Bringing the Startup Ecosystem Together: Montreal Demo Day


5 Accelerators Highlight the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Montreal

By: Rana Abbasi, Communications Assistant

Tuesday, July 11th was a phenomenal day for entrepreneurs and investors in Montreal, where the top accelerators InnoCité MTL, Centech, Espace-Inc, Esplanade, and District 3,  joined forces  to bring together 16 startups to pitch at Montreal Demo Day.

By joining our efforts in the spirit of collaboration, the event aimed at strengthening Montreal as a leading force in the startup ecosystem by creating a platform to bring together investors, governments, clients, and key players in the ecosystem to support our city’s entrepreneurs and maximize their chances of success.

mtldemoday

Pitch Training for Success

Getting entrepreneurs investor-ready and prepared to pitch in front of hundreds of attendees is not an easy process. Sean Cullen, District 3’s financial coach, along with the rest of our team, have worked tirelessly with our startups for the past 12 weeks to ensure that they were at their best for Demo Day.

According to Sean, “Our startups are rough precious minerals, they exemplify and demonstrate what we do at District 3, which is to accelerate our entrepreneurs’ hopes and dreams.” 

Preparing the teams for Demo Day was a fun experience as he got to develop a relationship with each of them over the course of the past 12 weeks, yet every entrepreneur requires unique approach to get them to perform at their best.

“It was nerve wracking watching them present! I’m like the hidden co-founder of these teams. You’re putting forward your children and hope that they do well. It’s stressful, and it’s frustrating because you’ve seen their best and worst. But when they’re blooming on stage, it’s something that makes you incredibly proud.” – Sean Cullen, District 3 Financial Coach.

Boozang

boozang

First up at Demo Day was Boozang, a software that offers an enterprise-grade codeless automated testing solution by  releasing bug-free features faster and doubling the productivity of development teams. In other words, a software that tests other software.

“I’ve learned how to present my business in a concise way, and also how to prepare for a big pitch. Presenting at Metropolis where a lot of my favourite bands have performed made it even more exciting.” – Mats Ljunggren, Co-founder of Boozang

Through Boozang, you will be able to turn your browser into a user-friendly but enterprise-grade testing tool that does not require programming.

Watch Boozang’s Pitch here.

Spinyt

spinyt

Following Boozang, our startup Spinyt took the stage. Spinyt is a mobile application that offers dynamic pricing technology, which allows restaurants to adjust their prices on slow times to maximize their profitability. You can use Spinyt to discover new restaurants around your campus. If you have trouble deciding where to go, you can use the wheel feature to let the app decide for you!

“We firmly believe that neither fixed prices nor fixed discounts should exist in the restaurant industry because neither of them maximize their profits.” – Emile Chouha, Co-founder of Spinyt.

Spinyt solves the problem through an innovative marketing strategy that randomly assigns users to restaurants to fill up their empty seats on their slow times. Enjoy the thrill and diversity with Spinyt!

Watch Spinyt’s Pitch here. 

Mantle Technology

mantle

Third startup pitching at Demo Day was Mantle technologyHave you ever been curious about the possibilities that Blockchain can offer you? Mantle Technology offers reliable, scalable, and user friendly blockchain networks. You can pay only for what you use and unlimited tier is available as well.  

PivoHub

PivoHub

And last but not least, PivoHub. Craft brewers are wasting thousands of hours a year processing orders from speciality beer stores as well as grocery stores. They’re taking hundreds of orders every week by phone, text and email. PivoHub is a B2B e-commerce solution that allows craft breweries to start selling online and manage their inventory, all while saving them hundreds of hours.

“The process of preparing for Demo Day helped us stay focused, it allowed us to get more clarity which gave us an outside perspective on the direction of our business.” – Christopher Gregoire, Co-Founder of PivoHub.

It’s fair to say the day was a success. The accelerators demonstrated the strength of working together to put Montreal’s innovation ecosystem on the world stage.

Interested in learning more about our startups or getting involved? Send us an email at communications@d3center.ca.

Product Marketing Specialist – Autto


About the startup:

Autto is an automobile pricing, buying and data company. The company was founded by two MBA graduates from JMSB and focuses on establishing a new way for people to buy their next cars.

Job Description:

As a product marketing specialist, you will be responsible for telling the world the story of our product. Additionally, you will take charge of elaborating the strategy around the messaging and marketing for new launches.

How to Apply:

CV and Cover Letter.

Contact Email:

tom@autto.ca

WordPress – Design – Digital Marketing, MovingWaldo Inc.


About the startup:

MovingWaldo Inc is a centralized change of address service. More at www.movingwaldo.ca.

Job Description:

MovingWaldo is looking for someone to join the marketing team as head of IT (WordPress ). The role includes continuous development of the website, design of new landing pages, implementation of marketing strategies, optimization of conversion rates, tracking, and a lot of fun in a growing team ! Internship may lead to full time hire.

How to Apply:

CV and personalized cover letter

Contact Email:

guillaume@movingwaldo.ca

2c91de568edf-movingwaldo_logo_rouge

UX/UI Designer – Matagora Inc.


About the startup:

At Matagora, we are a team knitted by a common passion to make retail space accessible to everyone with an idea. By seamlessly connecting merchants to spaces for their ideas, we bring life back to brick’n mortar commerce and create new business opportunities for merchants, designers, crafters which would otherwise seem out of reach. Essentially we’re working hard on building a seamless platform for accessing low-cost low-stakes retail space and unique space (such as photo studios & event spaces), sort of like the Airbnb for retail. Also – in the process we’ll be harnessing some cutting edge technologies to revolutionize the current static in-store retail experience.

Job Description:

Focused on making the process as easy and seamless as possible, the UX/UI designer has the exciting responsibility of creating a beautiful, stylish and user-friendly application – for both web and mobile purposes.

What will you be doing?

Leading the UX / UI design of web and mobile applications. Working hand in hand with a talented cross-functional team in a highly agile environment. Leading the creative, strategic and analytical process of each project/product as they apply to UX / UI. Communicating with stakeholders when necessary to discuss business and creative requirements and specifications. Staying updated on the latest technologies and trends in technology.

What will you need?

1+ years of pertinent experience in UX/UI Design, Advanced skills in Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign), Strong understanding of HTML5 and CSS3, Portfolio with multiple projects, Excellent communication skills in English or French.

What’s in it for you?

Centralize and convenient location with easy accessibility by car or public transport.
Beautiful, trendy office environment fully equipped with a kitchen and lounge. An awesome, highly collaborative, laid back, employee friendly company culture with some of the brightest and most creative minds in Montreal. Vision. Creativity. Passion. Innovation. This is an opportunity to be a part of a young, hungry and innovative tech start-up that is in the midst of an impressive evolution phase. For more details, you can apply immediately or contact us directly with the information below!

Required experience:

UX/UI Design: 1 year

How to Apply:

CV with cover letter

Contact Email:

chris@matagora.com
65669ef1557a-M_logo

Sales Representative – GMP LIMS


About the startup:

Effectively managing laboratory data is a challenge for even the most advanced and innovative scientific organizations. New instruments, techniques, data types and tools are becoming available all the time – while time-tested methods and software platforms remain in use.
Since our inception, the team at GMP LIMS has been focused on building flexible and powerful Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to meet the needs of scientific organizations. We work closely with customers to define their LIMS roadmap, and collaborate over the course of the solution deployment to ensure that goals and requirements are being achieved. Customer satisfaction and the value the LIMS is delivering are key focuses throughout and after deployment.

Job Description:

This commission based position.
Responsibilities:
– Create lead list
– Contact leads in Canada and the US
– Do on-line or on-site presentations of our product
Requirements:
– Excellent communications skills
– Perseverance and commitment to serving customers
– Ability to present
– Being bilingual is an asset

How to Apply:

send your CV to ehsan@gmplims.com and tell us in a sentence what you’ve sold in the past.

Contact Email:

ehsan@gmplims.com

AI XPRIZE: Transforming Montreal Into an AI HUB!


By: Sofia Carbone, communications coordinator

Montreal’s artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem has gained traction in the past few years, positioning our city as the hub for AI. The AI XPRIZE, a four-year global $5-million, open and global competition where teams must develop and demonstrate how people can collaborate and apply artificial intelligence to solve the world’s largest societal challenges. The competition is a great opportunity to showcase our talent and the strength of our city as an AI hub.

Montreal is leading the pack with the most teams entered in the competition, a total of 12! Yesterday, we heard our teams, including two from Ontario, pitch at Blakes Law Firm to the foremost experts and mentors in the AI field in Montreal.

Sydney Swaine-Simon, District 3’s AI Zone-Fellow, has been working hard for over the past year to promote, recruit, support and connect the teams with the major players in the ecosystem. It’s a privilege to support our talented teams throughout their journey!

Meet The Teams

ubenwa

1. Ubenwa

Birth Asphyxia is one of the top 3 causes of infant mortality in Africa, causing the death of about 1.2 million infants and severe lifelong disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, deafness, and paralysis) to an equal number annually. Ubenwa is developing a machine learning system that can take infant cry as input, analyse the amplitude and frequency patterns in the cry, to provide instant diagnosis of birth asphyxia.

sensequake
2. SenseQuake

Sensequake is making cities safer and smarter by revolutionizing how engineers assess the integrity and natural hazard vulnerability of structures. Instead of visual inspection and traditional engineering practices, Sensequake technology performs smart assessments based on actual data from sensors—saving engineers time, effort and money—all the while providing superior results. Their project can be used to help and minimize risk of Building Collapses by providing a scalable product to do building risk assessment which is 80% faster.

nectar

3. Nectar

Nectar is a Montreal based, AI startup that gives nature a voice, starting with honey bees. Through conversational interface technology, they help beekeepers apply the right care at the right time, in order to raise healthy apiaries. The current iteration of the product uses multiple sensors which go into the hive and will have an app interface so that beekeepers minimize the amount of times they need to disrupt them. Although they are starting with bee colonies,  the product is scalable to work in other environments.

data-performers

4. Dataperformers

DataperfomersX is building the Google map for disaster management. From a simple and textual query like “what is the best location for a temporary hospital?” DataperformersX provides a straightforward recommendation plans build from heterogeneous data sources and a decentralized autonomous mapping low cost drones.

 

erudite

5. Erudite

Meet Eri.AI, a chatbot that provides students all over the world one-on-one math tutoring, on demand. This is done by matching students, in real-time, with available tutors that have shown proficiency in the same subject. As a result, the student will have a better understanding of the topic, while the tutor will reach the tutoring level of a professional.

innovie-health

6. Innovie

Innovie’s solution is to provide physicians with a AI Real-Time Data Analytics platform which will be integrated with EMR/EHR’s and clinical research databases. Their system will be a fully automated real-time responsive diagnosis and provide time and cost efficiency for patients, physicians and clinic. This will lead to a reduction in defensive medicine practices and diagnostic errors.

 

premo

7. Prëmo

Prëmo is an inter-connexion platform bringing individuals from distant networks together, much faster, helping them form communities closest to their needs and interests. Rosa is our master-piece AI-system finding the fastest ways for an individual to connect at any moment, for any need, with anyone, instantaneously.

AIcare

8. AICARE

AICARE aims to develop an intelligent application programming interface (API) that will receive real-time traffic video feed and any other data/information that could help improve traffic flow. A web platform is the fastest way to reach our potential users over the world. Once the data comes to that API, it will be processed by an intelligent agent able to return to traffic light controllers the optimal cycles of green light versus red light. By the end of the competition, their goal is to improve traffic reality in at least three cities

aifred

9. Alfred

AIfred is a clinical decision aid system for psychiatry. AIfred combines deep scientific research with cutting-edge machine learning to help reduce recovery times, increase treatment efficacy and allow better allocation of medical resources through more effective and efficient treatment plans.

canadian-shield
10. Canadian Shield MVSS

Canadian Shield Military and Veteran Student Services (Canadian Shield MVSS) is a Federally Incorporated non-profit Corporation that is developing a Cognitive Computing based Veteran Transition Ecosystem to support former Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP members by providing a seamless end-to-end progression through the series of steps required to secure gainful civilian employment and meaningful participation in their new communities following a service related injury.

 

cann-forecast
11. Cann Forecast

Cann Forecast is building a revolutionary artificial intelligence system called JENN. JENN is an AI based assistant capable of predicting the risk of microbiological contamination in water. Along with data provided by the cities, it also makes use of meteorological and environmental data in order to predict the risk of contamination up to 3 days ahead not only for recreational water, but also for drinking water sources.

JENN also comes with a graphical user interface so that decision makers can visualize the system’s predicted and historical data, along with performance metrics and confidence intervals so they can make more enlightened decisions.An API is also available for data access and integration with systems already in place.

mr.young

12. Mr. Young

Mental health disorders affect more than 650 million people worldwide and cost more than 1 trillion dollars a year. It has also been found that younger generations are particularly affected by them. Although many human and technological resources exist, seeking the right kind of help can be a daunting and confusing task.

Mr. Young is an AI-powered chatbot designed to provide an “ear” that help those in need cope with anxiety, and connect them to the appropriate solution.

uOttawa

13. uOttawa AI

uOttawa AI is creating an AI system to help the visually impaired navigate their environment.  The aim is to improve the accuracy of video understanding by integrating more advanced audio, beep/vibration alerts. Their technology will aid the current methods and utilize smartphone features such as GPS and motion sensors.

leaplearnfly

14. Learn Leap Fly

Teaching the next generation to learn requires all of us, whether our expertise is with technology, with culture, with design, with psychology, with science, with art, or with community. If having experts in a single domain was sufficient, we would already be done. The challenges of global education remain despite having experts in all of the above areas. Our best solutions require the creative collaboration of expert learners, teachers, and makers across many problem domains.

At Learn Leap Fly, we seek out experts who are committed to lifelong learning and teaching, and bring them into a collaborative environment. We challenge them to find the places where their areas of expertise intersect those of others. We help them test their notions, and their preconceptions, and we do it all in a culture of respect, honesty, and experimentation.

wikinet

15. Wikinet.ca

WikiNet is a company specialized in the development of applications for the environmental sector. They are collaborating with IBM/Watson, the world leader in cognitive computing, to create intelligent applications that can learn from data and support decision-making. They give the opportunity to environmental companies to innovate and distinguish themselves in a highly competitive market by expanding their expertise with the cognitive technology. Winkinet provides decision tools for environmental companies to identify the best solutions for environmental protection and to support economic development.

If you’re interested in connecting with the teams or learning more about the AI XPRIZE, send us an email at communications@d3center.ca!  

Fireside Chat: Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Vito Salvaggio (Part 3 of 3)


Vito Salvaggio

Part 3: Starting your Career as an Entrepreneur  

By: Sofia Carbone, communications coordinator

This is the last part of the series where we explore what being a product manager and marketer means in the context of both a startup and a large organization.

We had the pleasure to host a Q&A panel with Vito Salvaggio, a Concordia University, and MIT Alumnus, who is a veteran in the startup ecosystem in San Francisco. You can read part 1 and part 2, where we discussed his career as a product manager and what challenges he faces on a day to day basis.

Salvaggio is very active within the San Francisco startup community and was recently involved in several successful startups like Streetline—the leading provider of smart parking solutions to cities, universities and corporate campuses, and Loggly, a popular cloud-based log management, and search platform.

In this third part, we’ll be discussing Salvaggio’s challenges working in startups, and the tips and tricks used to overcome them. Khalil G. Haddad, District 3’s marketing and communications manager, moderated the discussion.

 

Question: From a technical perspective, how does one migrate towards entrepreneurship and product management? Do you have any techniques for acquiring the skills and knowledge in these areas?

Vito: There isn’t a single path. I think it depends what opportunities are available to you. If you’re stuck in a job where you have one single task and don’t have a lot of interaction with other functions, that can be a problem. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you’re going to deal with marketing, sales, support, engineering, all these cross-functional people on a daily basis. You need to have a healthy understanding of their roles. It’s easier to get this exposure in smaller organizations. Larger companies can be siloed, and you don’t get as much interaction. However, at least in my experience, product managers who worked in major corporations had a good foundation. They were trained on how to interact people. You won’t get that in smaller companies.

 

Question: What is the worst advice being dispensed to entrepreneurs these days?

Vito: I can’t say that I’m an expert in knowing. Every startup is unique, and I’m not aware of the general rules that do or don’t apply. I don’t know if there are general rules people are telling entrepreneurs that should be outright dismissed or supported.

 

Question: You have colleagues and acquaintances who decided to open a startup and that became successful. Did you notice patterns that you think might have caused their success?

Vito: Timing. One of my product managers, who worked with me at Apple and Roxio, recently sold his startup for forty million dollars to a New York-based company.

You have to be smart, hard working and be willing to sacrifice. You can’t be motivated by the thought that one day you’re going to get a million dollars. You need to believe in the problem that you’re solving. Think about how many people have this problem. Ask yourself ‘can I assemble a team, align, and pay them to tackle this problem and sell it to hundreds of customers?’ If you have that kind of mindset, then you may have a shot at being successful. If you think ‘I’m going to do a startup cause I’m going to get rich,’ you’re going to miss the intermediate steps and you’ll be disappointed.

 

Question: Is it an advantage for someone, who is at the beginning of their career, to jump into entrepreneurship?

Vito: Yes. Most people who go into entrepreneurship do it while they’re young, it’s easier. They don’t have the fancy job, so there is less holding them back. You need a nest egg to fund your expenses; this is a universal law. My advice, enter the job market with the plan of gaining experience and getting the higher salary that will allow you to branch off and do your own thing.

 

Question: What’s the benefit of starting a startup in Montreal compared to starting in San Francisco?

Vito: There’s a huge benefit to starting a company outside of San Francisco. The cost structure in California is outrageous, and attracting people and retaining them is challenging. In Montreal you have a nice talent pool of educated people and we’re a very diverse population. It’s more affordable to hire people. You have a huge advantage in Montreal, from a cost structure perspective. The drawback is it’s harder to find the people who work in high tech. In Silicon Valley, at least 25% of the population specialize in high tech.

From a marketing perspective, it’s less of a challenge today. You have the internet. If you’re selling from a website, no one needs to know where you’re located. I think marketing is as easy as it’s ever been for tech companies. You can be headquartered anywhere. If you’re reaching out beyond the Canadian market, I encourage you not to make it very prominent where you’re located. We deal with companies in India; they don’t make it very noticeable where they are located. That’s smart. You want to sell to the biggest market, that’s the US market, it’s not necessarily important to convey where your location is.

 

We hope you enjoyed the last post of this series! We enjoyed having Vito take the time and share his insights with our community.

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

Fireside Chat: Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Vito Salvaggio (Part 2 of 3)


Vito Salvaggio

Part 2: Challenges Faced by Product Managers

By: Sofia Carbone, communications coordinator

 

This is the second part of a three-part series where we explore what being a product manager and marketer means in the context of both a startup and a large organization.

We had the pleasure to host a Q&A panel with Vito Salvaggio, a Concordia University, and MIT Alumnus, who is a veteran in the startup ecosystem in San Francisco. You can read part 1 here, where we discussed…

Salvaggio is very active within the San Francisco startup community and was recently involved in several successful startups like Streetline—the leading provider of smart parking solutions to cities, universities and corporate campuses, and Loggly, a popular cloud-based log management, and search platform.

In this second part, we’ll be discussing Salvaggio’s challenges as a product manager, and the tips and tricks uses to overcome them. Khalil G. Haddad, District 3’s marketing and communications manager, moderated the discussion.

 

Question: What are the biggest challenges that you face as a Product Manager?

 

Vito: The biggest challenge is prioritizing requirements. You have a limited number of engineers and dozensif not hundredsof potential ideas that are coming from customers and the market. We ask ourselves “what are the most important features engineers could be working on?” That’s the number one challenge of the product management function.

Another challenge is understanding the needs of the sales organization and understanding what motivates the engineers. Sales always needs to know what they can sell today. Engineers want to fix the big problems, they want a long-term road map. How do you balance those two competing requirements?

I would say the top three things product managers need to stay on top of is: 1) prioritizing requirements; 2) understanding the market and making sure you are not out of position; 3) And observing the needs of the constituencies between the needs of sales and the needs of engineers to feel empowered to do new compelling, innovative things. Those are some of the challenges that a product manager faces on a daily basis.

 

Question: How do you build credibility, especially if you don’t have an engineering background?

 

Vito: Influence is the single most important skill a product manager can have. You don’t get engineers to do what you want simply because you’re authorized by virtue of your title. You have to build a rapport. They have to trust you and believe you can bring them requirements that the market needs.

It’s challenging in a high tech company if you don’t have a technical background. What I look at when a product manager want to work for me is, are engineers seeking them or are they ignoring them?  If you can not be sought out by the engineers, then you have a problem on your hands. If the product manager doesn’t have the respect of the organization, that’s tough.

 

Question: How can you transition into the role of product manager?

 

Vito: In my case I got lucky. An easy way is to transition out of business school, usually out of an MBA or a Master Program. Generally, the easiest way is when you’re in an existing organization and you move over to product management. One of the best hires I ever made in my career came out of sales. This person really understood customers’ issues. He spent a lot of personal time understanding the technology, the products and the competitive space. He was very good with people. Migrating within a company to a junior level product management or product marketing position is usually a nice transition.

If you’re technical, you’re an engineer and you want to make a migration, that is easy as well. The more technical the product and the more technical knowledge you have, the easier it is to transition. Transitioning  to a product management position requires a good foundation in product and technology.

It’s hard to do for a startup. They’re not necessarily looking for people to migrate from one position to another unless they are growing rapidly. For example, an engineer who is brought on board to do some coding and wants to transition into product management in an environment where the CEO or CTO are the product managers. He can only make the transition if they’ve grown large enough and are ready for a full time product manager.

 

Q: If you were given two products to build from scratch, but only had the time and resources to build one, how would you decide which to build?

 

Vito: Generally, we use the General Electric matrix, which is a framework developed by Mackenzie and General Electric. You look at market attractiveness vs. your ability to execute. You have to do some research, and have to assess the opportunity.

If there’s a sufficiently large market opportunity for this product or service ask yourself do you have you the ability to execute on this? Do you have the funding? Do you have the right people? Ask yourself these questions, state the assumptions. What has to be true for each of these options to be a viable successful option? Go test those assumptions. Where is the biggest market and how likely are you, with the resources that you have, the skill sets of your team, and the funding that you have, to execute?

Look at the competitive environment as well. That is part of the ability to execute. Can you out-execute your competitors? That’s going to be critical.

 

Q:   When you have these assumptions, how do you involve your customers in your product direction?

Vito: That’s relatively easy. We talk to the customers all the time, and how you talk to customers is important! Don’t ask them what they want. It’s ok to ask them, but that shouldn’t guide what you build. You have to ask them, what’s the problem? How do they use your product? Observe them use the product. What are their pain points? Then you figure out how to address their pain points, or the limitations you have in the product.

We talk to customers. We are asking what their problems are, what are they trying to achieve, then we think about possible ways of solving the problem.

That’s the product manager with the designer. The designer will create mockups and there are amazing tools you can use, like Invision, that allows you to do mockups that look and feel a little bit like your product. Whether it’s a mobile or web based product. Then go back to your customers and have them test the interactive mockups. Ask them to solve the problem.

 

Q: When you’re driving product decisions, how do you deal with the competition? What do you look for and and what’s your mindset when you’re trying to build features or your product?

 

Vito: What I learned at Apple, even then, you didn’t obsess or spend a lot of time worrying about the competitors.  Even today I don’t think Apple worries too much about their competitors. What they do is assess with their customers. They are selling to people who have money. Don’t obsess too much about the competition and don’t mimic what they’re doing.

Even in a single product category like ours, log file management, there are many players. Some serve large enterprise customers. We don’t. We serve medium size fast growing customers. That may be a different persona. We may be pursuing a completely different customer. If we are swayed by what our competitors are doing we may miss what our customer need.

Except for the following caveat.

There are capabilities that almost every category has. For example, you can try to build a cell phone today and save money by not putting a front facing camera. You’re probably not going to be very successful. The competitors’ features are relevant only in the base level features.

You need a certain minimum level of performance. Your product must have a set of capabilities. Whatever the product. Beyond that, you need to understand what the customer pain points are for the target market that you’re pursuing. Most businesses can’t target the whole market. Apple has two million dollars worth of revenue, and doesn’t target the whole market. They target the elite, people that have money.

You have to look at your sweet spot. How big is that category? Understand what those users want and built delightful capabilities for that sweet spot. If you are obsessed with your competition, you may try to mimic them and fall short.

That’s the way I think about competitors. You can’t ignore their features. It’s good to be aware, but you must be driven by your target persona in your market segment. If you miss that you will not succeed. It’s possible you’re pursuing a category that has a direct competitor, in which case it can be a race to the bottom. You’re ultimately going to compete on price. That’s why you really need to think about a large niche that’s unique from your competitors. If you’re really going to grow, you need to focus on what your customers problems are and not be too distracted by your competitors.

 

Question: If you’re a successful product manager working for a big company, what’s stopping you from resigning and starting your own startup? What is your recommendation for a product manager, when is the right time to move out on your own?

 

Vito: That’s a question everybody experiences. The answer, it’s a lifestyle choice. If you’re a successful product manager, working for an established company, getting a regular income with the typical annual increase and increased level of responsibility, there’s a certain comfort there.

You need to be willing to risk it all, and by all, I mean have no income for a while. If you feel you’re a good leader and people will listen to you and align behind you, and you feel you can attract investors who would be willing to fund your idea, provided that you do have a fundable idea, you have to make a choice.

Product management is an excellent career. It prepares you to be an entrepreneur or the CEO of a startup. You  understand the business. There is sales, engineering, support and design. You don’t own any of these skills, but you are a key player in making these people come together and, if you’re successful, lead them even if you don’t have the authority necessary.

You have to be willing to sacrifice. It depends on your financial situation. If you’re used to that income, it can be really hard to be entrepreneur. If you expect certain minimal living standards like the fancy car, fancy apartment or house, you’re going to have to make those choices.

Why are so many successful startups founded by younger people? It’s because they’re at a place in their careers where they have nothing to lose. They don’t have the big mortgage or car payments, and the private school for their kids. They’re willing to say “I can sacrifice for a few years to pursue the potentially bigger goal”. If you’re leaving a successful career at an established company, with a regular salary, you need to tell yourself “I’m prepared to drop all of this and do my own thing.”

 

We hope you enjoyed the second post of this series! In the final part, Vito will be tackling what it means to be a product manager in the context of a startup. 

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

Fireside Chat: Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Vito Salvaggio (Part 1 of 3)


Vito Salvaggio

By: Sofia Carbone, communications coordinator

This is the first part of a three-part series where we explore what being a product manager and marketer means in the context of both a startup and a large organization. We had the pleasure to host a Q&A panel with Vito Salvaggio, a Concordia University, and MIT Alumnus, who is a veteran in the startup ecosystem in San Francisco.

You can find Part 2 and Part 3 here!

Salvaggio is very active within the San Francisco startup community and was recently involved in several successful startups like Streetline—the leading provider of smart parking solutions to cities, universities and corporate campuses, and Loggly, a popular cloud-based log management, and search platform.

In this first part, we’ll be discussing Salvaggio’s career path, as well as the tips and tricks he’s picked up along the way that helped propel his career. Khalil G. Haddad, District 3’s marketing and communications manager, moderated the discussion.

 

Can you give us a quick overview of your career path?

I first started my career working for Apple as a product manager and became the director of product marketing for Mac OS until 1997. Since Apple, I’ve gone on to work as a product manager in several successful startups, such as Accrue Software, which went through a successful IPO, and Unimobile who raised Series C funding and was later acquired by Syniverse. I worked as the VP of product management at Hewlett-Packard, and in several other organizations.

You made a decision to move to California to work in the startup ecosystem. Do you feel that startups today can stay in Montreal or other cities and still be able to achieve the same amount of success that you would see in San Francisco?

Vito: It’s pretty easy to build a business today almost entirely online with staff working remotely from several cities. For example, if you look at Atlassian, they had an IPO last year or the year before. They’re a very successful company with tens of thousands of companies using their products. They’re highly distributed so they are able to find talent anywhere.

At Loggly, we struggle to hire engineers and personnel locally. We’ve now begun to hire people that are farther from downtown San Francisco. My commute is over an hour but on Tuesdays, I work from home. We have an engineer that works from the Philippines, and he works our hours. He went to Waterloo and just happens to live in the Philippines. I have a product manager who is living in India right now. He works our hours, 13.5 hours time shifted but from India and he’s a rock star.

It’s much easier today to build a business by finding the right people wherever they might be. I think it bodes well for other cities, like Montreal.

When you want to join a post-series A startup, you have some element of due diligence that was made by investors that minimize your risk when you decide to join as an employee. However, how do you assess a Pre-Series A startup that you’d like to join? How do you minimize risk and ensure that you are investing your time in a startup that has a higher likelihood of succeeding?

Vito: There’s no question it’s really risky to join an early stage startup, but it can be incredibly rewarding. If you’re going to join a team of fewer than 10 people, you really need to look at the team. Who’s the CEO? Who are the founders? Who are their investors and advisors? The startups are going to ask you all the questions to determine whether they should hire you. You should do the same as well, you should ask and talk to their references. Before I joined Loggly full time as the VP of product development, I was a consultant. I wanted to see what customer bought the product, I wanted to see who my peers in the organization would be before I decided to join their startup full-time.

If you’re very confident in your abilities and you want to vet the quality of the team, you can offer to join as a contractor. It will give you time to think about the company you want to join. It will really give you the time to look at who are their customers, what’s their sales ramp like, what’s the VP Sales like, what’s the CEO like. These are the things I think about when I’m looking at a really small company that has a really small track record.

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur and build a startup. It seems like it’s becoming a popular avenue people want to pursue. How can you keep grounded in this environment where everybody’s excited? Are we facing a bubble, similar to what happened in the late nineties or are we in a different situation now?

Vito: I think it’s similar, but not identical. In the late nineties, there were lots of companies that really had no business getting the money they did. Today we see a little bit of that. A year or two ago, it was all about Unicorns. Billion dollar valuation companies! But many of these billion dollar companies have a solid business behind them. A lot of these companies don’t have profitability, but they’re growing rapidly. Some companies are able to raise a lot of money at a high valuation on the basis of breaking even and becoming profitable.

I think better companies are being funded, but the phenomenon is a little different. It’s easier today, from a capital perspective, to start a company. Software companies can be up and running in weeks. In the late 90s, you still had to build infrastructure and so more capital requirements and it was easier to fail. You can fail now too, but it’s much easier to build a business with lower capital and test if there’s traction. In general, I’m not seeing a lot of frivolous things. It’s just a good time to start businesses.

As a product manager how do you schedule your time and what tips would you give with regards to product management?   

Vito: The higher up you go in an organization, the more likely you’re going to spend time in meetings and less time doing the work of a product manager. You need to find the right balance. My approach is, every day, I think of the three or four things I need to get accomplished that day and make sure that I don’t get caught up in just doing e-mail or meetings. Just really focus on getting those things accomplished. Make lists. Lists are your friends. You make lists and cross things off your list. You’ll focus on getting things accomplished. Prioritize things that the business needs to move forward.

That doesn’t mean don’t respond to emails. I think it’s very important in smaller companies to be very responsive to people who email or contact you. But don’t get wrapped up in doing only that. Make sure you spend a fair amount of time getting the deliverable. Turn your phone off. Turn your e-mail off and, if you’re writing requirements because you’re a product manager, focus on requirements. If you’re creating a survey, complete the first draft of the survey. Make sure you have, in your schedule, a lot of uninterrupted time without meetings so that you can get these things done. You have to learn how to manage your time.

That’s going to be critical for a product manager because product managers are a Nexus within the organization, large or small. Sales, engineering, design and marketing all come to the product manager for advice. It’s very easy to be split into different tasks. Make sure you have time to dedicate yourself to getting things done.  

How would you compare the work-life balance between working for big companies like Apple, and working at a startup company?

Vito: If you’re going to a startup company you need to be prepared to make the appropriate level of sacrifice in your work-life balance. Larger companies can accommodate 9 to 5 easier than startups, it’s just a fact of life. If you go to a startup that has a  pretty balanced lifestyle, you should examine whether or not they’re going to be successful. The smaller startups that are emerging out of nowhere and want to become real players, it requires a tremendous amount of effort.

Work-life balance and startups aren’t often in the same sentence. It’s a choice you have to make. Very often, I see people who want to join startups but are looking for that work-life balance. That can be pretty tricky. Now different corporations handle it differently. By the way, by work-life balance, I don’t mean you have to be there from 9 to 5.

At Loggly, we’re pretty flexible. Somebody needs to leave earlybecause the commute in Silicon Valley is a nightmarethey leave early. But they’ll log in after they put the kids to bed, and do some work for example. That’s OK. That’s a reasonable work-life balance. I don’t believe that companies require employees to work 70 or 80 hours a week, I don’t think that’s a good balance.

Can you share some resources or materials that got you inspired to be thinking this way? Books that you read or people that you’ve been exposed to that helped you in your career?

Vito: I’m a pretty voracious reader. I’m mostly focused on good magazines and good blogs. I read a lot of well-researched publications; Law and Management Review, MIT Review, The McKinsey Quarterly, The Harvard Business Review. Any articles in general that have been vetted and reviewed. Now, there are a lot of smart venture capitalists that have amazing blogs, and they can help you stay current if you’re in a particular domain.

You really need to stay on top of your career and stay incredibly informed, and Twitter makes it easy. You can subscribe to publications and individuals, and get notified when the leading venture capitalists publish. The VC firm Andreessen Horowitz have some amazing writers and Redpoint Ventures have Tomasz Tunguz.  

If you’re in the SaaS space look for some leading blogs. SaaStr is one, Growth Hackers is another place where others in the industry write interesting articles. They will help you shape your ideas of what you want to do in your domain.

How do you make time to read?

Vito: I read every single morning on the subway, and on the way home. I listen to podcasts on my drive to the station where I park. I listen to podcasts at one and a quarter speed. There are amazing podcasts. The Stanford Entrepreneurial Forum has discussions with startup founders. You’ll hear amazing people talk about their career trajectory. Multidisciplinary podcasts such as Freakonomics and This American Life are just for entertainment, but they can give you different perspectives. I’m constantly absorbing information.

The reason being, Silicon Valley is pretty young. If you go to Facebook or Google, the average employees are in their late 20’s. The way to be viable in Silicon Valley is to be current and knowledgeable. When I was at Concordia, Fortran was what we studied. I didn’t learn HTML, CSS, JAVASCRIPT or JAVA. I took those courses at a local community college, all online, in the last few years to make myself relevant. Whatever your domain is, you have to remain relevant.

We hope you enjoyed the first post of this series! In the next part, Vito will be tackling what he faces day-to-day as a product manager and marketer.

Are you ready to take your startup or idea to the next level? Apply to our programs by Monday, April 24. Be sure to check out our FAQs if you have any questions.

How to Feel at Home At District 3


welcome-to-d3

By Sofia Carbone,  Communications Coordinator

You’re finally here! It’s exciting being surrounded by people who are passionate about entrepreneurship. You must have a lot of questions about the space and community. Here are some need-to-knows about District 3.

1. We’re a Family 

The first thing you should know about District 3 is that we’re a tight-knit community. You’re surrounded by like-minded individuals who are passionate about entrepreneurship and building their startup. 

Take advantage of the open space. Don’t be afraid to walk up to people to get to know them and even ask them for advice or feedback.

Pro tip: if the thought of walking up to your peers seems daunting, you can send a message through our internal community channel. People are very receptive and will most likely private message you.

2. Come to our Community Events

District 3 organizes regular community potlucks and monthly mixers. These are perfect times to unwind with your peers, but didn’t have the chance to meet or talk to.

Pro tip: download the District 3 Events Calendar to keep up to date with community events! You can find it HERE

3. Notion and Slack are your Best Friends

Notion is your portal to all things District 3. From booking conference rooms (believe me they come in handy) to figuring out slack, Notion has got you covered.

Slack is where everyone goes to chat, give updates and find out what’s happening in the community. The #General and #Community channels are the two almost everyone uses. You can reach the entire community (that’s right all 1,075 of us) in one go. There are also group channels which give you updates about the space, events, and programs.

Pro tip: if you need to mass contact the group on slack write in “@channel” and then your message. It will send to everyone. Fun tip, type in /giphy and write something… you’ll have a great surprise!

If you follow these simple tips District 3 should start to feel more like home in no time. You’ll be receiving a weekly newsletter every Tuesday where we’ll be sharing initiatives taking place in our space. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the community! 

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