Building Better Start-up Boards

By: 7th June 2022 Strategy No Comments

Board composition is a key differentiator for successful start-ups. But here is the thing I have noticed throughout my career: Boards are more likely to break a company than help it. That is why being intentional and thoughtful when establishing a new Board of Directors for a start-up is so important. Properly constructed, the board plays a significant role in setting the start-up’s strategy, including fundraising, hiring and firing c-suite executives, setting budgets and determining an exit path. That requires a board that understands its role is to provide advice and guidance, not get down in the weeds of operations….

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Build Ventures Fund II Is Here

By: 12th September 2019 Strategy No Comments

When we launched Build Ventures in 2013, it was with a lot of hope and a little bit of trepidation. No one had run a private early-stage venture capital firm in Atlantic Canada before. Success was hardly guaranteed. But like many others in the East Coast startup community, we believed in the abilities of the entrepreneurs in this region. With the first Build fund, we invested in 14 companies including Affinio, Introhive, Dash Hudson, Manifold and other great companies led by experienced and ambitious professionals. A unique ecosystem has emerged here on the East Coast. It is more collaborative and…

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Rob Barbara Is Going Back To School

By: 1st August 2019 Strategy No Comments

The Kauffman Fellows is a two-year program that brings together the most innovative minds in venture capital. So, imagine how thrilled I was to find out I was one of two Canadians selected to its Class 24 cohort. It’s like a school for VCs, a well-respected Silicon Valley program aimed at accelerating success through peer learning and mentoring by other venture capitalists and thought leaders. It’s also a massive networking opportunity with a powerhouse group of people involved in venture capital. I will be working alongside VCs from 21 countries in Class 24, including my fellow Canadian Janet Bannister of…

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Mastering the art of the pivot

By: 1st May 2018 Strategy No Comments

How Dash Hudson launched (and killed) four products in two years and lived to tell the tale. If you’re an early-stage startup founder, a successful pivot story is much like a modern-day fairytale. It’s got all the right elements—heroism, suspense, and near-death encounters. Most companies that attempt a pivot will die on the battlefield. They’ll put up a good fight, but eventually, their time runs out and they’re quickly forgotten. Yet, every so often, a legend is born… Twitter started as Odeo—a podcast network. Instagram started as Burbn—a check-in app for gamers. Groupon started as The Point—a crowdfunding platform for…

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Building a Healthy Product

By: 25th October 2017 Strategy No Comments

Mamoon Hamid from Social Capital has an incredible talk on Numbers that Actually Matter for SaaS Founders. The heart of his talk revolves the illusion of product/market fit and failing to understand if your product continues to deliver value once you’ve acquired a user. The last company I built was based on a pain I had. As an entrepreneur, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work… With a product built, I needed to get people using the product. So we invested time into a number of marketing channels. We went from a couple of hundred new accounts to thousands…

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False Assumption: The Reason Why It’s Not Always Cheaper To Launch a Startup in Atlantic Canada

By: 18th November 2015 Strategy No Comments

  One of our unquestioned assumptions when we closed the Build Ventures’ fund in 2013 was that launching a startup in Atlantic Canada was cheaper than doing it in other parts of Canada or the United States. Our location, at least in this respect, was thought to be a competitive advantage. There are certainly challenges to building a company here given the early stage of our ecosystem, but we thought we had the core ingredients: lots of smart entrepreneurial people and an environment which allowed those people to get more done with less.  The key cost driver at the early…

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The State of #StartupEast: A Wave is Forming

By: 21st October 2015 Strategy No Comments

The September event calendar for our Atlantic Canadian Tech community was jammed packed as usual. A few weeks ago the new team at Propel ICT held their Demo Day in Moncton featuring 12 companies on stage from the 33 companies that went through the Launch and Build programs. A few days later Volta held their second Startup Empire conference in Halifax. Both events were electric. Demo Day showed that Gerry Pond’s vision of a truly Atlantic Canada-wide startup community is becoming a reality, with strong representation from throughout the region. Propel ICT delivers its program through Planet Hatch in Fredericton,…

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Raising What You Need

By: 15th September 2015 Strategy No Comments

Most startups on the East Coast and around the world view raising capital as a top priority. And with good reason, you can only boot-strap your startup so far. Cash is almost always the fuel for growth. But it is important to be strategic in your efforts to raise capital. Too little capital, or even too much, can create serious problems that will reduce your odds of success. The startup community here on the East Coast is still in its early days. The same can be said for our approach to raising capital. (Disclaimer – this post is meant for startups…

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Understanding Traction In The Quest for Funding

By: 25th August 2015 Strategy 3 Comments

“We like what you’re doing, come back and see us when you have traction.” Every startup founder in search of seed, late seed or Series A funding has been on the receiving end of this statement from a venture investor. In fact, most have likely heard it more than once. It’s easy feedback for the potential investor to give because (they hope) it preserves the option to invest in future rounds. Yet it’s frustrating for founders who are left wondering what traction really means. The answers are typically vague. Sometimes an investor will suggest a few common benchmarks:  $100K MRR…

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Get On A Plane

By: 15th July 2015 Strategy No Comments

Atlantic Canada is wonderful place to launch a startup. It has a supportive and collaborative startup community, great accelerators and strong universities. But it doesn’t have a lot of customers, partners, or investors when compared to other more mature ecosystems. You can start a successful business here, but you will never reach scale within the region. That’s just a simple fact. The reality is that you must get on a plane and travel to larger places if you want to build your business. Our little region has a population of less than 2.5 million people. Individually each province is about…

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