Posts Tagged: Vancouver

The untapped Open Data opportunity: who will unlock government data?

I’m fascinated by the Open Data movement, particularly when it comes to government where the concept of open data hinges on the belief that data is a public asset – just like highways and parks – and should be made available to all.

We’ve already seen compelling examples of people hacking into this available data for the public good. For example, at the recent Open Data Day here in Vancouver, projects ranged from a visualization of Vancouver’s budget to an analysis of test scores at local schools. One project even took Vancouver’s open elevation data to recreate the city in MineCraft.

Making data available, discoverable, and usable will help improve the effectiveness of governments, strengthen our democracy, as well as create opportunities to improve everyone’s quality of life. Open data encourages innovation from both the inside and outside:

  • Innovation from the outside: Putting information in the hands of the public makes it possible for innovative citizens and companies to create groundbreaking solutions and improvements to some of the biggest challenges facing the community. For example, on a small scale, one website monitors and analyzes Vancouver’s bike accidents, revealing the trend that bike accidents decline along roads with bike lanes and increase where bike lanes end.
  • Innovation from the inside: When government data is accessible and easily usable, other governments and government agencies are able to compare experiences and share best practices. Although government data is public today, most state and city governments do not readily share information. The Open Data movement can unlock this data, so local governments don’t necessarily have to recreate the wheel. They can look at examples and models of what has already worked.

Where are the start-ups to take on this opportunity?

Making data publicly available is just a first step. In order for the Open Data movement to truly bring about change in government, that data needs to be searchable, discoverable, and usable. But so far companies have mainly focused on helping governments transform data (usually financial data) into actionable information. For example, there’s OpenGov, Open Data Soft, and Junar.

In addition to these players, we need applications and websites that put the data into something useful for both governments and citizens – whether by visualization, integration, or notification. We need a company that can take all the existing public datasets and make them accessible and comparable through a single platform… similar to what Clever does in education. It’s an incredible opportunity to make a significant difference: the question is who will lead the way?

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Announcing our latest investment: Clio

At version one, we are big believers in the vertical SaaS opportunity. Small to mid-sized businesses have long been underusing technology. A mobile-first approach, combined with a laser-like focus on a specific vertical, can create the right toolset to help SMBs achieve huge productivity gains (I wrote about this nearly a year ago for TechCrunch).

That’s why I’m excited to announce our new investment. Clio is the leader in providing legal practice management software in the cloud. 80 percent of the legal market is made up of solo practitioners and small firms. These professionals have little support staff and no IT department…meaning they’re typically overwhelmed with all the administrative parts of their business.  That’s where Clio comes in. They’ve moved all of practice management to the cloud, including time tracking, invoicing, case management, client contact, etc.

Over the past two years, I’ve been sitting on Clio’s board for ActonCapital (who led Clio’s Series B). Over that time, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the ambition of the two founders, Jack Newton and Rian Gauvreau, as well as their amazing customer and product focus. While the legal industry has been slower to keep pace with technological advancements, it’s definitely ripe for disruption – and smaller firms are quicker to adopt new tools than larger ones. Clio now joins fellow vertical SaaS companies in the V1 portfolio, including Front Desk (scheduling/client management) and Jobber (field service).

Leading this round is Bessemer Venture Partners, with Trevor Oeschlig and Brian Feinstein joining Clio’s board. I’ll be remaining on Clio’s board for Acton and am looking forward to helping Jack and Rian build an even more impressive company and product.

Please join me in officially welcoming Jack, Rian, and their entire team to the version one community.

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We’re hiring an analyst!

It has been almost a year since the initial launch of Version One Ventures and the first 12 months have been very busy with about a dozen Seed and Series A investments. So it is time to get some help to manage the fund and I am excited to announce that Version One is hiring an analyst.

The analyst position is a two- to three-year role where you will learn about what the venture capital business is all about and get the chance to work with some interesting startups. The primary responsibility of the analyst is to help manage the day-to-day activities of the fund, including:

  • Helping to identify new and interesting entrepreneurs and companies in the 3 focus areas of the fund (e-commerce, SaaS, marketplaces/platforms)
  • Performing market research and due diligence for potential investments (interviewing customers/users, testing products and services, and/or financial modeling)
  • Helping with reporting for our investors, including writing quarterly updates and preparing LP advisory board meetings
  • Working with existing portfolio companies, including helping out with hiring, financial modeling, and research
  • Executing projects of your own direction that help Version One and/or our portfolio companies

We’re looking for someone who demonstrates:

  • Native understanding of the ecosystem of web and mobile products
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Good product instincts – you get what a great web or mobile product is made of
  • Strong interpersonal skills – you’ll often be talking to entrepreneurs and other investors
  • Good Excel modeling skills
  • Ideally, prior design or programming experience or work in an investment or internet-related position

As Version One is investing across North-America and has portfolio companies from New York to Seattle, Los Angeles to Toronto, you should also be excited about travelling and “airbnb’ing”.

If you’re interested in the position, please send me an email at bwertz [at] versiononeventures [dot] com. Your email should contain 2 things:

First, I am looking for links that represent you. Linkedin is good but I am generally more interested to understand how you think and what you do: your Twitter account, your blog, a website you built, a project you helped. Second, I would like to get your take on 3 questions: “Why do you want to work at Version One Ventures?”, “Which web and mobile products most inspire you and why?”, and “What is the biggest insight you recently had about start-ups?”. Please limit your answers to 2-3 sentences per question.

Applications are open until Friday, June 21. The position is available immediately and is based in Vancouver, B.C.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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What does a Venture Partner do?

Most people know me as an early-stage investor in now over 30 internet companies through w media ventures and more recently, as a co-founder of the Vancouver-based start-up accelerator GrowLab. Lesser known is the fact that I also work as a venture partner for Munich-based Acton Capital. So what does a venture partner actually do?

Venture Partners are not full partners of a VC firm (who can write cheques for investments) but are usually brought in by a partnership to find new investment opportunities and manage portfolio companies. This is exactly my role with Acton Capital – while the fund is primarily focused on European investments, my role is to help with North-American deal flow. At the beginning of the week we announced our first deal on this side of the pond, a $6 million Series B investment in cloud-based legal management platform Clio. I am very excited to join the board of the company and work with the two founders Jack Newton and Rian Gauvreau to help build their company.

So as an entrepreneur, if you work with a venture partner of a VC firm, you need to understand his/her role. One the upside, venture partners are usually seasoned entrepreneurs and executives that have generally a deep understanding of your space and your company. At the same time, they are not the ones writing the cheques which might lead to complications in the investment process as they have to build internal support for the deal.


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Demo Day

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Image by miketippett via Flickr

Today is GrowLab‘s first demo day with the 5 companies from the first cohort showing to over 50 investors what they have worked on since mid August. I am incredibly proud of all of the teams – they worked very, very hard for this moment and I have no doubt that all of them will nail their pitches today.

Reflecting on the past few months with the GrowLab companies, I am reminded of a few things:

  • Never ever underestimate the power of a strong and engaged network of mentors – especially as first-time entrepreneurs you can avoid an incredible amount of pitfalls if you get the right advice as the right time.
  • Never ever underestimate the power of a great pitch – most entrepreneurs don’t spend enough time creating (and telling) the story of why their start-up is worthwhile investing into. A great pitch doesn’t get created over night but is the result of many, many refinements, trial pitches and feed-back loops. Don’t treat it as a side project, it is one of the most important things a CEO should focus on.
  • And last but not least, never ever underestimate the power of a platform that elevates you above the noise of the ever increasing start-up activity – we have seen an explosion of the numbers of start-ups in the past couple of years and it is becoming more and more important to find ways to break through the noise and leave a mark. Accelerators with a good reputation are probably the best platform to do so these days.
The past few months have not only been a lot of work for the cohort companies but also for the GrowLab team – and it is with a lot of excitement and pride that we send off our cohort companies into a post accelerator life today. Good luck, everybody – this should only be the start for all of you!



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