Yesterday, was the first day of the first Startup Weekend organized in Montreal .
Startup Weekends are events where people come together from different areas: developers, designers, marketing, investors, etc. and spend together a weekend to build startups from scratch, it’s a bit like a matchmaking orgy for entrepreneurs. The way it works is that Friday night, people come up on the stage, one after the other, and they have one minute to present their idea, then it’s the voting period. Those who get more votes will go to the next phase, where they have to recruit people to get the project started and take it as far as possible by Sunday when a jury will decide who the winners are.
It’s a great concept, especially for those that would like dive into the world of entrepreneurship head first and all they need is a partner or some expertise that would make a difference.
Since lately, with my friends, we were bouncing around ideas of project we could do for fun on weekends, we said, let see grab this opportunity and pick an idea to pitch at SWMontreal. Who knows, maybe people will like it, and than we could get useful feedback and mentoring to get it started.
Before the pitch fire, there was a panel of VC from Quebec, there was JS Cournoyer from Real Ventures, Yona Shtern founder of Beyound the Rack, Chris Arsenault from iNovia and François Gilbert from Anges Québec. It was a very interesting discussion about how to get founded when you have a startup that has potential and all it needs if money. There were so many great advises given in such a short time, that I really hope someone was filming it and it will end up on Youtube to benefit as many people as possible.
Here are a few ideas I retained:
- Before approaching a VC make sure it is in the right league, don’t go with a something that needs seed money to someone that is giving minimum 250k and goes up to millions.
- VCs don’t necessarily look for amazing ideas, they invest in people, in their skills and their determination to go beyond their limits.
- Be ready to pitch an idea many times and if you got a number in your mind when you hear the word many, multiply that by at least ten, that is how many time you will be refused and you have to be ready to continue.
- Related to the previous point, if you know you’ll have a chance with a VC, don’t start with that one, because pitching is an art that needs to be developed over time, you need exercise. When you presented something 30 times, it sounds a way better than on the 10th time and on the 50th time is way better than on the 30th, so don’t rush it because you risk to burn some bridges.
- Be honest, don’t lie.
- If you don’t like the VC, be ready to refuse the offer, just as VCs look for great opportunities that fit their vision, you also have to make sure the VC you are approaching is someone from who you would accept advices. Be informed, talk to people that got funding from them.
- Yes, VCs are giving more than just money, be ready to accept advices, usually they know better than you.
- People are afraid to give up control, to accept advices and are stubborn, VCs don’t like people that are not flexible. Not because they want to run your company, no they don’t; these people are wealthy, they don’t want to work shit hours like you have to, they just want to make sure that the direction of the company is the right one. Mr Gilbert even paraphrased another investor, by saying the VCs are like grandparents, they like to give the candy, but they are not the ones to administer spanks.
- Be ready to commit heart and soul to the project, several of the presenters were bragging about how little time they spend with their kids and I could feel that they would look for people that would put as a number one priority on their life the advancement of the company. Of course, this is what every shareholder wants, that their investment would return one day multiplied by many, many times.
As the average age of the room was in the early twenties and I was wondering about this last point. Is it really the only way to succeed in this field, by committing 110% and sacrificing everything else? It’s nice and dandy to push forward success stories, of people that did not care about their family and than by hard work they ended up to become millionaires. But what about the others, those that screwed up their personal life and went bankrupt? I don’t have hard numbers to back this, but something tells me that the wast majority ends up screwing up everything for nothing.
With my friend, we knew that if our idea won’t get enough votes to go further we would leave and not because we wanted to break the party, but rather we knew that our life is wired differently and we won’t be able to commit to other people’s projects on a full time basis.
Yesterday there were more than 50 ideas presented, and out of these 50, 18 ideas where selected. There were a few really great ideas, that I hope will go further to become real products one day.
It was good to see so many bright people gathered in one place, fuelled by their ambition to do something in life and I know that a handfull of them will end up as successful entrepreneurs. I wish all of them good luck!