Getting ready for Startupfest


I’m headed to Montreal’s Old Port for three days of craziness around startups, entrepreneurship, and investment. It’s the second year of this festival—an outgrowth of organizer Phil Telio’s wildly successful Startupcamps—and it promises to be a lot of fun.

The excitement and speculation around the conference is palpable, and not just because of sky-high public markets and lucrative Canadian exits (like the recent $76M acquisition of Halifax-based GoInstant by No, there’s a sense of possibility in the eyes of entrepreneurs. And much of this is because of cloud computing.

Clouds are a great equalizer. Once, industry incumbents competed on scale and size, and their access to capital and resources. A big bank could lend more money because it could analyze risk on more computers. Capital meant power. And that meant startups needed capital, which in turn meant they needed investors, and they lost control.

But by turning an asset into a utility, clouds have transformed the startup equation. It’s trivial to try something out—not just on rented metal, but through curated Minimum Viable Products and other lean strategies. Marketing uses Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Youtube; finance is replaced by Paypal; and so on.

The exuberance that startups descending on Montreal this week show comes from their sense of being able to test an idea without selling their souls beforehand. For investors, this means an elimination of risk earlier in the investment cycle; for entrepreneurs, this means earlier validation (or repudiation) of their ideas.

Ultimately, clouds mean we don’t build things nobody wants. And that’s good for everyone.

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