Small press

Enterprise Toronto is a government-run organization that helps startups get off the ground. They host workshops and do one-on-one business consulting so a little while back I spent some time with them building a business plan. The organization since then begun to expand their blog and social media presence a part of which are success stories about entrepreneurs who went through Enterprise, I had the honour of being one of those people featured.

Full article by Andrew Seale here: “Quip Magazine finds its niche”

(Oh and I’m not angry, it was a really cold day so by the point we got to this photo my face was frozen into place)

Kateryna Topol_SM

 

Photo by Andrew Seale 

The end of the Entrepreneurship series

It’s now been a year since I started the Entrepreneurship series posts and as I had hoped they offered a lot of insight into successful entrepreneurs’ minds. “A quick chat with Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of Thalmic Labs” will be the last post in this 10 part series, I hope you enjoyed them!

As it goes from the first to the last, all equally important:

10,000 Hours of Entrepreneurship – where it all started

Brewing up new business: Darren Smith on launching Lake of Bays 

Kevin McLaughlin on launching AutoShare

First year from the founders of Wildfang

Julien Hobeika, in business of making better plans

Jean-François Bouchard: reinventing the ad agency model 

Mark Bowles: Green value in EcoATM

Frank & Oak: the men’s brand founded by Ethan Song & Hicham Ratnani 

Q/A with Marcel LeBrun, SVP and GM for Salesforce Radian6

A quick chat with Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of Thalmic Labs

A quick chat with Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of Thalmic Labs

Stephen Lake is the CEO and co-founder of Thalmic Labs, an organization that concentrates on “building the future of human-computer interaction.” The company works with wearable technology and ubiquitous computing. One of the most recent releases from Thalmic is the MYO Gesture Control Armband, that works in collaboration with smartphones, smarthomes, presentations, radio and various multimedia. 

When asked about some of the biggest challenges of the startup world Lake said that as a hardware company they continually face challenges on both the engineering and business levels:

“Supply chain, quality control, distribution, and financing all this. One big challenge we faced was a technical one – existing sensor technology that picks up muscle activity signals wasn’t suitable for our application, so we spent over a year developing our own brand new sensor.

“We often think about the fact that we’re solving challenging problems to create something that could change the face of computing. The three of us get to wake up every day and work on some of the coolest technology we can imagine, alongside an amazing team of people.

There really isn’t anything else we’d rather be doing.

“Our stress relief outside of work is athletics for all of us – we did several triathlons together this past summer.”

And like most entrepreneurs Lake and his team, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant, while proud of their accomplishments thus far remain on a forward path towards success:

“We’re still in the early days. If we had to narrow it down to a specific reason that we’ve been able to get this far, it’s that we’re a highly resourceful group and we continue to pound away at challenges we face day in, day out.”

Q/A with Marcel LeBrun, SVP and GM for Salesforce Radian6

Marcel LeBrun is the senior vice president and chief product officer of Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud. Over the years Marcel has co-founded and led multiple technology startups to Nasdaq IPO and successful acquisitions. His most notable startup, however, has been Radian6 which he sold to Salesforce.com for US $326 million in 2011

I’ve asked Marcel the same 3 questions I asked entrepreneurs in the previously published interviews and the wealth of his responses made it difficult for me to cut so let’s look at them as they are, in all of their wisdom.

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Think back to when you started your first business, what were the hardest days, and the best days like in the first year?

I was 27 when I built my first business plan and 28 when I became co-founder and CEO. The first year was exciting, but it was also a bit scary because I had high profile investors, and I was learning as I went along. It was exciting to be building a business from the ground floor up; scary because it was the first time I was doing it, and I didn’t know what to expect at 27/28 years old. On the contrary, when I co-founded Radian6, we had experience; it was a very different feeling than starting my first business.

The hardest days and best days might actually have existed in the same week. The hardest days were overcoming major setbacks – i.e. receiving a rejection from an investor or technical setbacks. But working to overcome those obstacles and uncovering solutions to our problems were the best days. From these experiences I learned that difficulties provide a chance to create opportunities. Building value from challenging situations is always more rewarding, even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment

How about the second year, what kept you going?

Every stage of a startup is difficult and has unique challenges. I learned a lot about communication during the second year – to shareholders, stakeholders, the public/media, etc. When the first year of a business is successful, there are high expectations for the second year. As an entrepreneur, you are still a startup, still proving your market.

In the second year I learned about managing expectations and developed my communications skills to build better relationships with employees, shareholders, and so on. The end result put everyone on the same page with a shared vision of the company.

When did you know you’d made it?

Like a lot of entrepreneurs who rarely dwell on mistakes of the past, I chose to remain focused on where I’m headed – the next growth phase – and never really consider myself to have “made it”. To me that implies being static and business is not static.

As entrepreneurs, we must always be moving forward.

At a point, your business eventually creates real value and achieves significant milestones – such as first investor, first profitable quarter. But nothing guarantees you will “make it,” not even an IPO. It is simply the next phase. When Salesforce acquired Radian6 (milestone), I looked at it as a transition to another growth phase.

The question of knowing when you made it is much easier to answer retrospectively than in the moment. When achieving each milestone, you feel like you’ve made it for that fleeting moment. But when you look back, it truly shows whether or not it was a key moment in the development of your business success.