One indication of a strengthening startup ecosystem is when past founders start new companies. Even if those previous companies weren’t successful (although that certainly helps!), it’s a good sign when entrepreneurs keep trying. Another good sign is when startup employees decide to make the leap into startup founders. In fact, I think this is even more important to a small, but growing startup community, because it creates more entrepreneurs.
And today I’m pleased to point you to two guys – Marc-Andre Cournoyer and Gary Haran – that have done exactly that, moving from startup employees to startup founders. They’ve just announced the official launch of Talker, which they describe as “fast, intuitive and extensible group chat.”
Marc-Andre and Gary used to be employees of Standout Jobs. Marc-Andre was the first person we ever hired. We told both guys when we hired them that our intention was to help them learn about running a startup (versus just working at one), so that one day they would go off and so so themselves. Part of Standout’s culture was to create “startup children”. Inasmuch as it’s disappointing to no longer be actively working with these guys, it’s great to see them break out on their own.
You can’t really know what running a startup is like unless you actually do it.
So congrats to Marc-Andre and Gary for making the leap!
A few things I like about Talker and how they did things:
- Launched quickly. It’s been just about 3 months and they’ve already launched. They previously had gone through a beta period of at least a month if not more as well. That means they got the product into people’s hands very quickly.
- Scratched their own itch. They built Talker to address some of the issues they saw with other group chat applications, especially for developers. So they’ve targeted a few key differentiators such as feeds and plugins. This gives them added motivation and focus in terms of a target market.
- Launched with paying plans. They’re out of the gate with paying plans. That’s a bold move for a web startup where most people expect everything for free.
- API available. One of their key value propositions is the availability of an API. You can’t devalue the importance of APIs and 3rd party development for most web startups these days. Just look at what happened with Twitter, and what we’re now seeing with others such as Foursquare. When you give people (who are passionate about your startup and product) access to make it better for themselves and others, you’re heading in the right direction.
- Documentation & support. They’ve launched with a support infrastructure in place including some documentation and discussions. This isn’t overly robust for now, but it will grow over time as a critical resource for them. A 2-person startup can’t answer every question or handle every request. You need to drive people to a place where they can interact, get information and feel as if they’re being provided with a high level of support. And, at some point, a support system like this hits a critical mass where the community takes over and drives it.
- Built their brands. Both guys have invested in their personal brands for a few years. This was also something that we encouraged a great deal at Standout Jobs. Marc-Andre has launched numerous projects with a great deal of success. Both guys participate actively in the local startup community. The personal brand building that both guys have done (and will continue to do) will help drive momentum, interest and support in Talker. Had they launched Talker without any personal brand whatsoever they would not have gotten as many beta sign-ups and buzz.
Go check out Talker.
I expect over the next year or two we’re going to see a lot more startup children emerge in Montreal, as past startups evolve, get acquired or shut down. This will create new opportunity for past startup founders, but also encourage and drive more startup employees to take the plunge and create their own companies. That’s one key part to building a strong startup ecosystem.