Make It Montreal

PME co-founder Stephen Bronfman, CEO of Claridge, weighs in on what we’re learning from this pandemic, and the mindset needed to get us through:

We’re gonna have to bounce back, like a lot of people have. I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy; I believe in people. I believe in resiliency and strength. I know we’re gonna get through this, and we’re all gonna have learned a lot. A lot about the basics of life, about ourselves, about our environment, about health, about family, about unity, about teamwork. And about pride. And I think we Canadians, Quebecers, Montrealers, deep down have a lot of pride.

Equity Split to Maximize Motivation

equityWhen deciding how much equity split to give to a co-founder, your goal as CEO is to create a split that will maximize motivation. The amount of equity you give to a co-founder will determine the amount of work and energy they put into the start-up.

1. Its about what your co-founder wants

According to Michael Siebel, a common mistake  founders make is coming to the terms of the equity split based on negotiations. You should be thinking about what your co-founder wants, even when they lose sight of their long term interests  It is normal that founders are hesitant in being generous with the equity split.  However, by  implementing methods such as a vesting and cliff period you should have no problem in gaining the trust of your co-founders.  A Vesting period is when an employee only receives partial benefits gradually over a specific period. A cliff period is when the employee only receives the benefits after a specific time.

2. Using a 1 year cliff with 4 year vesting

Most co founders do not understand the long-term time commitment that is a start-up. You need co founders that you can trust to be there for a long term period. That is why by introducing a 4-year vesting with 1-year cliff, you can guarantee their loyalty to the start-up. Even if they leave they will not be entitled to their full share of equity. A 4-year vesting period with 1-year cliff means that the co-founder will only begin receiving their equity stakes 1 year later. After the 1st year, the co founder can receive a quarter of their equity share every year for 4 years. They are only entitled to their full shares once they dedicate at least 5 years to the company.

3. Long term commitment

By implementing this hedge, you do not have to worry about choosing the wrong co-founder. You will have at least 1 year before they can receive any of their shares. After that, the co-founder will only receive their full shares of equity if they committed 4 years to your start-up. This is a minimum 5 year commitment which is enough time to grow your start-up. If they do not agree to the 4-year vesting period with the 1 year cliff, it means they are not willing to commit and should not be a co-founder.

Once you have this hedge in place, it should be easier for you to be generous in splitting the equity. The co-founders will be entitled to their share once they commit at least 5 years with you. You want to make sure your co-founders are willing to put in the same amount of time and energy that you are. The equity split will be the motivation your co-founders need to get through any challenges your company will face. Having this trust between you and your team is key in order for your start-up to become successful. There is no exact number of what the equity split should be. it depends entirely on what expectations you have for your co-founders.

 

 

Investing in a sustainable future: CoPower

CoPowerCoPower is a company that is bringing new innovative solutions to the clean energy market. The planet that we call home is dying at an exponential rate and we need more people coming together to bring solutions to create a better, cleaner world. Copower is doing just that by providing financing to clean energy projects across Canada. We sat down with the co-founder of Copower David Berliner to discuss clean energy and building a business.

  1. What does CoPower do?

CoPower provides financing to clean energy and energy efficiency projects across Canada. We do that by raising green bonds from individuals and other investors to make investments on the environment. We put the planet in our portfolio and we do that by using a digital platform. So far, we have raised over 25 million dollars in loans to go towards community projects.

  1. What inspired you to start CoPower?

I have always had an interest in the environment. When I finished my masters, it was almost a natural course for me to continue working in clean energy. I wanted to bring new innovative solutions to the clean energy market so we can create a cleaner, more sustainable and better world to live in for the future generations ahead of us.

  1. What was your goal when you created CoPower?

When we first started CoPower we had two goals in mind. The first one being to grow the company as big as we possibly can and raise the most amount of loans for clean energy. The second thing we aimed to do was grow the clean energy efficiency market by bringing new solutions to the table. We wanted to show people that they could easily have a positive impact on the environment while also getting a return. We wanted to grow the business but also grow the market to raise awareness and inspire others to do the same.

  1. Were there any major changes the company had to go through?

We were constantly making changes in the beginning. Our first business plan talked about connecting clean energy products with investors via a platform. Over time, we had different iterations of what the right product would look like. We had one main idea in mind and that stayed the same throughout the vetting process. What was constantly changing was how we approached that main idea. It was constantly evolving.

  1. What was the deciding factor that pushed you to starting CoPower?

It was not one moment, it was a series of decisions that lead up to this point. We first had the idea and I then discussed it with my family and other entrepreneurs I knew. I tried to share my idea with as many people as possible to get their perspective on it and to validate it. I was nervous at first because I did not know if this was a good idea or not. Its scary trying something you have never done before because there is a constant fear of failing. Organizations like PME were there to encourage us and be our early on supporters. PME was the first place we submitted a business plan too because we had to meet a deadline. This was extremely valuable because we were then able to get feedback and constantly evolve our ideas to grow it into the business it is today.

  1. What is the number one advice you would give to other entrepreneurs like yourself?

Surround yourself with the right people. Wither it be mentors, advisors, coworkers, family etc. There is only so much you can accomplish by yourself. You need to have the right people around you to help you through challenging decisions or personal conflicts you might face. You should not try to deal with everything by yourself because it’s going to be overwhelming. Having the right people around you that will support you but also challenge your ideas will allow you to grow your business and evolve your ideas. Make sure your team is consisted of people you trust and get along with. These are the people who you will be spending a tremendous amount of time with and the people who are going to be responsible for building your vision.

 

  1. What kind of risks did you need to take

As a founder, you always need to take calculated risks. The first biggest risk we took was joining PME. In the early stages of developing your business the uncertainty of wither,  the business will succeed, or fail is one of the scariest things. Once you get past this and take the big step forward everything else will follow. After that, we started taking one small risk after another. It’s not about taking huge leaps but small steps and taking one tasks at a time in order to move forward.

  1. What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you over come them?

The biggest challenge I faced starting out as a founder was not feeling confident in what I was doing. I was new at this and it was a scary feeling. It was more of a self-reflecting one but having a network of people you can share your ideas with helped a lot in boosting my confidence and pushing me in the right direction to start CoPower. Discussing your ideas and gaining insight from different perspective is extremely beneficial because it will help you validate your ideas and give you that push you need to start your own business.

Starting your own business is not easy. It’s very scary trying to create something all by yourself. Getting past this fear of failure is a big step that every founder needs to make in order to get things moving. Getting feedback and asking for help from the right people will help you evolve and ignite your ideas giving you the push you need to start your own business.

How to get and test start up ideas

startup

Entrepreneurs are constantly searching for the big idea that is going to make them successful. There is a misconception that in order to start a business you initially need a great idea to start with. Rather than looking for ideas, you should be looking for problems and coming up with solutions. Stop brainstorming for weeks for an idea and start identifying problems that already exists. Brainstorming for solutions is so much more valuable and an efficient way to get a startup going. What is even more valuable is if you have a personal connection to this problem. Is this a problem that you, your family, your peers or even your community faces? Having this personal connection to the problem will be extremely advantageous to you. It will give you that drive and motivation that every entrepreneur needs to get a startup going and you’re more likely to offer a unique perspective. By having a personal connection, you will be able to identify if the solution you propose something that is somewhat viable.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming with friends is the perfect opportunity for you to start thinking about cofounders you might want to bring on. Finding people you can effectively trade and build ideas off is the perfect step to finding a cofounder. You will be able to identify how you work with them and if you get along well right away. Ideally, your cofounder should be someone you get along with and share the same values and goals. Brainstorming together will give you a taste of how you can work and build with them. Sharing ideas with friends is not just a good way to find cofounders but also an efficient way to find a problem, hear their thoughts, and get some validation.

Research

Once you have found a problem, try to think what kind of unique perspective you can bring to the table. It is helpful to research what other solutions exists and compare them to any ideas you might have had.  Identify the failures in the solutions that already exist by competitors. Evaluating what possible competitors are out there and determining how their solution can differ from yours can allow you to bring new ideas to the table that nobody else has done. How can you offer a unique perspective from the solutions that are already out there.

If a solution to your problem does not exist, then you should ask yourself why there is not already a solution. It might mean that your problem is not something that affects a big enough market meaning you will have to go back to brainstorming.  This is where having a personal connection can give you another advantage because it might help you look at the problem in a way that nobody else has seen it. What can you bring to the table that somebody else has not tried?

Don’t get Attached

It is important to remember the first solution you come up with or prototype you build is only the first step. Never become attached to your first idea as changes and adjustments are bound to be made, it’s part of the process. Never fall in love with the idea but fall in love with problem and the customers. Know that there is always room for improvement and do not treat your solution as the final product.

 

What’s next once you have your million dollar idea?

business ideaEither you have been racking your brain for weeks trying to come up with a business idea or a struck of genius just came to you. Regardless of how it came to you, you believe that this is the business idea that is going to make you an entrepreneur! Great, now what?  You are probably very excited to get the ball rolling and you have so many different thoughts going through your mind. It becomes little overwhelming as you don’t know where to start or how to start. How do you start taking action in order to create your dream into a reality? Here’s how! Read carefully as we will give you some guidelines that will help push you in the right direction.

  1. Tell people about it

There is a common myth that you should not tell your business idea to anyone. This is false. The first thing you need to do is reach out to your network and share this business idea with as many people as possible. Now, we didn’t say give away your IP or secret sauce, we said talk about it with people who you think would have the same type of problem like you. Getting insight on your business idea from a different perspective will be very informative. By sharing your idea and getting the opinion of other people you will be able to see if what you’re doing has any depth and does it even make sense. Ideally, it would be great to find a mentor or someone with relevant experience but you can also share your business idea with just about anyone. You can share it with perspective customers and see if they would be interested in using your product/ service. Any form of constructive information helps. Talking about your business idea will be extremely beneficial and can easily be done to take you one step closer.

  1. Research

Do your market research. What need does your product or service meet? How is that need currently being serviced? Who are your competitors? Find out what competitors exists and who they are. Research each one of them and find out how your business idea differentiates from theirs. Why would your product or service be superior form everyone else on the market? You need to be better than the rest in order to make it. If your business idea is something that is not even on the market yet, you should research why. Figure out if other people have attempted this or why nobody else is doing this. Is there is a reason for this? It’s also important to research if this something people will buy or need? There is no point in creating something that people will not use.  Who is your customer? What are the demographics of your customer?  Why would they buy from you? Do you have any evidence that they will purchase your product/service? What differentiates your product/service from the competition? What are the strengths or weaknesses of your product/service?

  1. Draft a business plan

Once your market research is complete and you have validated the need, it’s time to write your business plan. A business plan is a written description of your business’s future. In essence, it is a document describes what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. This might seem like a long boring task to do however, it will prove to be very beneficial. At the beginning, it does not need to be elaborate it’s just a good idea to write everything down to organize your thought process. Writing everything down will allow you to see the big picture and put things into perspective. This will enable you to ask yourself the important questions. It is also good to have when you need to refer back to it. It’s hard to keep track of everything when you don’t write it down. Creating a business plan will also help you when you decide to start pitching later on to investors or even just too potential business associates to gain their help in your project.

  1. Prototype

Start building/ designing as soon as possible! Start making sketches, templates, designs. The quicker you start putting something together, the faster you can start getting feedback to improve your original design. Your original idea is never going to be perfect, there will always need to be improvements made and this can only be done once you start actually putting it together. Building a prototype will put your idea to the test. The faster you can get it out, the faster you can bring this idea to market. Today’s world moves quickly, so you want to be able to be the first to do it before any one has a chance. The more feedback and criticism you get, more improvements can be made to obtain a better product outcome.

5. Funds

Start saving your money! In the beginning, it’s best to invest your own money into your project or use money from friends and family. When you are just at the idea/prototyping stage you still have a lot to do and adding in investors will only cause you more stress and pressure. You might underestimate how much money you will need to pour into this project so save and spend wisely.

I hope that this guide has given you some structure on where and how to start once you have your million dollar idea. Taking action on an idea is the most challenging and intimidating part. However, if you really believe in the business idea and your capabilities then the possibilities are endless. Start by taking small steps in the right direction and slowly things will come together. If you have the passion and drive to keep you going then nothing else will stop you in creating your dream into a reality!

 

 

 

The Ultimate Startup Gift Guide


Hello,

Are you looking to kick-start your startup? PME wants to ensure you are equipped for the startup life. We have compiled the ultimate guide for you and all of your ambitious friends this holiday season.

We all have that friend who is anxiously planning for the future and foresees his startup making millions of dollars. In order to get the ball rolling, check out Ted Talks and partake in all of their wisdom. With enough information, you will surely conquer all the VC’s in Montreal. However, when you are at that big meeting, ensure that your pitch makes the cut by reading our guide to creating a perfect pitch deck beforehand. For all you data junkie out there, ensure you understand your metrics and watch your e-commerce soar!

We will be taking a holiday break at ProMontreal Entrepreneurs and will return with more exciting events and news in January. Wishing you a relaxing and restful holiday.

P.S. Please refrain from using plastic straws in your eggnog

Main and Local: Souvenirs that don’t suck

main and local, souvenirsIf you have ever been on vacation, you will notice that most souvenirs available are all the exact same generic product. Not something you would want to bring home to your friends and family. A PME funded business, Main and Local put a stop to these awful souvenirs and created souvenirs that do not suck. Literally, their tagline is “souvenirs that don’t suck”. These souvenirs are made from a local perspective and offer a good laugh by incorporating the culture of the city into their products. Now the company has expanded outside of Montreal and has started selling in popular cities across the country.  Co-founder David Prince shares with us some advice on what he has learnt along the way. He also shares with us how he and his co-founders pivoted their company into Main and local.

  1. What inspired you and your co-founder to start main and local? Why souvenirs?

The idea came when we worked on cruise ships and wanted to bring back souvenirs for friends and family. We realized there really was not much option and we did not want to bring back souvenirs that sucked for our loved ones.

  1. How does main and local differentiate from any other souvenirs?

We like to make fun, clever and unexpected products. Our tagline is “souvenirs that don’t suck” and we stand by that. We try to come up with creative ideas for each product we make. Its not only for tourists, it is actually mainly for locals. We make souvenirs but from a local perspective. For example, for Montreal we make things about construction, poutine, smoke meat etc. Tourists understand as well.

  1. Did your company go through any major changes/Pivot?

We went through so many major changes and pivots. It actually took us about a year of brainstorming until we came up with the perfect business idea. We came up with so many different things and finally we settled on licensing for local businesses. Basically the idea was  we would make a product for a local business, they would sell it in their restaurants, and we would sell it in our stores. We pursued that for about 6-9months until finally we realized there were too many issues around it. It did not seem like a real scalable model. Once we realized that, we decided to pivot. So, instead of creating a product about la banquise why not just do poutine and sell it around Canada. Pivoting was a hard decision to make but we were surrounded by the right people who pointed us in the right direction.

 

  1. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a founder and how did you overcome them?

At first, I was very hesitant to quit my steady job and I had many responsibilities at the time. The biggest challenge was leaving that comfort zone and jumping into something completely new. From a financial perspective its hard to just make that kind of jump so make sure you have some sort of savings before you do take the risk because it will drain your bank account. It is definitely a risk worth taking. Being a founder is the coolest thing in the world. You’re not on the sidelines, your future is in your hands and it’s an unreal experience. It is an experience I would never be able to get working for somebody else. You call the shots and the risk is worth it.

 

  1. What is the number one advice you would give to other entrepreneurs like yourself?

Everyday is a roller coaster. It is filled with many highs and a lot of lows. What is important is that you don’t get overly excited when your business does hit a high point because things can quickly change and hit a low point. It’s also important to not let the low points get to you either. Be ready for anything. Its mentally exhausting but you need to adapt and expect it to come. Not a lot of people are able to handle this kind of uncertainty, its really tough. However, as long as you stay focused and persevere, you will be able to make through anything.

 

  1. What do you think is the most important thing every founder should be aware of?

Expect that it’s going to be really hard. I think most founders might underestimate how much work and dedication that goes into creating a business but it’s really tough. You wont get very far if you expect being your own boss means you can be doing 10 hour weeks and relaxing at home. By being a founder, I’ve learnt so much its insane. I learn more in a week than I would have normally in a steady job. Not only that but you learn so much about yourself and your capabilities. It allows you to push yourself to limits you did not even know you had. Stop procrastinating taking the leap because the longer you wait the more responsibilities pile up. You just need to go for it.

 

  1. How has PME had an impact on your business?

PME is the best thing we have done in the business easily. I do not say this lightly, we really mean it they have been a tremendous help. From a financial perspective but they also gave us the validation that we were on the right path. I can’t say this enough, the mentors who have been helping us the past 4-5 years have been incredible. They would meet with us every week and help us make really big business decisions. These are entrepreneurs that have built multi million dollar companies and getting their feedback was crucial to our business.

 

Nothing ever goes as planned when starting your own business. There will be bumps in the road and you need to be ready for them. Your ability to deal with the high and the lows is what will allow you to make it to the finish line. The founders of Main and Local never gave up on starting their own business even if it meant they had to pivot. They had the right determination which lead them to creating the successful business they run today.

 

3 most important e-commerce metrics

e-commerce 

In e-commerce, data is everything. There are so many different metrics to consider it becomes overwhelming. That’s why we’ve narrowed it down to the three most important e-commerce metrics that you need to pay attention to. E-commerce has become very popular over the years, especially with the rise of social media. When you are new to e-commerce, your time is usually spent on binary decisions and tasks that help you get closer to launching your business. For example,  what products you want to sell, who your audience is and how you are going to reach them. You build a website, put the right tools in place and create processes for shipping and fulfillment. However, beyond post-launch date, you will need to step up your game and quickly evolve from business builder to data analyst. Although it may seem like the easier route to take, there are a lot of important metrics to consider and analyze to ensure the success of your business. Here are the three most important metrics that matter.

 

1. LTV:CAC ratio

The customer lifetime value ( LTV) to customer acquisition cost (CAC) ratio is important in calculating how much you should be spending to acquire a customer. It can help you identify if you are spending too much or not enough on marketing strategies. You can then find solutions to increase profits and revenue. First, we will define both customer lifetime value (LTV) and customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Customer lifetime value (LTV)

Customer lifetime value, or LTV, is one of the most important metrics to track in e-commerce. LTV is the total you earn from a customer over the course of their life. For example, if a customer makes five purchases over there lifetime that was 30$ each then the LTV would be 150$. LTV helps you understand how much profit you earn during the average customer lifespan. Knowing the lifetime value of each customer you acquire can help with forecasting, budgeting and marketing strategy.

Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

Customer acquisition cost ( CAC)  or customer acquiring cost is the amount of money spent on acquiring a customer. This value is calculated by taking the expenses that were used on acquiring customers and divided by the number of new customers that were obtained over that given time period. Knowing your CAC is important because it can help you decide how much money you should be spending to acquire new customers each month.

2. Page speed / load time

This metric is extremely important and can be easily overlooked. Just a one second delay can have detrimental impacts on your business. Pay close attention to page load time on your website. Page load time, or page speed, refers to the average number of seconds it takes for a page on your website to fully load for visitors. A slow website can negatively affect user experience, your ability to build trust and your likelihood to convert new visitors. It can also increase your bounce rate. Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who arrive on your page and leave before taking any other action.

According to a Financial Times Case Study, a 1 second delay results in a 7% reduction in your conversion rate. Your conversion rate is the percentage of customers who buy something once they visit your site. It takes as little as one second to slow down traffic on your website not to mention, take a toll on your brand. A customer research report indicated that 66% of people said that website performance influenced their impression of the brand. While 35% of people reported they are less likely to shop there again due to poor website performance. Since you do not have the opportunity to meet your prospective customers in person,  your website is your primary tool for creating the right first impression with people.

Page speed directly affects both conversion and brand but will also affect your search engine optimization (SEO). Google has stated that they use site-loading page as a factor in the algorithm for ranking sites. Therefore, if your site has a slower loading page it will become less visible to customers when they use google search engine.

 

3. Revenue by channel

When you are spending money on different marketing tactics, it is important to know what is bringing you the highest conversion. Whether it be from social media, email opts or advertisements it’s key to understand what is fueling business growth. This way if you are generating higher conversion rates from advertisements on social media as opposed to sending out emails, you will want to focus more of your marketing strategies on advertising on social media.

 

To build a profitable and sustainable e-commerce business, pay attention to the data. Having a firm understanding of e-commerce analytics will help you become successful. You should be obsessing over these analytics as it reveals the current state of your business. You need to be constantly looking to improve the data. However, do not be overwhelmed by the numerous different metrics that are available focus on these three main metrics especially in the early stages of your business.

 

 

ProMontreal Entrepreneurs

How Etsy Can Help Your Small Business

Etsy, business

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Etsy is an online buyer and seller community that focuses mainly on handcrafted and vintage goods. Etsy allows sellers to customize online shops with full e-commerce capabilities. This platform has allowed many people to turn their hobbies into full on businesses. If you are a small business or someone who simply wants to turn their hobby into a source of income, here are a few reasons why you should have an Etsy shop.
 

  1. It’s user-friendly

You don’t need much technological knowledge to operate your Etsy shop.  For your website you would have to do a lot of design and coding in order to get a layout as professional and clean as Etsy’s. To start your shop you simply need to follow a few easy steps that takes just a few minutes. The difficult part is the decision making with regards to pricing, when to offer promotions, how often to add new listings, etc. But these are difficult decisions you will have to make no matter the platform you choose to operate on. Etsy also has an iPhone app, which will help you manage your shop and stay organized. The app’s features will help you manage your orders, access shop statistics, communicate with other buyers, update listings, get alerts when making a sale, and much more.

 

  1. It’s affordable

Starting a shop on Etsy is free. However there are three small selling fees. You have a listing fee, a transactional fee and a payment processing fee. It will cost you $0.20 to publish a listing. A listing lasts 4 months until the item is sold. Once you make sale there is a commission fee of 5% and a payment processing fee of 3% + CA$0.25 for Canada (domestic orders or orders from the US) and 4% +$0.25 for international orders.
 

  1. Access to a large yet targeted customer base

>Etsy has approximately 54 million members all specifically looking for hand-made goods and more than 2 billion views every month. The average Etsy consumer is an adult woman between the ages of 18 and 34. She is a member of the working or middle class. Most of her yearly Etsy purchases include jewelry that cost between $21 and $40, often purchased as gifts. She values the variety offered by Etsy in terms of handmade and eco-friendly goods. If your product remotely caters to such a demographic, there is no other platform that will allow you to reach your clientele in such a targeted manner.
 

  1. Test your new ideas

Being active on Etsy is a good way to see how receptive people are to your new ideas. You won’t feel as tied to keeping products that don’t sell as you won’t need to call up designers or web developers to make the necessary changes to your platform. If you have an existing business and website and are not sure whether or not a particular product or product line will sell, testing it on Etsy first and reading the reviews on the discussion boards can also help you make your decisions.
 

  1. Can Be Used as a Cheap Marketing Tool

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to use Etsy exclusively. Your website and your Etsy shop can work hand-in-hand. Once you’ve gained traction to your Etsy shop, you can redirect your visitors to your website. If you getting a decent amount of sales on Etsy, you can stay there but also consider working on your website behind the scenes. In order to lead your Etsy clients to your website offer incentive. This can potentially include offering lower priced goods on your website, including website promotion cards when you ship your orders to customers, or including your website URL to your product descriptions on Etsy.
 

If your target market consists of the people visiting Etsy on a regular basis, give the platform a try. Whether you are an artist, someone with a hobby, or already have an existing business, many advantages and learnings can come to you by operating an Etsy shop. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t enjoy your experience. But even in this worst-case scenario you tried out a platform and you’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work for you.