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November 12, 2008 / Boris Mann

Results from PACT event from Canadian Trade Commissioners

The PACT event that we attended just had a release from the Trade Commissioners out of the San Francisco office. It looks like some of our feedback — specifically, moving the “Boot Camp” programs of prepping companies for investment and pitches to regional locations in Canada — are going to go ahead. We’ll keep everyone up to date on how this program evolves, it looks like there are definite plans for a similar event April / May 2009.

Thanks Guillaume, Thierry, and the rest of the San Francisco and Palo Alto office teams for putting this event on. We’re looking forward to be involved in the regional Boot Camps as well. Full post of the results / press release after the jump.

Title:  SFRAN0029 – Canadian Technology Start-ups Plug and Play in Silicon Valley!

1. Summary:

The Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco /Silicon Valley, in partnership with the Canadian Chapter of the Association of University Research Parks (AURP), organized a venture financing “Boot Camp” for IT start-ups in conjunction with an Investor Forum and EXPO at a successful local incubator, Plug and Play Tech Center.  The two-day program was delivered to 21 Canadian companies and five Canadian incubators, October 20-21, 2008, in Santa Clara, California, with a view to prepare companies’ investment pitches and put what they learn immediately to practice in front of  Silicon Valley investors.  Detailed program click here.

2. Key Findings/Outcomes:
High client demand for VC access services: 25+ Canadian technology start-ups indicated strong interest after a first broadcast (Company Profiles click here) as well as 5 incubators (OCRI, MaRS, Waterloo, Victoria, and Bootup Lab/Vancouver)
High client satisfaction for this formula as indicated by spontaneous client testimonials and follow-up survey: Business Plan/Pitch Review + Exposure to about 30 Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists/ Angels (Full agenda click here)
Immediate success was recorded from a few participating start-ups in securing funding and/or partnerships (at least 3 tangible transactions)
One of the participating Canadian companies, Redwood Technologies, won the Plug and Play pitch competition (43 international participants)
Post is actively working with a number of these new clients, introducing them to additional VCs and other contacts
AURP and participating science parks would like to repeat the exercise and possibly open a Canada Pavilion at Plug and Play as an added-value service to clients – At least one company decided to move to Plug and Play in order to get access to network of investors and partners
There would be value to host regional “Boot Camps” in selected Canadian cities ahead of time of a follow-up start-up mission to the Silicon Valley.  This would also allow a better qualification of companies for this activity
In spite of financial crisis, a number of Silicon Valley VCs are still in an investment mode
3. Next Steps:
In association with IT cluster organizations and DFAIT regional offices, SFRAN will coordinate a series of “Boot Camps” in selected cities across Canada, to be facilitated by Chris Gill, the Executive Director of  the Silicon Valley Association of Start-up Entrepreneurs (SVASE).  This may take place in the early spring in preparation for a follow-up mission by qualified companies before the summer.
Most suitable technology start-ups will then participate in the second phase of the program in the Silicon Valley with a view to get maximum exposure to VCs and Angels: very early-stage start-ups would participate in the Plug and Play Tech Centre EXPO/ PACT (Date TBC in April/may 09); more mature companies would participate in “Launch Silicon Valley” (Date TBC in April/may 09)
Post will assist in the identification of resources for opening a Canadian Pavilion at the Plug and Play Tech Center to facilitate the temporary stay of Canadian start-up entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley, to allow them to quickly be “up and running”.

4. Report:

The Silicon Valley is home to more than 500 VC firms and received last year approximately 35% of all VC investment in the US (+$10B).  This is also the home of the largest concentration of entrepreneurs, including numerous Canadians who moved to the Valley to launch or grow their own business.  This market is therefore of great appeal to Canadian techno-entrepreneurs who can get access to venture financing, strategic partners, clients (including some of the largest IT  and life-science companies) and share experience with peers in a highly networked environment.

Targeting this clientele, SFRAN/PALTO arranged its first IT start-up boot camp with the support of Chris Gill, Executive Director of SVASE, a local association devoted to assist technology start-ups excel in the Silicon Valley, and some VC friends of the Consulate.  The program was developed in order to give start-ups as much exposure as possible to venture capitalists while providing them with the education/right tools to succeed in this very competitive market.  Recruitment for the project was undertaken through DFAIT regional offices, DFAIT HQ colleagues, NRC, Industry Canada, and Various Research Parks and Incubators across Canada.

The program started with a coaching session led by Chris Gill. Many topics were covered in this session from “how fundable is my business” to “what should I include in my pitch” to “what potential investors are looking for”.  Two guests from RIM and the new Blackberry Partners Fund were invited over lunch as keynote speakers.  The afternoon session was a dry run for participating start-ups in pitching their business in front of two panels of three local venture capitalists and an opportunity to receive constructive feedback following their performance. This component of the program was key in order to assist start-ups to prepare their pitches to 30+ venture capitalists the day after.  Beyond communication aspects, it turns out that the session was also useful in refining some aspects of business plans.

The second day was essentially concentrated on the pitch competition and EXPO, although Post arranged a visit to Google headquarters, in Mountain View, a global company which was not so long ago a small “garage” start-up.  More than 300 people attended the pitch competition and EXPO, and several high-level players from the Valley shared insights on where the industry goes and what are their expectations.  Canadian start-ups, with competitors from other countries such as Israel, Spain and Australia to only name a few, were given 2 minutes to pitch their business to a crowd of venture capitalists during the “extreme” pitching session. It is a total of 43 companies who pitched, whom from which 21 were from Canada. Start-ups that were the most fundable were then given an additional 10 minutes to present their ideas in more details; two Canadian companies were selected to come back for the 10-minute presentation and Redwood Technologies from Calgary actually won first place. The program concluded with a networking reception including all start-ups that were in attendance, various industry players and venture capitalists.

5. Feedback:

We administered an e-survey to capture everyone’s feedback and improve this program moving forward. Feedback received so far were very positive ranging from “I have learned more in 4 hours that in 4 months” to “Thanks for opening my eyes to Silicon Valley … we are now planning our next trip to San Francisco to meet with VCs” to “First exposure to the Valley and gained significant insight on the opportunities in the Valley and what VCs are expecting”. For complete analysis matrix, please click here.

6. All company profiles of participating start-ups can be found here.

7. Lessons learned on the format and follow-up:
Develop this program on an annual basis
Run 2-minute extreme pitching dry runs on the preparatory day
Hold “Boot Camps” in major Canadian IT clusters while ensuring a national reach
Have more lead time for adjusting presentations
Open a Canadian Pavilion at Plug and Play Tech Centre to facilitate entry of start-ups in this market
AURP will spread the gospel among their 27 national members and post articles in their monthly newsletters
8. Conclusion and Acknowledgement:

We wish to thank all participating Canadian start-ups for the hard work and professionalism they have put into fine tuning their pitches and plan. Special thanks to the Canadian Chapter of the Association of University Research Parks for partnering with DFAIT to make funding available to participating start-ups. The energy emanating from the group was stimulating and everyone in SFRAN/PALTO look forward to build on the success of this project.

Drafted /Released: Guillaume Parent, Trade Commissioner
Consulted /Approved: Thierry Weissenburger, Senior Trade Commissioner



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