I think there's an upper limit to the quality of entrepreneurial mentorship you can give, mostly as a function of (1) the mentors and (2) the mentor-entrepreneur ratio. Right now, YC invests in roughly $20k/company * 60 companies/batch * 2 batches/year = $2.4M per year. If they were forced to invest 50-100x that in a year, it'd be really hard to find 50-100x more mentors on the same level as the existing ones.
I think you'd be surprised to see how much responsibility is given to co-op students after their first or second work term, and how well they are remunerated for doing so. My last work term was in Sunnyvale, came with a $5,000 US a month salary, $1000 monthly rent allowance, $400 a month car allowance, plus a travel allowance for 2 trips home. Upon graduation, most of my class went into "real" roles at their companies, none of this entry level bullshit that usually beckons for new grads who have never shipped code before and can't be trusted to handle anything north of double checking bug reports. Finally, the variety of work experiences helps you find a niche in terms of the types of projects and companies you'd like to be associated with post graduation. It's a giant red flag to see employees move on to new gigs every 4 months after graduation, so even if you hate your job you're somewhat obligated to stick around for at least a year to prove you're capable of fulfilling a "commitment". Why not start off doing something you already know you'll enjoy, with people you've worked with before, and a pay cheque that gives you proper credit for what you've already proven you can do?
What a ridiculous statement. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of challenges that entrepreneurs encounter when starting or scaling a business here, but it's time to stop using the crutch of VC/Government/Telecom interference to support the assertion that Canada is "an absolutely horrible place to do a technology start up. The bottom line is that if you still think this is the case, you haven't been paying attention to what's been happening over the past few years in this country. Do the names Fixmo, Shopify, Achievers, Accedian Networks or BeyondTheRack ring a bell? How about HootSuite or FreshBooks? A Thinking Ape, Vidyard, Allerta, Upverter, Enflick, GoInstant, Wave Accounting, Well.ca, Chango...the list goes on and on - all world class companies run by entrepreneurs who spend their time executing, not complaining. Radian6 and Q1Labs sold for almost $1B combined - is that large enough for you??? Last time I checked none of those companies were being sued by RIM, being squeezed out of SR&ED credits by oil companies or being held in check by Rogers/Bell/Telus. We (iNovia Capital) have even funded some of them, and are proud to stand behind them and every other entrepreneur in Canada who are working their asses off to prove you wrong.
I am speaking from my personal experience. None of the Canadian investment firms, or incubator even replied to my emails, let alone give any reasonable valuation. The Canadian YC-copycat incubators seem more like vultures that scoop 25% equity for $50K in seed funding which is pretty ridiculous compared to what you can can get in the US. I was denied SR&ED and am currently in the process of receiving venture capital and moving my startup, and all the technology I've developed, to California far away from this abysmal environment.
I think you need to distinguish between the types of startups that are encouraged in Canada and in the US. For example, the MaRS (Medical and Related Science) Discovery District (http://www.marsdd.com/) is the largest incubator of its kind in the world.
One bad experience should not tarnish an entire national ecosystem. There are incubators like GrowLabs and FoundersFuel who offer terms that are on par or better than YC, and there are investment firms that have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Canadian startups over the past few years, and SR&ED claims seem to function smoothly for all our portfolio companies. I obviously don't know the details of your particular case, but don't mistake it for the status quo.
I once took over some work that was previously the domain of our most highly paid ($150-200k a year) "architect"/contractor. Imagine my surprise when I actually examined his code and realized that it looked like it had been written by a student in an intro-level C101 class. At one point, I asked him what his approach to program design was...he replied "brute force and ignorance" and walked away laughing. We fired him shortly thereafter.
Actually, Montreal is worth checking out as well - from both a quality of life and start up point of view. Culturally, it's a remarkable place to live, and in terms of starting a company, there is a wide base of both talent and angel/seed/VC money at play here. Other areas I would consider are Waterloo (more suburban but close to UWaterloo and RIM, which are Canada's two best talent pools) and Ottawa (also a great place to live and experience Canada at its best).
That's horrible if true (and I have no reason to doubt that). However, methinks you've been talking to the wrong Canadian VCs...we're doing our best @iNovia to change those perceptions. I think the reality is VCs who act like jerks are going feel it in their pocketbooks when their deal flow and returns dry up. That being said, congrats on the round - great syndicate, great team and a great product.
Between Well.ca, Shopify and Beyond the Rack, Canadian E-Commerce companies seem to be on the cusp of big things...exciting times indeed.
That's great and I have indeed heard good things about iNovia.
Granted I mostly dealt with Ottawa VCs who have all made their bank during the heyday of the tech bubble in telecommunication industry. We were speaking completely different languages and had completely different ideas about each others roles.
Between iNovia, Real ventures and seeds such as Year One Labs things are looking to get much better here quickly. I'm excited.
i think part of the process is opening a dialogue with entrepreneurs such as yourself on what we can do to create the type of environment that is more conducive to the birth and growth of companies like shopify...i think that's been talked about for a long time - but the truth of the matter is that people have been afraid to really speak their mind in case they jeopardize future funding relationships. it's going to take a lot of hard work, but i can tell you that guys like my boss chris, mark over @ real, and ben @ yearone are working their asses off 24/7 to make that happen. i'd love to just sit down and pick your brain on what the last few years have been like for you, and what could've been done to make those a bit easier. let me know if you're interested.