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Startup Weekend is proud to announce a premier sponsorship with NetShelter Technology Media. NetShelter is the largest network of the most influential technology blogs on the Web, with more than 4,500 independent bloggers across leading tech blogs such as SlashGear.com, MacRumors.com, 9to5Mac.com, Phandroid.com, CrackBerry.com, Phonescoop.com, IntoMobile.com, and hundreds of others.

NetShelter is a venture-backed company whose support of Toronto Start-Up Weekend is grounded in their growing success in the digital media space, including innovative approaches to online advertising and brand engagement in social media.

Founded in 1999 by co-founders Peyman and Pirouz Nilforoush NetShelter’s mission is to help technology bloggers, marketers, and consumers become more informed, influential, and successful. Today, NetShelter’s network of bloggers publish more than 48,000 stories monthly that are recommended by 3.5 million tech enthusiasts and read by over 150 million people globally. The company enables technology brands such as Samsung, Microsoft, and LG to leverage influencers and their content to build their brands.

NetShelter is looking for talented developers to join their staff, which includes some of the brightest minds in the business. We like to think outside the box and are passionate about changing the world. If you are looking to work in a fast moving start up environment and are passionate about building cutting edge technologies that empower the biggest tech blogs and brands on the web today then NetShelter is the place for you.

NetShelter will be at Toronto Start-Up Weekend November 18th to the 22nd. For more information, visit www.netshelter.com.

We took some time to sit with Pirouz Nilforoush and pick his brain about some of the tips and advice he could offer Toronto’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

What were the unique challenges to being a startup in Toronto? 

I think that one of the biggest challenges stemmed from a cultural perspective. Back in 2006, Toronto didn’t really have much of a startup culture, and as a result, there were fewer people with startup experience and mentality. That’s not to say that there wasn’t talent – there definitely was; but there was a lack of understanding around what it actually took to build a successful company. This forced us to expand our horizons. We were very driven and aggressive, and unfortunately, it was hard to find people with a similar mentality, experience and work ethic.

The other big challenge we saw as a Toronto-based startup was with the culture/mindset of the investment community. Regardless of how talented or smart the entrepreneur, there is very little early stage funding available. The way we got funded wasn’t because we had a brilliant idea; it was because we met the Canadian VC requirement of generating significant revenue – pure and simple.

It’s a disappointing reality that someone with a revolutionary vision who needs some starting capital to make that into a reality has such a difficult time getting that money. The belief is that nobody funds something that isn’t already generating revenue and I think this stems from the investment community’s aversion to risk. There’s a wealth of smart people, but if you haven’t figured out your business model and proven it, very few investors are going to take a chance on you.

NetShelter is funded and headquartered in Canada; however, the bulk of its revenue is generated in the US. How do you manage those challenges?

That’s been the case since we started. Online advertising’s biggest market is in the US and for us to be able to maximize revenue for our bloggers we needed a strong presence in the US market.

Additionally, while we were in Toronto, one of our biggest challenges was competing in a maturing market while being disconnected from the realities of that market. Essentially, we were in Toronto trying to compete against folks in New York and Silicon Valley. Because most of our clients were in the US, we learned a valuable lesson – be close to your clients and understand their challenges. This lesson forced us to bulk our presence in their US.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs attending StartupWeekend?

  • Focus on delivering a product that solves a very specific problem in the best possible way.
  • Keep design and functionality very simple.
  • Get it launched as soon as you can.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in building NetShelter to where it is today?

Focus on getting the right people on board and eliminate the wrong people. One of our biggest regrets is not making changes fast enough. We learned that one bad apple in a startup can have a big impact on the entire team.