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6 Tips for getting Startup Funds

By Charles Moffat - February 2010.

There are lots of creative people out there who come up with great ideas for a business or a product. I know I come up with several ideas every week, but the key discriminating factors are availability of time and money. Whether the ideas are worthwhile and worth investing time and money in is the next factor.

If a person is able and willing to set aside their current career to run with their business idea, that conquers the issue of time but the question of startup money is critical.

Lets say they've made a new type of ant-farm, except instead of ants they used Fireflies. The Fireflies live inside a glass and plastic container, along with the necessary flowers (fireflies eat pollen and other organic material) needed to keep them alive and dirt so they can lay their eggs, reproduce and burrow underground.

Before attempting to market this product they first need to determine how many fireflies the need, how to build the containers, and which plants work best for feeding them. If their plan takes off it might be difficult to catch/breed enough fireflies to keep up with demand.

Getting the necessary funds to market and sell such an idea might be difficult however. Some people might just scratch their heads and go "Wait, you want to sell fireflies as pets?" and will evidently think you've lost your marbles. Others might respond with "Wow. I want one!" Some people just really like anything that glows.

A more reasonable business idea might be recycling gold and precious metals from trashed computer parts. Right now those electronics parts are sent overseas to Asia where they are ripped apart, melted down and then recycled. A single trashed PC contains more gold than 17 tons of ore. Researching how to recycle the metals, melt them down properly and then selling/recycling the gold is a more promising business plan than "selling fireflies" because gold is a highly valued commodity and unlike fireflies gold won't die by accident.

You could in theory take out a straight loan from the bank, but there are other ways to find financing.


Often when looking for an investment people will look to friends and family. "Love Money" comes with its own pros and cons. Your friends and family will want their money back eventually and you will have to put up with them occasionally bugging you about how the business is going and even offering advise, whether its wanted or not.


There are variety of hard to find companies out there who invest in startup companies, providing capital to pre-screened entrepreneurs. York Angel Investors Inc. in Toronto is an example of one such company. Their goal is to determine which startups are worth investing in and then they help provide their collective wisdom to make certain the company starts on the right foot. These investment groups don't like to advertise however and can be difficult to find.


Entrepreneurs often underestimate the costs of bringing a product to market. They don't realize the full extent of their costs, overestimate cash-flow projections and often make assumptions about how big their niche market is and how big they can grow. Keeping track of their budget means having a complete, fleshed-out strategic plan, not just cash-flow projections. Who are you hiring? When and why? What benefits or time off are they getting? What is the overall cost of staff, office supplies, new computers, IT support, photocopier repair, etc? What about emergencies? Does that match up with your spending projections?

Startup companies have a tendency to overspend, buying the best equipment and materials, thinking "Oh, we'll make it back later." But not immediately. Its a procrastination tactic. As such its important to have other people look over your costs and expenditures and see if you're missing anything.

"Wait, have you figured out how you're going to transport these fireflies?"

"Oh oh, I totally forgot about transportation costs."

"And what about insurance?"

Stunned silence.

"And have you determined your packaging?"

More stunned silence.

Knowing what your costs are is an important step for getting an investment. If your investors have doubts about your ability to stay on budget they will have serious second thoughts about giving you money.


How much is your company worth? Don't use projected revenues for the next year or 10 years, how much is your company worth RIGHT NOW. Don't assume that just because you've spent $100,000 on your business that is how much your business is worth. You've got debts, obligations and your cash flow must not be that good otherwise you wouldn't be looking for investments. Its probably worth a lot less, especially if you don't own any patents or copyrights.

When approaching potential business partners you want to downgrade your valuation in the event that your partnership will become "value added". For example if you have an exclusive deal to sell your product through a major chain store that adds to the value of your company.

What you want to avoid however is "depleted value", wherein you sign a deal where you can ONLY sell your product to that one business partner. If they already have a competing product (ie. ant farms and fish aquariums) they might decide they don't really want your product and will keep you on the sidelines, your product wasting away in storage.

Its all about who you want to work with at the end of the day. Some business partners might not fit right or be suitable. Some investors might have a lot more experience with your chosen market and you'd be foolish not to take advantage of that if they're willing to give a more hands-on approach.

If they don't know much about the market however their offers to help might become quite cumbersome and not really helpful.


If you're meeting with an investor you will want to know more about their personal beliefs. Are they a green company? Are they currently being sued or in litigation? Do they have lots of business partners / clients? How much experience do they have? What is their profit margins? Are they doing any questionable business practices that might result in future lawsuits? Did they lose money in a Ponzi scheme (or worse, are they operating a Ponzi scheme)?


If you start lying about your finances or exaggerating how big your market share is the company you are dealing with might do some background checks and find out you've been covering up some horrible warts (ie. your debts to your family and friends). This could backfire in your face horribly, wasting both money and time.

An eleventh-hour discovery that you've tried to hide a major flaw will kill the deal.

Be honest about the challenges facing your company. Investors don't expect you to have all the answers.

A Guide to Link Buying in Toronto

I included the word Toronto in the title of this blog post for a reason.

Why, because link buying Toronto is really the operating keywords I am going for.

When it comes to getting Local SEO - and more importantly, attracting local clients for your company - it is super important to have your company website optimized for the city, province, state or country you are living in.

So for example, as I specialize in selling SEO packages to Torontonians from websites based in Toronto, it is therefore a necessity for me to attract local clients. If not from Toronto, then at least from the GTA.

Link Buying Advice 101

In a nutshell the concept of buying links (for those who are not familiar with such methodology) is focused on getting high quality, keyword links to your company website.

You can buy such links via intermediary companies such as LinkVehicle, Teliad, LinkWorth, Text Link Ads, and similar websites. Such websites are more expensive, but if you are savvy you can sometimes get deals on higher quality websites (only trick is often you don't know what the website is that is giving you the link, as everything is kept partially anonymous).

Or you can purchase links by contacting websites directly and asking them (politely) if they would be interesting in advertising your website in exchange for a small fee. The industry standard for such an offer is $30 annually per link. More if the website has a higher pagerank, more if you want a banner ad, more if you want it in a prominent place on the website. So you could potentially pay $100+ for a single high quality link.

What you want is one-way-links from websites featuring pages with a high PR - and you want the website linking to you to be LOCAL, so in this case it would be best if the website was in Toronto. Buying links from a website Singapore or India isn't going to help you much.

Further more you want the website to be ON TOPIC with yours. Which could be tricky if they are a competitor website. But not so difficult if you are selling premium dogfood in Toronto and are approaching dog breeders in Toronto and asking them to link to your website. You might even send them a free sample of your product - which is even better, because then you could potentially get a glowing review and a new regular customer.

You won't be able to do that if you use various “link broker” websites. Thus the DIY approach to purchasing advertising is definitely the best way to go, but only if you have the time and knowledge on how to do so. Finding people willing to accept links pointing to your site can be tricky if you don't know how - or worse, don't have time, which is why you should hire a SEO expert.

The purpose of such advertising is not to generate organic traffic from those links, but rather to “simulate artificially” a strong link popularity factor by having links pointing to your site from web pages featuring a high PR. Google and similar search engines track link popularity and then boost your websites search engine results rankings based on the keywords used on your website, in the links going to your site, and the content of the sites linking to you.

The higher the PageRank, the more expensive the advertising space. Link brokering services also allow you to target the industry of the website from where such links will be posted. Thus you can find publishing websites who are willing to advertise you for $$$.

However many brokering companies don't mention WHERE the website is. It could be in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or some place you've never heard of (Bhutan!)... which is really counter productive when your goal is local traffic from people in Canada, Ontario, Toronto or the GTA.

If you have the money its better to hire a SEO expert to do all of this for you, Toronto SEO companies like for example which specialize in Pinpoint SEO / Targeted SEO. If you get a good quality SEO expert you can get 10 high quality links for $300.

Lets pretend for a moment you wanted to follow the DIY approach.

If you were offering tour services in Toronto, you could buy links from websites related to tourism, Toronto tourism, Toronto attractions, etc. Which would be good, because Google has been programmed to reward websites for quality links and not for the amount of links. The quality of the sites linking to you is crucial in terms of ranking benefits. The link quality is enhanced by linking to websites that are “keyword family” related.

Thus if your goal is tour services in Toronto, you want anything that is related to those keywords. Tours, tourism, tourists, Toronto, GTA, Hogtown, Downtown Toronto, the CN Tower, the SkyDome and various other Toronto related topics. Even the names of local celebrities or politicians (eg. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford) can help you. It is one time it pays to be a name dropper.

Back to my aforementioned example: If your website promotes tours in Toronto, your site would not capitalize from being linked to from a popular forum discussing video games or computer games.

Some people also argue against buying SEO advertising altogether, claiming that people should follow traditional marketing routes such as newspapers, magazines, television, etc. Although it should be pointed out that its typically people who WORK for magazines, newspapers, etc that are spouting that piece of advice... And they're ignoring the fact that television advertising is too expensive for most people, and that magazines and newspapers offer a very low Return-On-Investment. You could easily spend $500 on a single ad in a magazine and not get a single customer from that ad. This happens a lot, so much so that people are now disenfranchised with traditional marketing because they are not getting any return on their advertising investment.

Thus if people want to bash agencies brokering links or the SEO industry, fine, bash away, but at least know your facts first. If you are going to point fingers at websites making a buck from selling link space - or writing blog posts / product reviews, remember that traditional marketing in newspapers and magazines doesn't work any more. The system has become broken and the new solution is SEO.

I have a client in the Toronto real estate industry who loves talking about how online videos are the future of advertising. He will drone on about how YellowPages used to be the place to advertise, except nobody uses the YellowPages any more. Instead everyone is using Google... and if you want to really grab the attention of buyers, at least when it comes to real estate, he is really pushing videos.

And he is probably right. Video will play a huge role in the future of advertising. But text and photography will continue to play important roles too.

The whole SEO industry started because of Google’s link popularity ranking algorithm. The basic essence behind such algorithm was brilliant. However, not every site has the profile for one-way-link enhancement. Due to the nature of some sites, building genuine organic advertising is almost impossible without being “innovative” - and that requires creativity on the part of the publisher / blogger / content wrtier.

And creativity costs more money.

You can't get creativity for free. And trying to get it for cheap will result in two things = crappy content and crappy links.

Google’s determination for rewarding a quality link popularity profile has led to brokering agencies to become what they are - if the leopard changes his spots, the rabbits all do the same thing in order to adapt and survive. In order to please Google’s ranking algorithms, a whole industry was born and flourished.

Website publishers and bloggers saw an easy opportunity to generate income from their sites, while brokering agencies packaged the service based on the popularity of pages accepting advertisements.

Thus “link-buying” became an industry standard and an integral part of almost every SEO strategy. You could try to use Social Media instead (which works well for fashion, but not if you are selling insurance) or you could try using videos (great for promoting documentaries, films and real estate, but crap if you are selling anything that is difficult to visualize).

Hiring a SMO expert or a videographer is certainly a possibility, but you have to think logically from their perspective - those things require CREATIVITY - which again comes back to the issue of creativity costs more money.

So you're still stuck with the same problem. Unless you want to try creating your own SMO / video marketing campaign, then you probably won't succeed much. And even if you do, are you so certain your products / services are that interesting that people will want to Twitter / mention it on Facebook? Chances are they won't.

Thus you're stuck with buying links.

Some people also have problems over the ethical character of link buying and building a SEO marketing strategy and how such activities is questionable from normal organic links from Mavens (people who link to your site without being asked or paid). First, let me point out that Mavens are RARE. Like trying to find Waldo in a Harry Potter book. He might be in there, somewhere, but good luck finding him. So don't expect Mavens to magically appear and promote your website for free. They don't do that unless they really like your product/service.

Back to the topic of ethics I would like to point out that Google has no problem with advertising things on its websites. Newspaper and magazine websites do it too. Pretty much anyone who is an online publisher accepts advertising, in some way, shape or form.

Google rewards a website for the quality of the links, so buying erroneous links with websites that would never refer to you unless they sold space is basically a way to say, “If Google wants links, I’ll give them links!!”... and the end result is shoddy SEO. You want to avoid that if you can so avoid buying advertising from sites that are really off-topic. You want to focus on:

Local sites that are on topic or closely related to the topic.

Now admittedly buying such advertising defeats the original premise behind the link popularity concept. Because if numerous online users are speaking about your site on specialized blogs & forums, if keyword-enriched genuine articles are being published about your site, if regular press releases are being published professionally in regards to your site, if a lot of social networks refer to your site...then Google considers your site to be active and alive - and being seen as such boosts your popularity a lot and your search rankings. Whether this is done artificially or organically (or both) it doesn't really matter.

If anything your goal should always be to have your site start off artificially and then switch to organic over time. A gradual shift from one to the other.

But if you're selling insurance, or real estate, or even used cars then you're probably going to need to continue to invest in SEO for many years to come. Because if you don't, then your competition will.

The link popularity factor was a healthy concept to gauge the live and ongoing presence of a website. Brokering links via intermediary companies just to improve PR is a way to dilute the effectiveness and the ranking fairness within a particular industry because it messes with the architecture of the link popularity ranking algorithm. But if you don't do it, then your competition, especially in a field like real estate, is doing it anyway.

You might say, hey, I don't want to buy advertising from websites, because I don't want to cheat and try to beat the Google algorithm... and meanwhile the other real estate agents are all doing it and you're the only one who isn't. Their websites all have 100+ links going to their company webpages, and meanwhile your company has less than 10. And less than 10 is just plain pitiful.

Yesterday I had a meeting with a client who was thinking about purchasing a website. He wanted to know if the website was worth purchasing based on the quality of its content, its design, its framework and its SEO. On the SEO side the website in question had only 10 links going into it.

I then showed him a website which had over 600+ links going into it. And showed him the differences using Alexa statistics, how often the site was updated, and more. I won't go into much more detail, but basically it was an eye opener for him that the website he was thinking of purchasing wasn't very popular - and probably not that profitable.

That is really the big issue isn't? Is your business profitable? If you are so busy you can't keep up with the demand then you probably don't need SEO. If anything you need to raise your prices slightly.

If you have excess time available and not enough customers, then you can spend that time doing DIY SEO.

But if you lack time because you are so busy, but always need more customers - that is when you need to hire a SEO expert. Especially if you are in a seriously competitive industry like real estate.

Now you might say "Who is to blame for this link buying status quo?"

You might say it is Google who is at fault. Or the people who just follow whatever Google does. It’s easy for internet pundits/critics to criticize Google technology, but criticizing it won't get you anywhere. is still the father of all decent search algorithms and has over the years successfully circumvented the challenge of its overwhelming database growth. The fact that it accidentally gave birth to a whole “link brokering” industry is only normal.

eg. You can't blame the big grocery store for selling melons and then the small green grocer stores follow suit and start selling melons too. That is normal in any industry.

Anyway, as you might know, SEO services through “link-buying campaigns” may be a controversial issue for some people - but I can tell you with all honesty that the magazine and newspaper industries have no problems with selling links. Its their bread and butter.

You might also think that SEO is a gamble. In truth, all advertising is a gamble, but anyone who has studied the history of marketing will tell you that a quality marketing campaign uses tried, tested and true techniques that are much more likely to be successful - when it comes to online SEO then what you need is local advertising on local topic-oriented websites.

Black Hat SEO / buying links from India / shoddy SEO... well that is just going to hurt your website's reputation.

Google started cracking down on link-brokering agencies by dropping either the PR of the syndicated websites offering link space for sale or simply by dropping their rankings. A company like Text Link Ads, which has been and still is the leader in the industry for years, recently lost their PR, and after recovering the PR, they lost all rankings ... Just Google “text link ads” and you will see that, even with the 3 words that make up their URL (, they are probably nowhere to be found.

Not to fingers, but basically Google was punishing the company for using Black Hat SEO. So be forewarned about buying links from India and similar companies which specialize in bulk crappy links.

Not only are link brokering agencies being kicked by Google, but new algorithms are being released to penalize websites selling link space. If the website is popular enough, they can take the hit fortunately, but the link popularity algorithms are the core of Google technology - and it seriously undermines the question of what is fair and what really matters when it comes to SEO.

From Google's perspective what they also did was increase the ranking of websites being linked to from blogs and social media websites. With blogs this is okay from Google's perspective, since they own blogspot, but it becomes tricky because it means giving rival Facebook more credit.

But whatever. The SEO industry is an ever changing marketplace.

Making one little change gives birth to a new advertising-brokering industry.

In most cases, buying link advertising is simply trying to outsmart Google for better rankings - but in competitive fields like real estate where everyone is doing it, if Google changes an algorithm it effects the whole industry.

Which is why it becomes ever more important to have quality SEO from the get-go. Shoddily done / Black Hat or poorly executed DIY SEO will result in the next time Google changes an algorithm that your site could and probably be hurt/punished during the change.

The best links are those that you will earn through business dealings, partnerships, etc. That is true. But you first need to attract those clients in the first place, which means you need to use marketing savvy to get them because they just aren't going to fall out of the sky and land in your lap.

Important DIY Buying Tips

#1. Only buy links from local companies that are on topic or closely related to your topic.

#2. Aim for higher PageRanks, at least a PageRank of 1 if its on topic, or at least a PageRank of 2 if its closely related.

#3. Don't buy too many links at once. That raises red flags.

#4. Alternate what link text you use for the keywords.

#5. Don't just buy links for your main index page. Advertise specific subpage topics for your products or services and use keywords specific for those pages.

#6. If you can't find local sites to buy links from, build your own! Start a blog, a video blog, or create historical / information websites on topic with your site.

#7. Add more content that is on topic for your products / services to your own website. The more quality content the better.

#8. Always go for unique content. Never copy paste the work of others (Google ignores duplicate content).

#9. Think entertainment when writing content yourself. Even if the topic is real estate or insurance, people still want to be entertained.

#10. If you don't have time to do this yourself, hire a SEO expert from

The Three Rules of Marketing

Its something they teach in marketing / advertising classes in colleges and universities: The Three Rules of Marketing.

Sadly it is often forgotten about when it comes to online marketing.


You need to brand your product / services and position your company either as a niche market or a general "all purpose" company.

When it comes to online SEO this means getting a good domain name and then positioning your content towards your target audience.


You need to be BIG and BOLD. Nobody pays attention to small dinky bulletin boards. You want your ads to be IN YOUR FACE, brightly coloured, easy to notice, and appealing to people (eg. sex sells).

When it comes to online SEO this means making your ads on big / popular websites and you want a big bold banner placement on multiple pages.


Why? Because nobody believes in marketing. And if you don't get paid upfront, then you don't get paid at all.

The industry standard for ad prices are a MINIMUM of:

$30 for a small link ad annually.

$50 for a banner ad or premium link ad (better location) annually.

$70 for a premium banner ad annually.

And when I say minimum, I do mean minimum. Really popular websites will want a LOT more.

And also remember that those prices are per annual ad on one webpage. Its not worth the publisher's time and effort if you want to only pay $5 for a 1 month ad. You're just wasting their time. When it comes to link buying you have to buy for the whole year otherwise they won't be interested.

Some really super popular websites might take ads for 1 month or so at a time, but they might be charging $50+ per month, so its worth it for them.

As a rule of thumb expect to pay a minimum of $30 per link on websites with a PageRank of 0 to 3.

A PageRank 4 website will typically cost $60 to $100 annually.
A PageRank 5 website will typically cost $100 to $300 annually.
A PageRank 6 website will typically cost $300 to $1000 annually.

And you probably cannot afford anything higher than that.

And that is for 1 little link ad. Expect a lot more if you want a premium banner placement.

Now you could buy links on cheap websites made in India... But don't expect much in terms of quality. You could get a link for $15 from a Made-in-India website, easily. But it will be shoddy SEO and shoddy writing... or worse, it will be Black Hat SEO or a link from a link farm. Which would actually hurt your website's reputation and possibly cause Google to ban your website.

No, if you want good quality SEO - hire a local SEO expert in Toronto or whatever city you happen to live in or near. Local SEO will get your company the best results.
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