Interac was formed by Canada's big five banks to handle almost all debit transactions in Canada. They have built a new API and reached out to the startup community to discover new applications. I was one of the finalists and had the opportunity to present to senior management. They created a short video of the event and I shared it below. I'm in it a few times, can you spot me?
Communitech Accelerator Overview
As I had co-founded a creative video agency, I spearheaded this explanatory video for Communitech's accelerator program. It was my idea so I had to propose it to them and luckily I quickly found an internal stakeholder named Chelsea Prescod at Communitech who shared my enthusiasm. We fleshed out the details like interviews and media with their staff and mine - all at no cost of course! Ted Hastings is a millionaire that has raised investment rounds in the hundreds of millions and a top 40 under 40. Steven Woods is a Senior Engineering Director at Google and previously sold a business to AOL. Doug Cooper was previously CEO of Intel Canada. These individuals are amazing role models for everyone, but the people in the Communitech accelerator programs get direct one-on-one mentorship from superstars like these. I'm in this video for a moment as an extra.
Communitech and BlackBerry set up a program to share their enterprise space at Communitech. I was fairly aggressive and managed to be the first cohort of startups to have this experience. Below myself, Martyn Mallick, Manny Elawar and Dev Jugdeo. Martyn is a high-performing business executive, at the time VP of Global Alliances, and is now Director of Strategic Business Development at Amazon in Seattle. He is also a graduate from the University of Guelph, like myself. He is an expert at diving deep into research to get data to drive decisions. He is a tremendous person, who has made time - email, phone and in person - to assist in many of the business challenges that I face.
North American Tech Tour
I am outside Communitech / Google in Kitchener, Ontario
Anyone familiar with the talent in the Kitchener-Waterloo ecosystem knows it's awesome. The small city has created BlackBerry, OpenText, Desire2Learn and hundreds of other succesful tech companies. But it's great to see people from the outside recognizing it to. Today Paul Singh from 500 startups came to Kitchener on his North American Tech Tour.
Paul Singh is incredibly resourceful. Apparently his Airstream was modified for this tour as well as his F-150 pickup, whose suspension can take a 8 foot drop. Paul also has a popular newsletter that I read and you can subscribe to it at resultsjunkies.com
Paul was fielding questions from entrepreneurs over coffee and donuts. I listened to him as he spoke to other founders. The most important message that he shared was that when you ask for investment, make sure you can spell out how the
investor will get their money back with a return. Specifically how your next round will be at a higher valuation. That is key to venture capitalists. Entrepreneurs are often too focused on their own interests such as the technical or sales aspects of their product, instead of share value. You don't have a crystal ball and the risks are high, but an intelligent convincing plan will let them know that your goals are aligned and increase your odds of attracting capital.
In Silicon Valley successful startups understand that you need to reach out to many investors, similar to a job search or sales. Here in the much smaller VC ecosystem of Kitchener we are often unaware of just how many investors there are internationally. Entrepreneurs often give up after contacting a few poorly targetted individuals or they sit and wait after making contact with an ideal investor. Warm leads deserve nuturing but they should be no reason to pause. Investors may be polite and encouraging but are often too busy to evaluate your business seriously, especially to a deal that has no other investors chasing it. Discover which investors are actively investing in your space at your company stage and industry. Then set up an investor funnel and track your leads. If you don't have a serious approach or can't afford the resources to seriously go after investment, then you are significantly less likely to be successful.
Keep in mind that no investor will give you their money if they don't like or trust you. Be professional but personable as well. It is common for entrepreneurs to entice investors by making their deal look hot. They often bounce interest from one investor off of another to try to steam roll a deal. Experienced investors know your game. The investment community is often tight-knit and cheaters are called out. It's great to try to build momentum, but work hard enough to ensure that it is true. And never bluff to get a deal because you might be thought of as dishonest or misleading if nothing comes through!
The lesson? At the end of the day, going after investment sounds alot like how we structure marketing and scale sales. And yes, just like you can document your sales process, you can establish a formal investment process. With a process and your expectations aligned, you are free from the emotional baggage of feeling failure from rejection. Noone has rejected you. They're just not that interested enough to respond. That's life for everyone. Make sure you're talking to the right person at the right time and make your pitch interesting. This reminds me, people love stories and a good story needs conflict ;) ;).
Other than amazing coffee and high-end donuts, the day was full of meeting people and was later followed by a fantastic dinner buffet and presentation by some successful founders from larger companies such as Sandvine and FreshBooks. How spoiled are we?
I also had the opportunity to meet a mother entrepreneur and her daughter and show them around Communitech, one of Canada's most recognized innovation hubs. I think by the end of the day, everyone was very impressed with what is going in this city. Thank you to Paul and Communitech for making this great day happen!