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

Saturday, October 25, 2008


prep for founders and funders

Fellow Founders and Funders,

The Founders and Funders Ottawa event is entirely sold out! I'm so glad! Many thanks for James Smith (LaBarge Weinstein), Tim Hember (thinkRF, The Ottawa Network) and Ian Graham (CodeFactory) and a long list of sponsors (LaBarge Weinstein, Ramius, Acorn Partners, Verdexus, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Royal Bank). We took a real chance initially when we pulled the trigger on this, made it official and started taking registrations. There was always a fear that we'd get 20 people coming out and have them all be founders. A great night I'm sure but not exactly what I was looking for. So now to final preparations. If you're not registered already, I'm afraid it is too late.

I've written this blog to help entrepreneurs prepare for the event as it could change your life. Really. Rarely are so many investors and fellow founders together in one place ready to listen to YOU. Don't forget that each one of these individuals is likely very well connected to other investors, customers and partners so your personal network could literally explode in a significant way. You'll also have a few us floating around working hard to help you make connections. It is now up to you to make the best of this event so here are my ten pieces of advice for what its worth:

1) Be punctual: the event starts at 6pm and dinner is at 7pm.

The one hour before the dinner will be the best portion of the evening for working the room so don't be late.

2) Have your elevator pitch nailed solid

If you don't have it down to less than 30 seconds, then I suggest you get practicing with your wife, your dog, the mirror and get people to give you honest feedback.

Here is mine for what it's worth:
FaveQuest is a young start-up that has created a social video platform to help media companies reach out to people in social networks like Facebook and MySpace. We take content they already have access to and make it available through special video portals integrated into the social networks of their choice. The viewers get access to great content but more importantly, they get to create their own channels based on their interests and share videos and channels with their friends. We're launching with a major media company at the end of the year and have several more major ones in the pipeline.

Investors reading this, feel free to provide advice on the elevator pitch above and in general (I'm now devoid of ego ... just want to make it better).

3) Bring decent business cards

In my opinion, the flimsy print at home ones suck. Some people may disagree but when I get a crappy biz card, it takes my opinion of the person down a notch. If you don't have a proper card, it isn't too late. Clean it up and get it printed in low volume at a local print shop. I use . They are a small shop in the west end (near Hazeldean & Eagleson) and have been absolutely fantastic to deal with. I send them a jpeg or pdf and they get stuff printed often the next day. I usually get about 30 cards printed at a time. Basically, there's no excuse for a crappy card.

4) Come prepared

You will be getting a list of all attendees and should do some research on each and every investor in attendance. If you want to get a BRIEF note to one of them ahead of time, feel free to do so directly or through me. It is much better to come to the meeting with a well planned mission and if they know your name ahead of time, even better.

Note: the list you'll be receiving is private and for your use only. Please do not publish it or email it to others. I will hunt you down if you do.

5) don't get drunk, at least not until much later in the night when you're by yourself

The open bar at a similar event I went a while back got a bit abused and wasn't good for anyone. For that reason (and the budget), I decided to not have an wide open bar. You'll be getting two drink tickets for the bar and wine with dinner.

I hope the evening works out for you and that you make the connections you hope to make. If there is anything I can do, please let me know.

Lastly, if you agree, disagree or want to add to this blog, please fee free to leave a comment.


Allan Isfan

Thursday, October 23, 2008


why I brought Founders and Funders to Ottawa

I'm a bit nuts ... I don't stop much except to hang with my family or learn to play guitar. Between running FaveQuest, consulting, three kids, filming/producing/directing/editing "The Nasty Hockey Show" and starting to design Zoogeez ... things are interesting for sure.

With all of that going on, I decided to organize a major event taking place next week. Crazy!. Here is why.

There's a lot of complaining on both sides of the funding table and way to much negativity. Lots of bitching about lack of support from government. Constant chatter that Canadian VCs have had poor returns. While some of this may be true ... there's also another possibility which is this:

"there are many investors who are looking to place money and numerous high quality, fundable start-ups looking for investment. "

Funders and Founders need each other and an event that brings these two groups together may very well unlock the apparent frozen state of start-up investment in Canada. The Founders and Funders Dinner is a grass roots by invitation only event that brings these two groups together for an evening of hard-core networking. No presentations, no demos. This initiative was started by Austin Hill (who is coming to Ottawa for our event) and Patrick Lauzon in Montreal and similar events have sold out across the country with support from David Crow & Jevon MacDonald.

After attending the Toronto F&F last spring following an invitation from David Crow, I decided it was time to bring the event to Ottawa. With the tireless assistance of James Smith (LaBarge Weinstein), Tim Hember (thinkRF, The Ottawa Network) and Ian Graham (CodeFactory) and a long list of sponsors (LaBarge Weinstein, Ramius, Acorn Partners, Verdexus, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Royal Bank).

Within barely a week of registration, the Ottawa event being held on October 29th nearly sold out as of now (and will sell out). It is especially encouraging that roughly one third of the Ottawa registered attendees are investors (VCs, Angels, government funds, working capital ...). We have some founders and investors coming from Montreal and Toronto and many well known and new local investors will be in attendance.

This is a story about people taking action at the grass roots to make things happen while everyone else is worried and complaining about the economy.


BTW, if you are interested, shoot me an email at allan.isfan at

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Saturday, October 11, 2008


"cute kitten!" approach to business

With all the talk of financial meltdown, it is easy for entrepreneurs to panic. Here is my advice inspired by the addition of a kitten to our family:

1) find paying customers ASAP

This is not the time to worry about ramping users while putting yourself in the hole for the sake of demonstrating traction. This is a bad time to look for investors and acquisition valuations aren't going to be very high so forget about trying to impress others. It is time to focus on revenue, plain and simple. That has led me to prune the list a potential clients to those that can pay and are highly motivated.

2) cut overhead to the bone

We gave up on office space last spring and any and all frills. Anything that doesn't get us paying customers is simply not pursued. Everyone continues to work for sweat equity, we're partnering with a local university to get students to work with us while getting paid through a University program. Essentially, we're building this company on less than a shoestring and we're still getting traction!

The fact that nobody in the company gets paid anything until we get revenue keeps us extremely hungry and focused. Much easier to have a false sense of security with a few million in the bank from a recent round. Raising money is not a sign of success and it could be your undoing if not handled properly. Our lack of money will make our company stronger ... I'm convinced of it.

3) Apply the "cute kitten!" sales approach

My kids are very good at sales. I have been against getting a cat for as far as I can remember. Today, one of our neighbours was giving away some kittens and the kids brought one of them in to show us. Darn thing was so cute and was cuddling and purring right away next to my wife. A quick trip to the pet store for supplies and we now officially have a four week old kitten.

We have now moved to a simpler pitch and with the fortune of a few new team members joining us recently, we can pre-build a working mock-up before going into a customer pitch. "Look how cool this is, it already has your name on it and it is ready to go ... we can have this up and running tomorrow!" I now call this the "cute kitten sales approach". It just worked on me and I didn't even want the product!

4) Make it easy for customers to say yes

Customers are going to be thinking twice about putting money out right now, no matter who they are. There are three possibilities:

a) they add to their budget to get your product ... tough sell right now
b) they eliminate something to get your product ... again, tough ... they have to change their mind which is never easy
c) your product allows your customer to save money or make money and ideally both at no or very minimal risk. a revenue share can be a good way to go with the right type of customer

5) this financial chaos can be the best thing that has happened

Are your customers going to be able to achieve their goals while spending dramatically less using your product? In good times, people don't count their pennies as much and are not motivated to change. They are motivated now. Can you build something that capitalized on this uncertainty?

So in summary, focus on revenue, cut overhead to the bone, focus on specific customers and make them taste it using the "cute kitten" technique, make it easy for them to say yes and remember ... this financial mess may be the best thing for you.

So, what do you think? Am I full of it? Do you have any advice of your own? I would love to hear it.



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