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Who will be Canada's next VC superstars?

Posted by on June 6, 2011

Today’s post is written by my colleague Connie Chan, Principal and Co-Founder of Chess Media Group. Connie, a senior marketer with 15 years of marketing, management and consulting experience, loves to unlock the full potential of combining people, process and technologies to achieve high business performance.

I recently attended the Canadian Venture Capital Association’s Annual Conference in Vancouver where a record 650+ industry professionals from across Canada, the US and around the world gathered to network with entrepreneurs, executives, and investors to dive into the current issues that are driving forward Canada’s venture capital and private equity industry.

At the conference, Chris Arsenault, Managing Partner, iNovia Capital, announced the opening of CIX Top 20, a program designed to introduce Canada’s hottest innovative companies in digital media and technology.  Presented by the Canadian Innovation Exchange, CIX will showcase companies any Canadian company working in Digital Media or Technology with annual revenues under $10 million.  Once a year, the program will place all of the best digital media and technology companies and entrepreneurs in front of an audience of 600 – 700 investors from Canada, US, and Europe.

The purpose of the gathering is not just to pitch their company for financing but to increase their profile and build relationships.  Given that Canadian technology companies are persistently and seriously underfunded, CIX Top 20 will open doors for many of Canada’s most innovative entrepreneurs. “(Here in Canada) we’re funding fewer and fewer SME’s with less and less money and we’re working very hard to attract more domestic and foreign capital into our industry so we can recycle that money into more high growth companies,” said Steve Hnatiuk, CVCA Conference Chair.

Canadian companies are invited to submit their company profiles before October 14 for the opportunity to be honoured in a showcase at CIX Top 20 on December 1.

GrowLab Accelerator Sprouts in Vancouver

Also announced during the conference but not at the conference was GrowLab, a new start-up accelerator based in Vancouver.

With the backing of lead investors iNovia Capital, BlackBerry Partners Fund and BDC Venture Capital, GrowLab promises to be a      “bootcamp” for Vancouver companies. The newly launched accelerator program will provide start-ups with $25,000 in seed funding, four months of mentorship, free office space and the opportunity to pitch to investors for follow-on funding at the end of the program.

GrowLab’s program, among other support, includes four months of mentorship.  Over the course of the program, entrepreneurs  accepted into the GrowLab program will receive mentoring about how to structure a company, what to be aware of, how to pitch potential clients and investors and other important skills.

The opportunity to receive inputs on its business model and financial strategy from its VC even before it is funded is invaluable.  By giving the start-up an honest opinion of where the business is today, where it can be taken to, and how can do a world of good to make the company more venture-ready.

Further, the VC’s risk is mitigated when you take their coaching.  It can be viewed as a trial by mentorship.  Frank Dennis, CEO of Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company and who spoke on a panel said “management getting coaching and cheerleading from the VC firm helped tons.”  It also increases the VC’s confidence in the likelihood of a positive outcome and the probability of success.

Beyond the business side of the mentorship, having a mentor gives the start-up a sense of security and confidence knowing that someone with more knowledge and experience than itself is guiding it, as evidenced by a model of their own successes.

GrowLab will give Canadian entrepreneurs an opportunity to get some help on their way up. The program is accepting applications from interested entrepreneurs for its first term, which is due to begin in August. The deadline for applications is June 15.

  • Blake

    Great coverage of the event Connie. Glad to see new energy and exciting support of start-ups in Vancouver–we don’t hear enough about your region down here in the SV-centric…. SV :-] Keep this kind of content coming!