AMA with Hussein Hallak - Answering Your Most Pressing Startup Questions

Hussein Hallak, Launch Academy’s General Manager, hosted an intimate session where both beginning and seasoned entrepreneurs had the chance to ask their most urgent questions. The road to success as an entrepreneur is never easy or clear. Hussein joined Launch Academy driven by his unwavering commitment to help entrepreneurs break through the daily challenges with the right tools, mindset, strategies, and resources for success that can be applied immediately to create results.

It was a great night of thoughtful discussion, networking and learning. Thank you to everyone who joined us!

A Crash Course in Funding For Your Startup! [EVENT]

A couple days ago, we invited Erik Ashdown to Launch Academy to speak about non-dilutive startup funding.

Erik Ashdown is the director of business development at Boast Capital. Previous to Boast, Erik was the founder & CEO of indiloop a music technology company which raised $1M+ in capital, in addition, to take advantage of various funding programs including CMF, IRAP, SR&ED, and other sources of non-dilutive funding.

During the session, Erik shared with us different funding programs, including the eligibility requirements and the potential value. We ended off with a dynamic Q&A session.

Thank you Erik for providing the startup community with an informative and engaging presentation!

Henry Bee (Launch Academy Member) to be Presenting at Plug and Play EXPO

Henry Bee, CEO and Co-Founder of Cassia Research and Launch Academy member will be presenting at the Plug and Play EXPO on June 6th. The audience will include more than 200+ corporate executives from Credit Suisse, Bank of the West, Capital One, USAA, Intuit, Synchrony Financial, Deutsche Bank and US Bank as well as investors and more than 300 entrepreneurs. Check out this article co-written by Henry Bee discussing the future of FinTech. 

Congratulations to Henry for this fantastic opportunity!

PlentyOfFish's VP Revenue Optimization, Kimberly Kaplan Shares Strategies and Tactics to High Impact Revenue Optimization [LAUNCH TALK]

This month’s Launch Talk featured Kimberly Kaplan of PlentyOfFish. She spoke about revenue optimization, which is the strategic management of pricing, inventory, demand and distribution channels to maximize revenue growth over the long term.

As one of the earliest employees at PlentyOfFish, Kimberly possesses immense insight into the life cycle of a startup and what it takes to grow and emerge as a leader.

With 8 + years with the company, Kimberly’s responsibilities within PlentyOfFish have evolved over time, from business development and monetization to a focus on growth and product development. Kimberly has played a key role in propelling the business forward with over 100 million members which in turn lead to it's acquisition to Match Group for $575 million dollars.

During the 2-hour session, Kimberly shared insights on:

  • Pricing strategies
  • Managing multiple revenue streams—across departments
  • Eliminating ineffective spending and maximizing impact
  • Strategic planning
  • Customer relationship management

We were also joined by Emily Key who moderated the conversation. Emily is a Vancouver-based operations strategist currently running full-throttle as Director of Operations at Bench Accounting, which in just a few years has grown from a few founders to a team of 300.

Thank you to Kimberly and Emily for the informative and dynamic session as well as everyone who came out! For more event photos, check out this album on our Facebook Page.

Want to join us at our next Launch Talk? Check out this page for upcoming events.

Life After You Launch [LAUNCH TALK]

 

In celebration of Launch Academy’s 5 year anniversary, we brought back some of our original startups to talk about life after you launch! Building a startup is no easy feat, it’s rollercoaster ride that will take you through high highs and low lows. Passion gets you through the hard patches of being an entrepreneur, but what about the rest of the journey? We heard from Launch Academy alumni & successful entrepreneurs as they shared their experiences and candid stories. The lively discussion was moderated by our very own Sam Chan, Launch Academy's Program Manager. 

Our panel of experts shared insights on:

  • Raising money or self-funding your startup
  • Bootstrapping to profitability
  • Making their first million in revenue
  • Growing from 0 to 45 employees
  • Competing with 800lb gorillas
  • International growth and customer support
  • Raising millions of dollars in Silicon Valley and Vancouver
  • Their biggest failures
  • Transitioning from being an entrepreneur to a CEO
  • Managing stress and exhaustion

Our amazing panel included the following successful Launch Academy alumni:

Alexandra Greenhill - Co-Founder & CEO of myBestHelper, the innovative tech company that helps people live life well. The company has received 22 awards and recognitions in three years. Alexandra has been a mentor and a judge in many Hackathons and Startup Weekends.

Greg Smith - Co-Founder & CEO of Thinkific. Greg is a lawyer, instructor and lifelong student who has taught thousands of students online and helped others create their own online courses. As a founder of Thinkific, Greg's goal is to help create and deliver amazing eLearning experiences.

James Clift - Co-Founder & CEO of WorkStory, a company that builds technology that powers career success. Their flagship product is VisualCV, the leading online resume and portfolio creation website. VisualCV.com has helped over 1.5 million people in dozens of countries worldwide make a career move. 

Jayesh Parmar - Co-Founder & CEO of Picatic. Jayesh is a serial entrepreneur with over 19 years of event industry experience. He started his first company in 1998 and has been building companies ever since. Jayesh is listed as one of the world's top 10 Tech Entrepreneurs Disrupting The Event Industry and is the winner of SISO breakthrough event technology award. 

Matt Smith - Co-Founder of Later.com, a visual content marketing platform that makes you great at visual marketing. You can aggregate, curate, schedule and optimize visual marketing campaigns across all visual social media networks and it's used by over 400,000 people and some of the world's most well-known brands including Redbull, Forbes, MTV, WSJ and Armani.

Thank you to the 5 panelists for your amazing insights and everyone for joining us! Check out this album on our Facebook Page for more photos of the event.

Want to join us at our next Launch Talk? Check out this page for upcoming events.

Jerome Ng (Launch Academy Alumni) Joins 500 Startups Canada

Congratulations to Launch Academy Alumni, Jerome Ng, for joining 500 Startups Canada. He is the newest Venture Associate added to their team and we could not be more proud of all the work he has accomplished.

Jerome has also been a 500 Startups founder and mentor. His new focus will be managing the 500 Startups community in Vancouver as well as finding companies for 500 Startups to invest in.

Pitch & Chat with Joshua Lopour & Kyle Campbell (Retsly /Zillow)

This week at our Pitch & Chat, we had two guest mentors:

  • Joshua Lopour (Prev. GM at Zillow, Co-founder at Retsly acq. by Zillow, Co-founder at AppLabz)
  • Kyle Campbell (Core Team at FeathersJS, Advisor at Finn.ai, Prev. Co-founder / CTO at Retsly acq. by Zillow, Prev. GM at Zillow)

How does it work? We have 5 pitchers who come prepared with a customer or investor pitch. They have 3 minutes to present. The pitches will be timed and slides are optional. After each pitch, the audience provides 5 minutes of feedback critiquing the presentation style (body language, tone, volume, flow of presentation) or the business (product market fit, team, strategy).

Thanks to everyone who came out and Joshua and Kyle for sharing their expertise!

Want to join us at our next Pitch & Chat? Check out this page for upcoming events.

Leading and Succeeding through Hyper Growth [ LAUNCH TALK ]

For this month’s Launch Talk we were joined by some of Vancouver's notable leaders as they shared their successes and failure during hyper growth phases in their respective industries.

The dynamic group of panelists represented a wide-array of industries, including professional services, technology, eCommerce, and retail. Panelists included:

It was an evening of networking, candid storytelling, and deep examination of lessons learned. Thank you to our panelists and everyone who came out! Check out the event photos here

Want to join us at our next Launch Talk? Check out this page for upcoming events.

International Gaming Secrets - How to Gain & Retain Users [ LUNCH & LEARN ]

Spencer Liu, Founder and CEO of leading mobile gaming platform, KTplay joined us at our Lunch & Learn. Spencer comes with a 20-year track record in marketing, Internet product strategy and business development. He shared secrets and strategies to maximizing core metrics with a few simple steps.

To recap, we learned:

  • How to gain & retain users.
  • The simple mistakes gaming studios frequently make
  • Why the community management an essential part of the gaming industry
  • How to manage and retain players within the game
  • What the Vancouver gaming industry learn from international markets
  • How top mobile game developers in China are effectively maximizing retention and revenue by aggregating and influencing behaviour through better community management right inside the games.

Thank you Spencer for your insightful presentation and for everyone who came out!

Want to join us at our next Lunch & Learn? Check out this page for upcoming events.

Blockchain 101 with Gary Boddington [ LAUNCH TALK ]

Blockchain was the buzz word of 2016, constantly making a presence when browsing both tech and non-tech sites. So what is the fuss all about and what does it mean for the future of fin tech?

For this month’s Launch Talk, we were joined by Gary Boddington, Head of Global Business Development BTL Group Ltd, where he demystified blockchain technology.

Gary has been a co-founder in tech start-ups, and has successfully navigated the complex process of being acquired by a global entity. As a CEO with global responsibility, he built direct and indirect license revenue channels.

In this non-technical session, Gary provided a brief overview of blockchain technology, a cutting edge technology that promises to disrupt and transform business sectors way beyond just financial technology. The session also included an overview of practical examples of real solutions that have been built on the blockchain platform.

Thank you Gary for sharing your insights with us and to everyone who came out! Check out the event photos here.

Want to join us at our next Launch Talk? Check out this page for upcoming events.

How to Fund Your Startup & Attract Seattle Angel Investors [ Q&A SESSION ]

With companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and Dropbox to name just a few, setting up shop in Seattle, it’s safe to say that the tech scene in Seattle is pretty established.

So how can Vancouver based startups tap into this scene and benefit from this flourishing ecosystem? In this hour long panel session we had the chance to connect with three Seattle-based angel investors and startup experts as they shared insights and expertise on the Seattle startup ecosystem and strategies on how you can stand out from the crowd in this emerging market.

Our panel was moderated by Hussein Hallak, General Manager at Launch Academy. Our wonderful panel included:

  • David Grampa: Entrepreneur and Investor
  • John Sechrest: Founder of Seattle Angel Conference, Startup Mentor, Lean Startup Seattle
  • Javier Soto: Investor at Alliance of Angels, Seattle Angel Fund, Seattle Angel Conf.

To recap, we learned:

  • The things that influences Seattle investors
  • Key factors investors look for in startups
  • What the Seattle Angel Conference (SAC) is and how one can benefit from being part of it
  • The kind of startups SAC looks for and how to get their attention
  • Tips and tricks for pitching to investors
  • Secrets to being successful in the Seattle startup ecosystem

Thank you David, John and Javier for joining us!

Want to join us at our next Q&A session? Check out this page for upcoming events.

Technology Trends & What to Build with Milun Tesovic [ LAUNCH TALK ]

Technology is constantly evolving. We can go from technologies being a relatively undefined idea, to becoming a daily use item so rapidly, that we are left wondering how we ever functioned without it! As we head into 2017, we invited Milun Tesovic, technology expert, entrepreneur, investor and Partner at Expa, the startup studio whose founder created Uber, to discuss, tech trends to look out for in 2017!

To recap, we learned:

  • Tech trends
  • What to look out for in 2017
  • What to build (and more importantly, what not to build)
  • How tech trends influence investors
  • How entrepreneurs can leverage trends to benefit their startup
  • What key factors investors look for in startups
  • Types of projects that Expa invest in
  • What kind of startups Expa look for and how to get their attention

Thank you Milun for your thoughtful insights, Hussein for moderating the talk, and everyone who came out! Check out the event photos here.

A lookback at 2016. Here is our year in review.

Dear community,

Thank you for another amazing year! We're excited to share with you everything we've accomplished with your support. 

Our focus this year has been pushing the envelop and creating an infrastructure to prepare ourselves for the future. Here are some of the highlights:

  • On the academy side, we've graduated over 225 aspiring entrepreneurs from our in-person program and enrolled more than 1100 into our online programs.
  • This year alone, we've produced more than 50 events and brought together over 3000 attendees. This includes our flagship conference, Traction, which featured 32 world class speakers.
  •  We're excited to announce that we've incubated over 500 early-stage companies and they have raised over $100M and created more than 1000 jobs.
  • Our team remains small and lean. There are only 6 of us!
  • All of this is made possible with the support our sponsors, partners, mentors and volunteers. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Remember to check out the infographic below!

The Future of Virtual & Augmented Reality [ LAUNCH TALK ]

This month’s Launch Talk explored the future of virtual and augmented reality. We invited four Vancouver-based VR and AR experts:

  • Alan Goldman, Adjunct Researcher and Industry Liaison at the S3D Centre at Emily Carr University.
  • Eric Hine, Executive Producer at Archiact VR
  • Kayla Kinnunen, Independent Producer, Designer, and Developer of VR Video Games
  • Wren Handman, Future Scribe, Axiom Zen

To recap, we learned:

  • The future of VR/AR
  • What the research predicts
  • The VR/AR market in Vancouver
  • Whether the content keep up to the hardware
  • What's next for hardware
  • Technical limitations
  • How VR/AR can work for your startup
  • How we can use VR/AR in business

Thank you to our four great panelists and moderator Mack Flavelle, founder of Hammer & Tusk for a night of intriguing conversation.

Want to join us at our next Launch Talk? Check out this page for upcoming events.

How Smart Leaders Change Over Time with Kristine Steuart [ LAUNCH TALK ]

This month’s Launch Talk featured Kristine Steuart, Co-Founder and CEO of Allocadia. After years of experiencing the pain of managing global marketing spend as a marketing professional in the Vancouver technology community, Kristine and her twin sister Katherine Berry, co-founded Allocadia in 2010. Kristine was recently named among the Top Forty Under 40 by Business in Vancouver and the Top 10 Women in Tech to Watch in 2015 by inc. magazine.

We discussed strategies and tactics on how to adapt leadership skills as one’s startup grows.

To recap, we learned:

  • How to adapt from being an entrepreneur to being a CEO
  • How to build a strong team
  • How to create a high performing exec team
  • How to evolve your leadership style as your team grows
  • How to build culture
  • How funding and growth will impact your leadership philosophies

Thank you Kristine for answering all of our questions and sharing your knowledge with us!

Want to join us at our next Launch Talk? Check out this page for upcoming events.

Accelerate Your Tech Startup with Ian Crosby, Co-Founder & CEO of Bench [ LAUNCH TALK ]

This month’s Launch Talk featured Ian Crosby, Co-Founder and CEO of Bench, where he discussed strategies and tactics on how to rapidly grow your tech startup.

Ian has worked as a bookkeeper and a treasurer at various companies and was a management consultant at Bain & Company in Toronto before launching Bench. He’s passionate about steering education toward technology (understanding the dire need for more skilled engineers and designers in this industry) and doesn’t shy away from discussing the future of banking. In January, Ian nabbed top spot on the prestigious Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

To recap, we learned:

  • How to get accepted into top tech accelerators
  • When venture capital should be considered
  • What rapid growth can mean to your business
  • How you don't need to compromise on culture to scale
  • Why failure is necessary and what mistakes you don't want to avoid

Thank you Ian for a great fireside chat!

Want to join us at our next Launch Talk? Check out this page for upcoming events.

Success outside of Silicon Valley with Dennis Pilarinos [ LAUNCH TALK ]

This month’s Launch Talk, we were joined by Dennis Pilarinos. Dennisis the founder and CEO of Buddybuild, a continuous integration, delivery and user feedback platform that was designed and built specifically for mobile app developers. Prior to Buddybuild, Dennis held product and engineering leadership roles at Amazon and Microsoft.

To recap, we learned how to:

  • Assemble a team: what it is like to hire top talent outside of the Silicon Valley bubble and where to look
  • Establish credibility: what experience looks like
  • Fundraise from top-tier Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists: how VC’s look upon an abroad-based company, how startups use their remote location as an advantage when fundraising, and common VC responses to a raising startup that’s located outside of the Valley
  • Connect to customers

Thank you Dennis for sharing your insight!

Want to join us at our next Launch Talk? Check out this page for upcoming events.

Launch Academy Exclusive: Fireside Chat with Travis Kalanick [RECAP]

Uber Co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick joined Launch Academy CEO and Victory Square Managing Partner, Ray Walia and She Talks co-founder, Barinder Rasode in a fireside chat last week at Launch Academy.

Here are some of the highlights provided by Launch Academy on the Fireside Chat with Travis Kalanick: 

The room buzzed with local entrepreneurs and supporters of the multi-national ridesharing service, all of whom shared the overarching question of Kalanick’s vision and goals for bringing Uber back to Vancouver.

The fireside chat kicked off with Kalanick describing his early days as a budding entrepreneur — his first startup, an SAT prep tutoring business which he launched in his neighbourhood at the ripe age of 18. Kalanick described his passion for technology (sprouted from his early coding days from sixth grade), helped mark his path to building various ventures in peer-to-peer sharing such as Scour and Red Swoosh, which eventually led him to build the ridesharing empire known today, as Uber.

“I’ve seen what might be considered as failure far more than I’ve seen success — as an entrepreneur you have to be open to hard times. And what most people think of as a risk, generally, an entrepreneur does not see as risk...when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship, there’s the fundamental misunderstanding by most people about what risk actually is. If you have a dream, and you believe in it, you have to reorient what risk is.”

Despite soft-launching the ridesharing service in 2012, Uber has undergone a series of resistance by the City of Vancouver and the B.C. Taxi Association. Kalanick believes there is a multitude of ways a city can benefit by allowing Uber to operate, including environmental, economic and social improvements within the city.

“If you want to create jobs, if you don’t like traffic, if you don’t like drunk driving, if you don’t like pollution, then I think Uber is a good solution for Vancouver.”

When questioned about whether Uber considers the regional needs for each city that Uber plans to operate in, Kalanick describes that for people to get from point A to point B efficiently is a basic human need, no matter where you are.

“I like to say if we find Martians on Mars, that they too will want to push a button and get a ride.”

Kalanick explained that when it comes to introducing Uber in a new region, Uber evaluates the key pain points in the region’s transportation situation including the quality of cars that the economy will support, pre-existing alternatives to transportation, the state of the economy, and evaluating a price point for that economy. However, Kalanick notes how the success of introducing Uber in 60 regions was due to the support of the citizens and leadership of those regions that has allowed Uber to exist.

Despite recent efforts by prominent B.C. tech leaders in an open letter to have the province allow ridesharing services to operate in Vancouver, requests for the government to revise regulations have been rejected. The team at Launch Academy and Victory Square hope to see that change soon and to have our government embrace innovation and services that offer positive change.