How to Start a Tech Company


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Want to build your own startup or software consulting company, but don't know how to get started? Join McGill Alumni Alex Dergachev and Suzanne Kennedy for a talk on taking the entrepreneurship path and getting your business up and running. We'll discuss the pros and cons of consulting vs. doing a startup, the benefits of open source, how to succeed financially, and how to get involved in Montreal's tech community.

Alex and Suzanne graduated from McGill University in 2007 and started Evolving Web, a company specializing in open source web development. Over the last five years, Evolving Web has used frameworks including Ruby on Rails, Drupal, and Backbone.js and has built enterprise-level projects for clients like McGill University, Travelocity and A&E Television Networks.

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How to Start a Tech Company

  1. 1. STARTING A TECH COMPANY Drupal Consulting, Development, and Training | @evolvingweb
  2. 2. ABOUT US
  3. 3. ABOUT US• Started doing web development 2005/06• First projects:,• Founded Evolving Web in 2007• Started using Drupal in 2008• Recent projects: McGill, Travelocity, GoC
  4. 4. WHAT WE DO
  5. 5. DRUPAL EXPERTSDevelop and Maintained Drupal Modules, Implement Large-Scale Drupal Projects
  6. 6. MATURE DEV PROCESSTesting, Configuration Management, Cloud Deployment, Performance, Failover, Monitoring, Version Control
  7. 7. PROJECT MANAGEMENTAgile Methodology, Iterative Development, Knowledge Transfer, Customized Project Management Workflow
  8. 8. TRAINING PROGRAMWe do Drupal training, you should come!
  10. 10. TRAVELOCITY CMSMultilingual, Integration with Proprietary E-Commerce, Cloud Deployment, Custom SEO Strategy
  11. 11. MCGILL ADMISSIONS PORTAL Complex Multi-step Form UI, Admin Workflow
  12. 12. MCGILL COURSE CALENDARAdvanced Search UI, Multisite Architecture, Knowledge Transfer
  13. 13. A&E TELEVISION NETWORKCustom UI for Content Producers, Social Media Integration, Quiz UI for Engagement Platform, Customized Analytics
  14. 14. DRUPAL SUNOnline Feed Reader, One-page JS App,Advanced Search, Responsive Design
  15. 15. WHY START A TECH COMPANY?• You get to work for yourself• You get to learn new stuff all the time• It’s good for your career
  17. 17. STEP 1: CONSULTING VS. PRODUCTProduct• You get to define the product• You make the mistakesConsulting• Get experience• Learn from your clients’ mistakes
  18. 18. STEP 2: YOUR IDEA• Probably not as valuable/original as you think• Don’t keep your ideas secret• Refine and iterate your idea• Don’t ignore people with the same idea
  19. 19. STEP 3: FIND A CO-FOUNDERYou’re probably not good at everything, so finda co-founder with complimentary skills:• Startup Drinks• Notman House Events• Starupifier• Hacking Health
  20. 20. STEP 4: MAKE IT OFFICIALSole proprietorship• Really easy to set up• One tax returnIncorporation• Only slightly harder to set up• You have to do a separate tax return• Easier to get certain loans, contracts with big companies
  21. 21. STEP 5: MONEY, MONEY, MONEYBefore you start making money:• Get a good accountant• Register for a GST/QST account• Keep all your receipts
  22. 22. STEP 6: FINANCING• Bootstrap by doing consulting• Grants for young entrepreneurs (Desjardins)• Lots of tax credits in Quebec (R&D)• Yes Montreal• Keep your expenses low (you’re a student!)
  23. 23. STEP 7: HIRING YOUR FIRST EMPLOYEE• Work with freelancers• Know what you need them to do• Get time estimates• Document everything
  25. 25. BUILD YOUR PORTFOLIOIt’s important to create a strong portfolio:• Do good work for free• Turn away clients who you don’t want in your portfolio• Do personal projects that show what you can do
  26. 26. SELECTING CLIENTSDon’t take on just any project. Be picky!• Does the project fit with your technology niche?• Does the client share your values?• Is the project interesting to you?• Will the project be successful?
  27. 27. MANAGING EXPECTATIONS• Don’t try and build a facebook-linkedin clone• If something sounds unreasonable, don’t be afraid to say no•
  28. 28. ESTIMATION & PROJECT SCOPING• Try not to estimate too much at once (break up work into smaller pieces)• Estimation requires experience, you will underestimate everything at first• Lots of extraneous factors
  29. 29. BOOKS ABOUT ESTIMATION• The Mythical Man Month• Making Things Happen• Pragmatic Programmer• Code Complete
  30. 30. NEGOTIATION & PRICING• Use a contract, but keep it simple• Don’t charge too little just to get a project• Don’t negotiate with people who are way more aggressive than you
  31. 31. TECHNOLOGY
  32. 32. BENEFITS OF OPEN SOURCE• Be part of an open source community• Collaborate with others, write better code• You get to use code that other people write
  33. 33. OPEN SOURCE CULTURE• Share your ideas• Share your code• Share your business plan• Prompt others to share with you
  34. 34. SHARE YOUR CODE!
  35. 35. FOLLOW BEST PRACTICES• Documentation• Version Control• Use an Issue Tracker
  36. 36. USE THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY• Use the right tool for the job• Use technologies that you know• Don’t use really obscure technologies
  37. 37. DON’T NEGLECT....
  38. 38. MARKETING• Social Media• Your LinkedIn Account• Get Business Cards• Go to Conferences & Present• Start Now!
  39. 39. DESIGN• It’s important!• People don’t know what your code looks like, they see the design
  40. 40. WRITING• Emails, marketing material, blog posts, grant proposals, project proposals• Good writing makes you sound professional & experienced
  42. 42. NETWORKING ADVICE• Everyone is a potential partner, client, customer, or recruit• You will probably work with people who you meet at McGill• Learn how to talk about your business idea and how to ask good questions
  43. 43. NETWORKING EVENTS• New Tech Demo • JS Meetup• Startup Drinks • Python Meetup• Starupifier • PHP Quebec• CleanTech • Drupal Meetup• Girl Geek Events • Open Data• Hacking Health
  44. 44. TECH VENUES• Notman House (• Station C (• The SAT (• RPM Montreal (
  45. 45. RESOURCES••• (calendar)
  46. 46. WORDS OF WISDOM• Avoid burn-out, stay healthy• Don’t waste time, be critical of what you spend time on• Parallelize your efforts. Don’t put all your energy into one project.
  47. 47. Drupal Consulting, Development, and Training | @evolvingweb