Free database offers details on Canadian startups

Tired of the astronomical fees charged by venture capitalist databases, a Canadian software developer has decided to do something about it, and started recently the non-profit Web site,

The online resource is a place where both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists can post their information, whether it be what their company is about, or where they’d like to ideally invest their dollars. “It’s good to have information in a centralized place that people can easily access,” said Chris Long, who led the project.

So far, the site has already gathered 125 entrepreneurs and 30 investors in a month, just via word-of-mouth, and several people have already seen some opportunities arise from the database. Access to it is completely free, and Long intends to keep the service as a non-profit set-up. “Personally, I see its strength coming from the fact that it is community-based,” he said.

StartUpNorth blog founder Jevon MacDonald agreed. “There’s all that data that people are forced to pay $10,000 to get access to, but the (database) companies are really just packaging back the data that the start-ups and venture capitalists give them,” he said. “They decide what data should be hidden. We think that everyone should be able to look at it and make a decision for themselves about what the data is saying to them. We want to give the power to the people like us.”

“We wanted to be more open,” said Long.

He’s aiming for more of a community vibe, where the investors and the start-ups can chat and collaborate. When it comes to the tech investment community, this cuddly approach isn’t widespread yet, but it’s on its way, said Long. He pointed to famed Canadian venture capitalist Rick Segal’s recent cross-country tour, where he met with many start-ups, and the sessions around better openness at recent start-up conferences and events, like the Canadian Venture Capitalist Association one going down in Montreal this week.

“Canada has one of the highest concentrations of small and medium-sized businesses worldwide, so it is encouraging that they have somewhere to collaborate—it’s a great boon to them,” according to former Canadian Information Processing Society president and current startup consultant Stephen Ibaraki.

Said MacDonald, who has been helping with the project: “It goes back to the reason why I started StartUpNorth—there’s a lot of entrepreneurs with high-growth scaleable companies, and they know that there’s others out there, but there’s no conversation.”

And it’s the smart venture capitalists who will get chummy with the entrepreneurs early on, according to MacDonald. “That way, you hear about things quickly,” he said.

The entrepreneurs win, too, by cozying up to the venture capitalists, according to Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance president John Reid. He said, “The more they know, they more likely they are to take a risk with them.”

Future plans for the site include more graphics, such as charts presenting information, along with service provider listings of start-up-friendly professionals like lawyers and accountants. And, eventually, said Long, he’d like to incorporate some social aspects to the site that would allow users to communicate more directly and network with each other.

In the end, getting the ideas together with the money, and then having the remaining successful companies and venture capitalists accessible via the growing entrepreneurial community, said Reid, could result in a rise in Canada’s innovation profile: “It should make for a shorter time for other to get their businesses to the next level.”

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