What is MTech and Why is it in Alberta?

I got a late invitation to attend the launch of MTech in Alberta, put on by the IP lawyers at Miller Thomson, last Friday. It was well done, due to their clever positioning. By getting Randy Thompson (Venture Alberta, Argon Venture Partners) as the keynote speaker, it attracted the startups that MT want to present their services to. His talk was titled 'Raising Venture Capital', which is like saying free pizza at the University of Calgary to startups, so it goes without saying that it had a good turnout.

In addition, there was a panel discussion on The Future of Commercialization in Alberta, with Ken Cudmore (Technology Strategies Group), Paul Cataford (UTI), Greg Shannon (Miller Thomson partner) and Mark Kornak (angel investor), which brought out various investor groups, AVAC and government representatives. I'd say the Miller Thomson people can't be faulted for their marketing.

In fact, these lines in their invite caught me:

  • Do you have compete confidence in your product and service offerings but less certainty about the business structure protecting your valuable intellectual property?
  • Is cost always a consideration?

Great marketing for a law firm in my opinion.

Of course, for providing a great lunch and the venue, MT got to their pitch for their MTech programme and IP protection practice, which besides being fair ball, was a good primer and certainly worth learning for any new (and existing startup).

It was good content, and far too much to get covered in a blog post. I'll try to summarize:

  • MTech is an initiative to get qualified startups into a programme to get comprehensive legal advice, and in return build loyalty for helping the startup in its infancy
  • MTech has various 'kits' for various legal needs, from initial IP strategy to human resources agreements
  • The startup will hopefully 'graduate' some day by growing and be a regular client for MT, or be phased out if they don;t grow within a reasonable time
  • IP strategy is exactly that; strategy, with a plan, timing, and end objective - it's not just to 'file'
  • IP can be used strategically to ward off competitors at the 'right' time, rather than too early or too late.

Randy's presentation on Money and Venture is likely a post in itself. Suffice to say, it would be familar to startups that are, or in the process of raising money. You can find info like this at www.venturehacks.com but of course, Randy's had a great spin such as:

  • The (VC) flyover zone - Alberta, Sask, Manitoba
  • You want to be selling the equivalent of morphine to drug addicts that need a quick fix to get VC interest
  • Do you want to be Rich or King? Both answers are right but they don't go together!
  • 'The worst (VC) meetings are scheduled for an hour but are done in five minutes'.

The panel was interesting with some good question and answer regarding the Alberta government's stance to technology investment and diversification. The questions were direct, and the answers maybe not as much. There were no government representatives on the panel.

Kudos to the MTech team for being so un-boring, and to launching what appears to be a startup-friendly legal programme. I know this programme is also available in Ottawa where it started, but check with MT yourself by clicking here if you're interested.

Canadian Venture Capital Update from CFF

I attended the Canadian Financing Forum in Vancouver last week, to get a feel for the venture capital industry in Canada, and especially given the current environment. Although I had some pre-conceived notions of what might be going on, I wanted to see for myself and share my observations from their panels, and from talking individually with a few.

First of all, the opinions vary. Some VCs are downright pessimistic, regardless of what side of the border they're from. The ones that are fully invested moreso, because they have companies that they have to perform triage on, to preserve capital to keep the better ones going. VCs with new funds (or at least money to invest) had a different point of view, in that it would be a good time to invest, especially in good early stage ones, because in the two years to get them going, things will have gotten better by then.

In fact for some, investing now with a team that has 'conviction' and good business sense seemed to be a strategic advantage, as many feel that VCs have over invested previously, breeding too many competitors. The slowdown to them was seen as a barrier to entry, and a good thing for their investments and would-be investments.

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Dreamforce 2008 - Worldwide Salesforce.com Users Conference and Expo

I attended the recent Salesforce.com Users conference last week which is now aptly called Dreamforce. Aptly because the overwhelming theme this year, was the ‘Cloud’ and I suppose most dreaming takes place in the clouds.

It’s a gathering that attracts almost 10,000 which is held in San Francisco. This is my second trip there, but the first as an attendee, and in particular for their Partner Summit. The perspective as an attendee is certainly a different one for me, running from one session to another, makes exhibiting actually seem like a breeze.

Salesforce.com marketers rank among some of the best in B2B marketing, and the best practices sessions were very good. These marketers know how to run campaigns, and measure everything. Email marketing is assumed, and marketing automation like ActiveConversion is quickly being adopted. Aggressive doesn’t even describe the kind of energy that the marketers here exude. You wouldn’t want to be marketing against these guys, unless you’re a Salesforce.com marketer as well.

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