Find your company style

When you are a first time founder, you will find a lot of support and hands on training to get you started from a practical point of view. Programs like MaRS, Communitech and the tens of start up incubators provide great guidance on how to structure a business model, prepare for sales, make sure you understand legal implication and how to get financing for your start up. Those programs make sure you’ve got all bases covered but they fall short on one key element which is helping you to find what type of company you want to build.

You have a great idea or product and there is different way to turn this into a company. Do you want to go big or build a life style business? Are you more toward social enterprise? Do you want to monetize through an intellectual property (IP) or do you want to open source your technology? Each model comes with different challenges, follow different logic and I suit different type of entrepreneurial mindset, and early in the game you’re asked to pick one model that will deeply influence the future of your enterprise.

However, today’s start up ecosystem focus mostly on nurturing young company and grow them into unicorn with billions of dollars in market value. It is about raising a seed round to go big and conquer a market segment.  I think there is something missing to explain in depth that there is other way of doing things and expose first time founder to different model and offer support to build a company following one of those model. I am not talking a 30 min presentation, but offering long term mentoring and exposure to top entrepreneur who choose the different paths.

I graduated from the first Toronto cohort of Founder Institute (FI) in 2014. FI does this work but only for founder who to build a product start up (software, SaaS or hardware) that can scale and be in the top 5 of its industry following this type of path (source):


Like every other business program, Founder Institute put a lot of effort in making sure that your cover all aspects of a company from market validation, revenue model, legal and HR among others.  FI also expose and help you to grow as a tech CEO who can raise capital and operate at the boardroom level. They make sure that you understand what it take to build that type of company by exposing your idea and personality to CEO that have been down this path before with weekly pitch and through a mentoring program.

Having access to a pool of mentors who have been there and can share the challenges waiting down the road is I think the top differentiation between FI and other start up program. Personally, I wish I was able to connect entrepreneurs who follow a different model (ie. not venture based) and decided to build service or open source based company for example.

You must start a company that reflect your personal convictions and how you want to do things. It is already hard enough between the long hours and crazy level of stress due to the uncertainty and novelty  problems you have to solve. If on the top of this you are building something that doesn’t represent you, you won’t be motivated to work for and grow, and sooner or later quit it. Being a first time CEO, is about finding your style, and along with it the style of company you want to build. Do it your way because you can’t fake to be someone else all the time – this is way too tiring and nerve breaking. Find people who build similar company you want to build and connect with them, engage them as mentor, adviser or board member so they can guide you along the way.

Toronto Founder Institute Experience


Tonight I will graduate from the Founder Institute program and the last three months have been crazy (really three months only! Feel more like six this program started). Founder Institute helped me to take RefinePro from vision to product (we will launch our beta by the end of this month – yeah!) and avoid most of the common pitfalls when you start your company.

The program gives you a 360 degree view of what it takes to build a successful company, including building your team and mentors, your sales and marketing process, your product roadmap and all the legal part of your business. It pushes you to do what you might be reluctant to do if you are on your own and make sure you check every dark corner.

Despite what it seems at the first look, the program is an iterative process. During the first months your layout the foundation of your idea in term of product, revenue and vision. The following months your deepen those three aspects by drilling into the details.

Finally, the Founder Institute opens up a fantastic network of bright and successful people in your city. Over 40 mentors attended to the Toronto weekly meeting, which represent four mentors per graduate! They provide valuable insight on your business, open you doors through the city and are here to bounce ideas between two sessions.

Thoughts on Cloudmap and OpenStreetMap relationship

I’ve recently been doing researches on failed open source project or relationship between an open source community and a business that went in different direction. I’ve heard about the Cloudmap and OpenStreetMap story but I haven’t been able to find all the pieces in one place. Here is my two cents to group keys elements together with link to each resources for more details.

Cloudmap was initially providing tiles for Openstreetmap. In 2010 a couple of month after their second round of funding, the CEO left the company. In 2014 the company pivot to be a content aggregator for anyone who need geo data and later decided to focus on larger account only. OpenStreetMap is not their main source of information anymore and Cloudmap team seem to not contribute actively to the development of OpenStreetMap.

This can be seen more as a failure for the OpenStreetMap community as they lost a major contributing member. From my own opinion this can be due to different long term vision between the company and the community. This case is a kind of happy ending since both actors are still kicking and alive today. However this can also be a risk if the community reject the company and the latter is not strong enough to survive by itself (the opposite can also be true).


Thinking is bad


Thinking is bad / Pensez c’est mal. 
This post is inspire (or is as a free adaptation) from an article written by a french IT project leader Olivier Mansour under the title Réfléchir c’est mal (thinking is bad).


Olivier Mansour illustrates his point with an extract of the comic Dungeon Twilight Vol3, The New Centurions (art: KERASCOËT, text: SFAR et TRONDHEIM p. 16 & 17). Marvin explains to some Dragons Monks how to fly with a new armor using two fire cannons fixed on their arms – see picture attached -.


It may look idiot but let’s take a minute to think about what Marvin said:
– he always flew instinctively,
– he never planed or anticipated this, he just done it naturally,
– he explains that the worst would be (to try) to understand how to do it: Thinking is bad.
The rest of Marvin’s explanation is quite surprising as he point out to:
– just go, even if you don’t know exactly what is going to happen,
– don’t over think about the possibility to fail. If something goes wrong we will adjust and
– if we are wrong it is no big deal. It would not be the first time and we are well protected (ain’t we?)


In fact Marvin does a criticism of over thinking, a bit like Barney in HIMYM (joking about Ted)
– Lily: Don’t Ted-out about it.
– Ted: Did you just use my name as a verb?
– Barney: Oh, yeah, we do that behind your back. « Ted-out »: to over think. See also « Ted-up ». « Ted-up »: to over think with disastrous consequences. For example, « Billy Tedded-up when he- »


– Ted: All right, I get it!
I do like this approach for complex project or initiative, like changing country or starting a large IT project. Just get as quickly as possible the minimum requirement to start in a safe environment. Get the enough specs for developers to code. Once the project on track, we will be able to adjust and correct potential errors. The project moving ahead will create the synergy to get all actors on board and provide more pertinent feedback on process design or functionalities needed.


This method also prevent to project to be block in a never ending design phase where we are trying to plan ahead things that might never happen, preventing the project to start.


So, don’t be afraid, just go for it!

Social Networks and Health Care @MarsDD

Access the event page.

Social network  are here to help people with very specific disease to connect with caregiver, doctor, nurse, and family. Through social network patient are able to share and coordinate the community supporting them during.

The 3 usages identified are :
1. Helping patient and their communitiy to go through a situation by helping communication and coordination ;
2. Accessing academic and general information regarding the disease ;
3. Communication between patient and doctors through EMR and message exchange.

eshift program in South West LHIN in Ontario is a iphone application connecting nurse and patient during night shift for home care.  The aim of eshift is to deliver the right care at the right place at the right time.

Bant is an smartphone application who encourage the proper behavior for children / teenager facing diabete. Reminder helps to do the right care at the right place at the right time. Bant also is based on the learning moment (the right time to educate the child) versus the 10min visit with the doctor every 6months. Bant also offer rewards to children behaving using through itune and the appstore.

Discussion panel end up on the following statement and question:
– Social network in healthcare is not a market, it is a mean to improve patient selfcare, communication … This is not a goal in itself.

– Social media in healthcare, cost control or revenue generation tool?