Booted Out of Bootup Labs
It is with great disappointment that I announce that Statusly has been removed from the Vancouver’s Bootup Labs Startup Accelerator.
Bootup Labs seemed to be an excellent opportunity. Come last fall Steven and I were looking around at all these different seed accelerator/startup-incubator type companies to try to submit our idea to. I submitted it and recorded a personal video for several. Off the top of my head, I remember applying to Y-Combinator in San Fransisco, Alphalab in Pittsburgh, Gangplank in Phoenix, Techstars in Boulder and Vancouver’s Bootup Labs.
We had gotten into several different portions of each application process but we knew that we had a real shot at two of these programs, one of them being Bootup.
There were a couple of things that made Bootup stand out from the other programs:
- The other programs offer anywhere from $5,000 - $15,000 per founder and 3-6 months to get you going for anywhere from 2-10% of your company. Bootup offered up to $100,000 for an 8 month program for the same 5-10% of each company invested in.
- Several very lucrative Canadian business incentives, such as the SR&ED tax incentive.
- Arguably the most beautiful city in the world and the excitement of living in a different country.
Near the end of Thanksgiving week we were asked to interview. I wanted to make a good impression - as I felt this was really going to work. In 48 hours I spent a day driving down to Tucson to the Southwest Regional Passport center, applied for and received a passport, flew to Portland, Oregon, slept on the floor of the airport in Oregon, and then interviewed in a rainy Vancouver, BC the next day.
The interview went very well. I got to meet some of the mentors and most of the previous cohort that Bootup had taken in just recently (that are now graduating.) I felt a real connection to Boris Mann, especially, as I’m a big community person myself. It wasn’t just the people though, I felt truly connected to the city itself. Vancouver is wonderful.
Last December was a long one, waiting to hear what our future was going to be. Having other accelerators ask us what we were doing, if we were interested, the waiting was crazy.
We recieved that email that every young entrapaneur waits for and were told we were accepted. I remember getting the call from Steven.
"Jamie.. Jamie.. can you check your email? Is that what I think it is? I’m on my iPhone.. I can’t read the attachment"
“Steven, we got in!”
"Oh my god"
“I don’t even know what to say, I’ll talk to you later..”
Everything that we had worked for, seemed like it was paying off. I had been living my life inspired by one of Gary Vaynerchuk's videos where he said that if you have an idea, you work on it as much as you need to. You work your 9-to-5 job, you come home, pet the dog, then you work on it until you fall asleep. Then you wake up and you do the same thing the next day. That's what Steven and I had been doing. We finally had that validated, and were more-than-eager to get started and get to work.
Not much paperwork was done at that moment, we were told by them in regards to immigration: “Get up here, and we’ll sort things out.” We entered into a basic non-binding agreement and then both of us spent what little money we already hadn’t put into the company itself, into moving to Canada. I had moved from Phoenix, and Steven had moved from Kansas City. We had two suitcases with our entire life in them, and maybe $500 between us.
The first meeting we have we’re informed there had been a slight snafu with the funding, but that all would be taken care of.
We proceed to work on Statusly, on everything, on our pitch, our code, our t-shirts, our everything… we met Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, Dave Shea, Matt Galligan, Eric Woodward, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting.
We get an apartment and sleep on the floor for months while we patiently waited for money that wasn’t coming.
It’s Thursday, March 25th. The end of the month is next Wednesday. Danny Robinson calls us into his office and tells us what we were so scared was going to happen, he tells us that they weren’t able to secure as much money as they originally anticipated. Basically that they’re really embarrassed, that they’re going to have to let us go. We then immedietly go into survival mode. Are we going to be able to pay next month’s rent? Is Bootup going to cover any of our costs?
We’re told that the good news of the situation is the 3 months of rent they had provided us with would not be asked for, but other than that that there was nothing they could do. We had 3-4 business days to get a job, or some sort of plan to try to stay in Canada. Sink or swim.
Steven and I had a couple interviews, but nothing panned out. Not much you can do with that time frame, especially when you’re trying to figure out how the hell you’re going to fly home with your entire life packed with you, and a bank account that’s been negative since January.
That’s where the situation stands now. I’m living in Phoenix now, and Steven is in the Pacific Northwest.
There are several good things that we learned while we were there. What we thought was going to be the rest of our lives in Vancouver ended up being a crash course 3-month “Startup Experience.” I know that Steven and I are both better for the experience, but I’d say that it’s screwed me up pretty bad financially for the next year or so. I have thousands of dollars worth of receipts I’m just going to have to count as a loss now.
We’re not the only ones. 4 out of the 7 companies in the most current “cohort” were kicked out. Big things happened for all seven original companies to make the move to Vancouver: We had a girl drive from Washington, DC in a trailer, we had 3 guys fly from Romania, we had a guy quit a high-paying job in Australia. Vehicles were sold, girlfriends/boyfriends were broken up with, for this oppertunity to have to happen. You’d do the same for your startup.
Steven and I have “broken up” for now as we try to pick things up where we left off, but there’s a big lesson to be learned here.
If you’re a Startup, and you’ve been accepted into one of these incubators, be sure to get some sort of paperwork done where money is provided, or proof of income is shown, or something. No matter how nice the people seem, and how badly your heart wants your business to succeed, don’t get yourself into a similar grey-area/possibly unethical situation.
To recoup some of my losses I’m looking into selling the Statusly domains (status.ly/statusly.com) and any of the marketing material. If you’re interested in buying them, I’ve listed them on Flippa.
Because to be honest with all of you, I have no idea what my next step is.
Edit: I just wanted to add that I have no hard feelings for Bootup Labs, for Danny, Boris, or anybody we met, I don’t think it’s anything intentional they did. But there are lessons to be learned from what happened from our situation.
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