Get your sales engine turbo charged on June 13

By Leo Valiquette

Anyone savvy with the local tech scene and the areas of focus by yours truly during my time at the OBJ will know all about that made-in-Ottawa problem with developing a sales culture among our companies. Well, somebody’s finally doing something about it.

Eliot Burdett and the team at Peak Sales Recruiting have teamed up with a number of other like-minded individuals to create a not-for-profit organization called the Sales Leadership Initiative (SLI).

SLI’s mission is simple: ferret out from among the estimated 6,000 sales people who live and work in Ottawa the shining stars, the high achievers, the trailblazers who continually set and raise the bar. But this isn’t about showering praise and recognition, it’s about picking the brains of these people for the wise insights that can help others up their own game.

“We are interested in learning from the best practices in technology sales, whether close to home or further afield,” is SLI’s official line. “Our goals are (1) to increase and develop the pool of sales talent, and (2) raise the profile of Ottawa as a center of sale excellence.”

SLI is kicking things off with a launch event on June 13 featuring best-selling author and award-winning motivational speaker Jeffrey Gitomer (pictured) to help sales professionals “turbo charge their sales engines.” It’s a morning event at Ben Franklin Place. Click here to learn more.

In a town dominated by a bureaucractic mindset and a horde of engineers turned C-level executives, we definitely need an initiative like this to push the sales side of a business. Now let’s just hope those most in need can acknowledge their shortcomings and take advantage of what SLI has to offer.

May Roundup: Ottawa innovation, biz building, media relations

By inmedia

In you missed any of these posts the first time around, here’s a roundup of everything we published in May.

Francis:
Propagating the Ottawa startup community
Ottawa DemoCamp9 showcases novel applications
How may my technology help you? Take 2

Tech community disagrees that BDC should ‘abandon its dogs’

Linda:
It’s about more than the written word
Copyright compliance
ITAC IT Hero Awards seeks nominations

The benefits of an agency having a horizontal account structure

Danny:
What bloggers want
Media getting even more social

Leo:
Buddy, how the heck do I build a business?
TheCodeFactory: ‘A place for innovation to grow’
Building small companies that roar

Finding anchors in the chaos

 

An extraordinary week for Ottawa start-ups

By Francis Moran

Last week was quite an extraordinary one for Ottawa’s start-up community.

Wow. When was the last time over the past six or eight or 10 years that I could make a bold statement like that and not have the guys in the white coats start measuring me for a jacket that buckles in the back?

And no, I’m not referring to a spate of product launches or company foundings or even venture capital funding announcements that would have been the basis of such enthusiasm in the past when Ottawa’s technology sector was dominated by capital-intensive efforts to invent a better telecom system or new semiconductor.

Instead, my enthusiasm today comes from a series of events we attended last week, all of which we blogged about and all of which contributed to a subtle but undeniable sense that something very exciting is afoot.

On Monday, I joined a warm and standing-room-only crowd at DemoCampOttawa9, where developers from six companies demonstrated their applications and received scads of intelligent, creative and constructively critical feedback from their peers.

Tuesday night, several generations of Ottawa technology entrepreneurs helped Ian Graham celebrate the official opening of his novel and creative co-working and collaboration space, TheCodeFactory. A series of short speeches was book-ended by veteran Denzil Doyle and emerging company founder Scott Lake. We here at inmediaare such big fans of what Ian is doing that we’ve signed on as founding partners of TheCodeFactory and we’ll be watching with more than passing interest as he builds a facility that is much needed in this town.

Wednesday night was The Ottawa Network‘s regular monthly Start-up Drop-in at LaBarge Weinstein and this was when the penny really dropped for me. As I wrote here Friday, every speaker was, among other things, sounding the consistent notes that Ottawa’s start-up community is focused on exciting new opportunities in the online world, is actively supporting its individual members and is building a broadly collaborative and globally minded ecosystem that may just yet spit out the next Facebook.

Thursday night I took a pass. But my colleague Leo Valiquette attended an event that in many ways emphasised one of the key realities of this exciting new world. In a session titled, “Buddy, keep your million, but buy my product,” The Ottawa Network in collaboration with the city’s various technology clusters came to the inevitable next stage of its now three-year-old series on how to tap into venture capital.

The first year, the title was, “Buddy, can you spare a million,” emphasizing the traditional route to building a company — beg for whatever venture capital you can lay your hands on.

The second year’s title, “Buddy why should I give you a million,” betrayed the fact that most of the begging was going wholly unanswered as VCs shut their wallets and became unyieldingly skeptical about the business plans they were seeing.

Last week’s title brought the whole thing full circle. If you can’t beg funding from VCs who either don’t have it or won’t invest it, then you have to build a company the old-fashioned way — develop a product and find someone who wants to pay you money to buy.

What a concept.

Fortunately, this reality now aligns with what Ottawa’s startups are doing anyway. Exciting and promising new ventures really can be launched on a shoestring. When a budding entrepreneur needs help, there is a wealth of events to attend, or many willing peers in the community who will contribute counsel or even hands-on support. When the venture grows a bit larger, places like TheCodeFactory will give it an affordable home. And by the time the VCs come calling, they really won’t be needed very much.

Hold the buckled jacket. It really is an exciting new day here in Ottawa.

Buddy, how the heck do I build a business?

By Leo Valiquette

What does it take to build a successful business from scratch without selling your soul to the venture capitalists? Pretty much what it takes to turn any vision into reality – persistence, optimism and thinking first about qualifying the market demand for what you want to offer.

Last night at the Marshes Golf Club, six local entrepreneurs, a couple fresh out of school, the rest somewhat grayer, manned a panel to discuss how they developed their individual businesses without the aid of venture capital dollars. The event was called Buddy keep your Million – but buy my product! To my mind, their insights are key to the success of any venture regardless of who is filling your bank account.

First up was the energetic Aydin Mirzaee, founder of bOK Systems Corp. and Chide.it. For him it’s all about persistence. He told the story of how Col. Sanders, a retiree not so keen about living on a fixed income, hit the road with his family chicken recipe and endured over 1,000 rejections before finding a restaurant willing to pay him royalties.

Next came the equally young and enterprising Kareem Sultan of RaceDV. The right mentor made all the difference for him. In this case, an employer who encouraged him to use his downtime at work to pursue his interests and to “go out and learn something.”  When things began to move along, his employer continued to help him incubate his idea, and, most importantly, allowed him to retain full ownership of his intellectual property.

Moving down the line came a more seasoned entrepreneur, Scott Lake, founder of Jaded Pixel and Shopify. With his focus on open-source software development, he puts a high premium on cultivating a passionate community following around a product to generate word of mouth and provide user feedback. But in addition to that, it must be an interactive communication, in which your developers have a dialogue with this community. It’s all about harnessing the power of social media.

Next up was Paul Slaby. His latest role is CEO of Kaben Wireless, but he has a long track record in Ottawa, with start-ups that include ATMOS and VoIPShield. What he found when he arrived at Kaben was a very strong engineering culture that needed to refocus on sales and marketing. Customer money is the best money to have he said, and one of the most effective ways to get it is to develop the services side of your business early. For him, that has translated into joint ventures on product development and providing that partner with outsourced R&D services with a running royalty arrangement.

For the next speaker, Wael Aggan of TradeMerit, one truth has been self-evident since his first venture in Egypt more than 30 years ago—define a market niche first, figure out how you will engineer a product to fill that need second. His preference is always to define a niche and dominate it, rather than pursue a broader market opportunity where there might already be established incumbents or too much open playing field for “me too” rivals to muscle in.

Lastly, Rob Lane of Overlay.TV discussed how it was the right choice for his company to secure venture capital financing. For the market his company is trying to tackle and the big incumbents that are already there, an infusion of VC cash was the only way for his company to generate adequate market momentum. However, his message is that each individual must first define what success means for them. Is it a $1-million venture, a $10-million venture, or a $1-billion one? (And of course, VCs won’t bother with anything that doesn’t have the potential to become at least a $100-million enterprise). He also stressed the importance of global networking thanks to the dramatic impact of social media.

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Propagating the Ottawa startup community

By Francis Moran

The official theme was “Ottawa’s digital media industry,” and the gamers, social networkers and content developers were there in spades. But what I heard at Wednesday night’s regular Start-up Drop-in put on by The Ottawa Network at LaBarge Weinstein had as much or more to do with propagating and supporting the entire start-up — indeed, the entire technology — community in Ottawa than it did with digital media per se.

In keeping with the format now well established by LWLaw partner and event host James Smith, we heard briefly from several different actors before the headline act shared what is billed as “words of wisdom.”

First out of the gate was a quartet of self-described “next generation” entrepreneurs who see themselves as having a serious role to play in cultivating and supporting their fellow tech entrepreneurs. Putting their blogging skills where their mouths are, they run StartupOttawa.com, an active blog by and about the start-up community. Mercury Grove‘s Scott Annan, Shopify‘s Scott Lake, TravelPod‘s Luc Levesque and Jean-Sylvain Sormony of Fuel all talked about the importance of cultivating “our generation of entrepreneurs,” as Lake put it.

Two start-ups whose very business model is all about propagation went next.

David Thompson described his company, Noleo, and its platform that hosts social networking applications, allowing them to simply and simultaneously run on a number of social networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. Alan Isfan’s FaveQuest is also all about propagating content across social networking sites, in this case taking broadcast television material and packaging it for redistribution to the social networking ecosystem.

Ben Houston, a fascinating young developer whose computational magic has been seen in several Hollywood movies, was an example of the propagational potential of the Start-up Drop-in itself since that’s where, a few months ago, he first met Keith Taylor, the business executive he has now recruited as president of his company, Exocortex Technologies.

I was momentarily stuck when Distil Interactive CEO Robert Thompson began to share his words of wisdom since it was not immediately clear to me how his comparison of Ottawa to other tech-savvy centres in which he worked would fit into my propagation theme. But his talk was really about challenging the 50 or so company leaders and managers in the room to propagate their obvious enthusiasm, commitment and empowerment throughout the rest of their company employees and, indeed, throughout the rest of the community.

It was a high energy evening, as have been the last several of these drop-ins.

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