Tag Archives: Canada

5 questions with Aidan Nulman

Aidan Nulman loves the internet. After being denied a marriage license twice, he’s been starting web companies left, right, and centre: Busy Bee (with three amazing partners), Cronyizm, and YouPhonics.

Hopefully, you’ll hear of one of them someday when you’re not reading his bio.

What motivates you to do what you do on a daily basis?

People. A lot of folks like to think about who they’re impacting, how they’re making a difference, whose lives they’re improving… I like to think about who I’m making smile.

If you had 30 seconds to impart your wisdom on a classroom of soon-to-be graduates, what would you say?

If they have their skin in the game, you need to agree. If they don’t, be ready to say yes, but confident to say no.

In your opinion, what has been one of the most important technological developments over the past 12 months?

You probably get this a lot, but location. Since the late ’90s, I’ve considered Google as a perennial cheat sheet. With mobile browsing, that became even more truthful – I didn’t need to be at a computer to access it anymore. And now we’re only just cracking the surface on location; when our apps know where we are, they’ll be able to filter the wheat from the chaff based on the most powerful contextual indicator: our location.

If you had a crystal ball, what would you say will be the most important technological development over the next 12 months?

Karim Kanji. I’m expecting Skynet to finally incorporate, and figure out how to scale your awesomeness so everyone can experience it. Then maybe a few K-1000s will go sour and try to Kariminate the human population. Which is why I’m glad Arnold had to leave office: he’s the only one who can save us. (KK – I swear Aidan wrote this.)

Who is one of Canada’s tech stars and why?

I’m working alongside 39 of them this summer: Krista Caldwell, Mindy Lau, Yilun Zhang (my partners at Busy Bee), and all of the others in The Next 36. I’m inspired and pushed by them every day. And I’m certain that, come August, each and every one will impress the crap out of you.

creating community: part 2

Money Mart
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Just over a month ago I blogged about creating community: part 1.  The beginning of this story was a refresher on my experience with GREENtuity and my first lessons in creating communities online.

The next step of my journey brings us to a company I used to work for called RealCash.

RealCash was a finance company in the residential real estate space.  They factored a portion of an agent’s earned commissions.  In short, RealCash was the Money Mart equivalent for real estate agents.

My role with the company was in marketing.  I put together email campaigns, trade show strategies and even set-up strategic partnerships with major real estate companies across Canada.  After a while, due to market conditions, I was forced to slash our budget and look for creative ways to market for free.

Enter social media.  Here are some lessons I learned:

Blogging:

Almost everyday I blogged.  And the results were phenomenal!  Searching for “commission advance in Canada” on Google resulted in RealCash moving from the 5th page to the 1st page.  Not bad I’d say.  Remember, we had a zero budget for marketing at this stage.

Active Rain:

Active Rain is the social network for professionals involved in the real estate space in North America.  After leaving RealCash more than six months ago I STILL receive calls from people finding the RealCash profile online through searching online.

Facebook:

Would you ever tell your professional friends, family and close friends that you use “Money Mart”?  Neither would I.   Facebook didn’t result in any community traction at all.

Twitter:

A great tool that RealCash used to promote itself as a thought leader in the real estate social space.

Overall, RealCash had success at creating an online community online.  So much so that potential clients called alot.  How much?  Too much. RealCash advanced more financial resources than they had access to.  Now they’re out of business.  Yikes!

What’s the overall lesson:  Don’t make promises (on social media or otherwise) that the company’s bank account can’t cash.

To be continued…

President and CEO of L’Oreal Canada provides some ‘Food For Thought’

Yesterday I had the good fortune of being invited by Aditya Shah of Loose Button to their Food For Thought series at the La Maquette Italian restaurant in downtown Toronto.

This particular series featured guests from companies such as Syncapse, AshCity, TIFF, LinkedIn Canada, Guardly, Rogers, and Environics.  Representing thirdocean and XConnect at this luncheon with these other companies was exciting and humbling to say the least.

This month’s featured speaker was Javier San Juan, President and CEO of L’Oreal Canada.  To give you an idea of how large L’Oreal Canada is, they have sales of over $1 billion in Canada with a market share of over 30% which leads the entire beauty market in Canada.

The talk of the afternoon, however, was not on the state of the beauty and cosmetics industry in Canada.  The discussion was on the reason L’Oreal has pursued a digital and social strategy.

Javier discussed 5 points on L’Oreal and social media:

  1. Internal Culture and Communications.  Previously, communications was a top-down activity.  With the integration of internal social tools, however, employees are now obligated to voice their views.  Said Javier, “We listen to our customers and our employees.”
  2. Brand Ownership. “We don’t own our brands anymore.  But we can shape the discussion and conversation that is taking place about our brands.”
  3. Relevancy.  Unlike traditional push-marketing social media marketing is more about discussion.  As a result, messaging has become more relevant and more about conversations.
  4. Content Revolution.  Today when you watch or listen to a commercial, or drive by a billboard there is almost zero chance of that content spreading.  The very definition of social media includes the ability to share and discuss this content with friends, family and acquaintances.
  5. Connect.  L’Oreal decided to become involved in social media not because it was sexy but because it allowed L’Oreal to connect, communicate and share with their employees and consumers.
Why does your company use social media and how does it approach a social strategy?

Canadian Angel and Investment Community – does it exist?

I hear Angel Investors want to see revenue.  Is this a Canadian thing?  Twitter and Facebook received angel funding before making money.  What are your thoughts?

This was my question to my Twitter and Facebook communities about one month ago.  And it is interesting the answers I received.  I am going to share with you many of the responses and conversations that took place on Twitter and Facebook as a result of my question.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Who

Who the heck do people go to in the first place.  You have an idea.  You’ve even created a product and have started to gain a few customers.  But to grow your business you need someone to invest in your business and maybe mentor you along the way.  But you have no clue who to approach.

What

You finally find someone who may listen to you.  But you’re not sure what the criteria is.  What questions will they ask and what answers will you need to provide?  Maybe your company is not the right fit for this “serial investor”.  What sort of criteria, information and metrics will you need to provide?

The world of startups and the startup investment community seems fractured here in Canada.  Do you need to have a positive cash flow before seeking out investors?  Do you need to have a successful startup resume to capture the attention of potential investors?  Do you need to have one million subscribers before someone will answer your phone call?

In my opinion, its time for the angel and investment community in Canada to get together and make yourselves available to the startup community.  I believe there are many investors in Canada willing to mentor and pony up the financial resources to help a company flourish and grow.  And there is undoubtedly many smart people here in Canada working on new and cutting edge companies, ideas and technologies.

The conversation:

Dave Coleman: It’s actually an east coast thing … NY/Toronto for example are all about business models and showing revenue (not profit, but revenue) … West coast is all about building, generating users and then figuring it out from there.  It’s worthy of debate Karim. I do not think either are right or wrong. The chance of an east coast start-up succeeding is higher (IMHO), however the volume of startups out West is greater

Farhan Lalji:  Don’t think it’s just a Toronto/NY thing, it happens in London as well.  Angel investors want to see revenue here as well, though they say they will invest in an idea, rarely does it happen. Just look at Seedcamp in the EU – says it’s like Y Combinator but all of the companies had product and traction/customers if not revenue.   I think that’s what makes Silicon Valley unique; it has a culture of risk – trusting the team to take advantage of the market. It also has a culture of reinvestment, several people made money off companies like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, eBay, PayPal, Cisco etc and those new rich took flyers on the founders of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare etc.

Rahim Adatia: There is a lot more to this than East coast vs West coast and business models vs no business model. New York is far more risk-taking than Toronto. In the US and more so in the Valley, smart money invests into teams not business models. Smart money knows that business models change in the early days and you need a team that has the brains, will, and experience to adapt quickly. There is also more maturity as an industry in the Valley in regards to tech investments. This is the 4th or 5th cycle here, while in most other areas, this is the 2nd. The first being the dot-com boom, and the current dot-com 2.0 boom. That has benefits in terms of banking, legal, business development, sales, etc.  The problem is that soon greed starts to set in, and in all areas dumb money floods in. For example, a person who normally invests into real estate, will throw money into the tech world trying to cash in quick and then bad teams get invested, or the teams in Toronto/London without biz-models get invested. That ends up temporary skewing everything. This is the premise I present at many of my talks.  General comment I get is that you can already start to see the dumb money (greed) coming into the Valley.

There were many more Facebook comments and Tweets that were shared regarding this question.  Thanks to everyone who participated and will continue to participate in the comments section below:

How would you improve the funding and startup disconnect in Canada?