Strong startup community ‘gives before it gets’

We asked Nathan Monk, to provide a guest post about MaRS Lean Startup Day hosted earlier this week. Nathan is a go-to-market mentor with MaRS’ Information Technology, Communications and Entertainment (ICE) practice.

What an exceptional week for Toronto’s technology startup community. Monday we held Lean Startup Day at MaRS and yesterday we heard the news that Toronto’s Startup Weekend winner, Groupnotes, won the Global Startup Battle.

For me, Lean Startup Day is a day I will look back on as the elixir moment, where a diverse group of over 500 Toronto entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, educators and large and small enterprises all came together to produce magic via lean methodology.

Nathan Monk

The inspiration for the day came from Brad Feld’s book, Startup Communities, in which he uses the Boulder Thesis to describe a startup community that “gives before they get” and creates an inclusive, not exclusive, ecosystem for startups. In order for this community to sustain itself, Feld states that four things must happen:

  • Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community
  • The leaders must have a long-term commitment (20+ years)
  • The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate
  • The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack (like Lean Startup Day)

Here are some of the highlights from Lean Startup Day:

  • Over 1.7 million impressions (“eyeballs”) were generated, reaching over 300,000 user accounts from Twitter alone
  • There were over 800 registrants for both the morning and afternoon streams, with 60 per cent coming to see the MaRS morning programming specifically
  • Over 40 per cent of the audience was female, a statistic not typically seen at this type of event and noted by our participants
  • 32 co-founders from 16 startups demoed, including Startup Weekend winner Groupnotes, HealthAware, Cogniciti, ShelfLife and Papyrus among others
  • 30 lean startup business canvases were created, including a landing page
  • 12 partners contributed their time for the day, including BDC, Ryerson Digital Media Zone, Microsoft BizSpark and Usability Matters among others
  • Eight startup community leaders selflessly gave their time to be there for the Lean Panel
  •  Our incredible host, David Crow, whose provocative nature and quick wit spoke directly to this audience
  • The incredible sketch notes by Brad Feld-endorsed Sacha Chua

Please take some time to check out Sacha Chua’s sketch notes, as well as the photos and conversations on Storify, Epilogger, and Twitter. We also announced the winner of our Lean Video Challenge, Motion and Still. To watch their video, click here.

As Marc Andreessen (from Andreessen Horowitz) mentions: Lean methodology is a lot like the theory of relativity. There are a lot of answers today for startups that we didn’t have 12 years ago during the tech bubble.

Building a startup makes a lot more sense today then it ever did. At the MaRS Commons, we couldn’t agree more. The entrepreneur and lean methodology are at the heart of everything we do. From market sizing through our market intelligence to business strategy and model validation through Ostwerwalder on up to investor pitch coaching and ecosystem integration through events like Lean Startup Day, this is what we do. And, we love what we do. Our motto in the MaRS ICE practice is: “You can do hard things.”

So as we move into 2013, think about how you can contribute to the startup community. Every one of you has something you can give: whether it’s a talent, a skill or simply some support for our entrepreneurs as they search for a repeatable and scaleable business model under extreme uncertainty. We are here at MaRS to support you if you so choose.

For more information on the Lean Startup movement, visit Eric Ries’s website,, and follow him on Twitter via @theleanstartup or the hashtag #theleanstartup. Also check out this great blog post by Lily Liu on the MaRS website, as well as the following two resources:


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