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Ontario angel investments up 41 percent

By Francis Moranthe Network of Angel Organizations - Ontario

In yet another good sign of growing angel investor interest in backing promising startups, the Network of Angel Organizations – Ontario today announced that its members reported a 41-percent increase in direct investment into 77 Ontario companies over a 12-month period in 2012-2013. This comes on the heels of a report two weeks ago from the National Angel Capital Organization that its members injected $40.5-million into 139 young companies in 2012. Although NAO-Ontario did not reveal how much had been invested over the past 12 months, it said its members have put a total of $91.6-million into 169 Ontario companies since 2007.

Angel investors are high-net-worth individuals who are often the first external source of funding for new ventures. Many invest on their own, but increasingly in Canada we’re seeing angels come together in groups to share the due diligence burden and pool their investments.

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Selling ideas at the intersection of interest

By Francis Moranintersection

I had an excellent and productive meeting earlier this week with the hard-working folks at Startup Canada who are, among an impressive roster of other activities, preparing for a major lobbying and information session on Parliament Hill in November. I have been a proud advisor to Startup Canada ever since Victoria Lennox contacted me when she was first putting together this grassroots movement to cultivate a more entrepreneurial culture in this country, and have watched, mainly from the sidelines, as the organisation has gone from strength to strength.

Startup Canada, which usually concerns itself with talking to, listening to and championing the critical economic contributions made by startup entrepreneurs, quite rightly understands that policy makers, whether sitting in parliaments or in the senior bureaucracy, need to gain a far greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the role that startups play in advancing Canada’s economic, job-creation, innovation and competitiveness agendas. Accordingly, the group has planned an ambitious day of activities this November when they will bring their message — and a good cross-section of entrepreneurs and community leaders who embody that message — to Parliament Hill. Read More

Canadian angel investments double in quantity but rise only 13 percent in value

Canada-invest-resizeBy Francis Moran

Angel investors, that group of high-net-worth individuals who are often the first source of external funding for new companies, were a great deal more active in Canada in 2012, making nearly twice as many investments as the year before. However, the total value of those investments rose by only 13 percent, suggesting that individual investments, while perhaps easier to secure, are getting smaller.

That was one conclusion to be drawn from the annual report on angel investing published earlier this week by Canada’s National Angel Capital Organization. The survey of 20 out of NACO’s 24 angel group members revealed that a total of 139 investments were made last year, up 96 percent from the year previous. Just over 100 of these were new investments, 30 were follow-on and the balance were not specifically categorised. However, the total amount invested in 2012 was $40.5-million (all values in Canadian dollars), up only 13 percent over the $35.7-million that angels put into young companies in 2011.

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Empowerment is the core of superior customer service

imagesBy Francis Moran

We have a bit of a preoccupation with customer service here at Francis Moran and Associates, and we write about it a lot. It stems from my conviction that superior customer service is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage available to most companies. If you have a technology advantage, the next wave of innovation will leapfrog over you. If you have a price advantage, someone will eventually figure out how to do it more cheaply. But if you treat your customers like the kings and queens they are, you will prevail over the long term, and even more so if you are in a commodity industry. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I call it “Francis’s first law of competitive differentiation.”

Usually, we are bewailing the sorry state of customer service almost everywhere. It’s as though most companies have yet to figure out that the cost of retaining an existing customer is a fraction of the cost of acquiring a new one. Every so often, someone does such a truly horrible job that I am obliged to award them my Air Canada-Harold McGowan Memorial Award for Truly Egregious Customer Service in honour of Air Canada’s baggage-handling chief at San Francisco Airport who said to me, when I started telling him why my bag had failed to arrive with me on a flight from Calgary, “Keep talking sir, it’s going in one ear and out the other.”

But nobody’s getting that award today. Indeed, just the opposite. Read More

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When the rampaging elephant drops dead

When the rampaging elephant drops deadBy Francis Moran

When I started inmedia Public Relations in the late 1990s, Ottawa and much of the rest of North America was mid-way through one of the most inflated economic bubbles that had been experienced up to that point.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act in the U.S. had spawned scores of ILECs, CLECs and a host of other acronyms describing various flavours of telecommunications carriers, all of which were on hungry equipment-buying sprees. This coincided nicely with the rise of data versus voice traffic, and so the requirement to build out brand new kinds of packet- rather than circuit-switched networks. These twin market drivers were the impetus behind a raft of new optical, silicon and networking startups in Ottawa as well as the unprecedented climb of Nortel Networks, which at one point had a market capitalization worth more than one-third of the entire Toronto Stock Exchange.

Driving much of that data traffic — either actual or anticipated — was this thing called the Internet, which was in its first furious bloom. The notion had somehow taken hold of otherwise canny people that you could put up a web site to transact almost any sort of business and that massive value would swiftly be created simply by attracting eyeballs to that site, even if precious few of the owners of those eyeballs ever actually bought anything.

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