Start-up Success by Steve Blank & Alex Osterwalder

This is a great presentation by Steve Blank and Alex Osterwalder. I learned the hard way not to try and make a product perfect and then launch… best to iterate and pivot! That’s been the approach now for quite awhile with ZEN Portfolios and it’s going well.

Successful entrepreneurship 1
View more presentations from steve blank

Canada Summer Jobs 2011

I’m just in the process of reviewing a number of different government funding programs that can help start-up companies. I thought it would be useful to blog about them… it will help me keep track of them and hopefully provide a good source for others wanting to learn about local programs. My focus will be on British Columbia, Canada programs.

Here is the summary  info on Canada Summer Jobs from their website.  Note: They are accepting applications between Feb 1st and Feb. 28th so if you want to apply for this one you will have to act fast!

Canada Summer Jobs is a Government of Canada initiative that provides funding to help employers create summer job opportunities for students. It is designed to focus on local priorities while helping both students and their communities.

About the Canada Summer Jobs program

* providing work experiences for students;

* supporting organizations, including those that provide important community services; and

* recognizes that local circumstances, community needs and priorities vary widely.

Canada Summer Jobs encourages not-for-profit organizations, public-sector employers and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to create jobs that not only meet their needs, but also benefit students looking to gain work experiences.

Here is the application form (PDF version):

Has anyone used this program?  If so, I welcome your comments!

Learning Silos — the biggest barrier to learning in post-secondary

Note: This is a first draft of a post that I hope I will update later about how breaking down academic silos is one of the top improvements that can be made to improve authentic learning in post-secondary educational institutions.

The best course I ever took in almost 20 years of school was Technology Entrepreneurship at the University of British Columbia, taught by venture capital legend Haig Farris.  Haig Farris co-founded Ventures West in 1968, spent 25 years helping establish the venture capital sector in Canada, and has been a leading supporter of not-for-profit organizations especially in the science and arts areas (e.g. he was a big force being the establishment of Science World).

He is currently the President of Fractal Capital, involved with a number of technology investments and I just discovered he’s still actively involved with supporting budding student entrepreneurs as Chair of the Investment Board of a $10 million fund to help UBC students and recent alumni develop innovative technology and start up ventures (entrepreneurship at UBC).

The course I took was amazing for a number of reasons.  Haig Farris was a great teacher and was teaching from a wealth of his real life, industry experiences, not just from an entrepreneurship textbook.  Aside from his experience, Haig structured the course in a way that I believe removed the biggest barrier to real learning in post-secondary institutions — functional silos.

Photo Source: “Silo” by Eirik Refsdal, CC by 2.0 licensed)

He structured the class so that half of the students came from engineering and sciences and the other half were business students doing their MBA.  The synergy between the two previously separated groups was remarkable… specialists in marketing or finance could hook up with specialists in various technologies, in a number of cases even leading to the creation of real life ventures, some of which went on to be very successful (I believe D-Wave Systems; Wikipedia entry on D-Wav] was born from Haig’s teaching of this course).

He also removed the traditional barrier between academia and industry by inviting each week excellent guest speakers from industry.  In fact, some of the industry reps were there for every class to help answer questions and be involved in the discussions.  He also took the class to local companies to hear directly from the company founders, both from the business and technology side.

I will never forget the time a whole pile of us packed inside Haig’s SUV, including some of us in the back hatchback area and headed down to Creo to hear from the amazing CTO Dan Gelbart and CEO Ken Spencer.  Dan Gelbart explained the basic concepts of business in about 15 minutes and I think I learned as much from his talk as I did from dozens of courses from my MBA combined.  Ken Spencer likewise provided business insights that were invaluable and that just can’t be captured in a textbook.

Haig also made a point of spending an hour with each student outside of class time in his office to learn more about the student’s background, what they wanted to learn, where they were heading with their career, etc.  This was a class that had about 80 students so this was no small time commitment on his part.  This was not a full time instructor either, Haig was an Adjunct Faculty, I believe teaching just this one course at UBC and was working full time with his venture capital firm.

He was no doubt super busy but still took the time to meet with each student, making everyone feel welcomed, respected and valued.  I have never come across this generosity in all my years of being a student and now that I am an instructor I must admit I have still not found a way to follow his lead on this commitment level to individual students.

By breaking down the traditional silos of post-secondary education, our student teams were able to work on real life business plans rather than just something fictional.  We had the diversity of skills required to actually start businesses.  I don’t know how many ventures started as a result of Haig’s course but I am sure it must have been in the hundreds.  What a powerful example of real life learning when the outcome of a course can be an actual company that can bring its innovations to market, solving a real life problem, that leads to an improved standard living for the community at large!

Haig Farris was also a pioneer in using the Internet to help support learning.  He was one of the first instructors I believe at UBC (or at least within the School of Business) to use online support forums in his courses and this also helped break down the typical functional silos that usually prevent students from different program areas interacting. These sites were always open, not the locked down WebCT style course sites that were starting to emerge and I benefited by going back to the sites several years later to look up articles and resources he recommended.

I heard another professor from UBC, Dr. Gary Poole say at a professional development talk at Capilano University that if you could only make one change that would have the biggest possible benefit in higher education, it would be to make it easier for teachers to communicate with each other.  Breaking down the traditional silos between program areas, schools and regions will go along way towards this vision.  What Haig did in his class breaking down silos between students from different program areas and between industry and academia I believe is an example of the benefits that would also apply to silo barriers between faculty.

To this day, I can track my passion for entrepreneurship back to Haig Farris’ Technology Entrepreneurship course back in 1995 and also my vision for how education could be so much more effective when the functional silos that are such an intrinsic part of post-secondary education can be bridged so that students from different program areas can interact and solve real life problems.

I am trying now in my own entrepreneurship classes I teach at Capilano University and BCIT to implement this approach but still have a very long ways to go before reaching the magic of BAEN 506 – Technology Entrepreneurship.  I am also trying to bridge silos with, an e-portfolio and social network tool for students, faculty and industry alike that helps schools break down the traditional silos to instead connect people from a diversity of backgrounds to empower authentic learning that can create real value for society at large.

I owe this vision to what I learned so clearly many years back from the most humble yet effective instructors I have ever had, Haig Farris.

Peak Leadership Event – Cybele Negris talks about entrepreneurship

Here is another good entrepreneurship event in Vancouver on Tuesday, Jan. 25th organized by the BCIT Student Association (BCITSA)  if you aren’t already registered for the Vancouver Enterprise Forum event the same night.

The big 21st century skills

I’m going to take a stab at listing what I think are the most important “21st century skills”.  I guess predicting an entire century’s skills is a bit presumptuous so maybe the time horizon should be shorter like a five year period.

1. Project management

Organizations are moving away from being functional organizational structures to more projectized structures (or at least in-betweeen matrix structures).  Project management is how most organizations implement their strategy.  It won’t just be official project managers that have to have project management skills, it will be most workers.

2. Collaboration / team work

Related to project management, working in teams is already the norm.  I went to a good time management presentation at a local PMI event recently and the excellent speaker, Greg Campeau mentioned how in 1986, 75% of knowledge you were required to have to do your job was stored in your own head vs. in 2006 when that had dropped to only 15-20%.  Collaboration, working both in person and online with others and having inter-personal skills used to be a luxury, now its an absolute essential.  We have had Intranets for a long time but pretty soon I think every organization will have a social intranet (i.e. internal social network)… more on that in another post.

3. Internationalization

In the project management course I’m teaching right now out of 43 students there are 13 different languages spoken and people were born in 11 different countries.  While Vancouver is exceptionally high in its multicultural density, this is a trend that I believe we are seeing around the world.  The world is becoming smaller and only knowing about your little neck of the woods is becoming a big liability.  Some of my local students used to see international students as a liability on their student teams (some still do).  They couldn’t be more wrong!  It’s the locals that have rarely been “over the bridge” never mind across the world (except for vacations to Mexico, Vegas and Hawaii) that are the real liabilities for the teams.

4. Self-Awareness, Digital Identity and Privacy Protection

The most important question you can ask yourself is “who am I?”.  If you don’t know who you are, how can you have a good life and align what you are good at and what you enjoy with where you are going.  When the world economy was less competitive you could afford to be “dead wood” within an organization and still get by.  Today, if you are not adding value, you are in a precarious situation.  The best way to ensure you are adding value is to ensure you are in the right line of work and place in life, you are “playing to your strengths and organizing around your weaknesses”.  This is where I believe e-portfolios will play a big part.  As Greg Campeau said in a recent presentation, “you learn from reflecting on experience, not from experience”.  You can have fifteen years on a job doing the same thing, never reflecting and growing and all you would have is 1 year of experience x 15 years, much different than 15 years experience.

5. Mobility

- will have to write about this a bit later…

6. Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Social Enterprise

- will have to write about this a bit later…

7. Social Media, Cloud Computing & Mobile Devices

- grouped these together as I think they really are strongly inter-connected.  You wouldn’t have the power of mobile devices and social media without the cloud.

8. Social Learning & Healthcare

- will have to write about this a bit later…

9. Crowdsourcing

- will have to write about this a bit later…

10. Environmental Sustainability

- will have to write about this a bit later…

Quotation of the day – Nikola Tesla

I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything. – Nikola Tesla

OPMT 4438 course ready to roll

Just finished the final draft of the course outline for OPMT 4438 – Entrepreneurship, a 10-week class I’m teaching at BCIT.  I’m looking forward to this one, the Operations Management students are really sharp, good problem solvers and I think pretty entrepreneurial.  Hopefully at least one student venture gets off the ground in part sparked by the course.

There will be a “Dragon’s Den” style elevator pitch at the end of the semester and coinciding with that the launch event for the Student Entrepreneurship Handbook, an e-book students from BCIT’s Business Management and Capilano University‘s School of Business students put together as a class project.

Here is the course outline:
Download:: OPMT-4438-2011-final

Quotation of the day

I came across this quotation on

“All lasting business is built on friendship.” – Alfred A. Montapert

Lecture of the day – equity vs. debt

This is a good summary (about 14 minutes) of equity vs. debt from the amazing Salmon Khan over at KhanAcademy. It also talks about market capitalization, asset value and enterprise value.

Getting a seed round of funding for your start-up

Here is the follow-up video on raising funding for a start-up company from Salman Khan at

Here’s the “going back to the ’till” video for Series B financing.

I like how Salman Khan articulates the process so well. I will be using this one in my OPMT 4438 entrepreneurship class.