Archive for April, 2008

New Ventures BC Competition – Who’s Who (Part 2)

When I started to provide links to the list of who’s who within the New Ventures BC competition (see Part 1), I didn’t read my first comment — that is, 175 companies made it through to the second round. That being said, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”.

Without further ado, here is part two:

David Vogt Crowdtrust Technologies
Dawn Bowles DreamBank [I like this idea, and have met Dawn over the past couple of weeks. I will probably have a separate post about them later]
Dean Walford MYLIFESPRINT.COM
DeJon Costello “Rain Renewer” Storm Water Pollution Remover [RainRenewer.com is not and has not been registered. Grab it now DeJon!]
Dennis Gaastra Driving School Administration & Scheduling [Is this a new company for Dennis or a new product for WebApps. Time will tell.]
Derek Dunfield PLASMID AUTOMATED ROBOTICS [Once again, I can’t confirm that it is the same guy, but there was a PHD student at UBC a couple of years ago who wrote “Crystallographic Analysis of Complex Multiphase Powder Systems: A Synthesis of Theory and Experiment”. Sounds deep.]
Dieter Blum Replacement Lamps for Streetlighting / Outdoor Lighting [Sounds like a serial entrepreneur. I found a patent attributed to a Dieter Blum of Aldergrove for a different technology]
Dobes Vandermeer Clarity Accounting: Online Accounting Software for Businesses and Professionals [Not sure if this is a new venture or a “Eureka!” discovered in the process of creating products for Habitsoft]
Duane Nelson Prosthesis product
Edward Sweet Essential Motorcycle Services
Eléonore Tremblay Anti-theft alarm system for bicycles
Erle Martz Garbage, Waste, recycle transfer system [It looks like Erle filed a patent for this in 1999… though it could be a different business. I also wonder if it is the same Erle who is the politician?]
Florence Leung PeerFX [Hey… These guys were on Dragon’s Den and raised $200k. I wonder if it is a change in direction from their old plan found here]
Francis Steiner Lets Go for Dinner [I first ran into Craig Baker my first pass through the startup world circa 2000. It is good to see that they are still going.]
Francisco La Torre World Rally Sport Media, Inc.
Gary Lee RallyAd Media Inc. [This is a sector I know quite well. I will investigate this one a little further to see where the sizzle is]
Gary Lister Inseyed Putters Ltd [Another suburban startup… and it sounds like they can help my short game]
Gary Tomlinson Omega 3 & 6 EFA extraction and Biodiesel production [Formerly/presently with Agri-Green Biodiesel, though their website does not seem to be working]
Geoff Wensel GR Building Materials Limited [Geoff was listed as the COO of Pitt Meadows’ RoofRoc. I’m not sure if it is a related venture or one in the same.]
Gordon Thiessen Heavy Tool Support Arm [As featured in the Vancouver Sun earlier in the month]
Greg Gaucher 200 MPG 2 Person Commuter Vehicle
Greg Gerrie Trinity Healthy Living Products Inc. [FluSTOP Herbal Antiviral]
Guy Steeves PerfectMIND [I mentioned Guy and PerfectMIND in an earlier post here]
Gwyn Pritchett TheIndieFilmScene.com
Haibin Wan Simplified multidimensional liquid chromatographic solution [not sure if it is part of PromoChrom or a different company that Haibin is now involved in]
Hamid Abdollahi Recon Instruments Inc.
Howard Wu Room 88

April 30, 2008 at 10:11 am 2 comments

New Ventures BC Competition – Who’s Who (Part 1)

I see that the list of qualifying companies that made it to Round 2 of the New Ventures BC Competition have been posted. It is a big list, considering that word going in was that only 100 companies were going to be chosen. But when you had 179 submissions, each of whom paid their entry fee, why not let 175 of them through to the next round.

I do find it kind of curious that they posted the list naming the company and the key contact. Even for early stage companies that want the press coverage, I know some on the list that are operating in what they thought was stealth mode. Oh well. Cat’s out of the bag now. Confidentiality be damned. I bet others (as I have) have trolled the list to see who they recognize. For those too lazy to click, here is the list of companies.

I’ve attempted to link through to their websites and make comments if I could learn anything through publicly available means. Here is part number 1 of my efforts

First Name

Last Name

Name of business or idea
Aaron Hilton CellMap
Adrian Vasiu Web-based Global marketplace with dynamic multi-language support
Ahmad Wasfi Lerna
Alan Cornford TeraTek Inc.
Alan Smith Oprius
Alan Yu Modifiable Shoes [Hey Alan… ModifiableShoes.com is available]
Alex Wang MealMax.com by BeyondMax Technologies Inc.
Alexandra Skey word of mouth marketing project ltd.
Alynn McKenzie Bhubble.com
amber hayes Powering Adventure Travel online: with excellent profit projections
Amil Kolechstein Floatek Innovation Inc. [yikes… Floatek.com was still available. I registered it. Amil…contact me if you would like to facilitate a transfer]
Amin Toufaniasl Open News Network (Opennn™) [Opennn.com is for sale for $900. Worth the price before you launch. It will save you more than that in future marketing costs.]
Amir Niroumand StartLabs Research Corporation [It looks like Amir is about to get his PHD in Fuel Cell Diagnostics]
Andrea Scholz Smart Nuts Technology
Andrei Iancu Sustainable Easy Computing for Anyone
Andrew Fursman CloudTel [ aka NothingNetworks ??… interesting looking technology, but all the Flash on the website makes search engines ignore you.]
Andrew Wong dScrybe Personal Financial Assistant
Angela Reid Absolute Technologies
Angela Robert Tourist Cellphone Rental: Handy Mobile Technologies
David Clark-Wilson Ultimate Gift Card (UGC)
Arif Meghji OnGuard Enterprises – PwerLoc [not sure if it is a typo, but pwerloc.com is available]
Ben Sparrow Solar Desalination [There was a Ben Sparrow who used to work for BC Hydro… I wonder if it is the same guy…]
Beth Ringdahl Red Dot Campaign [seems noble enough, and if it causes advertisers to look more to online means where things are measurable and more accountable, than all the better]
Bill Potts Thermo Matrix (computerize distribution and managemnet of heat and cooling) [Seems like the same guy… and finally someone who is client centric rather than an engineer]
Bob Brash In-line Water System Power Generation
Boyd Cohen 3rdwhale
Bret Conkin fundfindr Media [I saw them launch at Massive Tech]
Bruce Kwan Tecagora Solutions – Photo Sharing Solution
Bruce Sharpe Singular Software
Camilo Rostoker Scalable Analytics [UBC spinoff. This one looks interesting. “Follow the money” is always a good business model.]
Carol Lange ReThink Diabetes Inc.
Chang Han Raeyco Lab Equipment Systems Management Ltd.
Chris August Electric Muscle Car Company Ltd.
Chris Naychuk Battery-Free Wireless GPS Security System for Shipping Containers
Christina Matheson PairCoach [I think I need an executive coach. Anyone?]
Craig Volker Global Cultures Inc.
Cynthia Roney PneuVation Medical Inc
Dan Ashman AC Global Systems [“he expects the company to be a major player in the rapidly growing stealth GPS automotive security tracking business—through his AC Global Systems division—and he foresees the company developing a Canadawide all-makes leasing portfolio.”
Daniel Cowx Kreofusion Inc.
Dan Parlow Mytripjournal.com
David Armour Transit Alert
David Black Wall Share [That’s what I like to see “David Black owns 290+ domains” and he is developing one of his parked pages. Don’t forget to get your domain unblocked by Google]
David EU Vvvroom.com
David George SailMeter
David Gratton Project Opus Technologies
David Huer eCET – electronic Cognitive Enhancement Technologies
David Towert Taglocity

April 30, 2008 at 1:29 am 3 comments

Choosing a domain name for a startup

While working at Reinvent and for the domain genius that is Kevin Ham, I gained a lot of appreciation for the concept of a domain name. Prior to Reinvent, I viewed a domain name as a necessary, albeit very important branding tool. I wasn’t aware of the concept of direct navigation, whereby a significant percentage of the population believes that if they type in a generic concept and put a .com at the end, chances are whatever is at the other end is related to the concept. This, and the fact that a surprising percentage of the population thinks that the search box and the browser URL is one and the same…and the fact that the keywords within the domain name are thought to influence search engines

As I delved deeper into the world of domain names, the importance of securing a domain name for any startup became much clearer. Much like when a person looks in the yellow pages for a specific term, chances are they have that expressed consumer intent for that particular product or service (i.e., if a person is looking for a plumber in the phone book, they probably need one and it is not just a weird fascination with words that start with the letter “P”… It is also unlikely that as they approach the listing and pass by the section on “Pizza” that they may decide “while I am waiting for my plumber, how about I order some pizza”. It is possible, but you shouldn’t blow your marketing dollars and count on it).

A domain name is the same thing. VancouverPlumber.com should help a person find a plumber in Vancouver. And the person who types this domain in has a pretty clear need for what is on the other end. The same holds true for advertising on Google or Yahoo! as a person who searches for “Vancouver Plumber” and then sees paid search advertising in the top and side panels has expressed a defined need for the service. You might even say that the first level of lead qualification was already done… though getting the person to act once they get to your site is another story (and another opportunity for those of us who provide consulting services).

If you are considering a startup, or are in the early stages of a business, really think about what your product or service offering is going to be and then try and secure the domain that best matches it. Yes, you may have to buy the domain at a premium via an aftermarket or via a broker, but in the long run, it will help your branding and search ranking (as detailed here by Aaron Wall).

Owen Frager, over at The Frager Factor has a good post today called “Life After Domains… continued“. In the post he provides “a litmus test to evaluate names BEFORE purchase to ensure that you are making more informed and prudent decisions.” In this post, he also quotes Frank Schilling’s comment that, “A good domain name reduces your lifetime marketing costs and increases marketing opportunities. Mark Twain said: “History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes” .. The past may not be a true indication of the future, but domain names ‘are the Internet’. You need a domain for email, in fact the only constant since the dawn of the commercial internet in 1993 (Netscape 1) has been the domain name. If you feel comfortable investing in anything related to the Internet it should be a generic domain name.”

Here are half of Owen’s14 questions he wants you to ask when considering a domain purchase:

==> Is your name is dictionary word that is easy to spell, pronounce and describes what it is and what it does.

==>Can you take this domain and put it on eBay and close a $50-100 sale within a day?

==> Is it a dotCOM extension. If you are in the US and unless you are a gizillionaire in dotCOM name already, or are buying another extension to protect your brand or surname, if you don’t own a dotCOm please look in the mirror and repeat “I am a fool and I’ve erred. Repeat again, “I am a fool and I’ve erred.”

==> Does this name in its exact wording describe matching words that can be found in your local paper’s classified ads for something being offered or desired (jobs, autos, 1967 corvette parts)?

==> Are their advertisers on Google paying money for this word or word combination on the results pages (and do you know whom they are and how much they are paying)? Can a parking page monetize this domain with those SAME advertisers?

==> Have you done a business plan? Do you understand the size of the industry this word represents, its role in it? Who its biggest players (prospects) are? What is the total value of advertising for the industry? The average cost to acquire a new customers? The vale of an average order? Referral? Lifetime customer value? Annual 800# costs?

==> What call to action media exists now using a derivative of these words (bus, billboards, direct response, radio, TV, packaging, infomercial)? What is the cost of a a motivated prospect lost due to inability to recall their call to action?

==> Have you secured rights to this name by filing for a business license, having it appear in the phone book, making a corporate website explaining your intentions with an about us page that clearly identifies yourself, claims and credentials for being in this business with full and open access for contact? For example, if it’s a medical domain “addictiontreatments.com” are you either an addict or doctor? What is your claim to this domain?

Something that I have been doing since I left Reinvent is to acquire domain names every time I come up with a business concept that I am interested in pursuing. A few of these are listed below. While I am open to pursuing names within the secondary markets, all of the names below were registered anew in the past month:

  • ClickforChat.com [I want to turn this into an outsourced livechat management service]
  • KitsilanoRealty.com [Realtors are willing to pay for lead generation services. Kitsilano is one of the most expensive and high turnover regions of Vancouver]
  • LaunchExperts.com [This will be a portal to connect early-stage startup consultants & experts engaged in launching small businesses with the businesses that they wish to help. This site will also provide services to the consultants themselves to help launch, market, and systemetize their business processes]
  • NaramataHomes.com, NaramataCondos.com, GolfNaramata.com, NaramataEstates.com [OK… These are speculative. Naramata is a region in BC’s Okanagan Valley. Consider it our “Sonoma” to Napa Valley. A large number of developments seem to be planned for the region, and I envision working with a developer or realtor to develop and promote these properties through an integrated web strategy]

So I guess my short post should have been, make sure you get a good domain for your business. And while entire businesses can be built around nonsense phrases or trendy concepts [or should I say Konceptz!], you might as well start with a leg up on your competition and make your marketing easier.

April 24, 2008 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

Companies to Watch: Alten Energy, PerfectMIND, Calgoo Software

I enjoy the startup world again. For the past several weeks, I have been hard at work at trying to figure out my own business model and startup. Part of my business will be in consulting early-stage startup companies and entrepreneurs in building out their business and marketing systems. Some of my outsourced marketing and product management services are described on the Launchpoint.ca website.

One of the reasons why I’ve chosen to work within this target market, is that I find it fun. I mean truly exhilarating. Being exposed to the latest and greatest technologies and business models: what could be better than that.

A few of the companies that I’ve spent some time with over the past couple of weeks include Calgoo Software, PerfectMind, and Alten Energy.

I first came across Calgoo in October of 2006 when I had a few conversations with their founders. I actually wrote an unsolicited document for them way back then entitled, “How to get acquired by Google in 18 months”. It didn’t happen, but they have evolved nicely since then.

I mentioned PerfectMIND in an earlier post. The executive briefing that I attended was very enlightening. They have a very interesting technology and product that they’ve built. Once a market is defined for the product, it is one to watch. A truly disruptive innovation at work there.

Alten Energy is one that I take a little bit of pride in. I used to work with Michael Sommer at Marqui. Mike is one of Alten Energy’s founders and their VP Sales and Marketing. In their words,

ALTEN is developing technology to network distributed battery storage. As an integral component of the smart grid we will help reduce peak load for electricity through demand side management.

Why do I take pride in this? Well without officially saying it, I encouraged Mike to “explore his options” in the early days… that is, jump headfirst into the wonderful world of startup, giving up the day job [he just didn’t look like he was enjoying it, and he had a real passion for the new idea. Follow this one, it is going somewhere.

The Vancouver startup scene is alive and well. But what about suburbia? Hopefully, I can shift this ground a little bit over here as well.

April 18, 2008 at 10:37 pm 1 comment

Canadian Government Self Employment Program

The world is full of good intentions. The Canadian Government’s Self Employment Program is proof of that. I had hoped to explore this as an option to supplement my income while I am building out my startup. Basically, the government allows you to continue to earn your EI benefits (decreasing down to approx. $300) for a duration while making self employment income. But here’s the catch… you have to go through a 2-month program in which instructors teach you how to write a business plan and then they work on your marketing and business operational abilities.

The next opening for entry into the program is the end of May. I wouldn’t come out of the program until July. Officially, I shouldn’t be starting the business until after completing the program. That’s three months of sitting still… and waiting.

I am not trying to sound elitist by any means. But I don’t think the program is for me. I mean, part of the services that I am going to be offering as part of some consulting is help in writing business plans. And I think I have a pretty good idea about marketing. As I said, the world is full of good intentions and for some, I am sure the program would be very good. The instructor who gave the brief seemed quite knowledgable and personable.

April 17, 2008 at 8:41 pm Leave a comment

Wireless Startups and Entrepreneurism in Vancouver

I attended the Mobile Monday event at Granville Island brewery last Monday. In their words…

MobileMonday puts on events every month that bring together industry influencers from amongst its roughly 25 thousand members to set trends, debate developments, foster cooperation and cross-boarder business development, and to profoundly network with peers locally and globally.

The event was a good one. I must admit that I’ve been on the periphery of BC’s wireless scene for the past decade, even though it is definitely the backbone of the BC technology industry. With most of my background spent in enterprise software and internet marketing, I kind of just put my fingers in my ears, closed my eyes and went “nanananana” I can’t hear you every time colleagues spoke about the advancements in wireless.

I guess you could say that I was/am a bit of a laggard user of wireless technologies. Perhaps I have a hard time envisioning full-featured applications on small screens. But a lot has been happening while I was sleeping, and some of this was fully on display when speaking with Michael Bidu (Exec Director of WINBC) and some of MOMO’s other participants. It was actually Michael who extended an invite out to me to “check it out” (Michael and I go back a good eight years now… we met during my first path through this startup thing).

I think what has kept me away from wireless applications (and the hardware side) for so long, was the fact that very few people were making money from this space. The old model seemed to be build a product and shop it around to a carrier with the hope that it they were going to push it. I remember somebody saying that if you only get a few cents on an application for each use, and a few million people try it only once, well that makes a lot of cents. But really… unless you were dealing in ringtones, adult content [on a small screen…that’s just weird], etc., there wasn’t much of a market for you. And silly me… I like following the money.

The theme for this event was “Entrepreneurship and taking products to market” — definitely right up my alley. They even talked about some of the “what’s coming” following what appeared to be half the room’s attendance the week prior at CTIA Wireless 2008 in Las Vegas, NV. What I found interesting was a comment that came out of a question I asked of a panel. Immediately after saying that mobile advertising “wasn’t there yet” to a person, this was how the majority of companies were going to be making money in the next year or two (or at least that was the paraphrased answer given by Luni Libes of Medio)… but that was to be expected seeing as how they position themselves as the “Mobile Search and Advertising Leader”. I don’t know enough to confirm this statement.

One company that does look intriguing, and for which I can see some real world “here’s-how-you-can-make-money-in-this-wireless-thing” business, was Razor Technology. I spoke for about 10 minutes with Ray Walia, Razor’s CEO, and then checked out their site after returning. Razor is pitching a product called FireTonic™ RIMMP (Razor Intelligent Mobile Marketing Platform). It sounds intriguing and I have to follow-up with Ray to continue our conversation.

Overall, wireless innovation and marketing seems to be finally coming around. I think I better pay closer attention in the coming months and years.

April 14, 2008 at 8:37 pm Leave a comment

Massive Technology Show, Networking, Domain Names, etc.

Yesterday, I attended the Massive Technology Conference and Tradeshow at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. Kudos go to Lindsay Smith and her team for putting on another good event.

My experience this time around was quite different. At last year’s event, I attended the show as an exhibitor as the Director of Marketing for Marqui (and yes we did get good leads from the event), while this time around I was getting back into the networking groove, schmoozing with former contacts from years gone by. It felt really good to be back in a rhythm again.

In fact, it took me about one hour to get through the very first aisle at the show. Immediately upon entering, there was Marqui. Bam! An in your face location with arguably the second best spot on their entire floor plan (behind Yahoo! which I am sure paid big bucks for their spot). I can boast that this space was secured while I was still there. How did Marqui do with this spot? Well… without trying to shovel dirt on former colleagues, talk about an underwhelming experience: two small pull-ups, a small flat panel display, and a desktop robot were all that adorned this double-wide booth location. Not a good showing for a company with a good product that is selling themselves to marketers on the power of marketing software. While I will cut them a little bit of slack as they just rolled out some new positioning, it had some of their competitors at the show laughing and wondering “what’s up with Marqui?”

Among the many other familiar faces, I ran into Guy Steeves (a former colleague at Maximizer and a client at ThoughtShare), who is now at a company just launched as “PerfectMind” (created by the folks over at ChampionsWay). It is a Platform as a Service company (sounds like AppExchange, JotSpot, etc.). I’ve been invited to an executive briefing, in a couple of week’s time, so it would be interesting to see how it evolves.

One of the things that Guy mentioned was the fact that he was thinking of me recently when they went to purchase the PerfectMind.com domain. While I won’t disclose the fee they paid, it sounded excessive to me, even for someone who spent the past year working in the domain monetization industry and frequently seeing six and seven figures changing hands for a domain. A quick check of a Afternic, Sedo, and some domain spinning technologies found LevelPlatform.com ($195), ActivePlatform.com ($497), PerfectIdea.com ($200) may have been better options. Or perhaps something like ExactThought.com or ProgramPlatform.com (both unregistered at the time of writing). I would not expect PerfectMind.com would generate that much direct navigation traffic, and even if it does, it can’t be targeted to their offering (not as much as say a “Widgets.com” would have).

I was also introduced to 1st on the List Promotion Inc. by a former coworker at Reinvent who, in his own right, is one of the top SEO guys I know. He used to work for this group. Simply put, their domain name is not good:  www.1stonthelist.ca.  A numeric intermixed with text (I think a competitor has firstonthelist.com) and a country code when the .com is king. Yuck! To make it worse, their logo makes it look like the company is “1onthelist” without the ‘st’… Interestingly, both 1onthelist.com and 1onthelist.ca are available. I know… I made this typo.

Which calls up the importance of securing domain names for your business. Since  I’ve left Reinvent, I have registered approximately 20 domain names. You see, every time I have a business idea, I register a domain. I’ll share some of these in future posts. 

BTW… I think I am going to add domain brokerage into the services I provide. As soon as I finish my business plan come up with a concept for a business that is approved by the Canadian government.

April 2, 2008 at 10:01 am 1 comment

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