Posted in entrepreneurial, Interview Transcripts, Vancouver

Candid Interview with Boris Mann of Bootup Labs. #1 advice to students: “Get off your a$$ and just do it!

I had the privilege of interviewing Boris Mann of Bootup Labs on why students don’t know about Bootup, why some might be scared of him, and his number one advice for student entrepreneurs.

To his credit, this was spur of the moment and he didn’t have time to prepare. For zero preparation time, his answers were pretty darn good. Here’s his top, number 1 advice to student entrepreneurs:

My lovely wife, Vicki, typed up a transcript of the entire interview which you can check at the end of this post for those of us who don’t have time to watch the four minute interview. So kudos to her! Here’s the full interview:

For those who are like me and don’t even want to read a transcript to find the main points, here they are:

Jon’s summary FAQ of the Boris Mann Interview for people who just want the info

Who’s Boris?
He’s the Mann. Entrepreneur. Venture Capitalist. Co-founder of Bootup Labs with Danny Robinson.

What’s Bootup Labs?
It’s Canada’s first seed accelerator.

What does that mean?
They take co-founders from “zero to fundable.” I.e. Applicants apply and if they chose your company, they’ll bring you in to their offices for 8 months and bring you the mentors and resources you need to create a successful, “fundable” company. To start you off, they’ll provide “seed” funding starting @ $50 000 for 5% of your company’s equity.

Why is Boris doing this?
He’s solving his own problem for others in what he likes to call “things that build things”, ie. a platform.

Boris: “[When I started my first company,] I didn’t have a lot of the infrastructure around me, thats why we’re trying to put together with Bootup. So I learned a lot of things the hard way. It was painful and it was hard and I wish I had had more money more mentorship more funding and a bunch of things like that.”

What is Boris’ #1 advice to students entrepreneurs?”
Just do it.

Excuse me?

Boris: “get off your ass and just do it.”

Sure, but what does this mean practically?

Boris: “Do you have a blog? Do you have a twitter account? Do you have a business card? Do you go out and network with people? Are you trying to find founders? Are you trying to build your business.”

Well, no.
And I say, “Well, why not?”
So go and do these things. And start talking about what you’re passionate about and what you want to do. It’s maybe cheesy, but literally, “get off your ass and just do it.”

What does Boris say when told the few students who have heard of him are scared of him?

Boris: In some ways, that’s an initial filter. People are like, “Oh no, we can’t.. our precious little idea, they’ll kick the snot out of it. I can’t go and talk about my idea cause they’ll laugh at me our bad stuff will happen.”

Well, does Boris kick the snot out of it?

Boris: [If you don’t tell us your ideas], we can’t tell you good things either or we can’t connect you with someone that might be able to help you. Or we can’t talk about a mentor or perhaps about an idea close to yours. So the only way is to share it. I’m happy to talk to people about ideas. I don’t have unlimited time. I’m happy to give you half and hour and talk about your idea. And i try to have everyone come out of a meeting with a next connection or some suggestions on what they may be able to do next

What other ways are there to get Boris’ attention?

Boris: “Other than that, a best way to impress me is to show that you’ve already done stuff. And the biggest thing is to try it with customer development. Try and get people to pay for your product or try and go do research. It’ll cost you zero money for you to go after a small business market and go talk to them.

What impresses Boris the most?

Boris: What impresses me more [than a 50 page business plan] is a single, well-written blog post that talks about what you want to do and what you’re passionate about. If you can’t even talk about what you’re passionate about and share it on the internet , how do you think you’re going to deal with the internet business?

Should I connect with Boris if I don’t have a blog?

Boris: If you haven’t done a blog post and you don’t have it at a url somewhere then I can’t share it with anyone else. So give me an idea in a form that makes it easy for other people to connect with it.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jon:  Startup-heroes.com.  Boris Mann of Bootup Labs, the man.  You hear a lot about him here we have an exclusive interview with him. Boris Mann, who are you, why do we hear so much about you? What is Bootup Labs, tell me?

Boris: So, Bootup Labs is the company I co-founded with Danny robinson. It’s Canada’s first seed accelerator.

Basically, part of the thinking was a start up that I’d done here in Vancouver, which was my sort of first internet digital start up, I didn’t have a lot of the infrastructure around me that we’re trying to put together with Boot Up.  So I learned a lot of things the hard way.  It was painful and it was hard and I wish I had had more money more mentorship more funding and a bunch of things like that.

When I sat down, I sold my last company and it wasn’t as big of a success as I would have wanted it to be. And a lot of the stuff that I had been doing was doing bar camps and demo camps and other sorts of community camps and growing the ecosystem from the ground up.  So when I was looking at what I wanted to do next.. I’m a big fan of things that build things.. Some people call them platforms, right?  So we ended up doing Bootup Labs which is basically like a beta start up.   It itself is a start up which is booting up and helping other start ups get built.  So the thing that it builds, it’s product, is startups and a stronger, more powerful start up ecosystem.

Jon:  Which is what startup-heroes is passionate about and what we’re trying to do to for students.

Boris: Fantastic.  So, the biggest advice that I give to people all the time (it’s actually more than one thing)

So first of all, a lot of people come and say “Hey You’ve done some stuff, you’ve looked at a lot of things. What do you think of my idea?” And I might have some suggestions on how to do things differently or I may have learned a few things like, “this works well, or this work better. But fundamentally the only people that are going to tell you that is the market and  your customers.  So the only way to do it and learn those things is to just do it.  So they say, “Aw, I don’t know how to get started!”  Do you have a blog? Do you have a twitter account? Do you have a business card? Do you go out and network with people? Are you trying to find founders? Are you trying to build your business.  And the answer is usually “Well, no.”   And I say, “Well, why not?”  So go and do these things.  And start talking about what you’re passionate about and what you want to do.  It’s maybe cheesy, but literally, “get off your ass and just do it.”

Jon:  So your challenge to students, your number one advice is “just do it.”

Boris:  “Just do it.”

Jon: And Boris, students that have heard of you, the one or two in campuses who have heard of Bootup Labs, Bootup and what they actually do is scared of you. What would you say to that?

Yeah, well I mean, you know what? In some ways, that’s an initial filter.  People are like,  “Oh no, we can’t.. our precious little idea, they’ll kick the snot out of it.  I can’t go and talk about my idea cause they’ll laugh at me our bad stuff will happen.” (pause.)  We can’t tell you good things either or we can’t connect you with someone that might be able to help you.  Or we can’t talk about a mentor or perhaps about an idea close to yours.  So the only way is to share it.  I’m happy to talk to people about ideas.  I don’t have unlimited time.  I’m happy to give you half and hour and talk about your idea.  And i try to have everyone come out of a meeting with a next connection or some suggestions on what  they may be able to do next.  Other than that, a best way to impress me is to show that you’ve already done stuff.  And the biggest thing is to try it with customer development. Try and get people to pay for your product or try and go do research.  It’ll cost you zero money for you to go after a  small business market and go talk to them.

Jon:  So do you think that’s where people are getting the disconnect from because you feel like they have to show you what they’ve done first.

Boris:  Probably they think a lot about it as exams or terms or other stuff like that that you have to show a really big, a 50 page business plan.  What impresses me more  is a single, well-written blog post that talks about what you want to do and what you’re passionate about. If you can’t even talk about what you’re passionate about and share it on the internet , how do you think you’re going to deal with the internet business?

Jon:  Wow, is that quotable, Boris?

Boris:  Absolutely

Jon:  So If i have an idea and I haven’t done a blog post, I haven’t done anything, you don’t want me talking to you yet. Is that right?

Boris:  If you haven’t done a blog post and you don’t have it at a url somewhere then I can’t share it with anyone else.  You’ve given it to me and I then have to remember to talk to people one on one.  Which is not an efficient broadcast. If you share an idea, add a url, I can put it on a twitter account.  I can say “Hey, I remember this thing, it’s at this url, go and check it out.”  I can share it with other people and the idea gets spread.  So give me an idea in a form that makes it easy for other people to connect with it.

Jon: Awesome.  Thank you Boris.  Startup-heroes.com.

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Author:

Jon Chui (pronounced "chew") has been building iOS/Android apps for the last 7 years, the last 3 working on Google Maps, Inbox by Gmail and Google's Search App. Though he grew up in a Christian family and to parents who would end up giving up their 25 years of hard-earned comforts/affluence in Canada to go back to China as missionaries when he was 14, being a Christian was always in his head, and he would constantly struggle with trying to unify the sacred and the secular - until last year. However, through a radical transformation[https://jonchui.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/a-copy-of-my-last-email-before-leaving-google/] @ work last year (which he can't take ANY credit for), he & his wife & 2 young boys have decided to leave Google, sell/donate everything they have so to serve the poor & marginalized with Jesus’ love as missionaries with YWAM.org's Family DTS in Kona, hawaii then to the Philippines. Read more about their family journey @ vickiandjon.com, and reach out to him @ jon@jonchui.com If you're a recruiter with freelance jobs or have tech projects for jon feel free to reach out to him jobs@jonchui.com -

5 thoughts on “Candid Interview with Boris Mann of Bootup Labs. #1 advice to students: “Get off your a$$ and just do it!

  1. Excellent, I was looking for something along the lines of this. I was wondering, do you think newsletters are still an great way of marketing online? Does anybody still use them well and actually acquire readers?

    Appreciate the help!
    Lauren

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for dropping by!

      You don’t have to look very far to see that Newsletters are indeed still a great marketing tool, when done properly. There are some startups, like Thrillist, that are using ONLY email and the Vancouver startup digest I curate is part of a worldwide phenomenon that is now in over 40 cities and over 40 000 subscribers who receive an email every week with information on the best startup events in their city!

      It all boils down to providing clear, direct value in the newsletters! Glad to see mailmascot taking off soon! Hopefully, you can add some real value to the online marketing & newsletter front. All the best!

    1. Cool Jessi. You should totally do your research – i guess at the end of the day, he’s saying you can research all you want but until you try it out you’ll never really know.

      Any update on your status? Keep me up to date! Would love to hear!

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