2012 Teen Judge favorite, turned Roving Reporter, Harrison Kirshner checks out Montreal’s 2013 International Startup Festival.

Roving Reporter at Startupfest 2013 – Harrison Kirshner

How to make decisions
Strategy is an over-used word that could mean anything from “idea” to “set of tactics”. Modern product management techniques put a lot of emphasis on ‘scientific’ approaches to strategy, with emphases on talking to customers, collecting and tracking data, and engaging in continuous testing. Despite a firm belief that the data will tell you what to do, many organizations struggle to translate an idea (e.g., “grow the business”) into a strategy (e.g., “pursue customer segment X through marketing and product development plans Y and Z”) and then into a plan (e.g., “step one: collect underpants”). Information and mental models are useful – if you know how to use them. Knowing how to use them means understanding how to reflect on information, assess opportunities and risks, and make commitments and sacrifices. These are the human skills that – so far – no database or framework can substitute. This workshop will teach you how to make sense of information, and to translate that sense-making into decision-making.s

Farrah Bostic – Startupfest 2015

Perfect equity splits for startups
You and a partner go in “50/50” on a new business. You do all the work, he owns half the company. Now what? Traditional equity splits are never fair. Someone always has more than they deserve at the expense of others. Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is a simple method for dividing equity in an early stage company that tells you exactly the right number of shares for each participant. Attendees will learn how to implement a practical dynamic equity split using an allocation framework that tells you how many shares each person gets, and a recovery framework that tells you the fair buyout price (if any) in the event that someone leaves.

Mike Moyer – Startupfest 2015

Continuous innovation: Optimizing your business model
Today’s so-called Unicorns include B2C darlings Uber, Airbnb, and Google, as well as B2B giants such as Salesforce.com, VMWare, Zendesk and SolarWinds. There are also a number of iconic social ventures which, while not technically unicorns, are having a profound, widespread impact on society. These organizations got where they are today status by creating truly disruptive business models that dramatically altered the markets they entered, putting incumbents on their heels—or even out of business entirely.

Mike Grandinetti – Startupfest 2015

How to save your early-stage startup from certain doom
In this session, Tom will combine anecdotes and data to highlight some of the oft-repeated mistakes that startups make when trying to get themselves moving. Listen and learn from the mistakes of those before you. Examples include: Too much listening to users, not listening to users enough, cargo cultism, not looking at competitors, comparables and corpses and, most importantly, blindly following advice from people on a stage who give you startup advice.

Tom Walsham – Startupfest 2015

“My ‘Little’ Category: Lever the world to build your multi-billion dollar category outside of the Valley”
Silicon Valley appears to be a land filled with enchanted creatures – not just the proverbial unicorn, but also dragons, centaurs and My Little Ponies. Many denizens of the Valley claim that founders need to go there to create an enchanted startup. However, founders outside of the US have a major advantage, should they choose to use it – they are born global, and by taking advantage of the talent, capital and customers around the world, they have an opportunity to build something even more impressive, the global multi-billion dollar category creator.

Mark Organ was previously founder and CEO of Eloqua, the Toronto-based creator of the multi-billion dollar cloud-based marketing automation category, with over $10B of category market capitalization, with Eloqua itself sold for nearly $1B. Now CEO of Influitive, itself a creator of the advocate marketing category with over $50M raised, Mark draws on his experiences creating categories and studying several others to show to build not just a unicorn, but a company that defines an ecosystem to unlock tens of billions of dollars in value.

Mark Organ – Startupfest 2015

“Don’t pivot, persevere”
The Lean Startup movement has arguably changed the global startup landscape over the last few years, providing a simple methodology for resource and time-constrained companies to quickly learn from their customers and create products that people want. However, in practice, many of the teachings of the lean startup are easily misinterpreted, leading many startup founders to pivot too quickly and without proper validation (or invalidation). In the end, a founder needs to balance feedback from customers with their original vision for the business, and in many cases it is better to “persevere” than to “pivot”.

Adeo Ressi – Startupfest 2015

“Think big, be big”
As an entrepreneur in Canada, David was always focused on niches. Dominating a niche and avoiding the big guys seemed like a smart strategy, especially if the big guys were tech giants from the US. His time at Google has changed his perspective dramatically. It is generally easier to pursue bigger projects, in part because you can attract higher caliber employees and raise more money. He looks forward to discussing this counter-intuitive strategy in his home town, Montreal.

David Lawee – Startupfest 2015

“Year Zero”
Roughly every decade, some kind of military or enterprise technology makes its way into the mainstream: the personal computer; the consumer Internet; the mobile phone; the Internet of Things. What happens when Big Data turns into a consumer product?

As a society, and even as a species, we haven’t properly understood just how fundamentally different it is to replace atoms with bits. What does it mean to be human in a connected world—and how prepared we are to deal with what comes next?

Alistair Croll – Startupfest 2015

“Robots and poverty”
Technology and automation are changing the very nature of work. The answer is not to stop technological progress but to start thinking as big about poverty as we do about self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. The basic income is one such big idea, and would guarantee that everyone in a society had enough money to meet their basic needs.

Rose Broome – Startupfest 2015

“Disruption, disruption everywhere”
Digital Marketing is about as progressive as an industry as there is. The growth in this industry has created a very long (and very wide) runway. Many in digital marketing are considered the disrupters. Very similar to what you, as a startup, are doing today. Still, many in my industry went from being a “blue ocean” to a “bloody red sea.” How did this happen so fast? Who are the players? They are the same types of businesses that your startup needs to look out for. Beware! Just because you’re a disruptor, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be disrupted tomorrow!

Mitch Joel – Startupfest 2015

“The state of the art in demon summoning, a.k.a. Artificial Intelligence”
Jana’s relationship with AI is a 25-year journey from using genetic algorithms to predict the maximum theoretical conductivity of certain polymers, to seeing if neural nets could help distinguish Paula Abdul’s voice from that of a backup singer’s, to expert systems that at this moment decide which driver is behind the wheel of any of tens of thousands of semi-tractor trailers.
Today, the most frequent AI question she gets, is whether Elon Musk is right: are we summoning the demons with AI? She’ll share with you a sorted version of machine intelligence to help you decide for yourself. She admits it will not be the sordid version of AI presented by people she respects greatly, like Mr. Musk, Mr. Hawking, and Mr. Gates.
You’ll learn the current state of machine learning, the players and their tribes, what’s possible today and a bit into the future, and where she worries and where not, from the perspective of someone who considers daily if she is, indeed, in the belly of the beast. She’ll be delighted to get your feedback and experience in questions during and after.

Jana Eggers – Startupfest 2015