The pull of US markets is a fact of life in Canadian business. About 78% of Canada’s export trade is with Americans, making it natural for tech ventures to look south for customers and capital.
Canada’s Trade Commissioner’s Service, part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), is happy to facilitate. With offices in Boston, New York, Silicon Valley, Toronto and around the world, DFAIT’s April 19th seminar at MaRS, Accelerating Your Growth in the US Market, was designed to educate ICT start-ups about the promise, perils and preparation needed to do business in the most tech-savvy cities on the planet. Veteran US entrepreneurs and deal makers Chris Gil, David Blumenstein and Mike Grandinetti offered keynote presentations on what works and what doesn’t.
1. Chris Gil, Silicon Valley Association of Start-up Entrepreneurs – Why tech companies fail in Silicon Valley:
- Poor strategy – Not knowing where the business fits in the target market and not developing a plan to position the company strongly in the value chain.
- Lack of customer focus – Not understanding the “pain points” experienced by customers and failing to provide appropriate solutions.
- Inadequate preparation – Not committing the time or resources to comprehend local buying cycles and tailor marketing activities to have the most impact.
- The wrong talent – Hiring local people who are not deeply committed to success of the business.
2. David Blumenstein, The Hatchery – What you need to know about New York business culture
- It’s about profit – “ROI means return on investment, not return on interesting.”
- Confidence is king – Completely embrace what you’re doing. Money people smell fear and reject it instantly. Demonstrate intimate customer knowledge, show where revenues will come from and make sure your numbers are bullet-proof.
- Technology is a means, not an end – People are much less interested in disruptive technology than the income generated by its application.
- You have to compete – Hundreds of business plans are presented hourly. To get a deal, you must be exceptional and connect with the right people.
3. Mike Grandinetti, Southboro Capital, Boston – What being market ready really means
- Draft your customer’s brand – Teaming up with a visionary customer is the best way to learn what qualities your product must have to be a winner.
- Keeping it real – If you’re in the beta test phase and your reference customer finds it hard to pay for or use your product, it’s time for a reset.
- Stick to the basics – Be market ready before being investor ready. Unless you are crystal clear about how to drive sales channels, you will be not be fundable.
- Lead from within – Open your mind and take advice. But If you’re searching for leadership, look in the mirror.
Eleven start-ups at the MaRS boot camp got face time with Gil, Blumenstein and Grandinetti, who listened to the companies’ pitches, evaluated their business ideas and offered them feedback.
In addition to the key note presentations, participants heard from Michael Worry, expat-Canadian CEO of Nuvation and a panel of Canadian and US venture capitalists including Amar Varma of Extreme Venture Partners, Robin Axon of Mantella Venture Partners, Howard Gwin of Bridgescale Partners and moderator, Kerri Golden, Advisor to MaRS Capital Services.
DFAIT’s goal is to use similar boot camps across eastern Canada to select companies for a free, three-month stint in the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) at Plug and Play in Silicon Valley. By creating an incubation experience with access to space, training, mentoring, local networks and venture capital advice, the aim of the CTA is to provide a leg up and a real test for Canadian tech companies – direct exposure to the US market itself.
Watch the Accelerating Your Growth in the US Market Channel: