LiON’S LAIR seeking new ventures

It’s been a year since I met with Ron Neumann and his energetic team at Innovation Factory to discuss their plans to bring the spirit of entrepreneurship to the city in a new competition called LiON’S LAIR. I knew there would be enormous potential to help Hamilton businesses grow, given the right combination of training, exposure, and resources, and I was excited to get involved in the process.

In 2011, I sat on a panel of five “Lions,” which included Ron Foxcroft, Ed Minich, P.J. Mercanti and Connie Smith.

We participated in a long process of reviews, evaluation, filming and selection.

We were tasked with deciding which entrepreneurs were the most deserving of the $100,000 prize. Eventually, we awarded Weever Apps, Anivac Corp., and Gorilla Cheese each with a portion of the winnings.

Once again, inventors, entrepreneurs, innovators, and startup businesses in Hamilton are being given a chance to solicit up to $100,000 in cash and services to get their companies off the ground. This is one sequel you won’t want to miss.

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Innovation Factory have created more than just a competition. The purpose of LiON’S LAIR is to celebrate entrepreneurship in Hamilton and inject local startups with much-needed investment and exposure. It is the perfect spark for the city and the results have been outstanding.

We are calling on all Hamiltonians to participate by submitting an original business plan for consideration. Ten finalists will be selected to attend workshops designed to strengthen their business planning, media relations and presentation skills before pitching their idea to a panel of experts in a television studio. The video shorts will be presented at the LiON’S LAIR gala held at Carmen’s Banquet Centre on Oct. 4, 2012.

LiON’S LAIR also provides a unique opportunity for Hamiltonians to vicariously experience the thrill of startup investment, as they follow the aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators on the LiON’S LAIR microsite over the course of their training, leading up to the gala where the winner — or winners — will be announced.

Last year, the decision was very tough, but this year I hope there’s an even greater number of Hamilton businesses making a pitch and hat the decision is even harder.

There is a deep pool of talent here in the city that it is just waiting to be tapped — someone in Hamilton has that next big idea waiting to be unleashed.

Through this competition, the Lions will help guide your journey and provide the encouragement you need to hit the ground running.

There’s no end of support in this city, and I expect to see an even greater number of Hamilton businesses vying for their chance to pitch to the Lions.

Be sure to check out the website at pitch-it.ca for information on this year’s event. The deadline to apply for LiON’S LAIR 2012 is April 30, so if you’re serious about getting your venture off the ground, write a five- to 10-page business plan and submit your application. LiON’S LAIR can be hard work but many of the 2011 finalists agreed that the workshops and public exposure for their companies were well worth the time.

Just watch the video of last year’s finalists on pitch-it.ca if you don’t believe me.

Global Sensation Startup Weekend Returns to Hamilton

Hamilton, ON (April 16, 2012) – Hamilton’s Regional Innovation Centre (RIC), Innovation Factory (iF) has teamed up once again with Software Hamilton to bring the international movement of Startup Weekend to Hamilton this spring.  Startup Weekend  is  a  global  network  of  passionate  leaders  &  entrepreneurs  on  a  mission  to inspire,  educate & empower individuals, teams & communities.  Attendees come share to ideas,  form  teams  &  launch  startups.

The first Startup Weekend event in Hamilton last October drew a strong crowd of Hamilton designers, developers, business professionals, and students.  This time, the Startup Weekend Hamilton 2 (SWH2) team decided to expand their reach, and have partnered with two other local RICs – Halton’s HalTech and Niagara’s nGen – as well as grassroots group Silicon Halton, to bring in participants from nearby communities.

Startup Weekend Hamilton 2 will be held April 27-29, 2012 and will be hosted in the new Collaboratory space at Mohawk College, 135 Fennell Avenue West, Hamilton.  Companies from across the community have shown their support for this exciting initiative – Mohawk College (Host Sponsor), Ridout & Maybee LLP (Gold Sponsor), Coral CEA (Silver Sponsor), PopChips and Deliverizer (food and beverage sponsors).  Prizes include packages from KKT Interactive and enthuzr, in addition to a 6-month incubation space from Mohawk College, and 5 Blackberry Playbooks from RIM.

Attendees will have the opportunity to hear keynote speakers Robin Hopper (iF, Awareness Inc.), Dean McCall (Appficient), and Kevin Browne (Software Hamilton) on Friday night, and their final presentations on Sunday will be judged by Chris Farias (kitestring creative branding studio), Mark Pavlidis (Endloop Mobile), and Karen Grant (Angel One Investor Network).  The weekend will also feature an impressive roster of mentors, including Jesse Rodgers (TribeHR).

Tickets are $99 per person or $49 for students, which includes supplies, as well as meals, beverages, and snacks throughout the entire weekend.  For more information visit hamilton.startupweekend.org or register at swhamilton2.eventbrite.com. 

About Startup Weekend

Startup Weekends are 54-hour events designed to provide superior experiential education for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs.  Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through brainstorming, business plan development, and basic prototype creation, Startup Weekends culminate in Sunday night demos and presentations.  Participants create working startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of their daily networks. All teams hear talks by industry leaders and receive valuable feedback from local entrepreneurs. The weekend is centered around action, innovation, and education.  Whether you are looking for feedback on a idea, a co-founder, specific skill sets, or a team to help you execute, Startup Weekends are the perfect environment in which to test your idea and take the first steps towards launching your own startup.

Media Contact

For more information, contact Stephanie Shuster, stephanie.shuster@innovationfactory.ca, 905.667.2611 x.224

Twitter Guide for Small Business: A Great Read!

Originally posted on CanuckSEO.com

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You are a small biz owner and you’ve heard that this “Twitter” online service is pretty much anything BUT business….and so why should you even consider adding this media outlet to your marketing mix?

So….with time being the major constraint in your world….why indeed?

Well, answer is….there’s more – much more to Twitter, than simple personal revelations like “I had Cheerios this morning” and “Didn’t like John Carter very much…” and to combat that thought alone you are in luck!

And the Guide itself, available here….offers up much in the way of rationalizing your foray into social media via Twitter. You see, as they put it so well, “…a Tweet is a powerful tool. Every week billions of Tweets flow through Twitter about every imaginable subject. A wide variety of people, organizations, businesses — big and small, local and international — all use Twitter to make their presence known. And this guide is intended to help small business owners understand how to use Twitter better. Twitter can help your company connect with customers, amplify your message, and ultimately, grow your business.”

Here’s a quick look at the contents….

    • 1. GET STARTED
      Your customers are already on Twitter. Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of the conversation. Learn how to use Twitter effectively to meet your business goals.
    • 2. ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE
      Make sure your voice shapes the online identity of your business. Tweet about the ideas, principles and value of your business. Share links and pictures with your customers. Let them see what happens behind the scenes.
    • 3. AMPLIFY YOUR IMPACT
      The more people who talk about your business on Twitter, the more followers (and customers) you’ll get. Focus on activities that promote your @username and expand your business.

While the advice is top notch over the complete 22 page Guide, there are a couple of standouts that I especially love, the first of which deals with the mantra to “listen first” before going out and tweeting…and that’s a spot-on rationale!

Too often I see or read about firms who have made a total mess of their online reputation via Twitter by “posting first” and then comes the denouement! Like your Dad used to say – “listen first…then talk!” and that is well covered in the Guide!

And while there’s no mention about those folks who try to “impersonate” someone else or another firm for whatever reason, but a quick Google for same shows millions of hits on that bad mistake – one that you can avoid by following the great advice in this Guide! In our own Canadian online marketing practice, we already preach that our clients should & must be totally transparent and honest, something to remember, eh!

Further there is another great section that deals with how to Amplify your media positioning and the tips there are pretty darn good! Read closely on the section that deals with “working with others” and on “how to measure your impact.”

Twitter is here. You need to use it to get some social media online reputation traction. Honest you do…and the Twitter Guide for Small Business can get you started, eh!

 

Improving education with technology – Dundas Central model

The Spectator covered Dundas Central teacher Heidi Siwak’s (@HeidiSiwak) efforts to use technology to improve learning using technology last December in this article, but I’ve been meaning to throw up a post about it here in case anyone missed the story. Heidi’s efforts have also been covered in The Globe & Mail’s “Future of Education” series, and last month Dundas Central won The Ken Spencer Award given out by the Canadian Education Association for innovation in teaching and learning.

The class uses YouTube, has experimented with a livestream channel and podcasting, uses a document camera to share information, has hosted a student-led global Twitter chat, and have designed a tourism mobile app, amongst other innovative efforts. Heidi is sharing these new models for learning with peers in the US, Canada and Australia, turning the initiative into what the writer of the Ken Spencer Award text called the ‘Dundas Central model’.

Heidi maintains a blog at www.heidisiwak.com where she documents these efforts, in addition to posting about education and technology in the classroom. The students themselves explain how they use technology and what they’ve been up to in the video below, which itself won the 4th Annual 21st Century Video Classroom Challenge.

I have a research interest in education technologies and I’m a fan of “learning by doing” when it makes sense. So it’s great to see a classroom that embraces experimentation with new technology and practical applications. It’s even better to see that the results are being shared openly with the world so others can benefit from the experimentation.

 

Tips for Starting a Linkedin in Group

Recently VA Partners launched a group on Linkedin called “Sales and Marketing for Canadian Startups”. Linkedin groups have a number of benefits for member such as sharing content and making connections, as outlined in a previous blog post. However, from the perspective of a group owner there are different things to consider when it comes to Linkedin groups.

When I was doing research on how to start a Linkedin group I came across a number of resources with great guidelines. These include articles from Hubspot and Social Media Examiner.The recently published article “How to Run a Successful Linkedin Group” featuring Sourov De and Chris Hebert has some great tips as well.

Below are some tips I have gathered:

Marketing:

  • Develop a digital marketing strategy to gain momentum in attracting members. Use social media platforms such as twitter to spread the word. Other outlets can include the use of your newsletter. You can use these platforms to not only present the launch of the group, but to also provide continual updates on the group’s progress.
  • Use connections that individuals have on Linkedin to send out personal emails encouraging them to join the group to by outlining what benefits it could offer them. It’s important to only invite people who will actually consider joining.

Content:

  • Since the group is encompassing both sales and marketing it’s important to vary the topics of the content that is being posted as well as the sources that they are being drawn from but still maintain the overall topics of sales and marketing.
  • Formulate questions and post them as discussions to allow members to engage in conversations.
  • Comment and like discussions that are posted by other members in order to show that you are involved in the group’s discussion board.

Monitoring:

  • Decide whether an open group or a closed group is more appropriate for the goals of your group. Some factors that play a part in making your decision include:approving members, approving discussions or allowing updates without any approval. The decision to have an open or closed group will alter the amount of time you will regularly spend on the group.
  • Set up group rules for members to refer to. This also shows that this group is meant to facilitate only relevant discussions. It indicates to members that the group managers are involved in the group’s progress and are committed to making it one that will be beneficial to its members.
  • Develop a way of addressing spam and other promotional material. First, it’s important to create guidelines on what is considered spam and what isn’t.Utilize the personal message feature in Linkedin to connect with anyone who is posting things that aren’t relevant to the group

It’s important to realize that once the group has been launched many of your pre-planned ideas may need to be adjusted. For example there can be lot of activity on the group’s discussion board so you may reduce the amount of content you post.Continue to develop your plans to cater to your groups demographic.

Take a look at the group “Sales and Marketing for Canadian Startups” to see the results of the efforts that are put into creating a Linkedin group. For more information about how you can make the shift in Marketing for your team, or for help getting your Marketing efforts off the ground, take a look at how we can help.

BIZCLiP and Hamilton Economic Development cover DemoCampHamilton6

BIZCLiP (@bizclipinc) released a video clip earlier this week of their coverage of DemoCampHamilton6, as part of Hamilton Economic Development’s (@hamiltonecdev) great Invest in Hamilton channel. In addition to capturing some great footage of the evening, BIZCLiP founder Moe Masoudi interviewed Jim Ridnuck (@JVRudnick) and myself (@hamiltonkb) that evening.

Check out the video here!

 

 

 

US passes CrowdFunding Act: What Now Canada?

Originally posted on CanuckSEO.com

Sigh. And I mean just that….sigh. What are we going to do now, Canuck startups?

The US Senate, as nicely as you please, just passed today, the new JoBS Act, and guess what startups -crowdfunding is now LEGAL in the US.

You heard me. It’ legal. Sure, there’s a few i’s to dot and a couple of t’s to cross…but in fact, if you have a startup and you want to be funded via a crowdfunding website – it’s legal.

Sigh. So let’s first look at the Crowdfund Act itself…well no, let’s not…but here’s the new law’s highlights….

  • Allow entrepreneurs to raise up to $1 million per year through an SEC-registered crowdfunding portal.
  • Free people to invest a percentage of their income.
  • For investors with an income of less than $100,000, investments will be capped at the greater of $2,000 or 5% of income.
  • For investors within an income of more than $100,000, investments will be capped at 10% up to $100,000.
  • Require crowdfunding portals to provide investor protection, including investor education materials on the risks associated with small issuers and illiquidity.

And while the terms above may seem a bit restrictive, it’s pretty obvious that with the huge number of soon-to-be Crowdfunding sites that will rise to this new opportunity – that many of the terms listed will be totally unenforceable. Here’s another look at same…

Make less than $100k and want to invest more than the $2k limit? Ignore it and just check the box that says yup, you did make more than $100k last year. Easy-peasy. And I’m pretty sure, willl be absolutely ignored too.

Are there any items listed above in that short list that might be somewhat restrictive? Something, that I would have hoped that we Canucks would have included as the ‘bones’ of our own Crowdfunding Canuck statute?

Did you catch though that the “portals” that can provide Crowdfunding must be SEC-registered? Hmm…what’s that all about you might wonder. And while the passing of the JoBS Act is like only hours old and as yet the SEC has not yet published the final regulations, here’s a quick look at what they think they should be doing to protect the investors. Honest. That’s just what they’re thinking. Honest. So….yeah, it’ll take some work to get these ducks in a row. But in a row they will be, eh!

So….what does all this mean for Canada? How “adept” is our governing party at responding to this new marketplace for our own startups. Oh, what do I mean by that?

Think about it. Why would a Canadian based startup NOT simply contact a US based legal firm say in Seattle or Fargo or Duluth or Detroit or Buffalo or Burlington or anywhere that our borders are close; form a US based company, then apply for funding where a marketplace 10 times our own, will offer up funds. Again, easy-peasy. Sigh.

Ten times the size…and legally offer up funds for equity. Sounds like a real winner to me…

Hello, Ottawa….you folks listening? Hello? Hello?

 

Do you have any social media Klout?

Who are you most influenced by?

The standard response might include your parents, a trusted friend, a wise teacher, or even a religious leader. Of course, these influencers will change throughout your life. For example, your mother might play a very important role during your youth, but this gives way to your peer group in your teenage years. A university professor might guide your choice of profession and then your colleagues at work play a more important role during your adult life.

Influence is defined as the ability to have an effect on the character of someone. Pre-internet, this meant that face-to-face contact with people enjoying a dynamic conversation was the critical context for developing ideas, rapport and influence. Today, some argue that rich conversation has given way to online interactions as measured by Facebook and Twitter. My position is that these social networks are more about interacting with content generated by people as opposed to interacting with actual people. There’s a difference.

One organization at the forefront of measuring social media analytics is Klout (www.klout.com). This San Francisco-based company creates profiles on individuals and assigns them a “Klout score.” These scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a higher assessment of the breadth and strength of one’s online influence. Klout has even developed supplemental measures. “True reach” is based on the size of followers and friends who actively listen and react to their online messages. “Amplification score” relates to the likelihood that one’s messages will generate actions (e.g., retweets, likes and comments). “Network impact” reflects the influential value of a person’s engaged audience.

This is all fine and dandy and provides an interesting exercise for determining who actually “roars” the loudest when she tweets. However, there are several objections to Klout’s methodology, including assuming that any online user has no major influence in the real world (i.e., the old- fashioned way, by actually talking to people). Nevertheless, I checked out my own Klout score and it’s 31. This compares with The Hamilton Spectator at 54, Dalton McGuinty at 61, and Barack Obama at 86. I have about 2,000 Twitter followers, but to be honest, I don’t know how many of those actually read what I tweet or how many server bots that total includes.

I think the more interesting analytic is the list of topics that Klout says I’m influential about (i.e., business and communications). Well, thank goodness, that makes sense. Klout also tells me whom in particular I influence. I won’t share that list with you, but let me just say it’s pretty cool to see who reads your stuff, “retweets” your comments and “likes” your commentary. It feels a little weird to know so much about how you virtually operate in the social network universe. Plus, to summarize all of that activity with one number seems a little absurd.

I understand that Klout’s next logical move is to partner with retailers, which then offer special discounts to highly influential people. Imagine a luxury watch company offering 50 per cent off to a high-Klout-score individual who promotes the brand. So, we might see different prices for the same product on Amazon’s website based on your Klout score. Now I see where this is going.

I recall some time ago when we had a similar debate about one’s credit score. Everyone cried, “How can you come up with a single numerical expression of a person’s credit worthiness?” Well, we did, and refined it over time, and now everyone pretty much accepts the methodology. Perhaps this will happen with Klout, too. Maybe, maybe not. I think that being influential is something you can’t artificially manage. Either people listen to what you have to say or they don’t. If, as Klout recommends, you have to ask certain people to “retweet” what you said in order to boost your score, well then you clearly aren’t influential at all.