For those who are not yet familiar with the concept of social commerce, consider it a blend of social media and e-commerce. And if you need an example of how social commerce can equate to a successful startup, look no further than Daryl Hatton's ConnectionPoint.
KT: Explain your startup, Daryl.
DH: ConnectionPoint has built a social commerce platform to make it easy for people to do personal and/or group business online. Social
commerce combines the rich content message delivery capabilities of social media with the broad connectivity of social networks and wraps them both around the ability to make a safe and secure financial transaction.
We have a number of products that target different applications of this base technology: FundRazr for personal, group and non-profit fundraising, CampaignHQ for political relationship management, and later this year EvenTix, for selling tickets to events managed inside social networks. The key thing in common with all of these is our ability to bring a social component to the various transactions people want to do: make donations, pay fees, buy tickets, split expenses, joint purchases of merchandise, etc. This social component helps make the “business” more visible, more accessible, more transparent and more trustworthy and makes it easier for everyone to do business in this way.
KT: You obviously know how to manage a startup well. Is Vancouver a good place to do so?
DH: Vancouver’s startup ecosystem doesn’t yet have enough critical mass to achieve “fusion”—that point where the energy thrown off from the reaction is bigger than the energy put in. It is hard to become a world-class technology center when we don’t have a great closed-loop innovation culture keeping things humming—i.e. feeding management, engineering and marketing talent, and very importantly investing back into small startups. I think Bootup Labs is doing a great job of trying to inject a spark and bring some energy to the game, [and] I hope the Plug and Play Tech Center goes ahead and contributes more.
KT: What else might be keeping us back?
DH: We have some great innovative entrepreneurial minds in this city, but we all need a much bigger push to get over our adopted “nice Canadian but second place finisher” approach and help us scale more local companies to world-wide market dominating players.
[Though] our “nice Canadian” attitude may be changing. The Olympic “Own the Podium” program really showed us that we, as a nation, can accomplish some great things on the world stage when we have the audacity to name the goal and get behind it. The C100 program in Silicon Valley has adopted this point of view and seems really committed to helping Canadian companies make great connections south of the border that will drive our businesses forward. We recently attended the 48 Hours in the Valley program, and were very impressed by the genuine “get it done” helpful attitude, commitment and support of all the people involved and especially the mentors.
KT: What other factors influence the startup ecosystem here in Vancouver?
DH: Our provincial and federal government support programs (BC Small Business Venture Capital Act, National Research Council IRAP, MITACS, SR&ED, etc.) and our low tax regime are outstanding, and give us unfair competitive advantage. All the seminars and conferences are bringing us the world-class information we need to be successful. Competitions like New Ventures BC bring some “heat” that helps entrepreneurs forge their business plans more effectively as a little competition goes a long way in increasing the urgency to get things done.
KT: Sum it all up for us!
DH: There are lots of good things happening to support our entrepreneurs, but there is still not enough going on to make Vancouver REALLY successful. Our spark is starting to glow but it will unfortunately need even more help before it will explode.
KT: Well, I checked out your video on the LPV website. Very hip. What do you think the video's style says about your startup's style?
DH: We had fun doing the video, but it was a big stretch of the team’s comfort zone. That we did it anyway speaks to one of our team’s core strengths—we trust each other and use that trust to push ourselves to accomplish bigger and better things. We work really hard and push ourselves to the edge all the time, but it doesn’t seem as much like work because we make sure we are having fun and focus daily on the great results we are creating.
ConnectionPoint is "very excited" to show FundRazr at the Launch Party, but Daryl says his team has a "full calendar" of other launch-based events this summer. For example, "PayPal is extremely interested in growing their personal and non-profit fundraising market share and selected us to work with them," Daryl explains. "[We are] to build a set of social-networking-integrated fundraising tools. In late July, we will be releasing a special version of FundRazr that they will market with us. We are working with them and with Facebook to make the launch a big event.
And that's not all. "After that, we will have the launch of our CampaignHQ product," Daryl continues. "This is a special version of FundRazr geared towards providing political relationship management features (including donation collection and ticket sales) for political campaigns of all sizes."
"For the rest of the summer and fall, we will be working hard on the projects we will announce at the PayPal Innovate 2010 conference in late October," Daryl says. "Last year, we were onstage with PayPal to help demonstrate their 'just released' Adaptive Accounts API; we were the first company in the world authorized to use this API and helped PayPal test it (in secret) prior to rollout."
Then he plays keep-away with what's to come, but gives us a juicy hint. "This year, we have a few similar projects underway, but we’ll have to wait to talk about them until [the] Innovate [conference]. Hint: think mobile."
When asked what's left to say, Daryl brings us back to the Vancouver realm of startups. "I think Bootup Labs is being very generous to the startup community with their Launch Parties," Daryl says. He points out that ConnectionPoint is not a Bootup company, "and yet they have consistently supported us in growing our business with promotions like LPV9 and with referrals to us of interesting people and opportunities." He flourishes the sentiment: "I think we all need to take a page from their book and work harder at helping each other out to give Vancouver a stronger ecosystem."
His final comments are suggestive of ConnectionPoint's future growth: "The key to building great companies is finding great people. We are looking for great people to join our team. If your readers know great people who love the crazy challenge of creating world-class software products, send them our way."