I’m headed to the Massive Tech Show today afternoon at the Hilton to moderate a panel discussion on “Saving Time & Money Using Mobile and Online Applications”, which would feature executives from Microsoft, Telus and Canpages. The panel would discuss what are some of the applications small businesses can use to boost their productivity and where to spend and where NOT to spend when it comes to technology over the next 12 months, among other ways. Should be a useful discussion. The one day conference itself has a great line up of speakers and is focused on technology solutions for small businesses.
My video interview with a German startup in Toronto demo-ing their Flash development product (posted on Techvibes)Read the full post and comments on Techvibes.
Powerflasher, a Germany-based startup is exhibiting at the FITC design and technology conference happening in Toronto currently. Their core product, FDT, is an Eclipse-based development tool for Flash developers which seemed to be getting a lot of buzz at the conference. I caught up with the Powerflasher team (Carlo Blatz, CEO; Frank Piotraschke, Product Manager and Michael Plank, Evangelist) for a candid interview where they talk about their company, the problem their product solves and a demo of how it works. Check it out:
Stephen Hurwitz, a partner at Choate Hall & Stewart LLP in Boston, recently wrote a great article on why venture funding outlook for Canadian startups is bleak and what needs to be done to improve the situation. Read the full article here (via Mike Middleton of Q1 Capital Partners). Stephen’s key points include:
Venture funding in Canada is in serious trouble
- 2008 was the worst year for VC investment in Canada in the past twelve years. (See Techvibes’ previous coverage about it here).
- Venture-backed companies in Canada are not getting enough relative funding compared to their US counterparts.
- Under-financed Canadian companies have to compete in the same North American market against much better financed US companies. As a result, they are often forced to be sold early in their lifecycle.
- Early acquisitions of Canada’s most promising technology startups by US firms and their subsequent complete relocation to the US is “hollowing out” Canadian innovation.
- Canada’s extensive R&D tax credits have thus essentially become a subsidy to US businesses which buy these Canadian startups for cheap.
- Canadian venture funds are under-funded and can’t invest enough in their startups. As a result, returns are very low. To sum up the situation in Canada:
The less funding Canadian venture capital firms receive, the less they have to invest in Canadian emerging companies. The more these emerging companies are underfunded, the less competitive they are. The less they succeed in their marketplace, the worse the resulting performance of the venture capital firms that fund them. The worse the performance of those venture firms, the greater their difficulty in securing their own funding from institutional and other investors. And so this toxic downward cycle goes, continuously reinforcing underperformance for Canadian entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike.
…and Canadian red tape deters US venture capitalists from investing in Canadian startups
- When selling shares in a private Canadian corporation, US investors have to go through various legal and administrative hurdles which are unnecessary and make the process very time-consuming and costly. As a result, they just say no to investing in Canadian startups.
- According to a major international venture study by Deloitte in 2007, 40% of US venture capital respondents and 28% of global venture capital respondents cited Canada’s unfavorable tax environment as a key reason for not investing in Canadian companies. This concern as to investing in Canada was at a level five times higher than for any other country in the survey.
- Such circumstances force many of Canada’s most promising startups to become Delaware corporations instead.
Things need to start changing in Canada or budding entrepreneurs will increasingly head south. BackType and Kontagent are examples of startups founded by (ex) Toronto-based entrepreneurs but which are now based in Silicon Valley. Some amazing startups which remain here, it is unfortunate to see them being severely undervalued and underfunded. David Crow wrote a great post on StartupNorth recently about exploring the possibility of creating a Canadian YCombinator-like startup school and seed fund. But with the dismal venture funding outlook in Canada, where will these startups go beyond the seed stage ?
For starters, altering some specific laws to facilitate venture capital investment from the US is something the Canadian government can do, as Stephen suggested in his brilliant article, or Canada will increasingly lose out in the innovation space.
“To fully appreciate why consultants often do not fulfill a startup’s needs, it is important to understand the typical consulting engagement sales cycle.
When a consulting firm tries to get their hand in your pocket, they usually lead with their Rainmaker. This is generally an engaging, glib, attractive person that you can almost guarantee you will not see again, once the Engagement Letter is signed. Instead of focusing on the welfare of your business, the Rainmaker will be off making rain somewhere else while your engagement is managed by worker bees who are likely biding their time as a Junior Consultant before earning their MBAs with the intent to graduate and become Rainmakers in their own right.
As described in Roping In The Legal Eagles, service firms are pyramids. A handful of Rainmakers sit at the top, while most of the ‘real work’ is done by less experienced and therefore less insightful folks. The larger the firm, the larger the pyramid. The larger the pyramid, the greater the distance between the Rainmaker who closes the sales and the worker bees who have to deliver on the Rainmaker’s promises.
Thus, do not be enamored by a service firm’s size. Size does matter, but in an inverse manner. The larger the firm: (i) the greater the disconnect between the Rainmaker and the workers, (ii) the higher the personnel turnover, and (iii) the more time you will be forced to expend training each new crop of MBA-wannabe’s. Remember – your adVenture’s time is precious.”
Various compression and other techniques can make your AJAX-based web application extremely fast for the user:
1. Concatenate your JS and CSS files. Don’t send out several files over the wire to the browser - the browser can only make 2 connections at a time. Be careful about JS dependencies - order is imp. in JS.
2. Minify and then compress the JS and CSS. Use Dojo’s Shrinksafe or the YUI Compressor to do this. It will strip out whitespace, etc - make the code smaller in size (In JS, every byte counts) and compress.
3. Now gzip the above.
Write an Ant script to automate all the above on code commit and you are done. Try other methods like loading other elements in the background or after a tab etc is clicked - important to show something to the user almost instantly. Did this for Alertle.com, which was a 100% AJAX web app (no page refresh at all), and the initial size of the code being sent to the browser went from 700k to about 20k using the steps above :)
Great new product for Product Managers to visualize and communicate the flow of various workflows in software applications. Here is an example of Facebook’s sign up loop:
View more Facebook user flows.
Read more: The BackType Story: From Toronto to Silicon Valley - Techvibes Blog - http://www.techvibes.com/blog/the-backtype-story-from-toronto-to-silicon-valley#ixzz0CEpWYqDj