Whistler Grow Conference Recap

Author: BC Tech Association

This weekend, the BCTIA joined hundreds of tech community members for the Whistler Grow Conference. It was valuable to reconnect with friends as well as make some new ones, all while absorbing well-curated content. The conference attracted amazing thought leaders from BC, the Valley and abroad to discuss the continued impact of technology on the future of business and culture.

Three overarching themes stood out:

Innovation in the Enterprise: Brian Solis kicked off the conference with a discussion on the innovation imperative in both start-ups and enterprises. His simple and potent quote “disruption either happens to you or because of you” particularly reinforced the vision and plans of the BCTIA. Our team continues to enable an environment (aka the Innovation Hub) where we can help start-ups and enterprises innovate and grow exponentially. Keeping up with the future means that companies have to be able to think differently and learn fast. Innovation centers are a way to help these companies to reimagine a variety of things – from learning about the latest technologies to developing a deeper understanding of customer needs.

Ecosystem Collaboration and Relationships: The tagline of the Grow Conference, “Living in a Connected World”, was reinforced in the presentations made by the speakers. It was encouraging to witness tech entrepreneurs, investors, business services providers, and other enablers creating synergies, and to see how each of our individual roles collectively fuels the growth of technological innovation and social change. We welcomed the opportunity to reconnect with our peers from across Canada including fellow industry-led innovation centres and accelerators such as Communitech, Ryerson DMZ and C100. We enjoy a camaraderie and openness with these companies where we can share best practices, challenges and visions in order to collaboratively enhance our efforts and achieve better results. These peer networks enable us to forecast ideas, changes and upcoming trends, and ultimately boost Canada’s competitive advantage in the global economy.

In addition to our peers, we also encountered representatives from fascinating West Coast start-ups, including Victoria’s EchoSec and Referral Saasquatch, and Vancouver’s Frontfundr and BitLit Media. EchoSec is an analytic tool for law enforcement and security intelligence professionals that uses social media metadata to map crisis situations as they are occurring in order to help save lives. Referral Saasquatch is a customer referral platform that offers cross-channel solutions for SaaS and Mobile Apps. They were the winners of the final pitch competition where they demonstrated their ability to apply investor feedback in order to improve the quality of their presentation. Frontfundr is a crowdfunding platform that provides new investors with access to a new capital market. The BitLit app enables users to download eBook copies of print books they already own, at little or no cost.

Current fundraising landscape: The repercussions of the current fundraising environment permeated many of the Day 2 presentations. Charles Hudson from SoftTech VC opened up with a study of the new trend towards micro VCs, and all of the new financing rounds that have emerged as a result. These gems include ‘Pre-Seed’, ‘Seed Plus’ and the all-trumping ‘Seed Plus Plus’. On the same panel, Kara Nortman discussed the issue of creating capital discipline in companies executing larger and larger rounds.

As both part of the opening panel and a follow-up breakout session, the razor sharp Tomasz Tunguz poked holes in certain conventional wisdoms around venture capital markets with his plethora of empirical data. His firm, RedPoint Ventures, is using in-depth quantitative analysis to make decisions about start-ups that haven’t even submitted a deck or approached RedPoint, all based on public data. He also described the market for Enterprise SaaS start-ups becoming almost as efficient as public capital markets, with recognized ratios and ranges that dictate valuation.

Harley Finkelstein of Shopify was electric on stage and is truly a force of nature; it’s no wonder they have had so much success! As the afternoon continued the money conversation became slightly more morose with CEOs like Stewart Butterfield openly discussing the scenario where their astronomical valuations could potentially offset their future abilities to exit or merge. However, for the foreseeable future they will have the capital to keep growing which is, after all, the whole point.

These recurring themes further reinforce the BCTIA’s priorities to help tech companies grow by enabling better access to capital, talent and markets.

That’s a wrap on Grow Conference 2015. Until next year!