Hey there, British Columbia entrepreneurs!
My name is Michael Thomas. And BC is where I got my entrepreneurial start. That's why I'm offering all BC companies 50 leads for free ($50 value). Here's a personal story about how Vancouver shaped me as an entrepreneur. (If you're too busy to read this post the tl;dr is that I love BC, and the sign up form is here)
Startup weekend 2012
!In the Fall of 2012 I was a freshman (errr.. first year) at The University of British Columbia. And I was an idea guy. I had so many ideas coming out of my head, I drove all my classmates crazy. But the problem was that I had no way to bring these ideas to life. One day I realized that I needed to write a business plan if I was ever going to follow through on one of these ideas. So I signed up for what I thought was a business plan workshop: Startup Weekend.
It turned out Startup Weekend wasn't a business plan workshop, and my life was about to take a drastic turn of events.
Over the course of that weekend my teammates and I brought the idea for JumpSeat to life. The concept was an Uber for private jets. For every private flight there was an "empty leg" since planes had to return to the airport they flew from. We pitched the idea and something amazing happened: we won.
So there I was, an 18 year old idea guy with a whole lot of confidence and some new skills to my name. I learned how to do customer development, work with a team, and pitch investors (thanks for all the coaching, Peter!)
As I walked back to my dorm on West Mall Road that night I realized that weekend would mark a turning point in my life. That was the first time I considered the fact that maybe I would drop out of college, and maybe I could bring my ideas to life.
By the Spring of 2013 I was so ready to get out of school I made any excuse to miss class. One night I made a bet with my friend. I told him I could conduct customer development interviews with 25 professors in one day. I figured that in those conversations I would find an idea worth pursuing in the education space.
Many professors I spoke with were very kind. Some welcomed me into their office to complain about broken grading systems or complain about the amount of emails they receive every day. Other professors weren’t so kind. One man I spoke with asked what class the project was for. When I told him that it was not related to school, he made a fuss and told me to leave his office immediately. Oh, academia.
At 4pm I spoke with the 25th professor. But on my way back to the dorms I decided to make one last effort. Up until that point I had nothing to show for five hours of customer development interviews. When I walked into the Teacher Education office at UBC that changed. “Ya, apps. We’re looking into that stuff. The guy you need to talk to is John Yamamoto,” I was told at the front desk.
Three months later I had two paying customers, a team, and a swanky office in Gastown (shout out to Launch Academy!)
I have so many amazing memories from Vancouver, and I think the majority of them were of my time at Launch Academy. It was such a liberating feeling to take the bus from UBC's campus to Gastown and work on something of my own. I recall waking up at 7am regularly excited for the first time in my life.
The cool office, legal beer, and beautiful natural scenery were all amazing, but the thing that keeps Vancouver in my heart is the people I met. It always amazed me that people would go out of their way to help me. Entrepreneurs like Jesse Heaslip, and Alex Chuang taught me the fundamentals of business. They taught me about competitive advantage, how to define your company's value proposition, and how to develop a business model.
Thanks to all the amazing entrepreneurs and advisors that made Vancouver such a formative place in my life. I wish you all the best in everything you do. Continue to foster the community and teach young people to start companies instead of going to work for Deloitte.
Now, here's what you all actually wanted in the first place... Free leads for all BC entrepreneurs!