Once again we had stellar ideas emerging from the York Region Town Hall. Familiar solutions like P2P entrepreneur support networks, youth mentorship accelerators, and global outreach connection and intelligence programs emerged again, but so did a few brand new solutions, as well as some entirely new approaches that really built out our existing portfolio. Let’s review two of the most novel ideas that emerged from the Town Hall.
Entrepreneur Connect envisioned the creation of a P2P entrepreneurial support network, but with a new twist. In their network, each support provider or advisor would be in regular contact with each other, constantly updating each other on the roles that they can play in supporting local entrepreneurs, and the services that they can currently offer into the community. So lawyers, accountants, marketers, mentors, enterprise support groups, angle networks would all be connected together and sharing knowledge of their skill sets and services, to create an informed and robust entrepreneurial support network. The key element in this network is the constant communications and updating. Under this new approach, when an entrepreneur comes to any member of the network to get help and guidance, if that person/organization cannot respond directly, they will know exactly who to refer the entrepreneur to. So as long as an entrepreneur knows someone who is connected to the network, they are going to be able to get funneled towards the help they need to address their challenge.
The other great twist the Entrepreneur Connect brought to the table was the role out plan, which was focused entirely on the use of already existing resources – a very lean solution. The team proposed using free platforms like Google Hangouts to create the peer groups that would enable them to run their network, both in terms of connecting to initial support stakeholders to define and organize their entrepreneurial support services, and later in connecting entrepreneurs to the right part of the network to get the help they need. This type of initiative would not require much initial funding, but it would require initial in-kind contributions from local enterprise support organizations. And the team’s solution was to reach out to these local groups to pilot the network in sectors and areas of enterprise support that already align to existing mandates and objectives. If the pilot works well, new sectors and areas of support could be rolled out to, including the engagement of for profit professional service providers.
Angel’s Start was another great idea that emerged from the York Region Town Hall. Angel Start was pitched as a Startup-Angel Matching Network Plus. The team identified that many start-ups face a lot of confusion and uncertainty when it comes to figuring out how much money they will need to startup, what sources it could/should come from, how to identify the need and schedule for subsequent rounds of investing, etc. – the whole financial planning path remains a frustration for many new startup firms. The team also identified that many angels face challenges in identify investment ready firms, what a good investment actually looks like, what types of deals and terms they should be negotiating, and what levels of return they can expect to get over set timeframes.
Angel Start would, at its most basic level, develop a database of firms and investors that would allow each to create a searchable online profile (likely with Angels invisible to firms until an initial interest in the firm is expressed, but with Angels visible to other Angels). However, in addition to the profile and search functions that a traditional Lava-Life style approach suggests, Angel Start would also provide an education/training component to their platform that would advise and educate firms on the financing process, and would also help them to build out their online profiles to make them better candidates for Angel investments. Imagine Lava-Life came with a personal trainer, communications advisor, and romantic consultant. The platform would also advise and educate angels along the same lines, helping them to better understand what a good investment looks like, and how to negotiate the terms of a deal. Eventually, support service providers could be brought into the mix (they would have to pay to access the platform, and would have to provide group discounts to members) so that firms and angels could reach out and secure additional support for their deals and continuing business activities at favourable rates.
Overall, we were pleased to see some new twists and expanded solutions to our traditional entrepreneurial challenges coming out of the York Region Town Hall. It will be interesting to see how these ideas will continue to develop and build out as the tour continues to criss-cross the country.