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By Joseph Wilson

Turbo EncabulatorHow to communicate your idea to the media

I’d like to introduce you to the Turbo Encabulator. It’s an innovative invention that “would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grameters.”

The product is, of course, a joke, designed to poke fun at the way scientists try to use the media to communicate their products. The footage below is from 1977, but the joke goes back even further. In 1946, the “turboencabulator” became an in-joke amongst engineers on their lack of marketing savvy.

So how can I avoid the “turboencabulator” method?

To begin with, take a careful look at your target market and determine which media are most important to your customers.  Do your customers spend a lot of time on the Internet looking at gadgets? Or do they browse a specific set of stores to find the latest fashions? Do they watch TV or play with their iPhones?

Such decisions will determine where you plant your message.

Time & money

Since you’re running a start-up, your time and money is limited. You can’t afford to blanket the media with billboards, TV ads and flyers. As such, you’ve got to identify the key opinion leaders in your field and target your marketing to them.

Who are the people in your industry that your customers listen to?

Language and your “IP story”

Is your elevator pitch full of technical jargon or clear, meaningful words? A good way of achieving clarity is by using a metaphor to explain your product. One of the reasons the Microsoft Office suite is so popular is because people immediately understand it based on the over-riding metaphor of the “Office.” You turn on your computer to your “desktop,” arrange your files into “folders,” and when you delete something it goes into the “recycling bin” (which used to be called the “garbage” or “trash” in less environmentally conscious times).

One of the most important MarCom skills to learn is the art of the sound-bite. Get a video camera and film yourself explaining your technology.  Go through the following tips for perfecting the sound-bite for different media:

Tips for soundbites

Medium Content
  • Look the interview in the eye (not the camera)
  • Pause for edit points
  • Strong voice
  • Clear, enunciated phrases
  • Less than 20 seconds
  • Mention your company
  • Avoid technical words
  • Use metaphors
  • Avoid cliches
  • Call to action
  • Emotional connection
  • Use numbers and stats

Bite by bite, you’ll eventually gather together a compelling MarCom toolkit that tells the right story to the right people, giving your product the air-time it deserves.

Join us

MaRS has designed a workshop series to help technology clients clearly define their marketing and communications (MarCom) strategy. The Entrepreneurship 201 Workshop Series: The MarCom Toolkit is an interactive, hands-on session of between 15 and 24 technology entrepreneurs devoted to steering them away from the “turboencabulator” method. We go through all of the stuff above, right down to handing out Flip cameras and getting you to film each other.

To enroll for Entrepreneurship 201: The MarCom Toolkit, talk to your MaRS advisor or email entrepreneurship201@marsdd.com.  Workshops are free for clients of MaRS and other innovation centres in the Ontario Network of Excellence.

Reposted from MaRS

JosephWilson is currently an education advisor at MaRS. He also writes on issues of technology and culture for NOW Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Spacing and Yonge Street. He is the Executive Director of the Treehouse Group, dedicated to fostering innovation by hosting cross-disciplinary events.

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 Mark Zimmerman

Lean start-up: Not a mantraOver the last couple of years the “Lean Startup” movement has taken the start-up world by storm.   It’s rare now for me to meet with a web or mobile client who isn’t at least using the jargon; they are all building a minimum viable product, “getting out of the building” and are prepared to pivot.

As I get to know these founders and their businesses better I find that some of them have missed what I think is the key insight of the model. A start-up is a series of experiments.  Or, as Eric Reis more elegantly put it, “The ultimate goal of a lean startup is to identify where its vision intersects with what reality can accommodate.”

These founders have built a prototype, they are showing it to potential customers and they are prepared to change the prototype based on customer feedback.  What they haven’t done is design an experiment that will yield “validated learning“.  In order to achieve that they need to borrow from the scientific method and break their business idea into a series of hypotheses and experiments to test them.

One effective way to do this is to use Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas (a variant of the Business Model Canvas) to document a business hypothesis and then design experiments to test the assumptions in each box.

Until a start-up has a documented model to test, “Lean Startup” is more mantra than method: A bunch of tactics instead of a strategy.  Don’t get me wrong, getting outside the building and talking to customers is a good use of time for most founders, most of the time.   Talking to customers to test a key business model assumption is a great use of time.

Mark advises entrepreneurs in the information technology, communications and entertainment practice at MaRS. He specializes in B2B enterprise software, SaaS business models as well as security and privacy.

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 David Crow

We continue to run DemoCamp on a shoestring budget. Sure it sucks that it’s during the day. Sure it sucks that it costs $15. But we run these events at cost recovery. Sometimes we lose money (uhm, StartupEmpire anyone).

Venue, food, Audio/Visual, and special things like a movie. They all cost money. BTW don’t forget the tax. The ticket price reflects the maximum we think people are willing to pay plus the maximum sponsorship amount we think we can cover. Did you know that a theatre + A/V + special feature + lunch is about $30/person+tax, almost $34/person. So we reach out to the community of companies and include the least amount of advertising and sponsorship. Make sure you check out:

  • Anand Agarawala and Bumptop! This is an EPIC sponsorship. You have to be at DemoCamp from 4pm-6pm to find out what it is.
  • Eqentia builds the a semantic publishing platform for knowledge tracking & competitive analysis
  • XtremeLabs is hiring agile engineers and ui designers for the hottest mobile development company on the planet.
  • Microsoft BizSpark jumpstart your startup and speeds up your time to market.
  • FreshBooks is the fastest way to track time and invoice your clients.
  • Mercanix develops tools that enable organizations and their people to do good work.
  • Rob Hyndman is the bee’s knees & the cat’s pajamas. Startups looking for a lawyer: Start here.
  • Rypple builds social software that makes workplace feedback easy and fun.
  • Dayforce is the hottest enterprise software company in Toronto. Hiring dev, qa, ui and sales ninjas.
  • Kontagent is a Facebook Fund funded startup that is hiring rockstar developers in Toronto.
  • OCE is helping commercialize the next generation technologies like Bumptop & Sysomos.
  • KPMG Information, Communications & Entertainment (ICE) practice helps startups to succeed in turbulent markets.

These are organizations that are looking for funding, PR, and they are hiring. Are you a developer? designer? marketer? pr professional? Are you looking for a job? Make sure you check out each of these companies. They are part of our ecosystem. They support events like DemoCamp. And they make it possible for you to have a great experience. These folks essentially cough up a relatively small amount of money for a logo, a blog post, and the hope that events like DemoCamp make Toronto a great place to find and retain talent.

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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By David Crow

The brain drain. Canadian actors in Hollywood. This was a common thread for  Canadian media outlets. But there is something new going on in tech north of the border. International corporations have been snapping up Canadian startups and talent. Foreign investors (think US Venture Capitalists) are looking north of the 49th parallel to actively deploy capital in high growth, scalable companies. Just look at the recent track record of activity in the past 9 months.

Recent Exits

  • Layerboom acquired by Joyent.
  • Plan9 acquired by Apple.
  • Sysomos acquired by MarketWire.
  • SmallThought acquired by Twitter.
  • Opalis acquired by Microsoft.
  • Bumptop acquired by Google.
  • Sitemasher was acquired by Salesforce.
  • CoverItLive was acquired by Demand Media.

Recent Foreign-led Investments

  • Highland Capital Partners invests in Montreal-based Beyond the Rack.
  • Bridgescale Venture Partners invests in Toronto-based Dayforce.
  • Bridgescale Venture Partners invests in Toronto-based Bluecat Networks.
  • FTV Capital invests $35M in Toronto-based Varicent.
  • Altos Ventures invests $4.5M in Toronto & SF-based Kontagent.
  • Metamorphic Ventures invests $1.5M in Toronto-based Chango.
  • Grandbanks Capital invests in Toronto-based iLoveRewards.
  • Grandbanks Capital invests in Toronto-based xkoto.
  • Panorama Capital invests $8M in Calgary-based Tynt.

So just what is going on. Why the sudden interest and opportunity?

  1. A History Lower Valuations, Less Capital & More Traction
    When you look at the historical news archive from the Canadian Venture Capital Association (CVCA) about the state of venture capital in Canada you begin to see a common thread. Canadian companies generally raise less money than their US counterparts at each stage of growth. This leads to lower valuations and more traction from local investors and has created a generation of Canadian entrepreneurs that are used to funding growth from profits. In 2009, the US market saw US$18 billion invested through venture capital. Canada startups only raised approximately US$1 billion representing 5.5% of the US number (source: Wellington Fund blog). The challenge is that the Canadian economy is approximately 12.5% of the US economy and this leaves a significant gap in the amount of potential capital being deployed to Canadian startups. There is a gap in the level of investment and the overall economic performance in Canada. This leaves a huge opportunity for other funding sources.
  2. Strong Local Communities
    When you look across Canada entrepreneurs are using the web, events and models developed locally and internationally to connect each other, share information and build successful startups. There are examples ranging from government-funded initiatives like the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, WavefrontAC in Vancouver, the RIC Centre, MaRS, Lead to Win in Ottawa, and Communitech (there are a ton more). There are grassroots movements like DemoCamp, MontrealNewTech, StartupCamp and LaunchParty happening across the country. There are an emerging set of incubators and early investors like BootupLabs, Extreme Ventures, Montreal StartUp/Founder Fuel, and Mantella VP. These communities provide entrepreneurs opportunities to connect with other entrepreneurs and seed investors to share methods, pursue informed development and find mentorship and funding.
  3. Close Proximity
    As soon as you decide to get on a plane, the game has changed. It’s not about can I drive to a board meeting in less than 45 minutes. It’s about can I make return travel in the same day. Flights to Vancouver from San Francisco are only minutes longer than flights to Seattle. If you’re leaving the comforts of Silicon Valley to travel to Seattle, Boulder, or other destinations than you should consider Vancouver. Toronto and Montreal in the same geographical proximity to Boston, New York and Chicago. The decision for most investors has less to do with travel and more to do with finding great companies whose growth can be accelerated. Having an international border throws a couple of new complications (see the next section Taxation Reforms) into the mix but it should not prevent investment or acquisition. There might be taxation and immigration impact on
  4. Taxation Reforms
    Charley Lax at Grandbanks Capital was a vocal critic of Section 116 of the Canada Tax Act. However, on March 4, 2010 Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced amendments to the Act that excluded shares of Canadian private companies. Basically, this removed a major tax barrier to foreign investment opportunities. A few of the deals listed above were completed before the changes to Section 116, significantly more seed and early-stage deals involving capital from US investors can be seen.

The times are a changin’

Grow 2010

Conspiracy theories of Canadians infiltrating American companies are mostly true. But the brain drain is a thing of the past. Silicon Valley is heading north to find new deals, new talent, and new opportunities. Grow Conference in Vancouver is a prime example of the exploration north of the border. Elite investors like Rob Hayes of First Round Capital, Dave McClure of FoundersFund, Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC are heading across the border to engage with Canadian entrepreneurs and startups. The Canadian Tech Mafia, sorry the C100, continues to show a strong presence with Rob Chaplinsky from Bridgescale, Chris Albinson of Panorama and others.

Reposted from StartUp North

David Crow is an emerging technology and start-up advocate/evangelist. At Microsoft Canada, he is responsible for helping Canadian start-ups gain access to software, support and visibility in the Microsoft ecosystem through programs like BizSpark (details at microsoft.com/bizspark). David blogs at http://davidcrow.ca/ and http://startupnorth.ca/ or follow him on Twitter @davidcrow

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