My good friend Scott Annan recently launched a startup accelerator in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The idea behind it was so interesting that I asked Scott if he would be up for doing an interview with me on the subject.
Please do pass this interview to anyone who is in a startup in Ottawa!
Interview with Scott Annan on Mercury Launch
The Twitterverse is abuzz right now with talk of your new project – Mercury Launch. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?
Mercury Launch is a startup accelerator for web and mobile (tech) entrepreneurs where they spend 3-4 months working in a shared work space, receive $25,000 in funding, have access to dozens of experienced mentors, and can launch their product on a global stage. It’s hard starting your first company, and Mercury Launch helps entrepreneurs accelerate the process by providing them with the necessary ingredients to launch their product.
Where did the idea come from?
Y combinator is probably the best known accelerator program and our program is largely based on their format. However, the idea is also born from the experience I’ve had and my fellow startup entrepreneurs in Ottawa have had launching products. With a supportive program like Mercury Launch, founders can expect to shave years off their product development and financing roadmap.
Why do you think Ottawa needs an accelerator like this?
Ottawa has an amazing amount of web and mobile talent and startup successes – and its an amazing place to live. And although we have a lot of success – think of Shopify, Protus IP, TravelPod, Gazaro, Select Start Studios, Macadamian, and recently DNA Genotek (sold for $53M!) – we don’t have the funding base, the buzz, or the recognition that we deserve compared to other cities… and our startup ecosystem – and people’s confidence – suffers as a result.
Mercury Launch is the first step in creating some financing, building a stronger entrepreneur community, and creating a global launch pad for new entrepreneurs. We all benefit from working together as a community and I expect additional funding to follow from it.
What type of startups is Mercury Launch looking for? Any particular characteristics that the applying companies should have?
The teams need to be talented, ambitious (change world!), and tenacious. Their focus needs to be product-based in web software or mobile applications. They need to be able to launch something (or create a new version) within 3 months.
What is REALLY considered a startup? Ie: I can’t apply being 7 years in business… just because I want the sweet office space, right?
Loosely defined, its a company that hasn’t “nailed it” yet. It’s not necessarily a timing issue. You can apply anytime, but unless you’re focused on product and tech, then you probably won’t be accepted. But you can visit anytime
What are you looking for in your mentors / advisors for Mercury Launch?
Scars, bruises, stories about going for it and what happened. A large network. Connections in specific channels. The willingness to share their experiences and make introductions and help other people thrive – not “take over”.
What is one piece of advice you would give to startups (whether applying to the accelerator or not)?
Think bigger. Make sure what you’re working on is important on a personal level (you’ll spend a lot of time on it!). Quit (very) slowly – adapt (very) quickly.
Last question, what are some of the other projects you’re working on?
We’re building social innovation into our WebCollaboration.com project which is extremely exciting for me and the team. NetworkHippo.com is another project that is close to my heart and we’re making some pretty amazing improvements right now there too.
Okay, REAL last question, where can people find you on the web?
Last, last, question… favorite sandwich?
Shwartz’s Smoked Meat.