“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

20141009_141114In May 2012, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg delivered a very inspiring speech to the graduating class of Harvard Business School. Among all precious nuggets of advice, one has stuck with me. It was a conversation she had with Eric Schmidt in 2001, then CEO of Google, as she was contemplating a role there. She wasn’t sure she should take the job. That’s when Schmidt told her the following:

“Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. (…) If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

Ever since I left  my startup Needium, in 2012, I’ve been trying to find that rocket ship and it’s my great pleasure to let you know I’ve finally found it. I’m very excited to announce I will be joining Montreal-based Element AI as a Program Director.

What is Element AI?

Element AI is the platform that will help organizations embrace an AI-first world. Composed of a research lab uniquely connected to the world’s best academic ecosystems (Montreal alone has 150 world-class researchers in various AI topics), Element AI will launch and incubate advanced AI-First solutions in partnership with large corporations.

What’s my role at Element AI?

Program directors are the backbone of Element AI’s innovation projects. I will help the company identify opportunities and package AI-as-a-Service solutions that have maximal impact for our clients. When these solutions take the shape of spin-offs (i.e. when we’ve found a scalable, repeatable business opportunity), program directors will become entrepreneurs-in-residence and, eventually, CEOs of these new ventures.

Buzz!

The company has been generating a lot of buzz since the launch on October 25.

Why I’m excited to join Element AI:

You probably already understand why I’m excited about the opportunity, but here are a few additional bullet points:

  • Working with amazing, world-class founders
  • Having a front-row seat to this new AI-first world
  • Having a key leadership role in a high-potential startup
  • Working in a space that represents a huge, game-changing opportunity
  • Building a robust AI ecosystem in Montreal

The Ask:

  1. We’re looking to add new members to our team (come work with me!):

Find out more about all the various roles here.

2. Work in a large organization and want to partner with Element AI (and me!) on a AI-first project? You can email us at projects@elementai.com. You can also contact me directly at sprovencher AT elementai.com, on LinkedIn or ping me on Twitter.

Advertisements

Needium: Latest Media Coverage and What's Next

The whole Needium team has been extremely busy in the last few weeks with a great opportunity to present in the startup competition of the LeWeb conference in Paris and a trip to the BIA/Kelsey conference in Santa Clara. After trialing Needium in Montreal last summer, we’ve also been busy scaling our operations to support multiple new cities (15+ and growing) and business categories (30+ and growing) in North America and Europe.

For readers that need a refresher on what Needium is all about, my company Praized Media has developed this new social lead generation service that extracts/filters implicit and explicit local needs being expressed in social media and narrows them down to those that are related to specific business categories. Things like “can you recommend a good hotel in Chicago?” or “my car just broke down”.  Based on business categories, we sell a fully-managed service to local advertisers where our community managers, using the Needium dashboard, engage with these people via Twitter, on behalf of advertisers (using the advertiser’s own Twitter account) and convert them to potential leads.

You can watch our presentation/pitch at LeWeb on YouTube. All this recent activity has resulted in excellent media coverage, a subset of which you’ll find below.

In English:

In French:

For people interested, you can always read our complete press coverage on the Needium Web site.

So, what’s next for the Needium team for 2011? Having proven that the product works really well and is delivering positive ROI to our Montreal advertisers, we’re now scaling our local sales efforts and have hired a small team of direct media sales consultants in Montreal to “prototype” the Needium sales process and develop supporting material and metrics. Our sales strategy is to expand geographically outside Montreal (North America and Europe right now) by striking reseller agreements with companies that possess a local sales force. Our work in Montreal will give us solid experience to help our channel partners as they introduce Needium to their advertisers.

We’ve started receiving opportunistic channel inquiries and, in parallel, have been approaching companies we think would have a great “sales” fit for Needium.  These channels include lead generation companies, local search engine marketing (SEM) firms, interactive agencies focused on small businesses, radio, television and local newspapers.  We’ve realized that a social/local/real-time product like Needium fits very well within a sales organization that deals with local advertisers, believes in the social media opportunity and deals with ad products that renew often (daily or weekly).  If you’re interested in discussing Needium reselling opportunities, don’t hesitate to e-mail us at sales@needium.com

All in all, the last few months of 2010 have been very exciting for us. We think 2011 will be even more exciting as we scale our sales and operations and help prove that you can deliver short-term ROI with social media!

A List of Web Analytics / Google Analytics Experts in Montreal

Analytics Image

Flickr picture by Michel Balzer

Following a tweet I sent early yesterday morning to try to build a list of Web Analytics / Google Analytics experts offering their services in Montreal, here are some names of consultants and companies in that field. Please note the following:

  • This list is probably not exhaustive. If I’m missing anyone, I apologize in advance. You can let me know in the comments and I’ll update my post.
  • This is not an endorsement of any of the people/companies on my part, just a alphabetical order list of names (and contact information) that were suggested to me.
  • People privately suggested to me analytics experts that work inside large organizations that do not resell their analytics services. I chose to leave those individual names out of the list to avoid poaching.

1) Adviso (Google Analytics Certified Partners )

2) Adapt or Die Marketing (suggested by Pier-Luc Petitclerc)

3) Bell Web Solutions

4) Eric Baillargeon

5) Cossette / Magnet Search Marketing (Google Analytics Certified Partners )

6) Justin Cutroni (he’s in Burlington, Vermont but that’s close enough to Montreal) (Google Analytics Certified Partner)

7) NVI (Google Analytics Certified Partners )

8 ) Ressac Media (Google Analytics Certified Partners )

  • Their main Web site
  • The description of their analytics offer
  • Contact: @ressacmedia on Twitter or getinfo(AT)ressacmedia.com
  • Address: 305 Bellechasse, # 302, Montréal, 514.843.7029

9) Jacques Warren (WAO Marketing)

10) W.illli.am (Google Analytics Certified Partners)

UPDATE:

As soon as I published my blog post, I got the following suggestions:

11) Herman Tumurcuoglu

12) AT Internet

  • Their main Web site
  • Their analytics product
  • Contact:  Alexandre Métier, alexandre.metier(AT)atinternet.com or Fehmi Fennia, fehmi.fennia(AT)atinternet.com
  • Address: 33 rue Prince, Montréal, 514 658 3571

13) Samuel Lavoie (Google Analytics Individual Qualification)

14) Stéphane Hamel

15) Alistair Croll

16) Sean Power

17) Nofolo

18) DevRun

For the complete list of Google Analytics Certified Partners outside of Montreal (or the latest up-to-date list of Montreal partners), visit the Google Analytics web site.

A Manifesto for Sustainable Web Development

As a startup entrepreneur for the last three years, I’ve had the chance to observe the online scene both locally (Montreal), nationally (Canada) and internationally (US and Europe mostly). I’ve organized and participated in many unconferences and camps (most recently last week at WebCamp Montreal) and I’ve spoken at conferences in Europe, the US and Canada. I’ve met many entrepreneurs all over the world and I’ve coached aspiring ones. I’ve traveled to Silicon Valley countless times and had the opportunity to breathe the air there, trying to identify the various cogs of that ecosystem. I’ve realized that, if the right conditions are present, tremendous value can be created by building Web products.

My perception of the local online industry (Montreal specifically) is that we’re really good at online marketing / communications / advertising and we use this as the main method to generate value. We do build many online products but they end up being used in specific time-sensitive ad campaigns, ephemeral things, and when these ends, these products become orphans. This perception is obviously influenced by my product management background. I’ve been building Web products for more than 10 years and some of the things I’ve created have influenced whole industries and are generating millions of dollars in revenues.

Montreal has all the ingredients to become a hotbed of Web development and startups (I wrote about that a few months ago). After all, we already did it for the videogame industry. There is a lot of money for interactive projects, especially in large organizations, but we’re trying to replicate the old broadcast/advertising model online. There must be a better way to do things.

To re-think the way we work as an industry, I’d like to inspire myself from ecological terms coined in the last few decades: sustainable development and the waste hierarchy (known commonly as the 3Rs, reduce, reuse and recycle). Environmental science learnings can teach us to create more value with less “material”. Based on my personal experience, here is my manifesto for sustainable Web development, to create a better, more innovative, more valuable Web ecosystem.

  1. Think “product”, not “ad campaign”. Use budgets to create things that will last. Think how you can achieve your communication goals by building stuff instead of buying media placement.
  2. Do not re-invent the wheel, Focus on building value on top of existing material. Re-use existing standards. This is how we’re going to accelerate the pace of innovation.
  3. Use open source software. You’d be amazed to see how many technology components are now available in open source. You get access to whole communities when you use those technologies and you speed up innovation.
  4. Leverage existing APIs. You’d be amazed to see how many content and technology components are now available via public APIs. Use them, again, to speed up your development.
  5. Less talk, more build. We love our social time, drinking beers with industry colleagues and imagining a better world. If you want the world to change, go in action mode. Just do it!
  6. Give back. At the end of a project, if you’re not going to reuse the code, open source it. If it’s not going to be used at all, give it back to the community.
  7. Do not focus on “competitors”. The online market is huge and will be so for the next 20 years. Think about disruptive ideas, think about incremental ideas but focus on your business and the opportunities.
  8. Work with other companies. This is the corollary of the last bullet. Can you participate in common projects that will benefit multiple organizations?
  9. Use locally-produced technologies in your projects (when possible). This rewards risk-taking in the local ecosystem.
  10. Share your best practices with others. Blog, speak, be open, You win on execution, not on ideas.
  11. Mentor others. Make sure other people benefit from your experience. Be generous with your time even though that’s probably the most precious resource you have.
  12. Participate in the ecosystem. Attend events, write blog posts, take position on important topics.
  13. Learn from failure and respect those that failed. Silicon Valley folks believe you can learn from failures. Do the same.
  14. Think out of the box. Don’t be afraid of pathways less traveled. Challenge people.
  15. Launch your own company. If you really believe in your ideas and your current professional environment doesn’t allow you to execute them, start your own company.
  16. Listen to builders, innovators and “crazy” people in the industry. They sometimes sound crazy but listen to them. They see things you don’t see.
  17. Create long-lasting value, not short-term results. ‘Nuff said.

Do you agree or disagree with what I wrote down? Have I missed anything? Feel free to leave a comment. This is the beginning of the conversation…

One Hundred Year-Old Location Status Updates

Le Devoir, an independent French language newspaper from Montreal, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Jean Dion, one of their star columnists, wrote an article detailing what you could find in the first and second editions published in January 1910. Of note, the second issue saw the birth of the “Mondanités” column (society gossip). The column mentions the latest weddings and funerals happening in Montreal but I was specifically intrigued by a section called “déplacements” (movements).

Dion writes (loosely translated from French):

… the “movements” section is quite comical when you look at it with the eyes of a modern reader. “Mr. Ovila Perrault from Imperial Tobacco is back from a trip to New York.” “Mr. Omer Marchand, architect, is in Quebec City.” “Mr. Montarville B. de LaBruère jr. is back from a 10-day trip to Sorel”. Nothing more, nothing less.

Wow. And here we thought location-based status updates had been invented by Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or Gowalla. People used to broadcast their trip information in the newspaper! This was certainly done for two reasons: information (i.e. don’t try to reach me, I’m in New York.) and status. The more things change…

Preliminary Agenda for Next Week's Facebook Garage Montreal

I’m part of the organizing committee for the next Facebook Garage Montreal. The bilingual event is happening next Monday at [praized subtype=”small” pid=”96423266cd5145552decb67454b13e4e” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] and is sponsored by Facebook and Intel.

We’ve just released a preliminary agenda.

  • 5pm to 6:30pm: buffet, socializing
  • 6:30pm to 6:45pm: opening remarks – Louise Clements, Head of Sales, Facebook Canada
  • 6:45pm to 7:15pm: first keynote – Hell’s Kitchen: Facebook comme plateforme de jeux vidéos, Emmanuel Delmoly, co-founder Social2U
  • 7:15pm to 7:45pm: Facebook Advertising 101 – speaker to be confirmed
  • 7:45pm to 8:15pm: break
  • 8:15pm to 9:15pm Social Marketing / Facebook Connect
  • 9:15pm to 10:00pm: second keynote – Matt Wyndowe, Facebook (Palo Alto, CA) – Topic to be confirmed

Should be an exciting evening. The event is free and you can register here.

Preliminary Agenda for Next Week's Facebook Garage Montreal

I’m part of the organizing committee for the next Facebook Garage Montreal. The bilingual event is happening next Monday at [praized subtype=”small” pid=”96423266cd5145552decb67454b13e4e” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] and is sponsored by Facebook and Intel.

We’ve just released a preliminary agenda.

  • 5pm to 6:30pm: buffet, socializing
  • 6:30pm to 6:45pm: opening remarks – Louise Clements, Head of Sales, Facebook Canada
  • 6:45pm to 7:15pm: first keynote – Hell’s Kitchen: Facebook comme plateforme de jeux vidéos, Emmanuel Delmoly, co-founder Social2U
  • 7:15pm to 7:45pm: Facebook Advertising 101 – speaker to be confirmed
  • 7:45pm to 8:15pm: break
  • 8:15pm to 9:15pm Social Marketing / Facebook Connect
  • 9:15pm to 10:00pm: second keynote – Matt Wyndowe, Facebook (Palo Alto, CA) – Topic to be confirmed

Should be an exciting evening. The event is free and you can register here.