Canada Wants Your Startup! Canadian Minister Immigration

Canada has a new Startup Visa, you may have seen the billboard when leaving or arriving San Francisco Airport. I interviewed Jason Kenney, Canadian Minister Citizenship, Immigration & Multiculturalism @TIE Con 2103. Apologies for the noise but Jason still managed to get the point across.  Canada wants you if you’re a great startup!  Watch the interview.

Seduction & The Pitch

When entrepreneurs pitch their startup/idea whether to investors or partners they are really just selling their company/idea to the other. However it is not just a simple sales pitch as some may think. If you scrape below the surface, there is a lot riding on it. Whoever is being pitched will generally be considering some sort of long term relationship with the entrepreneur. Similar to a profile on a dating site, if it’s a good pitch then it can open doors to what it is you really need i.e.,  investment or collaboration. If it’s bad then no matter how wonderful your startup/idea is, you will probably not get what you need to move forward & grow into a substantial business. Many entrepreneurs underestimate the value of the pitch and so many go hungry for the partners/investors that could change the startup game for them.

Brad Feld, Foundry Group: The Startup Visa

Video interview with Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group.   Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars & CEO NCWIT.  He can find him at his blog Feld Thoughts & on Twitter @bfeld

Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part III of the interview.  You can view Part I and Part II here

Brad you have been at the forefront of promoting the ‘Startup Visa’, as someone who battled with the venture industry in Europe, I say good work you!  In Europe it is much more difficult to gain venture funding, for both men & women who often feel shut out of the possibilities in the venture game.  This is such a great cause & I support you wholeheartedly!  Could you give a quick update as to the progress of this visa? Startup Visa Interviews at O’Reilly Gov 2.0

Sure, the Startup Visa is the same phenomena that we’re talking about with women.  The reason I got excited about the notion of a startup visa was I thought it was absolutely stupid, not just mediumly dumb, not just short sighted, just stupid that in the United States we would make it difficult for somebody who wanted to be an entrepreneur who was a foreigner to come start their company in the US. It just never made sense to me.  There’s a whole long litany of reasons around immigration & around stuff that makes no sense apart from the job perspective.  Because of course entrepreneurs are creating companies that didn’t previously exist which generates jobs that didn’t previously exist.  But its the same thread & for me personally I think that anybody that wants to start a company should be able to.  It’s already hard enough to create a company & be successful, you should eliminate as much of the barriers as you possibly can. Where the Startup Visa is at, we started talking about it a little bit more than a year ago.  There are 2 active Bills, one in the House & one in the Senate. They’re both still in Committee. That means in the US Government (for foreign viewers) is that the Bills are actually real Bills that have gotten past the initial vetting process but they still haven’t gotten to the point where anybody takes a vote on them.  So they’re still far away from becoming law. Because of the Election cycle & the dynamics of how politics is working in the US right now, because the Startup Visa touches on a visa, it gets wrapped  into the entire immigration debate which is a very contentious, very wide ranging debate, very polarized. I think our general sense at this stage, especially since we have elections coming up, nothing’s going to happen between now & the elections. It will be a 2011 issue. Our hope is that sometime in 2011, immigration reform starts to become  something that’s focused on a more important & obviously from a jobs perspective, an entrepreneurial perspective, we hope that the Startup Visa will start to pick up some speed from that.

Brad Feld

Brilliant, thanks again for putting this forward & for all your support for it and for european entrepreneurs! I would like to thank you again for your time today, Brad, I really appreciate your feedback.  You’re really a star out there in the community, in the entrepreneurial community.  I’ve learnt so much for years actually from your blog  & do appreciate you giving me this time.

I really appreciate it.  One thing I’d end on & something that has come from the work we’ve done at NCWIT is that it’s not really a right or wrong issue around women in technology argument which is what a lot of people make it out to be.  Essentially men & women own all the cultural dynamics & we’ve created it & the biases have emerged societally. I think in 2010 there’s no question that women who enter into technology cultures will have a harder time of it. There’s a bias against it right now.  You know ‘hard’ is just what it is, it’s just more difficult. We can all learn from that & part of what we need to learn from that is how to lower the bias so that there isn’t artificial bias in the process.

Brad Feld

I read a post on TheFunded.com earlier today where someone was saying, you need to be an explorer to be an entrepreneur & generally it’s men that are the explorers. I hasten to actually refute that, because I think there’s a lot of us women who have incredible explorer focus.  And I think that we can all do it together, like you said.

I totally agree & statements like that just make my head hurt right. What a ridiculous bias, men are traditionally explorers!  It’s just a dumb statement!

It’s back in the cave man time!

The only thing you can do is call it out & say there’s nothing. Yes of course women behave differently & do things differently than men but so do I from my partner Jason who sits in the next office to me.  We’re all different & we should embrace those differences.  Thank you for bringing this topic to life with the interviews you’ve been doing, I appreciate that as well.

Brad Feld

Jalak Jobanputra, FuturePerfect Ventures: European Startups & Venture

Jalak Jobanputra has over 16 years experience in venture capital, media and technology, most recently with the NYC Investment Fund. She spearheaded the formation of NYCSeed in 2008, a seed fund dedicated to funding early stage tech entrepreneurs in NYC. She was previously a principal at New Venture Partners, a $300 million early stage venture fund that incubated technology at corporate labs. Prior to that, she was at Intel Capital in Silicon Valley and was on the launch team of online financial information startup Horsesmouth in 1997, during which time she first discovered the NYC sample sale scene in Nolita. You can find her @jalak and her blog Nothing Ventured

Transcript follows & video below. This is Part II of the interview.  You can view Part I here

I loved the image & symbolism of Ganesha that you used on your blog ‘What the Elephant God Can Teach Tech Entrepreneurs’ to highlight the qualities that entrepreneurs & venture capitalists need.  I understand that Ganesha symbolizes prosperity & success in the world.  Would you comment on what women entrepreneurs need in particular when sourcing venture capital?  And also what venture capitalists need no matter what gender in regards to women entrepreneurs & startups?

I wish I had that post in front of me.  The first thing that came to mind & I think all those qualities are important.  But the thick skin is key, combined with the ability to move beyond setbacks.  Women tend to really analyze things & see things from numerous different perspectives & I think that’s one of the real values they bring to business & growing a business & building a team being sensitive to the dynamics that are happening around a team or a board.  However it can also result in paralysis so I think the ability to just take criticism, not take it personally, move on especially when you’re doing something innovative.  You’re going to have a lot more no’s than yeses out there & just being prepared & not taking it personally.  And going out & finding the people who are going to be supportive & persevering in that process.  I think that’s true of entrepreneurs & I think that’s true in the VC world in terms of if you really want to be innovative, you’re going to have partners & other people around you who may not see it, that you are going to have to convince a little bit more.  And I think its a good quality to have that resilience.

Jalak Jobanputra

I note that you have also written in your blog about the Startup Visa.  Would you have any advice for European Entrepreneurs who face many more obstacles in sourcing venture than US entrepreneurs?  Its more conservative the whole market in the UK & Ireland which is where I’m based and also women are even more outside the box because of that conservative old boys network that happens in the UK.  So I wondered if you would have any advice for European entrepreneurs in their struggle because I know you have travelled widely & had venture sourced from other countries?

I actually did invest in the UK & the Netherlands so I do understand the lack of especially early stage funding in Europe.  Luckily I think that is starting to change.  You have Danny Rimer with Index Ventures who started a seed fund along the lines of some of the funds that we’ve seen in the US.  But I think the bootstrapping becomes  even more important when there are less funds that will invest at that early stage.  So its about becoming more resourceful as an entrepreneur.  And this is happening here too, you just need to figure out a way to get your business some customers & traction without getting some external funding.  There are startups here, I don’t know what the government funding scenario is like in Europe, but there are some that have technical products that can access grants etc & use that to bootstrap.  Then its really going out & networking & finding out who the funders are.  I think you have money coming from all around the world now interested in finding good startups.  While its still a very local business, I know there are funds in the Middle East & there are funds in Asia that are very interested in accessing some of the European markets.  So I’d say think a little bit creatively on where you are finding some of those sources beyond just the traditional funds.

Jalak Jobanputra