Tag Archives: startup

Longform Reflections

How to Build A Startup Community

I’m a passionate believer that startups around the world are trying to address a very real problem: how to build the future.

I’m also passionate about how startups should unite to collaborate and create something greater than their individual parts.

The obstacles startups have to surmount are numerous. They are facing old problems and old mentalities, which requires new rules, and new ideas. Brad Feld did a masterful job at enumerating what worked for Boulder—but after seeing what is happening in Montreal, I am convinced that there can be more rules fleshed out to build successful startup communities. I think there are some more ingredients I’ve spotted, some a mixture of what Brad saw in Boulder, but others that are distinctly different.

I hope this is something you and I can both learn from as we work to build the community around us. I don’t want this to be a monopoly, but a spark for you and I.

In the comment section below, add in what you think would be more principles that make up a successful startup community. In the meanwhile, here are my thoughts.

Is it time to cross the bridge with code(love)?

Is it time to cross the bridge with code(love)?

1-Be open.

A community is built on openness. The Montreal startup community works because its members trust each other, and trust those that are trying to come in. This means honesty and trust within each layer of the community. It means a commitment to share with one another, and to support each other through good—and bad.

It means taking coffees with newcomers and guiding them in, being open with your time and network. It’s about trusting that they’ll pay it forward, so that your learner becomes a mentor in a couple of years.

2-We are not Silicon Valley—and neither do we need to become it.

Silicon Valley is a once-in-a-era occurrence. A startup community doesn’t have to be Silicon Valley: every city has its own destiny. The only community anybody has to be better than is the community they were yesterday. Planning the future out shouldn’t have to be about what is missing between your city and Silicon Valley: it should be about how to best construct startups in your city, even if it looks nothing like Silicon Valley.

Montreal has a social entrepreneurial edge to it, to the point where many social startups such as E-180, a platform where people connect with one another to have coffee, and learn from one another, have emerged. They don’t necessarily focus as much on the technology as the good that can come from it. This isn’t something to be shunned: it should be celebrated.

Every city has a different character, and technology will enable that distinctiveness to shine.

Every city has a different character, and technology will enable that distinctiveness to shine. 

3-It shouldn’t matter who you are, it matters what you build.

A successful startup community should be inclusive, and embrace diversity as a key value. Builders can come from anywhere. It shouldn’t matter what you wear, who you love, or what language you speak. It doesn’t matter who you are. All that matters is what you build.

4-Break echo chambers.

We have a tendency as startup people to talk a lot amongst ourselves. A great startup community will try to reach out both to startup people in other cities, and to non-startup people in their own. Echo chambers are flattering, but in order to truly build, one must reach out to people beyond their usual networks.

5-Embrace collaboration.

Startups have succeeded because they have embraced a high degree of collaboration.  Open source principles and the lean philosophy have combined together to minimize waste by sharing what has already been built: a builder no longer has to repeat the efforts of others.

A community truly succeeds when it adheres to open source and open data approaches to constructing itself: making sharing the default rather than the alternative, and being as open about the information gathered as possible, so that everybody can make informed decisions.

By building and sharing collectively, the community grows stronger together. Instead of splitting into proprietary silos, the norm becomes building on each other’s work, rather than splitting it apart.


Startups have so much potential in them. A collective of them can be unstoppable, and a force for good throughout the city they are based in. Communities grow strong when they reflect the values they are built on, and when they are the change they want to see.

This is what sparked my belief in Montreal. What has sparked your belief in your community?

Longform Reflections

How to found a startup when you don’t know a line of code

As a non-technical founder, I did the worst thing possible. I created a founding team composed of other non-technical founders.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the death knell for my startup. It wasn’t because we got into arguments or we essentially had overlapping roles: no, it was simply the fact that none of us knew what we were doing.

It’s a problem that resonates often with people who are struggling to get into the startup scene as I once was. I’ve seen so many startups drift because their founders had no clue of what to do. All of these drifters tend to search relentlessly for the programmer of their dreams, as if in one fell swoop their inability to understand technology will be okay because, from the first grunt they hire, a team of grunts will be able to replicate out and do all of the work for them—forever until some imagined IPO for their technology startup.

It’s a problem. 90% of all small businesses fail in the first two years, and I’d wager the high failure rate with technology startups is based on the fact that so many who start these companies don’t properly appreciate their role in building out their idea.

Having lived through the experience myself, I’ve managed to snag some insights that can  change the situation for the better.

1– There is no programmer who will save you from ignorance.

The wunderkind who will take on your idea and do everything for you? You’re never going to be able to attract that type if you have no idea what you’re talking about. Engineers are highly attuned to the sort of “let’s change the fields for the registration process, it should only take ten seconds!” talk that implies you know little about technology.

Even if you do somehow find somebody who is good enough to understand your idea figments and is able to translate them into crisp, actionable code, your work process will be affected because you won’t really know how to communicate efficiently with them and vice versa. You’ll never get exactly what you wanted if you don’t understand the rudiments of what your engineer is working with.

You don’t have to become an expert overnight, but there’s no excuse for not trying to cover the basics. Here’s a list of 31 free resources to get you started, and a newsletter focused on learning code. Start now, it’ll help!

Learn code with code(love)

No, he’s not coming to save you.

2-You don’t even need a programmer to start testing your idea.

Surprise surprise! People get hung up on this notion that they need a bells-and-whistle online platform with all of the amenities for them to test their idea. That’s totally false. Lean and agile development have smashed that notion, and entrepreneurs have been testing their ideas out shoestring even before all that. Netflix started as a mailing service for DVDs that shipped your content physically—they only started to get on the Internet because they knew it was coming, but by then, they had already garnered a huge amount of subscriptions, so they knew their original hypothesis was correct: people would be willing to pay to access content on-demand and avoid dealing with video shops.

They didn’t need a web platform to do that. Figure out what your idea is actually testing, and test it yourself. Do you think people need an easier way to order dog food? Find forums where dog owners congregate, and ask them.

You don’t even have to mail them goods by mail. You can use a service like Unbounce: create a great landing page, and then collect emails to show that people care about what you’re selling.

A mailing list of thousands of people will help you spread your idea that much faster, and convince the star programmers you want to work with that you are their man. It will be the first sign of social proof and traction that your idea works. You’ll be the business man that can convince people to buy into an idea online, an invaluable trait engineers will be looking for.

An Unbounce-made landing page with code(love)

An Unbounce-made landing page with code(love)

3-Get involved with the startup scene. Read, connect, and collaborate.

While you work on how to get a digital following, you should also increase your value as a startup founder by devouring as much as you can about startups and technology. Read through The Next Web and similar outlets, follow tech influencers such as Tim O’Reilly, read through Startup CommunitiesLean Startup and Lean Analytics and other books on startups, just swallow it all up, and immerse yourself in this world. Go to the next meetup, meet the people in your startup community, and start building out a network.

The startup community works on the principle of “pay it forward”, so don’t be shy asking for help, and coffees from established influencers: more likely than not, they’ll say yes, in the hopes that you’ll do the same when you are faced with someone seeking advice. This is how a community grows strong: through collaboration. Embrace it.

Startup community with code(love)

Startup community with code(love)


Founding a startup is already difficult. You can make it easier for yourself by learning what I have struggled through failure to appreciate. We all have the capacity to build something meaningful, with or without technical knowledge: now it’s up to you to step up, and prove you can build, while embracing the new knowledge and people who will form an integral part of your new venture.

If this inspired you to learn code, and build something great, join our mailing list.

Learning Lists

Five Great Startup Resources

At code(love), we’re big fans of driving the future. Here are some great startup resources for teams looking to conquer the world.

Download / By Ariana Prestes

Startup Resources with code(love)


We can’t stress enough that those who want to build the future have to understand it. With most startups operating in the technology field, having that basic knowledge of how coding logic works will not only make you a better entrepreneur—it will make you a better thinker. Codeacademy is an easy and fun way to learn that logic.

For more brilliant resources on learning code, check out our previous learning list.

2-AngelList  &   F6S

Both of them are aggregators of great startups, talent, and offers on hand for startups. You’ll also see a list of startups operating in the space around you, and be able to get your name out there for potential employees and investors. Using the offers on hand from giants such as RackSpace and Microsoft will save your startup thousands in operating costs, and allow your team to access opportunities they never would have had before.


Don’t have a network of potential co-founders around you? Looking for that awesome team member that will take you over the hump? Not a problem. With a one-time $50 investment, you can tap into a network of self-selected idea creators and builders who are looking to flesh out great ideas with you. The functionality adds layers beyond what LinkedIn does, including having the ability to find out whether your target is actively searching for a new idea, or merely browsing.


Do you really need very specific advice, and you can’t seem to find anybody on LinkedIn or FounderDating that can address a pain point that will cost you thousands? Schedule a call with the entrepreneurs and investors who have been through it all, so you can get the advice you need to build out the idea you envision.

5-Startup events and people

FounderDating and Clarity.FM are great online networks, but you really want to take it offline. Check out your local Meetup and Facebook groups for startup communities, and start introducing yourself. Startup people are by nature open to being approached: don’t be shy to talk about what you’re doing, and ask people out for coffees: just make sure you’re not just taking but also giving. Remember the startup motto: always pay it forward.

We hope you enjoyed these startup resources: share the love if you think others in your network could benefit, and follow us for more!


Defining the Future

Defining the Internet of Things in one line

The Internet of Things is a new innovation that is sweeping into gradual mainstream awareness, if not adoption. It’s become a recent topic of some fascination, especially for Google-watchers who are trying to uncover the latest technological trends by following the Internet giant: surely the $3 billion dollar plus purchase of smart home device maker Nest did not escape notice.

Internet of things with code(love)

Internet of things with code(love)

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down to have a coffee with one of the engineers in the field pushing it forward, Jeff Dungan, co-founder of reelyActive. His startup was named the World’s best technology startup last year by Startup World, and he is a visionary in the field.

The first thing Jeff notes is that what we conceptualize as the Internet of Things can be very exactly defined. Devices that communicate with one another have always existed. Harken back to your childhood when you used a remote control to control a toy car: would that not qualify as being part of the Internet of Things?

Jeff says no. The reason why is because the Internet of Things encompasses internet-enabled devices that can communicate with one another, with one very distinct defining trait: they can do so without any direct human input. As your toy car zips around, you are controlling it directly. However, a Nest thermostat can adjust the heat without you ever touching anything.

This is the magic of the Internet of Things. Jeff imagines a world of “smart spaces” where entire houses, and even neighbourhoods could shift to be adapted to you. A house could be heated at the right temperature, with the lights dimmed for the right ambiance, without you ever doing anything but the initial setup.

Smart Spaces with code(love)

Smart Spaces with code(love)

Jeff’s company works on allowing for devices to identify you. reelyActive uses hardware RFID devices to tag you as you move through multiple spaces, therefore allowing for the possibility of “smart spaces” to grow, sooner than later. Already, Jeff is working on realizing a Google Analytics for retail at a low enough cost and without significant friction, perfectly suited for smaller retailers—this was a pipe dream just a few years ago. The world he imagines is coming sooner than later, and it can be summed up in one line.

The Internet of Things is a network of internet-enabled devices that can communicate with each other without direct human input, allowing for the evolution of smart spaces that can adapt to you without you doing anything at all.

The Internet of Things is a network of internet-enabled devices that can communicate with each other, without direct human input, allowing for the evolution of smart spaces that can adapt to you without you doing anything at all.


Interested in hearing more about Jeff’s story? Support my efforts to write about him and other entrepreneurs.