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BarCamp

I’ve been ridiculously remiss in blogging and tech-activity organization these days. I have no defense other than to say that at this moment, the best contribution I can make to the Montreal tech community is to ensure that Standout Jobs becomes a success; so all of my energies (and more) are going there.

However, compared to just one year ago, the community has come very far indeed. Just take a look at all the tech events that are happening this week in Montreal:

This reminds me of all the activity that goes on in Silicon Valley, where there are events like this every day of the week. This tells me that Montreal is really approaching Silicon Island every day.

Now, the only thing left is for a few of the most promising startups in Montreal to make big splashes, and we’ll be there!

And so, gentlemen, as they say in my native tongue, 加油!

(To keep up with upcoming Tech Events, be sure to check the events list posted on Montreal Tech Watch)

Long time no blog… I’ve been just swamped with standoutjobs.com matters… That’s the startup life I guess!

I’m currently in Toronto, where I attended BarCampToronto4 last Saturday and met some amazing people. In no particular order, they are:

Starting tomorrow I’ll be at the Mesh Conference for a couple of days. If you’re there, be sure to say hi!

Attendees
Attendees
Originally uploaded by Montreal Tech Watch.

Thanks for coming to BarCampMontreal2 everyone! As usual it was a blast. And man, am I tired after such a great day!

So I present, as usual, my after-camp Wrap-Up, which is just links to the reports various folk are kind enough to write up. :)

First things first: BarCampMontreal2 pictures.

Now, the list of reports:

See you guys again soon!

BarCampMontreal Logo
BarCampMontreal2 is almost upon us! It will take place this Saturday, April 28th.

To be very honest, I’ve been intentionally keeping quiet and taking a bit of a back seat for this BarCamp. This is really kind of to force the community to pick up the ball and run with it: Afterall, the *Camp community will go nowhere if I have to constantly push it myself, right? Well, I have to say so far I’m quite impressed! As of 4pm on Thursday there are already 23 scheduled presentations and 53 registered attendees.

I have to thank several BarCampers for stepping up and doing the heavy lifting on BarCampMontreal2, including (but not limited to of course!) Simon Law, Sylvain Carle, and Laura Vizbara.

I would also like to give a big Thank You to the sponsors of this edition of BarCamp. They are:

(If you or your organization would like to sponsor this worthy initiative, we are always looking for sponsors so please get in touch with me at fredngo at gmail!)

The press is picking up this edition of BarCamp as well: Here’s a recent article by La Presse, and our own Sylvain Carle will be interviewed on CIBL radio for the show Citoyen Numérique today.

This looks like it’s going to be another great BarCamp. See you on Saturday and don’t forget to register!

Update: I’ve thrown my hat in the ring for PowerPoint Karaoke, being organized by Martin Dufort. Any other takers? (What is PowerPoint Karaoke?)

Ha ha, guys… Don’t take anything posted on April Fool’s Day too seriously. ;-)

Time now for a real post: a report from BarCampOttawa3.

One Laptop Per Child
One Laptop Per Child
Originally uploaded by fredngo.

I am writing this blog post at BarCampOttawa3. The Ottawa crew have done a great job organizing; and I heard that up to 200 people attended this edition! Great job guys.

Compared to Montreal, I noticed that there is a much bigger cross-section of the technology world represented here. In addition to the usual Web 2.0 enthusiasts, there are also traditional application developers (C++, etc.) as well as microchip designers, RF design engineers, embedded systems designers, and even one guy who has a startup working on internet-connected door locks. All of this makes for a much bigger cross section of possible discussion topics and a much more concrete reason to run multi-tracks. (They are running 4 concurrent tracks at this BarCamp.) Until we start getting this kind of crazy cross-sectional representation, I think our current tack with a “1.5″ track BarCampMontreal2 will work very well (1 big presentation room, 1 smaller discussion room).

Another thing that was immediately obvious was a real mix of people and cultures: Indian accents, German accents, Japanese accents… Ah, wonderful multiculturalism… In this current climate of backlash against minorities in la belle province, and as a member of a minority myself, I want to emphasize how much fun it was and very refreshing to be around this kind of atmosphere. We have much to gain from accepting other cultures into our reality.

OK, enough political commentary; let’s get on to my thoughts on the presentations. I had time to write up two of them.

10 (or so) Legal Considerations when Starting a Tech Company

One great presentation I attended was by Mr. Mike Dunleavy (md@lwlaw.com, 613.599.9600 x268) from the law firm of Labarge Weinstein, called 10 (or so) Legal Considerations when Starting a Tech Company.

A couple of things I learned from the presentation:

The lifetime capital gains exemption has recently been raised to $750,000.

You can establish a family trust to save potentially millions in taxes; the idea is to split the shares of your company with family and friends, in order to use their exemption limits. So when your company is sold for $7.5M and you’ve used a family trust to split the shares among 10 friends and family, the entire amount is tax-free. Seems like a huge tax loophole to me, but at the moment it’s a perfectly legal maneuver.

He talked about many other important things including IP Agreements, Shareholder Agreements, and Tax considerations. It was a fascinating presentation and doubly more so because it is a Canadian-based view (previously I had only attended such presentations in the U.S.).

I’d personally love to see this type of legal presentation at BarCampMontreal2, so if you’re a Montreal lawyer specializing in helping Tech Startups, please contact me. It would be wonderful to have you with us.

Ruby on Rails and What It Entails

Tobias Lütke
Tobias Lütke
Originally uploaded by fredngo.

Another presentation I attended, Ruby on Rails and What It Entails, was given by Tobias Lütke, a CoFounder of jadedpixel.com. They are the guys behind the amazing Shopify.

I found it interesting that the first and foremost point he made was that Ruby on Rails developers believe in “Beautiful Code”. The reasoning is that Beautiful Code leads to Happiness. Happiness leads to productivity. Productivity leads to met deadlines. Finally, met deadlines leads to successful products.

I really agree with this; throughout my various incarnations as an engineer and developer I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time hacking on really, really, really, ugly code. As soon as a system becomes a steaming pile of junk, it’s just no longer “fun” to work on, and having fun is really key to productivity.

Tobias claims that happy teams of 4 using RoR outperform normal teams of 40 using outdated technology.

Another interesting thing he said is that it is extremely easy to replace pieces of Ruby on Rails with natively compiled C, so as you observe the loads that are placed on your application you can optimize the most time-critical parts if necessary.

I do really have to investigate Ruby on Rails a lot more.

Just a reminder that DemoCampMontreal1 will be held next Tuesday, February 27th, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. All details are on the BarCamp Wiki. As I have mentioned before, the SAT is generously sponsoring this event with their amazing space!

The community has stepped forward with 5 exciting demos, and I am encouraged at the number of new names that are appearing on the registration list. It will be good to touch base with many familiar BarCampers as well. If you can’t make it to this one, there is always DemoCampMontreal2 and BarCampMontreal2.

As an added incentive, BarCampMontreal1 T-Shirts will be available for pick-up at DemoCampMontreal1! Yes, they have finally been made, and this really is the easiest way to distribute them. :)

If any of you have a blog, please do post about DemoCamp and spread the word.

See you guys next Tuesday!

Yesterday, I attended the Montreal Tech Entrepreneur’s Breakfast organized by my friend Ben Yoskovitz. The event was a smashing success. Over 25 people came, and they were the exact kind of people I have been aching to meet ever since I contracted entrepreneurship fever; the kind of people that I was never able to meet before, for one reason or another.

To understand why I am so happy with this turn of events, I have to provide some background on the state of the Montreal Tech Scene. I had been meaning to post about the state of the Montreal Tech Scene for quite some time, but my friend Julien Smith beat me to the punch with his posting “Montreal Needs Brains” a couple of weeks ago. The following quote summarizes my feelings on the matter quite succinctly:

People in other places, they talk. In Montreal, we don’t– like, ever. Somehow, the geek culture, where people talk about their ideas and help develop them, it doesn’t happen as much here. It’s weird.

His post (and the followup post) unleashed a firestorm of controversy; but it rang quite true to me. In fact, the Montreal Gazette published an article (“The Invisible Industry“) saying pretty much the same thing back in December. The article recounts my desperate networking experiences:

Local computer engineer Fred Ngo tells a similar story. He went to a tech powwow in Boston, hoping to find like-minded Montrealers who wanted to start their own businesses. What he found were people from Toronto and as far away as Europe. “Of course, me and my buddy were the only ones from Montreal there,” he recalled. And then the irony of it all hit him: He had left Montreal to find Montrealers.

What had happened is that I went to Startup School in Boston, organized by Paul Graham. And yes, that really was my thinking: That I would find other Montrealers there; presumably because they would have read the same stuff that I been reading and thus heard about Startup School.

I was to be disappointed; I did not meet any other Montreal entrepreneurs there. (To be fair, I met Carl Mercier a few months later when I randomly found his blog because he mentioned that he also went to Startup School — The magic of Google at work.)

“Why didn’t you try harder in Montreal?” You ask. Believe you me; I tried. I went to every business networking event I could find. YES. CEO. BNI. They were a blast to attend (afterall, I could always talk about Cat’s Corner), but I did not find startup entrepreneurs there. I found instead entrepreneurs who were starting photography studios and investors who only understood investing in ethanol plants (and demanded 50-page business plans). While all entrepreneurship is to be applauded, it wasn’t my own cup of tea, and I would not be able to find the right co-founders and investors in such a setting.

So there I was, one summer day in 2006, having lunch in Chinatown with my buddy JJ (who went to startup school with me), brainstorming big ideas (and lamenting the lack of other people who do the same); when a huge one hit me. Why not do a BarCamp in Montreal? I had heard about it months ago, checked the Wiki to see if there was one in Montreal (of course there wasn’t, grumble grumble), but it only just occurred to me that if I don’t stop saying “I wish there was BarCamp in Montreal” and actually bear the torch on this, nothing would ever happen. That very day, I announced BarCampMontreal1 on the BarCamp Wiki (I think Austin Hill had already put up a landing page at that point with a few names on it) and the rest is history, stored in the BarCampMontreal1 wiki archives.

My own feeling; corroborated by talking with a few others at the breakfast, is that for some reason everybody was just waiting for something to happen (which is weird since, as entrepreneurs, we are action people). That thing was BarCampMontreal1. It showed us tech entrepreneurs that we are not alone. Ever since, a certain energy has been in the air, and we are all feeling more confident than ever.

Nowhere is this energy more apparent than the initiatives that are taking place:

These are all amazing initiatives, and all of us who profess to be a part of Montreal’s tech entrepreneur scene need to support these initiatives.

Montreal is going to hit a home run this year. I can feel it. And no matter who hits that home run, it will boost all of us along with it.

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