Allan Isfan is a co-founder of FaveQuest, a young start-up. This blog covers start-up topics.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


windmills and the impossible dream

We are finally emerging from a nasty winter up here. The igloo is finally melting and we have to move back into ... what do people call it? ... the house. With some help from family, we put away all the boards for the hockey rink and cleaned up after a nasty winter. Len, the pool guy, came by today to get the pool ready to roll for the season ... kids can't wait to jump in. The nice weather, the bright sun, getting the bbq fired up again, the ridiculously large beer fridge full of beer and all that nice summer stuff definitely cheers everyone up. Before I forget, Funding Bad Habits has confirmed their availability to play at the annual Isfan Palooza fest June 16th and with any luck (and a bit of pressure), they'll allow me to join them in a few songs. This party has been a huge success in the past with over 100 people showing up, pitching tents, trailers, multiple blenders going at once and drinks being served and on and on. Please keep June 16th starting at 3pm booked in your calendar. If you want details, drop me an note. If you are on my evite list then you'll see something come out soon.

For a start-up seeking money though, summer is not exactly welcome. The summer is a very bad time to do business. People's minds are on other things and key people are on vacation which makes it difficult to get everyone together long enough to make major decisions. It is a tricky time for members of a start-up as well since summer is not typically a time for long hours on a computer. I'm desperately trying to get things nailed down and launch this puppy before summer otherwise we'll have to ride out the heat wave and get things done in the fall. It is not the end of the world but it will be critical to keep up the great momentum we have managed build up so the goal remains to get this funded ASAP.

As I indicated in my last post, we did our first pitch to a VC recently. To be fair, the pitch was to the partners of VC where I am an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR). It is certainly a more friendly environment than a typical off the street pitch to a bunch of people looking for a reason to say no. My partner and advisors were invited to follow up with a more informal discussion early this week to answer some questions and provide more detailed descriptions of our architecture and business plan. This also went very well too and we'll be moving on to the critical final stages which includes combing through the financials and providing validation for our numbers and assumptions from credible people in the industry.

Emails are leaving my outbox imminently to set up round of talks with other VCs, angels and some potentially very interesting partners which could also be strategic investors. You never feel quite ready but I think we are ready enough to rock and roll with the punches.

With that in mind, I thought I would share the lyrics to a very tough song my singing teacher is trying to teach me. It is a song that I believe may have been written for the movie "The Man of La Mancha" which is a film adaptation of the Don Quixote story. Quixano (aka Don Quixote) eventually loses his mind from little sleep and food because of so much reading (sounds familiar) and slips in to a world of fantasy in which he is a night and begins attacking windmills which he believes are giants. Surprisingly a propos.

You can find a recording of the actual song at the link below and the lyrics just below that.

To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...

And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I'm laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

Back to you guys soon with more news.


Allan "never give up" Isfan

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Monday, April 16, 2007


you gotta pitch and pitch and pitch and pitch

Lots to talk about since the last post. I zipped down to NY city for a couple of days to meet with some potential technology partners. We met in the hotel lobby bar for a great chat which we capped off with a Tequila. I knew I would like these guys! We proceeded to munch down on some Cuban food and headed to Club Element to check out partystrands, one of their products. This was the craziest place I've been to in a long time. First, there was a shoe and boot painter doing a demonstration which included paintings some woman's breasts (just what was poking out above her shirt which was lots). Then a dancer on spring stilts all dressed in white with neon lights going through her legs. This was followed by a singer and dancers and finally a couple of fire breathers. You don't exactly see this in Ottawa. You might be able to check some pictures at the following link show a more recent party . There are a couple of pics of me in the fourth row. Felt a little rough the next morning but survived the next meetings. To cap things off nicely, as I stepped out of the hotel to grab a yellow cab back to LaGuardia, the hotel doorman indicated that someone didn't show up for a limo and I could get it for the price of a cab to the airport. Bingo!

As a completely irrelevant tangent, I stayed at the W hotel .... a very nice 4 star hotel in Midtown east. I got it through by naming my price and got if for $180/night which is pretty darn good. I used in Toronto previously and got a great room right downtown for $90. Sounds like I'm doing an ad for these guys ... definitely not getting paid for it but thought you guys should know about this since it has paid off for me very nicely.

On to start-up stuff.

This last week was extremely intense. I had to prepare for my first pitch which I finally did today. In preparation for this, I pitched to as many trustworthy people as I could. I pitched to our advisors, I pitched to old colleagues and business partners, friends and on and on. I even invited about a dozen people to my place to sit through my pitch Saturday night. I got so much fantastic feedback and suggestions from everyone that the pitch got 100% better over 1 week. My kids even sat through it .... they said it felt like 3 hours! An exaggeration but it did take an hour and half which is way too long. I trimmed it down like crazy all of Sunday and managed to get it done in under an hour which is about right when you cover everything from A to Z plus questions and a demo. I got lots of emails this morning wishing me luck ... great to have a bunch of people rooting for you. I don't know if I hit it out of the park but I did feel pretty good about it. I guess we'll see. Stay tuned. The champagne is in the wine fridge just in case.

Allan "pretty exhausted but exhilarated" Isfan

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Sunday, April 01, 2007


little inventors

Before I jump in, I would like to remind you that you can receive my posts in your email by simply entering your email in the Feedblitz box to the right of this article. I also want to remind you about the April 14th Open Kimono Party at the Isfan Ranch. If you didn't get the invite, give me a shout at

Ok here we go.

When I made the decision to quit my job so that I could ultimately launch a great new company, I remember a discussion around the dinner table with the family about why I had decided to do this. One of the girls summed it best "daddy has too many ideas and he wants to build one of them". That's about it.

My ten year old is also a little inventor. She has a little black note book just like I do and she scribbles notes and diagrams in it whenever she thinks of something. Her books says "INVENTIONS" on the front with nice silver paint. Wish I had thought about that. She wants me to help her create a doll that starts out as a baby and grows to about 4 feet. Simple enough. She has many other ones, some of which are pretty impossible while others are actually quite good. Interestingly, she is just as scatter brained, unfocused, messy and forgetful as I was at her age.

My mother was an electrical engineer and inventor just like me. She specialized in audio and had prototypes of speakers all over. She used to test the coils for continuity with a small battery. She would touch the end of the speaker wires to the poles of the battery and if she heard a small click, the coil was good. I figured if a battery worked, a wall outlet would also do the trick. My test usually passed but my pops were a little louder :) My mom was probably wondering what went wrong with her designs ... I got a bunch of great magnets to play with though :)

I still fondly remember the first time I got a serious electrical shock for the good of mankind. I was twelve and taking apart an old phone to install another microphone and speakers to turn it into a hands free phone. I talked to friends for hours and got sick of holding the receiver. Unfortunately, someone called at the exact moment I had my fingers in there and rang my bell real good. Not lethal but it definitely got my attention. I would enjoy the gentle shock of ring voltages for years to come as I entered the world of telecom.

Creating things that don't exist is a lot of fun. Turning these crazy ideas into real products that people want to actually pay for is a completely different thing and equally fun. I have actually been surprised by how exciting the business side has been. While at Catena, I had the fortune of getting involved directly and deeply with customers, business and technology. I worked on product definition, strategy, navigating around politics, regulatory issues, pricing, product verification, defining and executing trade show demos, competitive analysis .... all the while working on defining core technology and writing the associated protocols and patents. I have so many good stories and would not trade it for the world.

Although I have been working a ridiculous number of hours on this thing on top of consulting, it just doesn't feel like work. Though I'm often tired, I'm glad to have the opportunity to share this experience with my family. We had a third child and built a home during all that Catena craziness and some people wonder how the hell we did it. People often fear too much. Just do it. That would make a great motto .... nah ... would never catch on.

It is not usually good to bring the office home but in this instance it gives the kids a chance to learn about life, hard work, the power of dreams, relationships and especially perseverance. My wife and I are both self employed (she is an artist and graphic designer) which can be a little stressful especially since one of us is spending most of the time on non billable work. Nonetheless, we are still able to keep an excellent balance by tag teaming and being there at the bus morning and afternoon, doing homework, going to gymnastics and music lessons, going to movies, cooking and just goofing around together. Ultimately, these are positive lessons for our kids that no school can ever teach. I can't wait to read the patents, go to the recitals, attend the art gallery openings or whatever our kids end up being passionate about. We'll have to fly in from Hawaii quite often (don't have a place there yet but we will ... even if it is a trailer).

Note that I will be in NY city this Thursday and possibly Wednesday evening. Drop me an email if you feel like touching base.


Allan Isfan

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