How can accelerators help your startup grow?
A lot of the tools we have discussed in this column are for established businesses, small or large. There is a particular disease that we have not yet warned you about. It’s a chronic condition that requires special attention and intervention to reduce business mortality. Symptoms include sparkly eyes, disassociation with reality, stubbornness, and may even include memory lapses of basic normal functions like eating and sleeping. It’s time for a frank talk about entrepreneurship disease.
Ivan: This is a disease that both of this column’s authors have some first-hand experience with. Be careful, while it may have a great deal of its origins in your genes, entrepreneurship disease can start innocently enough, seeing the opportunity of castles in the sky when others around you see none. However, before you know it, you could easily find yourself deep in the belly of the beast, toiling away for 16-hour days, forgetting about all your other responsibilities, the life you had before you caught the bug.
Cyri: Luckily, there is hope and good local support networks. At a recent Vancouver Enterprise Forum (www.vef.org) event sponsored in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council in Canada (NSERC), representatives from a number of local clinics highlighted their particular treatment methods. Brent Holliday of Capital West Partners did a great job of moderating the session, helping those with entrepreneurship disease and their loved ones select the best treatment program for them.
Here are some local treatment options:
Grow Lab (www.growlab.ca/): No, this isn’t the usual kind of Vancouver grow lab. This is for people that need an intense intervention, a four-month treatment program. The first three months are held in Vancouver where in the words of Founder and Principal Jason Bailey you are kept “locked up”, mentored, and driven to “get on with it”. The inspiration in fact for this column came from Bailey who exclaimed to the VEF crowd that Grow Labs was looking for folks with sparkles in their eyes, deeply infused with “the entrepreneurship disease”. All others need not apply. For the final month, you will be shipped to San Francisco, where you will have a chance to meet people with the most intense cases of the disease and the venture capitalist dealers who back them on Sand Hill Road (aka Silicon Valley).
instituteB (instituteb.com/): This is a specialized institute that treats people that have the unique and interesting delusion that they can change the world for the better while making substantial money. Although they are “purveyors of unreasonable business”, they are in big demand. Their clinic is currently full, indicating this is a more common disease than you might expect. They will still continue to take on socially conscious sparkly eyes in the near future. They may just soon be the dominant model.
Entrepreneurship@UBC: (www.entrepreneurship.ubc.ca/). This is another specialized institute that really only wants to treat you if your symptoms first started while attending UBC or shortly after graduation. They have a seed fund that can help teams of students fund their sparkly-eyed affliction, with an investment board chaired by none other than Haig Farris, one of Canada’s pioneering experts on the entrepreneurial condition.
Venture Labs: (ventureconnection.sfu.ca): This is Simon Fraser University’s treatment centre that focuses on SFU students and recent alumni. They are experimenting with spreading an entrepreneurship virus throughout SFU, turning it into a cultural phenomenon. They may also accept non-SFU outsiders.
Alacrity Foundation (http://alacrityfoundation.com/canada): Associated with the University of Victoria, this accelerator treats business and engineering students and grads that want to start companies. Participants can get a Masters of Applied Science while under treatment.
Peter Thomson Centre for Venture Development: (www.bcit.ca/business/venture/): Helping entrepreneurs since 1986, you can even get help online, no questions asked, via their Virtual Business Hub. Your friends and family don’t even need to know you have the condition.
ARLO (www.bcit.ca/appliedresearch/): This is newer kid on the block focuses on connecting industry with BCIT students and faculty, helping commercialize applied research and early-stage technologies.
Wavefront (www.wavefrontac.com/): Are your thumbs evolving into power fingers? Do you bring your phone with you to bed? Are you dreaming up mobile apps in the middle of conversations with your significant other? You have a special form of the disease called mobile addiction syndrome. Don’t worry, there is hope. Wavefront is a government and industry sponsored treatment program for those that are truly mobile addicted and have the delusional belief their app will make it to the Top 10.
Angel Networks: There are also local angel networks like VANTEC (vantec.ca), led by another legendary entrepreneurship specialist, Mike Volker or the Vancouver Angel Forum (www.angelforum.org) led by seasoned veteran Bob Chaworth-Musters. They have the experience to help folks with an early-stage case before it gets too expensive to manage.
Future Management of Condition
Ivan: Once you get through the early “accelerator” and “angelic” stages of entrepreneurship disease, you may need to find more powerful and deep-pocketed “VC” supporters to get you to the next phase of the disease, full commercialization and scalability. It’s not uncommon for this treatment phase to cost tens of millions of dollars or more.
Generic Name & Alternative Medicine
Cyri: These clinics used to be called incubators but they were so warm and cozy that no one wanted to leave and actually crack their shell into the marketplace. Now it’s all about overcoming your entrepreneurship disease as quickly as possible. It’s less costly for everyone involved. If you’re going to fail, better do it fast.
Ivan: How much are these treatment programs going to cost me? They sound intense, no doubt a big bill attached? I’m not sure if I can afford the medication.
Cyri: Considering their effectiveness, the treatments are cheaper than you think. Grow Labs will actually pay you to enter their program – not a whole lot but at least enough to live in an “eight square foot apartment” and eat Ramen noodles. But if you haven’t raised millions of dollars in support of your addiction within four months, you’re back on the street. Most clinics will want a small piece of your flesh (i.e. equity).
Precautions / Warnings
Ivan: Entrepreneurship disease leads to only two outcomes, immense fame and fortune (extremely rare) or the much more common outcome, bankruptcy and failure — losing your spouse, house, friends and family (especially if they gave you “love money” to support your addiction) and most psychologically damaging, your reputation. You gave it your all and yet you still failed. Having good treatment at one of the local clinics mentioned above can mean the difference between success and business failure. For the sparkly eyed out there — and you know who you are – isn’t it time you got professional help?
Cyri & Ivan’s Medication Rating:
***** (not for everyone)
Cyri Jones teaches entrepreneurship, project management and IT at BCIT and Capilano University and is the founder of ZENPortfolios.ca, an e-portfolio, social networking and group collaboration tool. He blogs at 24posts.com. Ivan Surjanovic is in Capilano University’s Marketing Faculty and CEO of iPower Lab. He blogs about new business and technology trends at whereispuck.com. All Cyri and Ivan’s previous columns published in Business in Vancouver can also be found on bizpharmacy.com.