Join us tonight at the Vancouver Entrepreneur Forum’s panel on Exits!

Throughout the year, VEF has held events on the life cycle of a startup. Tonight’s panel showcases the ultimate goal for many entrepreneurs: Exits! Our own Morgan McDonald will be moderating a panel discussion with Andy Creech, David Shore and David Raffa, as organized by Paul Koros to gain insight on whether to go public, stay private, and the reality of how, when, and what to prepare. Tickets are available here. We’re looking forward to seeing you!


PVCC 2018 a Success!

Last week McMillan was proud to once again act as platinum sponsor to the Pacific Venture Capital Conference and Competition (PVCC), held on March 22, 2018.

PVCC is a unique, student run event that combines keynote speakers, hands-on workshops/seminars, and a competition which brings together teams of student entrepreneurs, as well as teams of aspiring venture capitalists, in a pitch-based format.

Morgan McDonald and I were on hand during the afternoon workshops to deliver our seminar “Starting Up on the Right Foot: Five Tips for Early Stage Entrepreneurs” to a lively crowd of engaged attendees.

The Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital pitches which took place in the evening represented the final round for each stream of the competition.

From the Entrepreneurship stream, we heard from three very talented and innovative teams, with widely varying business pitches, from a new piece of innovative restaurant equipment, to consumer level IOT-enabled mold detection, to an on-demand vehicle diagnostic and repair service.

The Venture Capital stream is a bit different, and involves teams picking one of the Entrepreneurship teams to evaluate, as if they were VCs being asked to invest.  An impressive amount of research and analysis stood behind the impressive presentations, as each team did a lot more than just kick the tires.

In the end, the VC team  calling themselves “Warrior Capital” (not to be confused with various actual firms using that name) won the day in the valuation stream.

On the Entrepreneurship side, Team Kitau emerged victorious, walking away with prize money and a bank of legal services courtesy of Startups @ McMillan, for their business plans to automate the labour-intensive (and labour-expensive) kitchen task of polishing and sorting silverware.



Innovation is live and well in Vancouver!

This week, Startups @ McMillan joined an energized crowd for the Vancouver Entrepreneur Forum‘s next installation in its series on the Cycle of a Startup.  After discussing growth in the cannabis space last month, VEF dove into the question of what large enterprise corporations are doing to disrupt and innovate from within. And it turns out, they are doing a lot!

The discussion was moderated by Lauren Robinson, who has seen the likes of many successful ventures, Eric Hopkins (Chief Strategic Venture Officer at BCAA), Justin MacCarthy (Dir. New Ventures – Strategy at Lululemon Athletica), and Jennifer Hamilton (Sr. Dir. New Ventures, Johnson & Johnson). Each panelist spoke of their focus on innovation within and from outside their respective companies, in each case to a much broader array of verticals then one would assume. You don’t need to be a textile startup to attract the attention of Lululemon’s strategic arm, nor an online insurance platform disruptor for BCAA, so get your thinking caps on to step out of those boxes.

The panelists discussed what they are looking for from entrepreneurs looking to partner or sell their innovation to enterprise corporations.  Since all of these companies (and many others) have teams dedicated to reviewing the market, one suggestion was to focus less on selling what the problem is and more on proactively proving what your product or service can do to alleviate that pain point. Another hint is to keep on pushing. If the product is not a fit for that company’s here and now, they may know of other places is may work out or have other visions as to where your product or service could make an impact. As always it seems, hard work and timing are an entrepreneur’s playbook.

Aside from the panel, we had some great conversations with new and promising startups like Calendher and look forward to seeing them grow.  The last two VEF events of the year are focussed on talent acquisition and exits. We will post more on those closer to the events but hope to see you there!

Ready to Rocket Announces its 2018 Winners!

This morning Rocket Builders announced its 2018 Ready to Rocket Winners. For 16 years, this list has provided an accurate forecast of compelling BC technology companies that are positioned for investment and exponential growth and this year was no different.

New entrants to each of the Emerging Rocket and Ready to Rocket lists prove that tech in B.C. is at an exciting place right now.  In all four categories, fast moving startups are attracting capital and more established companies are successfully working to increase their consumer base.  Interestingly, Rocket Builders saw so many promising candidates in the food and agri-tech space this year that they intend to expand the categories for next year to showcase these newcomers to the tech scene.

We were excited to see a few familiar faces recognized on the list, including Tantalus Labs, Rainforest Automation, Inc., and Brewhound, which was a successful candidate in the Beta version of our Amplify program (stay tuned for more).

The announcement also came with a discussion of the landscape for growth for this and last year. 2017 saw companies on the list earning revenue at a higher rate and increasing job growth as a result. As expected, the areas most likely to disrupt technology in 2018 include AI, IoT, bots, AR/VR, blockchain, drones, cloud computing and fintech.


McMillan is proud to sponsor the Ready to Rocket recognition program, as part of BC’s vibrant and growing technology sector. We, at Startups @ McMillan, look forward to learning more about these companies and the opportunity to support them achieving their missions.




Lunch and Learn at WeWork Vancouver- Burrard Station

Today, Startups @ McMillan gave a lunch and learn presentation to members of the Vancouver WeWork office. The presentation, “CEMs, CRTC and CASL – a plain English chat on how to stay compliant with CASL”, was- as you could guess- an information session and Q&A period about real-world compliance with Canada’s Anti-Spam legislation.  In case you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out our posts, and our top 5 tips (below) for CASL compliance!

Top Tips to stay CASL Compliant:

  1. Be honest and transparent in all communications.
  2. Before you send a message with a commercial purpose, have consent, disclose sender information, and provide an unsubscribe function.
  3. Train staff and contractors and audit them. Implement penalties and enforce the policies for failure to comply.
  4. Fines are hefty, so set company-wide policies carefully to be tailored to what you are actually doing to comply with CASL and what you’re doing to fix situations where you may fall out of compliance.
  5. Keep an up-to-date record of consents and of emails sent (or forms sent for any mass mailings). Try to keep mass mailings down. Recipients don’t appreciate filling their inbox without a value-add anyways.

we work

Missing the Forest for the Trees – Never Underestimate Culture in Understanding Corporate Governance

Corporate governance is a hot topic these days. Though at the startup stage, your company may not be subject to the same extensive corporate governance rules as a large public company, it’s important to never lose sight of how important a healthy culture is to good corporate governance.

All too often, companies tackle corporate governance by drowning themselves in checklists and policies and processes. This can be especially true for founders at an early stage as it’s hard to find time to dedicate thought to intangibles like culture. The challenge that results from focusing too much on tick the box compliance is this approach can be mistaken for good corporate governance. The foundation to good corporate governance, and the underpinning of any good policy and procedure, is a healthy culture. This becomes increasingly important for businesses that are on a rapid growth trajectory. Just ask Uber or its former CEO.

To protect your budding business from exposure to loss of business or shaken investor confidence as it grows, we suggest never losing sight of the following:

  1. Don’t bank on rules-based compliance, it is not effective on its own.
  2. Create clear lines of authority and structure, and openness to challenge at every level. Practically, this means an open-door policy and/or whistle-blower policy where toxic behaviour can be reported and there is a legitimate follow-up process to deal with complaints.
  3. Don’t apply a different code of conduct for your top performers. Money-makers can be a big liability in the long-run if they aren’t reigned in.
  4. Each director on the board should keep a direct line of communication open with management and staff at the operational level (including entry level employees).
  5. Unplanned site visits should be conducted by the Board on an ongoing basis.
  6. Compensation and other rewards should not be tied, at least not wholly-tied, to short-term financial targets.

If founders keep the above in mind as they get their business started, it will assist in developing a healthy culture right from the beginning. Red flags should be treated as warning signs of a flawed culture which will negatively impact corporate governance.

The future of a startup can sometimes involve an initial public offering (IPO) as a potential exit strategy for its founders. If a startup ends up going public, it will become subject to more stringent corporate governance requirements including, among other things: auditor oversight; certification requirements for financials and internal controls; disclosure requirements on the independence of directors, female representation on the board, continuing education for directors and releasing the written mandate of the board. For public companies, a healthy culture remains a key component of good corporate governance. Fostering a healthy culture from the outset is a much easier process than trying to fix an unhealthy culture later, so start early and save yourself, and your business, the struggle (and potential exposure) down the line.

Leila Rafi and Michael E. Reid

Ready to Rocket 2018 – Ignition On!


Nominations are now being accepted for the 2018 Ready to Rocket lists published each year by Rocket Builders.

The Ready to Rocket lists feature those BC technology companies that are best positioned to capitalize on the largest growth trends in the technology industry, and is broken into four categories:

  • CleanTech (includes renewable energy, green transportation, electric motors, green chemistry, lighting, environmental protection and any innovation that improves energy efficiency).
  • Life Sciences (includes biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, healthcare information technology and other innovations improving health).
  • Digital Health (includes medical health record management, corporate wellness, personal health and wellness applications and wearables).
  • ICT (includes information, communications, wireless, new media and internet technologies).

Check out the nomination criteria, and then nominate a company you think should be on this year’s 16th Annual Ready to Rocket List.  Nominations are open until February 16, but the earlier you get a nomination in the more opportunity the selection committee will have to review. And if you think a company might be a bit early stage for the Ready to Rocket lists, they may still qualify for the Emerging Rockets lists, designed for those companies just entering the market.

The Ready To Rocket and Emerging Rockets lists will be announced on March 8, 2018.


McMillan is proud to sponsor the Ready to Rocket recognition program, as a part of BC’s vibrant and growing technology sector.