There is a lot of noise made about Silicon Valley and why it is such a successful place for incubating and growing start-ups. Many attribute that region's success to availability of investment capital, role models, mentoring resources, the critical mass of talent and its entrepreneurial culture. Conversely, many point to Ontario's fledging tech start-up community and bemoan the lack of the above as excuse why our start-ups struggle. While I agree that many of the above factors make it tougher (sometimes impossible to successfully launch and build a tech start-up in Canada), I think it is sometimes too easy to point to external factors beyond your control and use them as Band-Aids to hide a deeper issue.
Canadians are sometimes just too damn cautious, conservative and risk adverse. I have met a diverse group of professionals, many who have worked outside of Canada for significant portions of their career or for whom immigration that has led them to Canada from the countries and cultures in which they were born and raised. For many of them, especially those who are Americans or who have worked for a long time in the US, it is a simple philosophy that differentiates them from the typical Canada start-up entrepreneur. It is best represented by the acronym GOYAADI that I learnt from Robin Hopper, a colleague, serial start-up CEO and Entrepreneur in Residence at the Innovation Factory. GOYAADI is the willingness to take the risk, make the decision quickly and just "Get Off Your Ass And Do It". So here is Robin's GOYAADI formula:
GOYAADI doesn't end with the first action. You have to move quick but make sure you predetermine how you're going to find/measure the earliest sign of success or failure.
If it's a success, the next GOYAADI round is to quickly pour more gas on it
If it's a failure, quickly put a bullet in it, figure out what you learned and move on.
Take the case of a very early stage start-up, who has a minimally viable product, understands their value proposition, has identified their target market, is burning money and has only few months of cash runway. The course should be clear. Stop doing everything else to do with your website, adding to your product's richness, or trying to find secondary markets or value propositions and just GOYAADI. Get out of your comfort zone, leave your office and make sales calls on your identified targets and really see if your product sells. As soon as you find the formula that works, double down on it.
This may seem so straightforward but the fear of "failing fast" seems to root us to a stationary position when all gears should be engaged and moving forward.
One of my clients recently decided that they needed to invest $30K to engage a consultant to try and sell their solution to a specific niche. We probably could have debated this investment for months and maybe decided the investment won't pay off, but in reality, we still wouldn't know for sure. Instead, we decided to jump on the availability of the right sales professional who could gives us half-time coverage as a consultant and try it. By January, we will know if the money was well spent. If it was, it will be a game changer for the company and we will put a full time employee on it. The total time spent to make the decision, do the due diligence on the sales consultant, contract him, train him and start executing was less than a couple of weeks. This is GOYAADI.
Compare this is another company; they have a target list of qualified prospects, a viable product and will be out of money shortly after Christmas. They are still at the market validation stage of building their company and need to demonstrate market traction to be fundable for their next round of angel investment. There are a handful of employees (mostly contractors), most of whom are working on things (product development, marketing etc) that will have no impact on the company between now and the time the company runs out of cash. The revenue from a third of these qualified prospects will keep the company going for another 4 months. If you lay off everyone not focused on this and the next round of sales, their runway gets a lot longer. Instead of doubling down efforts on selling to the target list of customers, the CEO is trying to coax investors to put more in to extend the runway.
When this company fails, it will be blamed on lack of access to capital for investment. The real reason will be lack of GOYAADI.