- Probability of success is about 1% (3 approvals from 360 applications),
- Make sure you have patentable technology,
- Have customer traction,
- Know your value proposition,
- IAF is a considerable amount of effort to get approved.
Let’s cut to the chase, “save your time” (think of “Save your time” in the voice from the guy on the ING commercials). Two of the scarcest resources start-ups have are time and money and there is usually a balancing act between the two. ONLY APPLY for the IAF if:
- You have patentable technology AND customer traction.
Bottom line is if you do not have both of these you will not get funded. “Save your time” and focus on building your business or other sources of funding that may have different criteria. Personally I find patents of dubious value, not necessarily an indicator of competitive advantage and becoming obsolete in a Web 2.0 world where the strength of an idea is more often in the ability execute and gain Internet based customer traction. The world is changing and most patent policy was formulated when Henry Ford introduced the model T. However, patents are a handy tick box when you have lots of applications and limited funds. Bottom line if you DON’T have a patent or a provisional patent DO NOT apply for the IAF, proceed directly to customer traction and building your business.
Matt from IPeak basically re-iterated Shirley’s focus on due diligence and “be prepared” when applying for the IAF from the entrepreneur’s perspective. Matt also highlited a number of government funded programs available to entrepreneurs through the MRIO. STATEMENT of PERSONAL BIAS, my preference would be to have the MRIO set up entrepreneurial incentives with funding going directly to entrepreneurs rather than building “Government Programs”. Bottom line if you want to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation make funds available to entrepreneurs and innovators rather than have administration and bureaucracies get innovation funding. Facilitating existing ecosystems builds far strong innovation capabilities in a region than building “programs”. Nuff said.
Paul Dawalibi’s presentation started with a slide entitled “Greed is Good”. While I prefer friendly money Paul’s frank and honest admission of his motives when looking for funding opportunities is refreshing and also a big time saver. Paul showed his methodology for weeding through the hundreds (literally) of proposals he receives. I think it was called the Solov principle, basically stand at the top of the stairs and through a large stack of proposals down the stairs. The theory is that the lighter the proposal the more likely it will be closer to the top of the stairs and the heavier ones will end up at the bottom. The lighter proposals at the top of the stairs are the ones that get read. The premise is these lighter proposals at the top of the stairs are clearer, more concise and well articulated. If it takes you 50 pages to get to the point there is a good chance you don’t know your value and/or how to solve customer pain.
Key take aways from Pauls presentation:
- It’s all about the money,
- Be clear and concise,
- Know your value proposition,
- Demonstrate an understanding of your customers pain,
- Have passion for your idea,
- Attention to detail is important,
- First impressions are important.
The team is also, as expected, an important factor in evaluating proposals. Patents are a plus but not essential in getting funded. Cool little bit of information that caught my attention. If you are starting a start-up consider yourself a founder rather than a CEO. This makes the transition to IPO or other exit simpler later on. These are the same sentiments echoed by Rick Segal on his visit to Ottawa in the spring.
- Ian Graham