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Archive for the ‘Startup’ Category

My Top 5 Books For 2014

Posted by Shane McLean on December 15, 2014

This is the time of year when we see annual lists start popping up.  I use annual book lists as a way to find new books to read so I thought I would share the top books I have read (or listened to in my car) in 2014.  Some of these books might not be new this year, but I finally managed to get around to them this year so I have included them.  In no particular order, I liked:

1.   Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Steven Kotler and Peter H Diamonds

A more positive look ahead based on the theory that, as it has in the past, new technology will rise to meet the problems facing humanity and the Earth going forward.   The book is not without its warnings for the future, but overall it presents a relatively optimistic (and usually believable) view of tomorrow.

2.  Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things by David Rose

I found this to be a great discussion of different ways in which the “Internet of things” and connected objects might evolve.  It covers some of the design concepts and thinking necessary to make connected objects useful and easy to use.   Good backgrounder.

3.  Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate your Startup  by Brad Feld and David Cohen

This book, from the founders of Techstars, is a collection of essays about various aspects of startup life and building a business.  Very good practical information for any startup founder or anyone who works with startups (like me!).

4.  The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers by Mark Hatch

Mark Hatch is a co-founder of TechShop, a chain of membership based maker spaces in the US, and he offers up this discussion of the maker movement.  Mark provides a series of discussions based on makers he has met, including the inspirations, challenges and successes faced by makers as many of them turn their hobby or passion into a business.   At times it reads like a bit of commercial for TechShop (naturally) but it is worthwhile if you are at all interested in the maker movement.

5.  Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton

This book had a bit of controversy around the time of its release with a bunch of the folks involved condemning the way the author presented the history of Twitter.    I found it to be a well written book.  The author takes pains to describe his sources and methods for researching the history of Twitter and I suspect some of the people who object to the book are objecting due to the fact that it hangs some part of the blame for Twitter’s early dysfunction on virtually every one of main players.

Honourable Mentions:

Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick

The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet by Robert M Hazen

Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis

Posted in Business Structure, Financing, Misc., Social Media, Startup, Venture Capital | Leave a Comment »

The Ins and Outs of Granting Equity to Your Tech Startup All Star Team

Posted by Shane McLean on November 13, 2013

This great article by my law partner James Smith is worth checking out if you are considering using equity grants to members of your tech startup team (hint:  you should be):

http://www.techvibes.com/blog/startup-equity-2013-11-13

Posted in Business Structure, LaBarge Weinstein, Law, Misc., Startup | Leave a Comment »

Saskatchewan Proposes Its Own Crowdfunding Prospectus Exemption

Posted by Shane McLean on October 23, 2013

The Saskatchewan Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FACC) has announced a detailed equity crowdfunding proposal.  This follows an update by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) in August about its own progress on coming up with a new crowdfunding exemption from prospectus requirements (Read more here).

The FACC put out a backgrounder for discussion purposes back in July.  As a follow up to that discussion piece, this month the FACC released a draft order for comment purposes which contained far more detail on what an equity crowdfunding exemption may look like in Saskatchewan.  As with the OSC proposal, the FACC will require that equity crowdfunding be raised through an online portal but the Saskatchewan proposal appears focused on smaller financings than the OSC’s proposal ($150,000 per offering no more than twice a year vs the OSC’s $1.5 Million per year).  On the other hand, the Saskatchewan process seems to be simpler for the issuer, investor and portal than what we expect to see coming out of the OSC.

The high level details of the FACC’s proposed process are as follows:

  • The exemption will be available to private companies only and both the issuer and the investor must have addresses in Saskatchewan (i.e. this is a Saskatchewan only exemption).
  • The issuer must file an issuer information form and each promoter, director, officer and control person of the issuer must file a personal information form ten business days prior to beginning to trade.
  • The issuer must use a defined form of offering document which must be filed ten business days prior to beginning to trade and made available through the portal to investors.  The offering document must disclose how the funds raised will be used and set a minimum offering amount to close the offering, which must be equal to the amount needed to carry out the purpose for which the funds are sought as set out in the offering document.
  • The offering size must be $150,000 or less, no investor may invest more than $1,500 in any offering and the offering period must not be longer than 6 months.
  • There can be no concurrent offering by the issuer or other issuer for the same project.
  • The securities being offered must not be derivatives.
  • The issuer and its promoters, directors, officers and control persons must not use this exemption more than two times in a calendar year.
  • No commission or other amounts are paid to the issuer or its promoters, directors, officers, control persons, employees or agents with respect to the trade.
  • The issuer must file a report of trade within 30 days after the offering closes.
  • Unless another exemption is available, the securities purchased under this exemption will be subject to a hold period until the date that is 4 months and a day after the later of (i) the distribution date; and (ii) the date the issuer becomes a reporting issuer in any province or territory of Canada.

The FACC has clearly set out the requirements it proposes for portals as follows:

  • A portal must file an information form and each promoter, director, officer and control person of the owner of the portal must file a personal information form thirty days prior to beginning to facilitate crowdfunding trades.
  • The portal must not provide advice.
  • The portal must:
  1. Make the offering document of the issuer and certain risk warnings separately available to investors electronically online;
  2. Not allow an investment until the investor confirms online they have read and understood the offering document and risk warnings;
  3. Not release funds to the issuer until the minimum amount to close the offering has been reached and until that time ensure that all the funds received for the offering are held in trust for the investors;
  4. When the offering is closed, provide the issuer with the details of the investors (name, address, telephone number, email address, details of purchase) within 15 days of closing of the offering; and
  5. Ensure issuers and investors have an address in Saskatchewan.

The FACC’s portal requirements are not as demanding as we expect the OSC’s requirements to be (based on the material put out by the OSC to date).  It is interesting to note that under the FACC’s proposals a portal is not required to be registered as a broker or dealer and there is apparently no vetting of the issuer or investor required except to ensure that the investor has read and understood the risks and that the issuer and investor have Saskatchewan addresses.

One potential barrier to the use of equity crowdfunding in Saskatchewan is the small size of the projects permitted.   The maximum amount that can be raised is $150,000, the amount raised must be “the amount needed to carry out the purpose” and no concurrent fundraising for the same project is allowed.  Issuers will have to be creative and careful about how they define the purpose of their fundraising to ensure that they can complete it using not more than $150,000 in financing.

Technically, this is still a request for comment by the FACC, but it is interesting to see another Canadian jurisdiction put out a detailed (but different) set of proposed rules for an equity crowdfunding exemption.   We will be watching to see which jurisdiction is first to actually implement a new rule and then to see how the different rules are eventually harmonized, if at all.

Posted in Crowdfunding, Financing, Law, Misc., Startup, Venture Capital | Leave a Comment »

Crowd funding in Ontario’s future

Posted by Shane McLean on September 5, 2013

In December 2012 the Ontario Securities Commission published a Staff Consultation Paper seeking comments on a number of potential new prospectus exemptions.  One of the potential exemptions that created a bit of excitement in the startup community was an exemption which would allow Canadian companies to raise equity financing through crowd funding, which is essentially a process of raising financing from a large number of small investors through an online portal.

Borrowing heavily from the concepts established by the US regulators in the JOBS Act approved in early 2012 (most of which has yet to be implemented in practice), the OSC described the following possible crowd funding structure:

  • The funding would have to be raised through a registered funding portal that meets certain qualifications.
  • A company would not be able to raise more than $1.5 Million in a 12 month period using the crowd funding exemption.
  • An investor’s investment in any one company would be limited to $2,500 and the investor’s aggregate investments in a calendar year using the crowd funding exemption would be limited to $10,000.
  • Investors would have to sign a form of risk acknowledgement.
  • Investors would have a 2 day cooling off period during which they could withdraw.
  • The company would be required to provide a pre-defined level of disclosure about the company, the financing and the funding portal.
  • The company would have certain ongoing disclosure obligations to investors that came in through the crowd funding exemption.

On August 28, 2013 the OSC released a progress report.  The good news for crowd funding fans is that the feedback received by the OSC on the crowd funding proposal has been positive.  As a result, the OSC will continue its work to come up with a definitive framework based on the proposed structure.  The key area where further deliberation and focus may be required seems to be on the role of the funding portal including the qualifications needed and the processes to be followed by such intermediaries.

The bottom line is that it sounds like Ontario companies and investors can expect to be able to someday take advantage of a crowd funding prospectus exemption for equity financings along the lines described above.   Regulators in other Canadian provinces are looking into this issue too and we would hope that any structure ultimately settled on will be rolled out as a harmonized policy across the country.

Posted in Crowdfunding, Financing, Law, Misc., Social Media, Startup, Venture Capital | Leave a Comment »

Roundup of Most Read CBLB Posts

Posted by Shane McLean on January 22, 2013

I was reviewing the stats for this blog recently and thought it would be neat to list the top 10 most popular posts to date:

10.  Update on the Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund (October 13, 2009)

9.     CPC Combinations Part 2 (September 16, 2009)

8.     From Wellington Financial -5 Pre Deal Questions to ask Your Venture Debt Lender (October 28, 2009)

7.    Ontario Small Claims Court Limit Raised to $25,000 (January 13, 2010)

6.    CPC Combinations Part 1 (August 9, 2009)

5.    What are Preferred Shares? (July 2, 2009)

4.    What is a Special Purpose Acquisition Corporation?  (June 7, 2009)

3.    Unanimous Shareholder Agreements  (September 22, 2009)

2.    Financing Term Sheet Basics (June 21,2009)

1.    What is the Capital Pool Company Program?  (May 28, 2009)

Since these posts continue to draw a lot of attention, my plan over the next several months is to review and update each one.  Most of these date back 3 years and things change so they could use a refresh.  Thanks for reading everyone.

Posted in Business Structure, Capital Pool Company Program, Financing, Law, Misc., Special Purpose Acquisition Corporations, Startup, TSX Venture Exchange, Venture Capital | Leave a Comment »

More Movement on Canadian Venture Capital Front

Posted by Shane McLean on February 9, 2010

Last week it was announced that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board would invest  $400 Million in a “fund of funds” concept.  That is, it looks like they are proposing to deploy $400 Million to existing private equity and venture capital firms so that they may, in turn, deploy that money as part of their own investing activities.  The Montreal Gazette has a good write up about the announcement.

The fund of funds model is similar to the model employed by the Ontario Government and its co investors in the Ontario Venture Capital Fund which I blogged about last April (both the new CPP funds and the OVCF funds are both  managed by Northleaf Capital Partners).  The funding of the OVCF closed in June of 2008 and, as I understand it, it has yet to actually invest much money.   Unfortunately, very little of that money has been put to work so far.

Let’s hope that the CPP’s fund of funds is able to deploy funds a bit faster.  Without much needed capital, Canada’s knowledge based startups can’t get off the ground.  Mark McQueen recently lamented on the Wellington Financial Blog that the wicket is open for tech IPOs but there  isn’t enough “product”  — i.e. quality tech companies of the right size and trajectory.  Fund announcements like this may be too late to help launch companies that could take advantage of the IPO climate we face at the moment, but without a steady flow of funds to support generation after generation of knowledge based companies we will have a very hard time maintaining any kind of  robust public (or private) market for  tech companies in Canada.

Posted in Financing, Government Funding, Misc., Startup, Uncategorized, Venture Capital | Leave a Comment »

MaRS Launches Entrepreneurs Toolkit

Posted by Shane McLean on December 7, 2009

MaRS has recently launched a great new website which includes a  section called the Entrepreneurs Toolkit.  It’s a collection of articles, videos and other tools all aimed at educating and helping entrepreneurs understand the practical and legal aspects of startup life.   At launch the Toolkit boasts 10 workbooks, over 250 articles and over 150 videos live on the site.  The site even includes form documents and agreements that you can download and edit for your own use.

I was lucky enough to be able to assist and contribute to a number of the articles you will find on the MaRS site.  It is a great resource for budding entrepreneurs.

Posted in Business Structure, LaBarge Weinstein, Law, MARS, Misc., Startup | Leave a Comment »

From Wellington Financial — 5 pre-deal questions to ask your venture debt lender

Posted by Shane McLean on October 28, 2009

There is a  good article at the Wellington Financial Blog with a list of questions your should consider asking your “venture debt lender” in the early stages of discussion (see the article here).

For those of you who are not familiar with the term “venture debt lender”, the term is generally used to describe non-bank lenders that operate in the same or similar market as traditional venture capitalists.  Wellington Financial is an example.   Venture debt lenders typically offer a secured debt facility (that they expect to be paid back on set terms) and take some warrant or other equity incentive on the side.  Interest rates are generally higher than you would get from your traditional  bank but that is usually a factor of the level of risk these lenders take and the amounts loaned which are both generally higher than those a traditional bank would tolerate.

If looking at venture debt as a source of funding,  be prepared to discuss quasi-bank style financial covenants with your venture debt lender.  That typically rules out pre-revenue early stage borrowers.

Posted in Financing, Misc., Startup, Venture Capital | 2 Comments »

Update on the Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund

Posted by Shane McLean on October 13, 2009

This is a reprint of a note from the LaBarge Weinstein Emerging Issues Series: Update on the Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund

Over the past summer, our partner Debbie Weinstein has been closely involved in the industry outreach conducted by Ministry of Research and Innovation’s John Marshall relating to the launch of the Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund (OETF), which was originally announced by the McGuinty government in winter 2009. The Fund represents an exciting opportunity for our cash- or syndicate partner-starved clients (startups, venture investors and angels alike) to access government funding in a reasonable and timely way.

If you would like any additional information regarding the OETF, including how to become a “Qualified Investor” or submit an investment for consideration, we would be happy to assist. Please feel free to contact any of our partners via our website at http://www.lwlaw.com// and we’ll try and help you assess whether the program complements your future financing strategies.

What You´ve Likely Heard Already

OETF is a $250 million direct investment fund administered by the Ontario Capital Growth Corporation (OCGC), announced in February 2009. OETF has been designed as a matching fund for investments in Ontario-based companies, providing syndicate support for qualified investors that have sourced, diligenced and led financings. The Fund will invest $50 million per year during the term of the program, and $100 million will be available for funding over the next 18 months.

OETF will piggybacking on the diligence and pricing efforts of “qualified” investors that participate in an fund-sponsored approval process, and lead syndicated venture capital transactions.

OETF can invest in private companies, the majority of whose: (i) payroll is paid to Ontario employees and contractors, (ii) workforce is working in Ontario, and (iii) senior officers maintain their permanent residence in Ontario. Targets must carry on business in one of the OETF’s recognized industry categories, including clean tech, life sciences, digital media or communications.

The minimum initial investment requires target firms to be raising at least $1 million (including the matching money from the Fund), and will be made on the same deal structure terms as those made available to the qualified investor. The Fund will match the largest qualified investor up to $5 million per round. The OETF has adopted some stylized deal structure requirements for financing rounds where the syndicate relationships are more complex, or where the transaction contemplates a material follow-on investment by the qualified investor, and we would be happy to discuss those at your convenience.

OETF can do follow-on financings, which is terrific, provided that the maximum amount invested in any single target cannot exceed $25 million.

What You Need to Know and Do Now

Get Your Investors Qualified: Any investor, regardless of residence or location and whether an institutional venture capital firm or angel, can become a “Qualified Investor”. In order to seek approval, investors are required to submit an application to the Fund and submit to certain background and other diligence checks regarding the investor and its principals. OETF has engaged Toronto’s Northbridge Capital Management Inc. to administer and support granting these approvals. We have been advised that, once OGCG and Northbridge settle upon the set of administrative and diligence procedures to make these determinations, an application to become a qualified investor will take no longer than 15 days to process. Unfortunately, non-institutional investors (angels) are required to reapply for qualified status for each investment that they make.

Get Your Term Sheet Qualified: In order to submit a proposed transaction for approval, qualified investors are required to submit an application to the Fund. OETF has engaged Toronto’s Covington Capital Corporation in order to administer and support the approval and funding of qualified investments. We strongly suggest that interested parties submit applications for investor qualification at the same time as they pursue investment approval. Since accommodating applications this past July, we understand that the Fund has received more than 200 proposals for investment. We also understand that the Fund has every intent of distributing these Funds as soon as possible. It may very well be that the qualified investors who are first to the post will be the first to reap the rewards of their efforts.

Consolidate Your Angels: The most important limitation of the Fund is that it will only match the investment amount of the qualified investor. This is a real challenge for angel syndicates, but Mr. Marshall’s team has indicated a strong appetite and willingness to consider strategies to consolidate angel investments under a corporate, partnership or trust entity. This should streamline the investor approval process for the affected angels, and by consolidating the Funds to be invested will maximize the OETF’s matching investment in the target.

If You Have A Cross-Border Structure, You’re Still Eligible: Please keep in mind that targets do not themselves need to be Ontario or Canadian companies. If your corporate structure includes a Delaware parent or sister, as with many of our clients’ corporate structures, your qualified investors can still try and access the Fund.

If You are in the IAF Pipeline, Be Mindful of OETF Limitations: There are funding limitations where the target has received substantial concurrent Ontario government contributions, including OCE or IAF (Investment Accelerator Fund) funding. Targets should seek advice regarding these restrictions and how they might the affect the target’s status and eligibility for matching funding pursuant to the OETF.

The Fine Print: What You Should Consider Before Engaging the Fund

The intent is that OETF will act as a passive investor, but like any government-sponsored funding program, there are some traps and challenges to engaging the program.

There are some specific minimum deal terms to be reviewed and incorporated into your investment proposals before they are submitted for approval. More important, OETF investments will be subject to call rights in favour of the Fund should the target lose its Ontario footprint after the date of the investment. This should not affect conventional investment exits, which OETF will review and approve in the ordinary course in its capacity as a shareholder. However, if your firm anticipates near-term growth in its workforce and C-class management in the near term, you should get some advice on how those call rights work. It is similarly unclear as to how such rights will mesh with our venture and bridge loan contracting patterns over the last few years.

Overall, our team remains very bullish on the Fund’s potential for stimulating syndicate formation in Ontario, and we would be happy to assist you in engaging the Fund, and working through its eligibility and approval requirements. Again, please feel free to contact any of our partners via our website athttp://www.lwlaw.com// and we would be happy to assist.

Posted in Financing, Government Funding, LaBarge Weinstein, Law, Misc., Newsletter, Startup, Venture Capital | 1 Comment »

Win $5,000 for your Startup

Posted by Shane McLean on October 5, 2009

The Ottawa Network is running a Startup Boot Camp later in October.   $5,000 is up for grabs for the best developed idea at the end of the process.   Check out the details here and good luck!

Posted in Events, Financing, Misc., Startup, Venture Capital | Leave a Comment »