canada Award recipients. Regional and National Adjudications committees to be announced

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Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

As more and more startups sprout from each major city in the world, the number of free and customized services to support startups also grow globally. One of the first expenses that startups will be spending on are servers. No matter what industry your startup company is in, you will need a website. So let’s review which is better: a free server or a paid customized help. As a small gift, our development team has written out FAQs about the Set Up that are not included in Amazon’s free trial. See end of the article.

I Want Freebies! (Obviously)

I love freebies

I love freebies

Freebies

This would be the obvious answer that free is the first resource that unprofitable startups would turn to because of their limit budget. When startups on a budget, words like “free” can mean a lot. You don’t know if you would like to commit to a monthly payment. This is especially true for first-time startups. There are services like Ormuco,Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) that offer free startup hosting for a year. We will focus on the one we just switched to which is Amazon Web Hosting from Ormuco. We won’t go into why there was trouble with using Ormuco. It is not the place for that.

Pros

  1. This is FREE for one year for you to try unless you have multiple sites like we do. Then it could be less than 1 year.
  2. Choosing things that are well known will have a lot of documentation that is available online including this one to help you set up.

Cons

  1. They do not have anyone to help you with any support when you are on the free version (so make sure there is someone on the internal team you can trust with handling all of this)! You might not want to outsource this part. This is also attributed to if you have questions about the setup.

Should I Go for Customized Services?

This is a great option if your budget can lean this way. You can get things done faster with less headache.

How can I get set up info for Free?

As part of our company mission, we want to help as many startups save time, be more efficient and achieve their goals. If you do end up choosing the free version, here are a few questions that our internal team has answered for you!

Frequently Asked Questions (AWS Set Up for Beginners)

FAQs
  • How to move to continuous integration with code deploy?
    A: If you are using Bitbucket, this guide will help you. It basically boils down to building a series of scripts that throw your source around from bitbucket to an S3 instance to your EC2 server. If you make sure everything is running (especially the code-deploy agent). That way, it will work beautifully and save you time.
  • Getting charged on free tier/What does the free tier actually encompass?
    A: This is a big one because their support pages dance around it very much. In general, Amazon tells you what will be charged as an extra and what you’ll get for free. For example, Amazon’s free tier includes an EC2 – their cloud instances – running for  750 free hours per month for one year. Since you are billed per hour this sounds pretty straightforward… until you realize you’ll be charged for setting up any additional concurrent instances. You should set up your development environment elsewhere unless you want to pay for your free trial. In general, the free trial availability varies from service to service, so you should check, but they all should cater well enough to early-stage startups.
  • Do I need an Elastic IP?
    A: Yes! Your instance comes with an IP; but every time you stop and re-start it AWS assigns it a new IP. You have to set up an elastic IP under their services and associate it with your instance. That one will persist restarts, so you should definitely assign it to your server.  You get one per instance for free
  • Which set up do I start with?
    A: We went with the free tier t2.micro EC2 and some negligible SSD storage space running Ubuntu. Simply, you pick a tier and a region. Then you name it and configure it.
  • Which region should I use?
    A: This is also a tricky one. On the one hand, at least in theory, you mitigate latency by having an instance closer to where your user base is. On the other hand, certain regions are cheaper. We don’t know exactly what the science of choosing that is. Nevertheless, us-east-2 seems to be the cheapest.
  • What if I want more?
    A: The 1 year free tier is the smallest generic one that anyone could get with just an email.

But for startup, AWS offers much more interesting free tiers though, from 1000$ to 15,000$ over 2 years, depending on your context (backed by an incubator or not, …)
Startup should try to not use just the free tier, but ask for the AWS Activate program: https://aws.amazon.com/activate/

1) https://aws.amazon.com/free/  –  The free-tier central page, which gives information on a plan by plan/product by product basis, notably “what’s covered exactly by the time-bound free tiers, what’s covered by the lifetime (renewed monthly) free tiers, like DynamoDB or Lambda” etc.

2) https://calculator.s3.amazonaws.com/index.html – The official cost calculator  where you can include/exclude the 1- year free tier

For more great information about AWS, here is a Medium article from another user: Bootstrap to Billions on AWS. Enjoy!

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The Art of the Ask

The Art of the Ask

Have you ever someone say, “Well, you should have asked.” The lesson learned that those who don’t ask, don’t get. This article will tell you about top reservations why people don’t ask for things, what business opportunities can be missed, and how to structure the Art of the Ask!

The art of asking questions

The art of asking questions

The Art of the Ask could be anything such as inquiring questions to which you don’t know the answers, sharing where your company is really at and what you are looking for, asking for help, etc..The ask isn’t always a favour but it can make people feel that way.

For startups that means there are many missed opportunities over their journey because they didn’t ask; they know they could have asked; ultimately, they didn’t get the opportunity. Sometimes, these missed opportunities mean they missed meeting an investor, meeting a potential customer or learning about a new resource that would make their business more productive.

When you are running a lean startup, your main advantage is speed. Startups are all about catching opportunities at an accelerated speed! As they grow, new opportunities arise every day and it is either a gain or lost.

So then why are people so afraid of asking for things? Here are some top reasons why people don’t ask and how to master those reservations.

1. Fear of bothering or annoying others

As people, we want to be liked. So it is natural to not want to bother others. This is also a fear that the other person will say no. A simple and collaborative way to ask for help with something is to prepare to offer something in return. When we offer our expertise, services, etc., we get the opportunity to meet the needs of others. In turn, it helps limit the fear of bothering or annoying others.

For example, when our company was going through UX testing, I wanted to find a way to repay a user for going out of his way to meet us and give feedback. I found out that he was hosting an event so I knew how I could help. I lead a group of entrepreneurs within the Internations.org organization and I could help him promote his event in our community. So my promotion efforts filled up his remaining seats at his event.

2. Fear of showing your vulnerability

Sometimes an ask is indirect such as a description of how the business is going and what you need. When you express your need, you may be surprised how often others try to help. Because our clientele are startups, whenever I ask someone how business is going, the first automatic answer is “things are going really well.” This is because we are so used to saying it and so used to feeling the need to protect our “baby” (which in this case is the business). People tend to not let others in because they are afraid of any potential criticism. An easy way to perform the “tell others what your need is” would be to structure your sentence this way, “Things are going well. We just hired a new developer and we are just starting to look for funding.” It gives a realistic sense of how things are going and gives a peek about what you might need. When performing this one, just remember to keep an open mind. Don’t expect that others will suddenly know an investor to refer you to. However, when you keep an open mind, you may find opportunity in the unlikeliest of places.

Don’t be afraid to share things that you need. It takes a lot of strength to own your vulnerabilities. You would be surprised about the opportunities it open up when you share your truth. Like a child, it takes a village to build a company and startups need to grow as fast as they can. Unforeseen opportunities from unexpected sources can help you alleviate some of those “growing pains.”

3. “Oblivion is Bliss”

Oblivion

Oblivion

When we don’t ask for help or insights from others, we will be sure to stay on the same path. At the time same, we will also be sure to protect our egos. When people start companies, the market does not care about your ego; therefore, living in blissful oblivion will not help your startup in the long run. Startups need to ask, learn, and reiterate. It all starts with the ask.

When we were doing our market research when we first started, I met an entrepreneur who told me that his biggest fear was to be copied by competitors. He didn’t show me his product. It was ok. He told me that he was so afraid of being copied that he spent 3 years building it and never talked to a single potential customer. He did not want feedback and did not welcome it. It was very surprising to me that even though there were best practices on how to do product market fit and why market research was important, there are many startups who choose to build businesses their way.

Ultimately, there are always going to be new reservations about why first time entrepreneurs will not ask for things such as help, insights, and perspectives. When you do, you get the chance to uncover the possibility of the good, the bad, and the ugly from others. But here is the key thing, at least you get to uncover A POSSIBILITY that wasn’t there before! I want to leave you with a quote from my grandfather who said, “Those who ask the most questions, get the most answers.”

Asking Questions

Asking Questions

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Do Networking Events Contribute to Your Business Goals?

Do Networking Events Contribute to Your Business Goals?

Networking

Networking

People always say that a plan without a goal is just a dream. Networking events should be part of your overall plan to ensure you get the most out of your valuable time. If there is no connection between your strategy and your actions, there is a problem.

During my first year of business, I personally wasted a lot of time going to startup networking events because I thought I had to. It could easily become a norm or hype to go without reflecting on how it was affecting your overall business strategy. Some people go just to be seen; some stay for 20 mins to take a picture for social media. That could be their overall goal but at least it means they are aware of their goals and understand how networking events fit into those.

Success

Success

Why are goals important?

Goals should be tied to the different tactics of your business. Each thing that requires any piece of your precious 24 hours in a given day should have a goal. Without goals, we have no purpose and no way of measuring the success of our actions.

Networking Event

Networking Event

There are different types of networking event goals:

1. Meeting prospective clients (to generate new leads)

2. Giving a presentation at that event (as a guest speaker or panelist) to boost brand awareness

3. Blowing off steam (that is personal goal but it may have no affect on your business)

4. Boost LinkedIn numbers

5. Find UX testers

6. Meet investors

7. Nurture relationship with particular person you know is attending that event (as part of lead nurturing tactic)

8. Find startups who need help with getting funding of $25,000-$1,000,000+ (which is our goal)

For each networking event, have a goal. As long as we know why we are going and what we are hoping to expect from the opportunity, our business strategy will look more and more clear every day.

Stayed tuned for our upcoming startup event on February 15th at 6PM EST by checking out our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram LIVE!

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3 Erreurs commises par les Startups: Sur quoi se concentrent les jeunes startups à part leurs Métriques?

Les startups en phase de démarrage ont énormément de choses à faire. Au fil de leur progression, leurs jours semblent de plus en plus courts. J’ai trouvé que beaucoup d’entre elles consacraient beaucoup de temps dans des choses à moyen et long terme plutôt que de se concentrer sur le présent. Lorsque je leur demande quelles sont les métriques sur lesquelles elles se concentrent, ce qui est important pour elles, etc… la variété de réponses obtenues est surprenante.

Cet article passe en revue les 3 erreurs les plus commises par les startups et explique comment un recentrage sur ses métriques remet les choses en perspective. Gardez à l’esprit que nous nous concentrons sur les startups en phase de démarrage et qui viennent seulement de créer leur entreprise.

1) Pas assez d’ACTION!

Les gens vous recommanderont toujours de lire ce dernier livre sur les startups ou bien les dernières tactiques de marketing pour atteindre des sommets.

Ce n’est pas pour vous décourager d’apprendre mais l’expérience de vos actions déterminera davantage ce que vous aurez appris que vos lectures. La stratégie marketing de quelqu’un d’autre, les canaux de distribution et la négociation commerciale ne sont peut-être pas adaptés à vous. Puisque chaque entreprise est si unique, vous ne saurez jamais quelles sont les meilleures pratiques à moins que vous sortiez et expérimentiez votre activité.

« L’ambition repose sur vos actions » — Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur, Animateur du AskGaryVee Show

POINT D’ACTION: Réservez-vous un ou deux jours dédiés à la lecture, la recherche, etc. Et consacrez les autres jours à la mise en pratique. (Je peux vous dire, par expérience, que si vous lisez un livre sur les startups, vous n’avez pas besoin de le terminer pour vous entraîner).

J’aime personnellement m’informer sur le marketing des réseaux sociaux car c’est un complément à ma formation de marketing en ligne. Je consacre généralement mon Samedi à apprendre de nouvelles choses. Pour atteindre mon public cible composé de startups, j’essaye tous les réseaux sociaux afin de voir où ma clientèle cible est la plus active et engagée. Je réalise des vidéos éducatives, des retransmissions en direct et des blogs sur Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter et Medium. Je cherche quotidiennement les canaux de communication qui fonctionnent les mieux afin de décider quels seront mes futurs investissements en marketing.

2) Se projeter trop loin dans le temps

Les fondateurs sont tiraillés dans tous les sens à cause des nombreuses sources d’influence qui les entourent, que ça soit l’effervescence des évènements de startups, des retours d’amis ou de la famille, des recommandations de partenariats potentiels ou encore des « tu sais à qui tu devrais parler? ». Je suis sur que vous avez des exemples en tête!

Il est peu judicieux de concentrer son énergie sur des partenariats à moyen et long terme, plutôt que de se concentrer sur le prochain essai ou projet pilote.

Exemple: N’attendez pas pour embaucher la personne parfaite qui vous aidera à mettre en place votre projet pilote ou votre test bêta plutôt que de le faire vous-même.

Je l’admets, je suis parfois tombé dans le piège mais une chose m’a encouragée à me concentrer sur les partenariats à établir maintenant, les recommandations à suivre ou bien où allouer mes précieuses 24 heures, l’analyse de mes métriques en temps-réel! (Voir diagramme ci-dessous).

POINT D’ACTION: Marquez vos futures tâches sur une durée de 1 à 3 mois. Si vous pouvez rapidement identifier les missions ou les partenariats possibles à exécuter en un mois, alors inscrivez-les dans votre calendrier sur un délai d’un mois à compter d’aujourd’hui. Vous n’avez pas besoin de tout faire d’un coup et être dépassé par la quantité de choses à faire. Quand tout cela commence à s’empiler, un tas d’opportunités peut facilement devenir un tas de distractions. Une chose pratique à faire est de trouver un rythme. S’il y a une nouvelle ressource ou un nouveau canal à explorer, mettez-le de côté jusqu’à ce que vous ayez complété ce qui est important pour le moment comme faire de votre premier projet pilote un succès!

3) Éviter ses Clients

« La vente est le remède de tous les maux » — Mark Cuban, Shark Tank de ABC, Investisseur, Entrepreneur

Comment les startups peuvent avoir ce remède si leurs clients ne sont pas le centre de leur attention?

Éviter ses clients peut être expliqué de deux façons:

a) Découverte Client: Certains entrepreneurs en phase de démarrage connaissent des cycles de procrastination avant de faire quelconque étude de marché ou enquête sur leur Product Market Fit.

POINT D’ACTION: Pour apprendre à enquêter sur votre Product Market Fit en 24 heures, référez-vous à cet article: https://medium.com/@VenturX_team/comment-trouver-son-product-market-fit-en-24-heures-c00d07c77820

(Il va vous guider à travers les différentes étapes avec des exemples concrets). Si vous voulez un modèle de questionnaire, envoyez-moi un courriel, et je vous en enverrai un!

b) Ignorer les retours de nouveaux clients et réitérer

En tant qu’être humain, nous faisons ce que nous voulons faire et non pas ce que nous devrions faire. Si c’est plus simple pour certains de travailler sur la création d’un beau site internet plutôt que de récolter des retours clients, vous pouvez être sur qu’ils concentreront leurs efforts dans l’option #1.

POINT D’ACTION: Planifiez des rendez-vous avec vos clients pour avoir leurs retours de façon régulière. Essayez de les programmer en avance. Même si vous avez de nouvelles distractions telles que des évènements de startups, embaucher des nouveaux membres dans votre équipe, etc. ces rencontres régulières vont vous assurer de rester au contact de vos clients et montrer que vous ne les évitez pas.

Afin d’avoir des retours pour le lancement du produit VenturX, je programme des appels Skype toutes les 3 semaines avec des amis en startup pour leur montrer la refonte du site et avoir leurs retours. Je contacte aussi une startup, tous les après-midis entre 14H et 16H, pour lui parler de ses Métriques VenturX. Il m’a dit qu’il préférait les notifications SMS. Pour lui montrer ma gratitude, je lui envoie ces rapports individuels journaliers depuis mon téléphone.

Sur quelles Métriques devrais-je me concentrer?

C’est une très bonne question. Une question bien détaillée dans ce livre:

« Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster » — Alistair Croll et Benjamin Yoskovitz

Ils expliquent que les startups devraient se concentrer sur une métrique à la fois, et que cela dépend du type d’industrie et de leur phase de développement. Voici un diagramme détaillé provenant du livre:

Avez-vous découvert dans quelle phase vous vous positionnez?

Génial!

Pouvez-vous déterminer quelle métrique est la plus importante?

Excellent travail!

Maintenant vous pouvez inverser la formule pour vous débarrasser de ces 3 erreurs commises par les startups en phase de démarrage!

Gardez en tête que même si ces informations proviennent principalement de nos observations de startups en phase de démarrage et de jeunes entrepreneurs, de nouvelles informations sont amenées à venir!

Il pourrait y avoir plus qu’une métrique que vous allez pointer du doigt comme un faible Product Market Fit ou des finances trop basses.

En tant que chercheuse dans le monde des startups, je souhaitais vous partager mes observations sur cette industrie fascinante. J’espère qu’avec ce simple guide, les débuts de votre entreprise seront sans heurt! Si vous avez des questions concernant vos métriques, envoyez-moi un courriel à l’adresse sydney.wong@venturx.ca et nous jetterons un coup d’œil ensemble!

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How do Startups Keep Customers Loyal?

Startups can find it hard to build their product and keep customers loyal at the same time! While studying the startup industry across the country, we have noticed that one thing is always true… customer loyalty remains a key part of any startup’s success. There are many techniques for building customer loyalty, but we are going for focus on the three most effective ones that every startup should use.

Customer Loyalty

There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer.” — Shep Hyken

Tip #1: Hold feedback sessions with customers (on a regular basis)

How:

  1. Keep track of who you talked to during customer discovery and market research, especially those who are interested in your solution.
  2. Contact them individually for feedback sessions (that way, you know you have their undivided attention during those moments).
  3. Schedule a meeting online, in person, on the phone, etc..
  4. You can even offer to buy them a coffee or beer for their input.

Benefits:

  1. They know how much you care about their opinion.
  2. They feel they had a say in building the product with you so they feel connected and familiar with it.
  3. It brightens the sense of product disposition and awareness in the customer’s mind. You remind them of your solution and benefits. Each feedback session is another opportunity to market to them.
  4. Customers get the VIP experience of seeing their ideas come to life.
Customer feedback

Tip #2: Create the waitlist of future customers

How:

  1. Start early!
  2. Some startups may not be ready to sell right away but you can still create that waitlist of people who are ready to buy when your solution is ready.

Benefits:

  1. Organizing a simple waitlist will save you a lot of time in the long run when your product is actually ready to sell. You don’t have to go back and rumble through your notes to find those leads.
  2. Great for investors! If you are running a startup that has not yet generated any revenue, you need to show that potential customers are demonstrating interest. This is the best way to show early stage investors that your business is viable.
Waitlist

Tip #3: How to regular updates

How:

  1. Create a monthly newsletter to show consistency and progress to your fans. Here is a quick video on how to create a newsletter.
  2. You can create multiple segments in the newsletter. For example, VenturX has a newsletter for startups that is more product-focused, and one for investors. The newsletter for our investors gives a bigger overview of VenturX’s market penetration across the country.

Benefits:

  1. This keeps your company at the top of mind.
  2. Founders can reflect back on what was accomplished the past month and analyze what worked and what didn’t work. This reflection is often overlooked by startups.

Here is an example of our last newsletter.

VenturX newsletter example

These tips may vary from business to business. One thing that doesn’t change, though, is how important customers are. Loyalty is something that takes years to build and minutes to destroy. Like any relationship, it takes a effort but with these 3 tips you’ll be better equipped to tackle this business challenge! And trust me, the relationship you have with your customers is definitely worth every ounce of effort — and then some.

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Founder Spotlight: Michael & Mathew (Slickspaces) – Revolutionizing Rental Space One Community at a Time OLD

Founder Spotlight: Michael & Mathew (Slickspaces) – Revolutionizing Rental Space One Community at a Time OLD

I had the great pleasure of spending time with Slickspaces in Vancouver. Both the team and the business illuminated as community business leaders of tomorrow.

Michael Driedger, CEO & Co Founder of Slickspaces

Michael Driedger, CEO & Co Founder of Slickspaces

Founders, Michael and Mathew, came together to join forces on 1 mission: to revolutionize the guest services space in a unique way. Michael (CEO) sprouted as a serial entrepreneur since the age of 10. Learning key operations from his past businesses paved the way to success for Slickspaces from Day 1. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Driedger, CEO & Co Founder of Slickspaces

Michael Driedger, CEO & Co Founder of Slickspaces

Mathew, Chief Technology Officer, leads the product and is equally strong in software and hardware. I had the opportunity to sit down with each of them to discuss their different takes on entrepreneurship today and what tips they would give others who are starting out.

Go grab your coffee and check out their live interviews.

 

 

 


“Coachability, an ability to learn on the fly and perseverance are key traits of great entrepreneurs. Matt has them all plus  a deep knowledge of trends in the short term rental market. ”

Clay Braziller, Advisor

About Slickspaces:

“Travel, sustainability and technology had a baby” — Slickspaces.com

SlickSpaces’ founders were both working towards a separate yet shared vision. To make travel accommodations easier to get into (they hate lines and looking for keys) and more sustainable (they really hate wasting energy). With backgrounds in building sustainability and technology integration they’ve created something that fulfils both of their dreams.

Slickspaces

Slickspaces

“Well positioned for success in the mushrooming short-term rental industry, Michael and his fellow founders have already distinguished Slickspaces by developing a paradigm-shifting solution to a critical challenge through their ability to listen to and follow his customer’s needs.” — David Dunnison, President & CEO at Global PVQ Canada, Harvard Business School.

About the team and environment:

When I arrived at their Vancouver headquarter, I noticed they had the opportunity to be surrounded by other community supporters such as BC Tech. Slickspaces won this great office space in a previous competition. One thing that I noticed about Slickspaces is their growing team and many moving parts. Slickspaces deal with both hardware and software. Because I got to walk into such a dynamic environment, I did a series of insightful interviews with the Founders that can be found here!

Click here for video

“Michael has a very clear vision on how technology will solve some fundamental pain points in the short term accommodation market. Michael possesses a combination of both industry and market knowledge and technical savvy that’s been key in Slickspace’s early development and market intro. It’s impressive to see the customer engagement the team have made in such a short period of time.” -Andy Edelmeier, President of Braemar West Capital

What does this company’s typical day look like:

Slickspaces’ scores on VenturX’s Entrepreneurship Tool

Slickspaces’ scores on VenturX’s Entrepreneurship Tool

Mornings:

· Gets to work at 6am

· Operational: Team meetings to discuss specific objectives such as contracts & upgrading to powerful accounting/CRM/etc.. software tools.

· Product: Focus product direction on scalability and channel distribution for Slickspaces’ future. This was handled by the CTO.

· Other: Work on tasks for the competition

Afternoons:

· Operational: Work on new community grants for their stage

· Other: Meetings with mentors to review upcoming presentation, business analytics, and content.

Evenings:

· Operational: Share feedback from individual meetings, discuss upcoming tasks for new hires.

Next Milestone

Bringing disruptive global innovation one community at a time has shone the spotlight onto Slickspaces.

Slickspaces just entered the BC New Ventures competition 2017, a 13 week competition. Their beta is making impressive footprints within the short term rental industry across North America. If you are in property management, be sure to keep updated on their leaps of achievements via their social media: Twitter and Facebook. Their direct contacts are listed below.

In conclusion, after spending time with this energetic team, it was clear that Canadian companies like this can achieve greatness by doing good.

Contact info: Michael Driedger and Mathew Hunter

Email: info@slickspaces.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-driedger-06363a13/ and https://www.linkedin.com/in/mathewhunter/

Website: https://www.slickspaces.com/

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Founder Spotlight: Jennifer Chan (Preview Careers) – #1 Career Platform for Students

Founder Spotlight: Jennifer Chan (Preview Careers) – #1 Career Platform for Students

This week, I had the lucky opportunity to follow and engage with a Vancouver-based entrepreneur who is a true Lead by Example type! Jennifer Chan, Co-Founder of Preview Careers opens the door into her startup world!

Jennifer Chan, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Preview Careers

Jennifer Chan, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Preview Careers

I knew that this startup was definitely someone to watch out for when she scored over 140+ personal customer discovery interviews in a matter of DAYS with just 3 people hustling like warriors; these are results that other entrepreneurs take a year to accomplish. Preview Careers’ passion is predicated by their actions and their impact. There is no doubt Jennifer Chan was the perfect choice to highlight as someone who truly stands out! Not only did we get to see the next big thing being built, but we also got a lot of great startup tips from Jennifer Chan that you can check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmpTxB8ZsSg&list=PLCZnT5ANSu9ZxOGg-dcyc9sqYXFWaw7eC

Preview Careers is the second product to come out of Appfabriqa, the parent company. Being education focused, Preview Careers took their mission back on campus. Jennifer took the bright initiative to personally survey students on campus one on one to understand their pain points when it comes to careers. She quickly built out a sign up page on Wix and starting building out features that the users wanted.

Jennifer’s customer-focused attitude is something that came from her previous startup experience and drove much of how the startup was run. It was a major influence on hiring decisions, product features, task management, etc..

What does a typical week look like for this founder?

She works from 9am-9pm consistently. (It’s pretty impressive!)

Preview Careers’ scores on VenturX’s Entrepreneurship Tool

Preview Careers’ scores on VenturX’s Entrepreneurship Tool

Mornings:

· Starts work at 9AM

· Design creative assets for marketing content in order to acquire new student users

· Send emails and update her team

Afternoons:

· Track user sign ups and send them over to product manager

· Customer research via online forums, social media, feedback from users to further identify the pain points and analyze in depth research of this market

· Attend afternoon meetings: check out new office space, interview new brand ambassador for student user recruiting at UBC, etc..

· Film mentor videos for website all around Vancouver

Evenings:

· Review marketing content from Marketing Intern

· 9PM meetings with her international team

What is Preview Careers?

The PREVIEW mission is to help driven, ambitious, young people explore and discover which career paths will lead them to doing work they love. PREVIEW believes that one of the key ways to exploring the career opportunities that exist, understanding the competitive landscape of the job market, and knowing the nuances of specific roles/titles is through connecting with mentors/advisors that can share their experiences, insight, and wisdom.

www.previewcareers.com

www.previewcareers.com

What is the next big milestone?

The next milestone is preparing for Back to School! If you are a university student in Vancouver, check out Preview’s student activities and giveaways on campus coming September 2017! Don’t miss out! Sign up today at www.previewcareers.com!

Get connected to your next mentor!

Preview Mentors

Preview Mentors

That is all for today! If you are a student or mentor and have questions for Preview Careers, we added her contact info at the bottom!

Contact info: Jennifer Chan

Email: Jennifer@appfabriqa.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenchanbarnes/

Website: https://www.previewcareers.com

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