Last year, I spent a good deal of time wandering around this camp or that camp or a Mash/Mesh thing hoping that more Canadian entrepreneurs would get a chance to interact with me (as a VC). The thinking was that besides the obvious (deal flow), being accessible to the start up community, etc, is super important.
Somewhere along the way, weird stuff happened. First, they turned into speaking engagements with no opportunity to actually engage with the very people I wanted to speak with. For example, I got invited to a Demo Camp to do a presentation. My presentation was in the same format as the Demo Camp's don't control the slides, super fast, etc. It was cute but lots of people complained to me that it was the wrong way to do it, etc. So, I started thinking that there had to be a better way to do this.
Sometimes the venues just aren't really well suited. Next Monday's Demo Camp, for example, has no time for any of the VC guys to 'speak' or 'teach' or anything which is a shame but it may not be the right place. I sponsored it anyway because it is super important to the community.
Jevon MacDonald, who does an outstanding job of writing StartupNorth, often said that we (the VCs) in Canada are not doing enough outreach. Jevon is right.
To solve this problem and to hopefully answer Jevon's complaint, I'm going to do what I'm calling a VC Roundtable Series of get togethers. The format will be something like this - and I'm open to suggestions:
- Evening, about 3 hours in length
- Informal/Free (super important!)
- Small Groups (super important!)
- Information on VC/Angels and the process.
- Sample Term sheets, documents, business plans, PowerPoints
- Example Pitch or Pitches to show what's interesting/good/bad
- Open questions for a good chunk of time.
What it will not be:
- Me trashing your ideas
- You trashing somebody else's ideas
- Three hours of me showing you PowerPoint slides
The hope is that at the end of the get together you will have:
- An understanding of my world
- A good set of reference documents/examples/materials
- Some of your top of mind questions answered
- A better feel for my industry and if raising third party capital is right for you.
- A good place to start
I'm going to kick this off in late March. The plan is to hit major cities in Canada, coast to coast. If Air Canada will get me there on my Airpass, I'll go. If we can get 15 people in a room that care about this stuff, I'll attempt to do it.
How can you help?
First, I'd like to find an intern who wants to learn about the VC business, play pseudo-geek, and manage some of this. This would be setting up the web page, sign up stuff, etc. If you know of a student who wants a summer gig hanging out with me in VCland, let me know.
Second, I'll need to know where this makes sense so spread the word. The obvious is Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto but Halifax? St. Johns? I'm willing to go if there is an interest and I get there via Air Canada aircraft.
Third, need some places to host it. The simple requirements are someplace quiet where we can hang around, chat. A whiteboard or something to draw on would be great. So, schools, library conference rooms, etc, all would be fine.
Fourth, spread the word and let's see if there is a real need. A little link love, word of mouth and hopefully, we'll make a positive impact.
We'll get a calendar up as soon as we can.