Caution … this is a really long post and will be probably be the last one on “The Road Less Traveled” blog.

What I have always liked and been very proud of is that TheCodeFactory is an original idea … when we launched in May of 2008 TheCodeFactory was covered in the San Francisco Industry Standard (Thank you Francis Moran and inMedia). The long term goal of the incubator has always been to derisk start-ups during the first two years of darkness and increase their probability of success. In theory if you can incubate a start-up by improving their learn rate and helping them to reach profitability or saleable growth then additional funding opportunities will present themselves. IMHO a real success would be for a start-up to be able to secure working capital funding from a bank (that means the risk has been removed). TheCodeFactory end game is to facilitate start-up survival and guide them to profitability … a noble goal to accomplish in two years.

Alas “In theory there is no difference between practice and theory, but in practice there is”. The reality of a newbie starting an incubator with big dreams and limited resources is progress but running out of gas before getting to the finish line. I think that TheCodeFactory made progress and has assembled some really great tools for building a better incubator but will not have the opportunity to finish the job (at least at this location). The space has been a valuable resource for the grass roots community and all of the groups that have used the space have been organic … they came to us … we have facilitated the groups rather than create them … much stronger more genuine and sustainable IMHO. I’d like to share with everyone some of my lessons learned in the hope that they will benefit someone.

IMHO the number one contributing factor to failure is me being a first time entrepreneur. Considering what I knew when I started I did reasonably well. There was no single thing that you could attribute failure to more of death by a thousand cuts. A bit of the old over and under was a factor; over estimate revenue and under estimate the amount of work to administer a space. My new rule of thumb is taking your best guess at any revenue target then; double the time to get there and halve the revenue.

Second newboid error was to underestimate the amount of work involved in managing a space … it really is a lot of work and a full time job on its own. I visited Ian Ley and Peter at RPM in Montreal and this really just confirmed how much work it is. I find there are kind of two things in a business urgent stuff that has to get done (regardless of importance) and important stuff that will pay dividends if you can find the time but, urgent usually trumps important and the slices of time you have for that long term important stuff are really thin.

  • Over and Under
    • Over estimate revenue
    • Underestimated amount of admin to run a space
  • Too much to know
  • Mentorship and Advisors
  • Planning is important
  • Support Team (Accountant, Lawyer, Bookkeeper)
  • Business Discipline
  • Solo or with a partner
  • Be lean

Timing is everything

  • Pioneers take the arrows
  • Launching just before the summer
  • Dogma waiting too long to change
  • Losing three offices at the worst time of year
  • No gas in the tank


  • Great at the grass roots
  • Bus strike
  • 2 recessions
  • For Profit Paradigm

The good

  • Awesome Ottawa
  • Android, Cocoaheads,
  • CapCHI
  • Speaking at O-Rielly Ignite
  • Speaking at IEEE “Entrepreneur as a career choice”
  • People Live Work Play dinner
  • Lunch and Learn
  • Lead to Win support
  • Students and Start-ups
  • Zeebu and Blindside Lunches
  • Team Camp
  • Advisors
  • Learning

What would I do differently?



What’s next?