5by founder Greg Isenberg has written a goodbye letter of sorts on Medium as he readies for a move to San Francisco from Montreal. There the 5by team will work from new parent company StumbleUpon’s headquarters. Last month StumbleUpon acquired 5by for an undisclosed amount, although it was likely somewhere between $10 and 15 million.
I’m obligated to reveal that Greg is friend of mine: most tech blogs probably wouldn’t cover a medium post such as I’m doing, but I found the post really interesting.
Isenberg touched on several themes that have both defined his time in the Canadian tech community as well as the Montreal tech community at large.
Here’s his post:
“Dear Montreal Tech Community,
I’m moving to San Francisco real soon. As some of you know, we sold 5by toStumbleUpon and we’re going to accelerate our growth from their SF HQ. I need to write down some thanks and I’ll miss you words.
But where do I start? What do I say to the community that brought me in when I was 17? How do you say thanks to hundreds of people? You’ve given me so much. Support, good times, advice and more.
I guess I’ll just keep it brief.
Keep that joie de vivre. Think bigger. Raise more money. Find mentors. Be mentors. Invest in Montreal startups. Don’t worry about Quebec politics (it will always be messed up). Throw more events (not just formal events, but dinners and drinks). Build your company proudly in MTL, but be on a plane every 2 weeks. Get high profile advisors/investors. Hire from McGill. SR&ED is a godsent. MTL is the best place in the world to build an MVP. Never hurt another company in the MTL family. English vs. French debate doesn’t matter, we’re building products to make the world better, focus your thoughts on your biz. Take young entrepreneurs out for drinks and intro them to key players in MTL and abroad. Find a bar (mine was Big in Japan, 4175 St Laurent and previously, Baldwins Barmacie). Never burn bridges (the community is too small for that). NYC is a 50 minute flight. And don’t forget let me know how I can help firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really really mean it when I say thank you. Thank you. It’s felt more like a family, than a community.
The entrepreneur and angel investor has long been a proponent of circumstantial success. We’re all responsible for our success, he often argues, but when opportunities present themselves to you, make sure you’re ready. Play the game and play it well, and along the way be sure to make as many friends as possible. Some have disagreed with these sentiments while others stand with him, but its these opinions that have defined one of Montreal’s most recognizable (younger) entrepreneurs.
Isenberg achieved success at a young age, earning thousands of dollars a week as a 16-year-old, trading electronics on eBay. Before he was 22 he had already cofounded Wall Street Survivor, the most popular stock market simulator game, and had helped design websites for the likes of Techcrunch. He even started making angel investments at 23, with Good People Ventures. The roughly ten-month timeline from launch to exit with 5by was also pretty badass.
Here’s a few other points I found valuable from his letter:
-Language issues/politics in Quebec shouldn’t interfere with the product you’re building.
-Hire McGill students (and for that matter, any smart grad in Montreal): the city boasts the most university students, per capita, in North America (more than Boston, NYC, Toronto, etc. etc.)
-Take young entrepreneurs out for drinks and introduce them to key players: I particularly liked this. Entrepreneurs should take on the “always helping” mentality. That doesn’t just mean taking a VC out for lunch because you want his/her money, but also taking out a 20-year old university student who’s trying to break into the game.