Montreal Startup Camp 2011

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Powerpoint deck from my keynote presentation to the Montreal Start-up Camp #7. The subject was Failure!

Powerpoint deck from my keynote presentation to the Montreal Start-up Camp #7. The subject was Failure!

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  • Failure comes in many forms. Mistakes should be routine and used to build knowledge and context for your evolution. Protecting yourself from Epic Failure is too often the way people think of mistakes. In my experience, the failure to seize opportunities is the biggest tragedy. Design your start-up to have the agility, ears and the attitude to assess and seize opportunities.
  • You’ll look at your idea differently as you live it, you’ll add color. Chances are you’ll chop it up and reassemble it into a new shape and add real life texture. The value of an idea is only realized when it’s been applied, deconstructed and reconstructed in real life. Don’t hold onto the idea, it holds back your value creation.


  • 1. My Mistakes.Some advice from a well-worn path. Startup Camp Montreal #7January 20, 2011
    Perry Evans
  • 2. I’m not a startup junkie.
    I just reject working for someone else, or working on someone else’s ideas.
    I could stop anytime.
    If only I could turn off those little voices inside my head.
  • 3. I hope I can help you deal a little better with your little voices.
    Been where, done what?
    • Led raising of $80M in capital
    • 4. $1.5B cumulative investor value creation
    Closely, Inc.
    A personal angel network
    7-person team
    Collaborative work space
    A pristine cap table <insert angelic voices>
  • 5. I started late on start-ups…
    Marketing Mgr. for consumer trial.
    • Home shopping
    • 6. Home banking
    • 7. Online yellow pages
    • 8. Interactive games
    Product Management,
    Enhanced Communication Services
    VP/GM New Media
    • CD-ROM & Apple Newton
    • 11. Travel, Local Directory
  • Behind every success…
    I left MQ pre-IPO to do my own thing, leaving 2% unvested equity.
    12 months later MQ exited to AOL for $900M, all vesting accelerated.
    I exchanged a 6-month old 2-person start-up for 4% of a $80M public company.
    I agreed to lock up my shares for 12 months: $6 > $24 > $2
    I let a company shift from a product business into a services-driven business: customer driven, easy revenue
    Reduced exit value and narrowed choices
    I bought into the strategy of growth via acquisition
    In most cases, this is an excuse for not fixing your current business
    I didn’t force a shift from platform to application stack when a golden opportunity presented itself
  • 12. Failure and success are intertwined.
    Indecision and success are incongruent.
  • 13. Missed opportunity is the biggest tragedy
  • 14. To some degree your start-up
    idea is fatally flawed.
    Failure is imminent.
    An entrepreneur’s job is to fix the idea and convert it into value.
  • 15. VALUE
  • 16. the path to failure is on the exact same terrain as the path to success
  • 17. Equipment for the journey
    Your navigation dashboard
    Adapting to the elements
  • 18. People Are Your Equipment
    The single biggest lever to value creation
    Balance “known teams” and critical knowledge
    Quality of attitude trumps
    Share values
  • 19. The [overlooked] Inner Circle
    You will have moments of:
    • doubt & fear
    • 20. personal exposure
    You have to fearlessly lead the team, you are afraid to show weakness to investors, where do you turn?
    Build your inner circle:
    Mentors, Advisors, Independent Board Members
  • 21. Your capital structure will determine the quality of your exit.
    The terms of EVERY round impact your choices on the next one.
    Take a moment of time to sanity test the relationship before you take money.
    Disconnect the capital from the person on the other side of the table.
    Don’t be embarrassed by what you don’t know. Don’t sign until you understand.
    Love your lawyer.
    Capital Equipment
  • 22. Your Value Navigation Dashboard
    A large share of start-up decisions are “off map”, unintentionally
    Document the assumptions you’ve made that drive your value creation
    Build your value dashboard, record your proxies
    Write it on a piece of paper, and attach it to your monitor
    Circle the 2-3 things you (down deep) worry about the most
    Ruthlessly test and evaluate their achievement
    Connect it to your resource priorities
    Convert proxies to data
  • 23. NAVIGATE
    Consumers will check-in in great numbers when the right discount offers are available.
    • Existing stats on check-in growth
    • 24. People love deals, see GroupOn
    • 25. The network effect of critical mass
    • Observe, track behavior at a dozen actual restaurants when deals are present
    • 26. Iterate on how consumers get to know, dive into characteristics of best performance
    • 27. Refine and optimize
    Resource Connection
    • Define sweet spots for product priority
    What if results don’t impact check-in behavior?
  • 28. Customers
    Market Actions
    Adapting to the Swirling Elements
  • 29. ADAPT
    Stubbornness and passion are not the same.
    Proving yourself right is the enemy of value creation.
    Center your team on agility.
    Ears are the most attractive start-up body part.
  • 30. Fast Failure & Pivoting
    Make mistakes early, cheaply
    Listen very closely
    Absorb the input
    Gather as much data as you can for your value dashboard before you ask for money
    Don’t follow blindly, customer research is one verycritical signal, but not the only one.
  • 31. ADAPT
    A medicine for chest pain, sildenafil, was ineffective in treatment during the market trial, and exhibited certain side effects.
  • 32. the incredible [& annoying] rightness of venture capital
    Extract yourself, think for your business.
    As annoying as it can be: listen, learn, adjust
    They may not know your business, but you often ARE missing something.
    Usually it’s on a critical value driver
    • Attractiveness of market
    • 33. How you fit in the food chain
    • 34. Ill-conceived go-to-market blueprints
    • 35. Unproven or incomplete team
    • 36. Exit visibility or practicality
  • Homework?
    Audit yourself:
    Check your equipment
    Sketch out your value dashboard
    Check how well your resources and priorities map to your value drivers
    How well are your equipped for the journey
    How well have you de-risked the deal for your investors?
  • 37.
  • 38. Connect Anytime: