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Posts Tagged ‘startup basics’

By Marielle VokseppRingsThink of your relationship with a VC as a marriage

At last week’s Entrepreneurship 101 lecture on raising money, leading venture capitalists divulged the secrets of successfully pitching to an investor. The secret is in the relationship.

The panel discussion, led by Barry Gekiere, Managing Director of the Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF), featured high profile folks from the VC industry:

And what advice did these top investors have?

When preparing to approach an investor, speak to advisors and other entrepreneurs who have worked with them to find out as much as you can.  Still don’t know where to look for an investor? Read: How to identify an investor for your business.

It takes five minutes for an investor to decide if they are interested in you. Once you have chosen someone to approach with your pitch, make sure you have the right tools. (What tools, you ask? Read: Tools you need to raise money.)

Watch the rest of the lecture video on “Raising Money” to learn more from this Q&A session and hear it first-hand from leading venture capitalists.

Downloads and Resources:

Reposted from MaRS

Marielle works as part of the education team at MaRS. She helps entrepreneurs get access to business resources both online and in-person.

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 Marielle Voksepp
Gold “Remember the golden rule: He who holds the gold, makes the rules.”

VC’s want money. Not just any money; BIG MONEY.

In last week’s Entrepreneurship 101 lecture, Terms of Investment, Shirley Speakman of the Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) gave an overview of the realities of seeking out private investment for your start-up.

Because venture capital is high risk, winners need to be big — and big means at least nine-times return with a potential for high growth. Investment from an outside investor also means being prepared to accept new terms for your company. To see a list of considerations to bear in mind before accepting outside investment, read the article:  Are you ready for a private investor?

If you do decide that your company is ready to accept outside investment, you’ll want to use this workbook to ensure you have the right tools in place to raise money: Financing: Identifying, targeting and engaging potential investors.

Most importantly, before spending long hours and a large amount of preparation to  demonstrate your worth to an investor, find out if your company is “VC-able”: watch the lecture video.

Downloads and Resources:

Reposted from MaRS

Marielle works as part of the education team at MaRS. She helps entrepreneurs get access to business resources both online and in-person.

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 Marielle Voksepp
BootstrappingAlways use some bootstrapping 

“Bootstrapping is the reality for 98% of start ups”, according to unreformed entrepreneur and former MaRS leader, Charles Plant.

What is bootstrapping, anyway?

Bootstrapping is using your own money and other types of money that are available to build your business.

At our last Entrepreneurship 101 lecture on bootstrapping, Charles discussed creative ways of growing your business without raising money from investors.

As a result of his experience with about a dozen emerging companies, Charles is a strong advocate of the bootstrapping model. To learn more about its pros and cons, watch the lecture video.

Downloads and Resources:

Marielle works as part of the education team at MaRS. She helps entrepreneurs get access to business resources both online and in-person.

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 Marielle Voksepp
candyLike a kid in a candy store: Which distribution channel to use?

I received an email today from one of our regular Entrepreneurship 101 participants thanking MaRS and Mark Zimmerman for putting on “one of the best lectures (they) have had the pleasure of attending”.  Read Kalpesh’s email below…

The Power of Case Studies!

Mark Zimmerman’s lecture on distribution, a seemingly complex and relatively dry aspect of business, was anything but dry. In one hour, Mark taught us some valuable lessons through a mix of theory and case studies. In the theory section, Mark explained a distribution framework and the case study was about Nespresso, which helped provide a very real context.

As a fledgling entrepreneur, I have a ton of distribution choices and I have been struggling to find the optimal distribution set-up for my business. Mark said it’s OK to mix and match between direct and indirect channels and the choices therein, but he also advised to optimize a distribution channel before taking off in many directions. I found Mark’s framework particularly useful as it provided clear sign posts for the choice of distribution set-up based on specific factors such as market type, stage, complexity, price and customer preferences. (Please view lecture video for further explanations).

As Mark talked through those factors, I found myself quickly mapping where my business fell within that framework. I am happy to report that I walked out of that lecture with much less uncertainty than I had going in.

And the lecture got better. We covered the Nespresso case in detail and bits from other cases including Apple, Zappos, Threadless, Zara and even Dell. These cases really helped provide a realistic perspective. It added relevance, made that distribution framework practical and, even though it was a serious problem faced by Nestle, a global multi-million dollar corporation, I could totally see how someday I might be in Jean Paul Gaillard’s shoes facing a similar problem with my company!

My thanks to Mark Zimmerman for a fantastic lecture!

Kalpesh Patel
Co-Founder & President, Lifestrummer Inc.

On behalf of the ENT101 team, we thank you for your valuable insights and welcome other participants to blog on our lectures as well. Please contact entrepreneurship101@marsdd.com.

Downloads & Resources:

Reposted from MaRS

Marielle works as part of the education team at MaRS. She helps entrepreneurs get access to business resources both online and in-person.

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 Marielle Voksepp
cold call

Sales is a process.  It’s not done part-time; customers need to feel a connection to the sales person and want you to interact with them differently for different types of products. Companies often focus too much on the technology or product instead of the customer view and customer benefit.

At the latest Entrepreneurship 101 lecture on Sales, MaRS advisor Krista Jones discussed the principles of “selling value” to customers.

Watch the lecture video and read on to find answers to these commonly asked questions:

What role does selling play in a start-up?

Your business doesn’t start until you sell something.  Selling is a part of marketing and a sure way to test your product and all other company processes.  As a company leader, you need to be directly involved in selling activities from beginning to end.  Direct customer interaction will also help you build and improve your product and organization. Read more in our Entrepreneur’s Toolkit article, “Sales 101: The role of selling in a start-up.”

What is a sales funnel?

If you’re running a business you have to have a sales funnel – it describes your sales process from beginning to end and allows you to remove barriers to a sale.  Choose your sales channels fairly simplistically and find out how your customers want to be reached. Don’t confuse your ultimate goal with your first few sales – focus your attention on opportunities that remain in the funnel.  Read more in our Entrepreneur’s Toolkit article, “Stages of the sales funnel”.

How do I prepare for a sales call?

Preparing for a sales call takes time. There are several tools available to help you organize the information you will need:

Make time in your schedule to meet with potential customers, book a sales call and follow these five steps to be well prepared:

  1. Prepare the stakeholder management chart
  2. Prepare the sales call talk track
  3. Do your research
  4. Develop and practice your pitch
  5. Consider practical issues

Read more in “Preparing for a sales call“.

Why do I need a pitch deck?

A pitch deck is one of your most important tools and the first thing you will use when making a sales pitch.  Create a presentation that catches the attention of the audience.  It should send a clear message: you are solving a problem, make sure to explain that solution. Talk about how your business benefits the customer and meets their needs.  Each pitch deck is different but still requires 10 essential slides; have a look at the lecture presentation to find out what they are.  Read more in “Elements of a pitch deck“.

Once you have solved the problem that your customer has, you are ready to launch.

One final thought from Krista to get you on your way: Remember to face rejection and KEEP SMILING!

Reposted from MaRS

Marielle works as part of the education team at MaRS. She helps entrepreneurs get access to business resources both online and in-person.

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 Marielle Voksepp
Can you keep a secret? Like your IP?Can you keep a secret? Like your IP? 

IP comes in many forms: it can be a formula, program, device, a business process or information.  As tempting as it is – don’t share your idea with the world: you want to keep it a secret.

In this week’s Entrepreneurship 101 lecture, Arshia Tabrizi summarizes the pros and cons of intellectual property in a concise and straightforward manner. He also answers the questions How do I get IP? How do I keep it? And how do I use it?

Watch the lecture video to learn what you need to know about:

  1. Non-disclosure agreements
  2. Patents
  3. Copyright
  4. Trademarks

Need help figuring out how intellectual property fits into your overall business model? Make use of the resources below to properly exploit your innovations. Avoid making common mistakes by watching this Hot Tips video.

Downloads and Resources:

Reposted from MaRS

Marielle works as part of the education team at MaRS. She helps entrepreneurs get access to business resources both online and in-person.

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 Joseph Wilson

Over the last year, we have been leading workshops across Ontario designed to help entrepreneurs with the basics of business development.

The ideas coming out of Ontario cover an impressive range of technologies, from cleantech manufacturing solutions to online platforms for innovative services.

Yet we found that the entrepreneurs often had the same challenge: they were unable to explain the value of their offering in a clear and concise manner. We also hear this comment from venture capitalists and investor relations professionals — that entrepreneurs spend too much time thinking about technology and not about value.

Watch this video to see how scientists are often so passionate about their technology they can’t articulate the value of their offering.

A value proposition is essentially an answer to the question “what do you do?” The temptation is to explain the technology that your business is based on, but the reality is that there are very few industry-specific people who care about your technology. People want to know what the value of your technology is.

Values can be vague and very personal, but when people pay for products, the same patterns keep cropping up. When engaging in B2B sales, for instance, potential customers are often drawn by promises of saving time or money. These aren’t the only things that get people buying, however. Products and services can be sold on the promise of higher quality, convenience, lowering risk or enabling productivity.

When selling directly to consumers, values are often harder for customers to articulate. Instead of being rational and business-driven, consumers make emotional decision based on latent values, such as status, aesthetics or newness.

The next step is to find out exactly which values matter to your target customer. When you craft a value proposition, it should speak to a very specific market segment. Even if you have a wide-ranging “platform technology,” you need to start selling your product to a specific target customer and then expand later.

The best way to find out what your target market values is to get out of your office and ask them. Observe them at work, read their publications and get into their head to find out what problems they are trying to solve when they go to work. You can use other tools, too, like Alexander Osterwalder’s Customer Empathy Map or the Day in the Life Scenario in our Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Market Strategy Workbook.

When you’re finally ready to draft your value proposition, use these points as a guideline:

  1. What are you offering?
  2. Who is your target customer?
  3. What value are you bringing your target customer?
  4. How is your product unique?

If you can get those four points into one sentence, you’re finally ready to talk about your product in a way that investors will understand.

Downloads and resources from the Entrepreneurship 101 lecture on value proposition:

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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