27 Aug 2015
[Note: this blog post also appears on the NACO Canada guest blog by Randall Howard]
Angel portfolio management remains surprisingly primitive. Many Angels have built up substantial portfolios over time, yet few give much thought to ongoing management of these valuable assets. The many various spreadsheets, documents, share certificates, warrants, emails and other essential documents are often scattered far and wide. I understand first hand the challenges Angel investors face when managing their portfolios and I also understand that things need to change.
At the beginning of October, I will be moderating a panel at the 2015 National Angel Summit, regarding best practices in portfolio structuring management and succession planning in order to build awareness, and activate change, around this issue. The panel will include two “Super Angels” and a Family Office Professional who will provide first hand perspectives on approaches to filling the portfolio management gap.
The fundamental question we will be addressing is, “how can Angels structure their portfolios better?” We will also be diving into the importance of succession planning for Angel investors.
It may sound morbid, …
30 May 2015
In mid-April, I attended the 10th annual ACA Summit hosted by Angel Capital Association in San Diego. With about 600 people in attendance from dozens of countries, it was an excellent chance to get tuned into the latest trends happening in angel world at large.
And since Angel Investing is now a global phenomenon, it is interesting to note that ACA Summit can have two faces. On one hand, it is a very international gathering of Angel investors and yet sometimes the content reflects the fact that ACA is primarily an association of US Angel investors, for example by showing trends without regard that Canadian angels are just across the border.
The international range of attendees was striking, with many delegations from various European countries; Latin American countries like Mexico, Chile and Barbados; India; a particular concentration from Australia and New Zealand and of course Canada. Regarding this antipodean concentration, one attendee found it odd that there were more of participants from halfway around the world than from Canada.
I am a member of the program committee for Canada’s own 2015 NACO Summit which is being held October 6-8 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, right on the US …
8 Feb 2015
The acquisition of MKS by PTC in 2011, caused me to reflect a bit on what good acquisitions might look like and what they might teach us about building (sometimes elusive) long term shareholder value. As a result, over the last 6 months, I’ve progressively assembled a collection on the most significant acquisitions in the Waterloo area. To my knowledge, such information has hitherto never been collected. We all love to speculate, but it is more productive to ground that speculation with facts.
The following table is intended to summarize value creation through the lens of several key benchmarks.
4 Jan 2015
“Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” – Antonio Banderas
Meeting requests are an amazing invention. Pioneered, and standardized, almost 20 years ago by companies like Microsoft (as part of Outlook/Exchange), Novell (Groupwise) and Lotus (now part of IBM Lotus Notes) this innovation had great promise to automate an essential, yet completely routine, aspect of modern life.
The ascendency of meeting request usage, also rides several trends:In the 1990s, I had an Executive Assistant who scheduled my time, acted as a “gatekeeper” and also worked on many projects. She was a master tactician who managed to keep 3 or more Type A executives productively multi-tasking. In many ways, sadly, such personal assistance is being subsumed by.. Increasing computational power means that automation of routine tasks, personalized to the needs of individuals is much more of a reality, The mobile revolution has made meetings much more multi-modal and virtual, but also means that most executives must be productive even while being mobile nomads, and Calendars have migrated from paper – I switched about 20 years ago – to desktop computers using Outlook and the like, and now to the ubiquitous smartphone and tablet …
9 Nov 2014
A mere 25 years ago, the Fall of the Berlin Wall rent the “Iron Curtain” asunder, a re-ordering of western civilization possibly unparallelled since the fall of the Roman Empire.
25 years and 15 days ago, almost by happenstance, I drove the Berlin Corridor, travelled via Freidrichstraße Station behind the Berlin Wall and witnessed an exhausted and bankrupt regime about to collapse.
Today the world has joined Berlin in celebrating this momentous anniversary. This photo shows balloons lighting the old route of the Berlin Wall.
In 2014, we should be celebrating a distant historical memory. However, the sabre rattling by Vladimir Putin who illegally annexed Crimea, has (not so) covert troops actively de-stabilizing eastern Ukraine and causing existential jitters in the other former East Block countries, leads many commentators to be concerned that the Cold War didn’t end in 1989.
In 2009, for the 20th anniversary of these events, I published the following to describe my own experiences in the surreal world that 1989 Berlin represented:
Die Berliner Mauer – 20 Years After the End of History
3 Oct 2014
At the NACO Summit in Québec City, it was truly humbling to receive the Canadian Angel of the Year Award. I see this partly as a calling to be an ambassador to continue to help raise the Angel bar in Canada in the coming years. I wish to thank all those kind colleagues who, unbeknownst to me, wrote letters of nomination. Also, this is all based on the remarkable people at GTAN and in the Waterloo and Canadian ecosystem generally.
In response to the award, and recognizing the opportunity to build on current success, I shared the following observations and future challenges at the closing Keynote on Friday 3 October, 2014.
“TODAY’S CRITICAL MASS CAN POWER A QUANTUM LEAP”
Closing Keynote NACO Summit, Québec City Friday 2 October, 2014
Bonjours, mesdames et messieurs. Good morning, ladies and Gentlemen.
I hope that Yuri was aware of what he was unleashing by inviting me to share perspectives and future challenges of Angel investing in Canada! Not unlike a startup running on “fumes”, Canada’s angel sector reminds me of the quip from cartoonist Bill Hoest: “I just need enough …
14 Jan 2014
Last year, I signed up for a wonderfully ambitious initiative spearheaded by our Governor General, His Excellency David Johnston. I was invited to join a Group of Seven who will serve as catalysts to rolling out David Johnson’s vision of a Smart and Caring Nation built by a set of Smart and Caring Communities, ultimately aimed to be a major national initiative to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial, in 2017.
I was very much honoured to be asked and, although it is a dauntingly large not to mention a somewhat unspecified, goal, as a proud Canadian who knows first hand David Johnston’s unique ability to lead and motivate, I quickly agreed to this call. I’ll share more about this initiative in order to seek your input. Since no small group can be representative of our huge and diverse nation, it is important the we engage in much dialogue from Canadians of all ages and demographic profile, in order to achieve maximum impact and relevance.
As a way to start that conversation, I’d like to share some of my perspectives on Smart and …
1 Jan 2014
As we enter 2014, well into the 21st Century, one lesson for me from the year just past was that Canada seems to be hobbled with 19th century infrastructure. Let me explain.
During 2013, my home in Ontario was subject to not one, but two, different ice storms – in April and December. Both brought down large chunks of trees and both caused multi-day electrical power outages. In decades, this is the first time I can recall losing power for more than 1 day. To have this occur twice, with a combined 8 days of power outage, in a single year is even more striking.
After the first ice storm in April, I recall discussing this with a European colleague who was surprised by the very notion of a power outage. From a European perspective, he suggested the last power outage, of any length, that he could recall was 30 years ago. This started me thinking about why the difference.
In Canada, we have always prided ourselves on being one of the world’s richest countries, with modern infrastructure. However, much of our infrastructure …
22 Nov 2012
Almost four and a half years ago, I penned what some called the obituary of Blackberry (see “How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm”). My intentions in writing that missive were, in fact, quite the opposite. Back in 2008, a year after the first iPhone, Blackberry didn’t appear to be heeding the threat of major market disruption, let alone making a response. I thought that writing such a post might incite some action. Sadly, while I got loads of reaction from all over the world, the one missing piece was that this was singularly not registering inside the “Faraday Cage” of RIM headquarters at Philip and Columbia in Waterloo.
For many years, to continuously hone my expertise as an investor and participant in the next generation mobile ecosystem at VERDEXUS, I have maintained a “production” device and a “testing” device which allows me to sample the greatest number of new applications and platforms in my daily business and personal life. At the time of the 2008 blog, I switched from Blackberry as production device and iPhone as testing device. At that …
29 Oct 2012
In the world of wine, the concept of terroir describes a centuries long process in which the climate, soil, grape varieties and dedicated vintners, symbiotically develop a unique “sense of place” for a wine region. A favourite of mine, the garrulous and quintessential Californian vintner, Randall Grahm, while trying to establish the old World notion of terroir in California postulates that it is a long term proposition and can take centuries to develop.
As both a wine lover and serial tech entrepreneur, I firmly believe that building a tech cluster is similarly a very long term process. Ironically, the epicentre of tech clusters is in California. The Silicon Valley, which got its start in the 1950s remains the major cluster worldwide as “… no other place as yet has the Valley’s scale and resilience.”
Although I started my tech startup career in the US, it was in the Canada’s leading tech cluster of Waterloo where I built major companies and was one person who got that cluster started. Like Silicon Valley’s origins in Stanford University, the Waterloo cluster was initially fuelled by University of Waterloo. Over …