Founder Institute Sponsors

Spiegel Sohmer

 Spiegel Sohmer is a firm of attorneys offering state-of-the-art expertise to a diversified business clientele seeking solutions that are innovative, concrete, and pragmatic. Our firm groups some forty five attorneys who concentrate principally within three broad specialties: business law (including Intellectual Property), tax law and litigation.  Spiegel Sohmer has extensive experience representing companies at all stages of their life cycle, from start up through to exit, and also represents a wide array of investors: 


Richter is, above all, a financial consulting services firm offering strategic support and has been a recognized member of the business community since 1926. Richter entire team consists of more than 450 partners, experts, high-level professionals and administrative employees. Because of this collective expertise, our firm has an unrivalled reputation and has earned the respect of the business community.

Futurpreneur Canada

Futurpreneur Canada is the only national, non-profit organization to provide financing, mentoring, and support tools for every business stage to aspiring business owners and startup founders:


Founded in 1904, Kruger Inc. is a major producer of publication papers, tissue, lumber and other wood products, corrugated cartons from recycled fibres, green and renewable energy and wines and spirits. The Company is also a leader in paper and paperboard recycling in North America. Kruger operates facilities in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and the United States. (



Community Partners

NACO Canada

The National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) accelerates a thriving, early-stage investing ecosystem in Canada by connecting individuals, groups, and other partners that support Angel-stage investing. NACO provides intelligence, tools and resources for its members; facilitates key connections across networks, borders and industries; and helps to inform policy affecting the Angel asset-class.

Anges Quebec

Anges Québec’s mission is to help its angel investors make profitable investments in innovative companies in a wide range of industries and in all regions of Quebec. To this end, Anges Québec identifies the best entrepreneurs and business projects and supports the Anges Québec members who finance them.


Le RJCCQ soutient un réseau de jeunes chambres de commerce et d’ailes jeunesse à travers le Québec, représentant plus de 8 000 jeunes professionnels, cadres, travailleurs autonomes et entrepreneurs âgés de 18 à 40 ans.


La Jeune Chambre de commerce de Montréal (JCCM) est un regroupement de près de 1 600 jeunes cadres, professionnels, entrepreneurs et travailleurs autonomes âgés de 18 à 40 ans, ce qui en fait un des plus grands réseaux de jeunes gens d’affaires au monde.

Hacking Health

Hacking Health is designed to improve healthcare by inviting technology creators and healthcare professionals to collaborate on realistic, human-centric solutions to front-line problems.


Noticias Montreal is a Spanish-language media based in Montreal and founded by a group of immigrant journalists. Its main goal is to provide the latest news, information and features about Montreal, Quebec, Canada. NM wants to offer a helping hand in the immigration and integration process of the numerous newcomers as well as promoting the Spanish language.

La Gare

La Gare is a collaborative workspace. A place to work, connect and learn in the heart of the Mile End.


Startup Growth Hack Strategies to Get You to 1000 Users and Beyond, by Mikhail Choo

Posted by Jonathan Greechan on 2013-03-12

Founder Insight gives you insight from the startup trenches.

In a post from the Gridblaze blog, Mikhail Choo, Founder and CEO of Gridblaze, lists his favorite user acquisition hacks for startups in the early, middle, and late stages. A Graduate of the Singapore Founder Institute and a Founder Showcase finalist, Gridblaze was recently acquired by an indisclosed Silicon Valley-based technology company for a reported seven figure amount

Below, To 1,000 and Beyond: Startup Growth Hack Strategies has been republished.


“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.”  

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s theory of business success was on the right track, but there was one important ingredient he forgot to mention – the need to get the word out. Without a growing user base, even the most brilliantly designed mousetrap will eventually be gathering cobwebs in a dusty corner.

Building that user base is a time-consuming activity. According to Gabriel Weinberg, you should plan on spending 50% of your time gaining customers. You might be looking at your to-do list wondering how you can focus on customer growth when you’re pulling all-nighters just to accomplish product development. The answer is simple, though the execution isn’t: you just gotta do it.

Marketing is crazy important. It’s the rare product that isn’t competing with a slew of other similar competitors. And even if there’s no one else in your vertical now, it won’t take long before they’re beating down the door. That’s why user acquisition should be a top-of-the-list priority. But, the way you go about hacking user growth all depends on where you are in your startup’s lifecycle. Here’s some strategies to pursue based on your current position:


The First 1,000 Users

You’ve flipped the switch, the product is live. Now who’s going to use it? There are several techniques for getting to that magic 1,000:

  1. Leverage your networks. This is where all that time you wasted building your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn circles finally pays off. Offer specials to friends and friends of friends in order to get the word out. Try to ensure that their experience is as awesome as possible, so that they’ll start referring their friends and friends of friends. Incentivize as much as needed.
  2. "Invent demand", as Steve Sammartino did for Rentoid. If your product requires interaction, you may have to start out seeding activity while early users are still checking it out. According to the book PayPalWars, the payment giant got started using a bot that purchased products on eBay, then demanded to use Paypal for paying the sellers. This pushed the market towards adopting PayPal as the online currency of choice. A suggestion from Sangeet Paul Choudray is to buy some initial users from platforms such as MechanicalTurk to get activity started for cheap.


Growing Up

Once you’ve obtained that first 1K, now it’s time to become a real player in the market. This stage is tricky as you’re still spending tons of time on product development, but now you’ve got users to keep happy as well. Leverage the strengths of this phase of growth using some of the following ideas:

  1. Niche your marketing by focusing on several verticals and then doing some good old-fashioned direct marketing via Facebook, blogs, AdWords and other targeted marketing avenues. You want to waste as little time as possible, so make sure the groups you’re trying to reach have a strong leaning towards your type of product/service. You might hit the jackpot. Then again, you might discover one of those verticals could care less. Be ready to pivot your focus to another group as needed.
  2. Build the product that users must have. Now that you’ve got a good group on board, be consistent about performing regular UI/UX testing. Everyone that’s currently signed up should be having the most awesome experience ever. If not, you need to know immediately. You want to be creating a product that people truly want, not just what you want.
  3. Create a few features that blow your users away. Obviously you want your whole product to be like that, but in reality, that’s pretty hard to do. You can kill yourself trying to come up with a whole product that is nothing short of “wow” or you can . choose a few key features and make ‘em competition killers.
  4. Get your users to promote you. In a blogpost for TechCrunch, Iris Shoor details how she went from chasing down customers for testimonials to instead recruiting those who were already contacting her. “After talking to users about their [support] request and learning how they were using our app and how it helped them be more productive, I asked their permission to write about it.” Publish those happy user statements everywhere you can.


Big, Bigger, Biggest

You’ve gotten a decent amount of users, but now’s no time to slack off. It’s only with a continued focus on building your business empire that you’ll ever have a chance at approaching Amazon or Twitter-like ubiquity.

  1. Reward your power users so that they’ll keep the word of mouth going. Offer discounts based on usage, give them exclusive access to new beta features in order to build excitement and stroke their ego by letting them know how valuable they are.
  2. Meet up with users by throwing parties on a regular basis. People love to meet (or at least be in the same room as) the founders of their favorite product. They also love to share their stories and experiences. By having live meet-ups on a yearly basis, you can generate excitement and give your users a way to connect with you and with each other.
  3. Keep getting feedback and responding to it. As the saying goes, “Evolve or evaporate.” User needs change, so keep your finger on the pulse by regularly soliciting and responding to comments from your customers. Avoid auto-responders if at all possible; there’s nothing like getting a real “thanks!” from a real person when offering up input.
  4. Integrate testimonials into site design by using the logos of your biggest clients on landing pages; by inserting “I love this product” comments from real users on every page; by hosting a Twitter feed from satisfied customers; by having a live sign-up feed. For more ideas, check out “The 6 Best Growth Hacks”.

At whatever stage of growth your company is currently at, the most valuable advice for having a profitable business still looks a whole lot like what Emerson propounded more than a century ago. If you build a better company, a better user experience, a better product and then throw in a little bit of growth hacking help, the world will beat a path to your door.

At Gridblaze, we’ve always tried to put these strategies into practice from developer acquisition and creating wow in our products. As in everything in life, it’s a constant spiral upwards in growth and never being satisfied."

Like this article?

Subscribe to our Weekly NewsletterAttend a Free Startup Event

Feedback Form

We welcome your feedback to improve the Institute. Please contact us using the form below, and we will get back to you promptly.
Your Email Address:
Message to the Institute:
What is ? (enter the answer below):
Close Window