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Archive for October, 2010

By David Crow

The joys of starting a company and setting up the basics, you know things like finding a lawyer, getting articles of incorporation, shareholders agreement, business registration, employment agreements and setting up payroll for employees.

It turns out that it has been since 2005 since I thought about the logistics of running payroll in Canada in any detail (BTW if some asks if you want to be in charge of running payroll, the answer is “<expletive /> NO”). The great news is that there is a solution for startups in Canada and it’s inexpensive. Well technically it’s free for companies with <5 employees and only $18/month for >6 employees.

The company is PaymentEvolution. It’s run by my friend Sam Vassa (@samvassa) and they were recently featured in the Financial Post. Despite the web presence that looks like it was last updated a decade ago, this is a new startup that is up and running and able to help Canadian small businesses with payroll.

Hallelujah, and it’s inexpensive

This is a great solution for startups. Basically the deal is there are no fees for the service, however, there are electronic banking fees are passed through to you as a user.

PaymentEvolution provides no cost payroll processing for smalls businesses with 5 or fewer employees. We’re serious – we don’t want payroll processing costs to encumber the growth of great small businesses. We’re small-business friendly and just want to provide a great service that allows these businesses to focus on what they do best. Like all our plans, we don’t charge extra for updates, the number of pay runs, or silly things like standard reports. We also give these firms the flexibility to pay their employees how they want – traditional cheques, direct deposit or even electronic funds transfer (fees may be incurred by the company’s financial institution).

This is just what startups need to process payroll and it’s cheap to boot.

Reposted from StartUp North

David Crow is an emerging technology and start-up advocate/evangelist. David blogs at http://davidcrow.ca/ and http://startupnorth.ca/ or follow him on Twitter @davidcrow.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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Finding and Retaining Customers – How to make the sale is the theme of the next “Growing Your Business” breakfast event series Wednesday, November 17 at the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Faculty Club.

All businesses are evaluated based on their sales and customer retention. In this seminar, our speakers will outline the fundamental strategies in sales and how to increase client engagement and customer retention. Hear their personal experiences and learn from successes and failures in dealing with this essential topic.

Guest speakers include:

Mark Zimmerman,  Advisor – IT, Communications   and Entertainment, MaRS . Mark’s been working in the information and communication technology industry for more than 15 years. He’s worked with some of the biggest companies in the industry, but he’s also worked with very early stage start-ups—so he knows what it’s like to be in an entrepreneur’s shoes. Mark uses his experience to help MaRS clients in the areas of B2B enterprise software and SaaS business models as well as security and privacy. Some of Mark’s highlights include VP of sales and marketing at Nextair and Director, project management at AT&T.

Tim Hardman,   Commercialization Executive  and Former President, Cymat   Technologies Inc. Tim Hardman is a seasoned international business development professional, who began his 27 year career in the multi-national specialty metals industry. In the 2000’s, Tim turned his attention to smaller organizations, driving the commercializing effort of a privately held carbon fibre aerospace manufacturer. He has successfully launched technology on the world stage at the Paris Air Show, and many military and architectural trade shows. Most recently Tim held the position of President of a TSX listed technology company, successfully commercializing a metal matrix composite product in military, automotive and architectural global markets.

Nancy Peterson,  Founder and CEO Homestars.com. Nancy Peterson is founder and CEO of HomeStars.com. Prior to HomeStars, she held senior marketing positions over 16 years primarily at Kraft Foods as well as Procter & Gamble. She launched HomeStars.com in 2006, learning many new business skills along the way, including how to: start-up a business from scratch; raise money; build sales and assemble a strong entrepreneurial team as passionate as her.  HomeStars recently reached 25 on Profit Magazine’s HOT 50 for emerging Canadian companies in 2011.

The Research Innovation Commercialization (RIC) Centre and the Ontario Center for Environmental Technology Advancement (OCETA) jointly host the 10-event series, which runs from September to June 2011.

For a complete schedule visit riccentre.com

Pre-Registration $25, Pay at Event $30 (covers breakfast and parking). To register, visit www.riccentre.com.

For more information, contact Shantanu at shantanu@riccentre.com or at (905) 273-3530.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Shantanu Mittal

All successful businesses have one thing in common; they have a clearly defined value proposition. But what constitute a good value proposition? Do you think that Google would have been so successful had its value proposition been “Google uses a patented page-ranking algorithm to make money through ad placement” instead of its current “The world’s largest search engine that allows internet users to find relevant information quickly and easily” (Source: Google)?

So how can you as an entrepreneur create your perfect value proposition? Well, here are some tips and resources to help.

Components of a value proposition: there are 3 key parts of a value proposition:

a.       Target Customer

b.      Customer Problem

c.       Product or Solution

A well written value proposition connects all these 3 together in one or two simple sentences. Here are some resources to help you identify these three key parts.

1)      A-Day-in-the-life Scenario: This technique helps you identify your target customer and the customer problem. Imagine that you are the ideal customer for your product – what would your regular day be like, what problems or stresses are you under and what are its economic consequences. Then you overlay the enabling factors of your product and see if they can solve the problems and lead to economic benefit.

2)     Strategy Canvas: This is a powerful exercise to help you identify your competitors to see how you can differentiate yourself (see example for Southwest Airline in Fig 1). Think of all the factors that consumers consider when buying a product or service in your market. Plot these factors along the horizontal axis of your strategy canvas and then rank yourself high, medium or low compared to your competitors for that factor. This exercise shows you in a very visual way where you differ from your competition and these unique factors that your customers are looking for are what you should be including in your value proposition.

3)     Buyer Utility Grid: This is a useful exercise in trying to determine at what point in your product’s life cycle  you can add value. The columns on the grid represent the different phases of your product’s life cycle and rows represent common value-add factors that consumers are looking for. If you are struggling to find ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors, I would encourage you to go through this exercise to see how your ‘whole product’ (core product + services and ancillary products) can give you new competitor advantages.

All these exercises were included as part of working group activities by entrepreneurs in a workshop organized by RIC Centre in partnership with the Business Mentorship and Entrepreneurship Program based at the MaRS Discovery District. This workshop, facilitated by Joseph Wilson and Jon Worren from MaRS, was highly engaging and all the invited entrepreneurs who attended this session were able to write and share a concise value proposition for their company by its conclusion.

Sheldon Joseph from Rejuven8 said that he found the interactive nature of this workshop very useful and added that “I’m writing an executive summary [of my business] as we speak”. The next workshops will cover business models.

**Disclaimer

All information for this blog was taken from content discussed at the “RIC workshop series: Designing a Value Proposition”, courtesy of Jon Worren and Joseph Wilson. The models and activities can be found in the ‘Entrepreneurs Toolkit – Market Strategy Workbooks’ designed by the Business Mentorship and Entrepreneurship Program.

Shantanu Mittal is graduate student pursuing his Masters of Biotechnology from the University of Toronto Mississauga. He is currently the communications officer for the RIC Centre, a role which has helped him understand the world of entrepreneurship and business development. With his expertise in the life sciences and green technology sector, he has been able to provide valuable feedback to clients along with the entrepreneur-in-residence. Shantanu hopes to pursue a future in business development in the biotechnology or green technology industries.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Axel Kuhn

Last July, I wrote about the increasing emphasis in B2B marketing on justifying marketing investments, and the drivers behind this shift. Marketing Accountability and Return-on-Marketing-Investment (ROMI) are part of the new business mantra.

Research shows that over 85-90% of companies now recognize Marketing Performance Measurement as a significant priority. And yet less than 10-15% of these companies have any comprehensive process in place to measure marketing performance or ROMI.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a great tool that has just been released: A powerful but easy to use ROMI calculator that lets you quickly determine the marketing ROI of turning your current website into a magnet for inbound sales prospects. In other words, investing in Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation.

The calculator delivers one of those quick “back of the envelope” calculations that entrepreneurs depend on for their decision making process.  The tool includes interactive features to allow you to play “what-if” scenarios. Even better, it provides best-practice guidelines on what kind of traffic you should expect on your website, and what conversion rates you should aim for as you convert visitors to active visitor, to identified prospect, and finally to new clients. And don’t be scared off if you are not a financial or accounting genius, because the calculator includes step-by-step help for each input you have to provide.

The calculator highlights in red any ROI below 15% as unsatisfactory. However, results for most companies end well in the “green”. In fact, most mid-sized B2B companies that are still relying on traditional marketing and sales find that their potential payback from an investment in Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation is better than 50%.  And that’s a very attractive return relative to most traditional marketing initiatives.

Smaller companies might argue that they need a minimum ROI that is even higher, given the scarcity of cash, and the fact that this scarce cash must compete with other critical needs in salaries, product development, and manufacturing. However, I would argue that for many small companies, getting those first few reference clients and “crossing that chasm” into targeted market segments is everything. So, I would be willing to invest my small business cash if it generated “in profile” customers, and an ROI of 50% or better.

But it’s your call. You can check out your ROI opportunity by using the calculator at (http://www.inbound-marketing-automation.ca/romi-calculator/), or remain in the dark. And once you’re fully armed, don’t let any marketer convince you to invest in a website marketing scheme without crunching some numbers first.

Post by Axel Kuhn, President, www.inbound-marketing-automation.ca

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.


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By Jeff Bowman

The deeper we get into the technology age, the more enamored I am becoming with the 20 minute meeting over a fresh cup of coffee.

Email has, in large part replaced the telephone as the method most preferred by business people to contact clients and perform some after networking activities. It is quick, it is recorded and saved in your email file and can be done at any hour of the day. Sure, it sounds great, except for the fact that I have to wait for a response, possibly lose the response to my junk mail box, and almost certainly will have to go back and forth a couple of times in order to ensure the information is accurate and confirmed.

A meeting over coffee (or latte, or super juice or whatever your drink of choice) allows a relationship to advance through the various stages in a relaxing environment with no pressure. A nice spot away from the office with a face to face meeting is essential in breaking down barriers to communication that exist in other modes of contact.  I’m not advocating setting up an office on wheels in your local establishment, just a simple get together once or twice a week with clients, networking acquaintances, suppliers or even a co-worker.

A study conducted in 2005 , which was focused on examining the relationship between caffeine and ‘social’ processes, “found that coffee increases mental alertness, focus and concentration. This heightening of mental capacity allows people to open up, process and understand the ideas being discussed during a coffee meeting.” The study also went on to find that drinking coffee makes a person more open to new ideas and persuasion.

If I have a choice between spending 20 minutes or so face to face with a person, in a relaxed atmosphere, where they are more open to new ideas and have greater mental alertness, or speaking into a cell phone from my parked car with traffic and distractions all around me, or sending an e-mail to a person who may not give it any consideration or misunderstand my intentions in sending it, the choice is simple. Technology has certainly made it easier to reach people, but certainly not to communicate in the true sense of the word.

Relationships are built on trust and understanding.  When I am unable to read the body language and clearly identify the tone, the rhythm of speech and the volume of the voice, I am missing over 90% of the real communication. The call to action is to use one of those “other” tools to set up a coffee meeting today. No excuses! See the difference a little shared time can make.

I’ll have a double double and a dutchie!

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Jeff Bowman is a Sales and Marketing Specialist with The Marketing Pad Inc.. Follow Jeff’s blog at Blogpad or visit www.themarketingpad.com.

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The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Bryan Watson

Provocatively titled VC Super Angels: Filling a Funding Gap or Killing the Next Google, this article  speaks of “super angels” filling a funding gap between so-called “angel” investors and VC firms, while combining the traits of both, and also “putting a timely, web-savvy stamp on the process of starting and building companies”.

Here’s how they describe the “super angels” – “Whereas regular angels only invest their own money, super angels manage small funds that put their own money alongside that of friends, family and offices that administer the finances of wealthy extended families. Some super angel firms have attracted institutional money from universities and elsewhere, and at least a few more say they are likely to seek out more of that type of funding as they build track records. “

More controversially, the article goes on to state, “Some observers…have lately been complaining that super angels are cutting short the lives of companies that could be “the next Google” by selling them to Google before they’ve even developed a market. But others think that could be frustration talking: By allowing some of the brightest and most promising founders to cash out early on, super angels are cutting into VCs’ deal flow — and the firms need good deal flow to survive.”

Reposted from National Angel Capital Organization

Throughout his career, both in Canada and the UK, Bryan J. Watson has been a champion of entrepreneurship as a vector for the commercialization of advanced technologies. Upon his return to Canada in 2004, Bryan established his venture development consulting practice to help emerging-growth companies overcome the barriers to success they face in the Canadian commercialization ecosystem.  Visit Bryan’s blog and the National Angel Capital Organization.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By David Crow

The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario announced a new Investing in Business Innovation program. The program offers matching grants for early-stage venture funding. This is a $190 Million  program running from 2010-2014.

There are provisions for startups and angel networks. Since we’re StartupNorth, let’s try to deal with the startup side first.

  • Startups who receive a term sheet from a qualified angel investor (as defined by the Ontario Securities Commission) or venture capital firm (registered with the Canadian Venture Capital association) are eligible to apply for up $1 Million in loan from the federal government.
  • Restrictions:
    • Start-up businesses will be eligible for repayable contributions up to $1 million for no more than one-third (33⅓ percent) of total eligible and supported project costs.
    • An angel and/or venture capital investor(s) must be committed to provide at least two-thirds (66⅔ percent) of the cash contribution toward eligible and supported project costs.
    • In-kind contributions related to mentoring, networking, and other business skills cannot be considered as part of the angel or venture capital investor’s cash contribution.
    • A maximum of one project per eligible start-up SME can be funded under the initiative.
    • Direct eligible costs for start-up businesses may include:
      • Labour, capital and operating expenditures;
      • Materials and supplies;
      • Consulting and/or professional fees (limited to market rate); and,
      • Minor and non-capital acquisitions (e.g., software).
    • All project activities must be completed by March 31, 2014;

Basically there is federal government matching loans up to $1 Million for startups that are raising angel or venture funding in Southern Ontario. This is a fantastic start.

It’s great for startups in Southern Ontario, it’s curious that the program is only available in Southern Ontario. Why not all of Canada? How are the repayment terms set? Is this a zero percent interest loan from the Federal Government? Does the term sheet have to be equity investment? Is convertible debt eligible? How do startups “demonstrate they are using business mentoring, counseling, or related services”?

Reposted from StartUp North

David Crow is an emerging technology and start-up advocate/evangelist. David blogs at http://davidcrow.ca/ and http://startupnorth.ca/ or follow him on Twitter @davidcrow.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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