According to Alexander Peh, PayPal Canada’s head of mobile and market development, bigger is better.
It’s the philosophy behind a lot of initiatives at Paypal’s Startup Zone at Dx3 this year. The company has upped its startup presence to 35 companies from 25 last year, promising them two days of exposure to over 4,500 people at one of Canada’s largest retail and digital marketing events of the year March 8th and 9th.
Being part of the Startup Zone also means the opportunity for 10 startups to pitch at Startup Zone’s pitch event, which includes a prize of two tickets to Singularity University‘s Canada Summit in October.
“One of the toughest things for a startup and small business is: how do I get my product, brand, and service in front of people?” said Peh.
While PayPal has been involved with Dx3 as a sponsor for the past five years, last year was the first time it hosted a Startup Zone (note: BetaKit has been a proud Dx3 media sponsor for three of those years. PayPal is also the presenting sponsor of our CanCon podcast, ed.).
“It goes further into our belief that this Canadian ecosystem needs to continue to go online.”
“The two best pieces of feedback we got from 20 or so startups were, ‘we have thousands of potential new customers, partners, media come through and look at us and evaluate what we do’,” Peh said. “They got to spend two days closely with 20 peers and fellow entrepreneurs and they all made contacts. So we decided to make it bigger.”
Companies in this batch include Sampler, a BetaKit Next selectee and the only Canadian startup selected for Unilever’s Foundry50 last year; SmoothPay, which was the first in Canada to integrate with Visa’s developer program; and LiveGauge, which was among the startups at one of Communitech Rev’s recent Demo Days.
Working with the DMZ, Communitech, and Founder Institute Toronto, PayPal tried to ensure that it was picking startups that reflected a diverse set of disruptions beyond its normal scope of mobile payments, such as analytics, SaaS, and consumer apps.
“It’s not moving away from mobile payments; we’re still a very mobile-centric organization. But mobile is just part of our DNA. For many years, we’ve been all about mobile. But mobile is now just part of everyone’s marketing and product plans, so we’re trying to think bigger than that,” said Peh. “How do we start at our roots and holistically help startups turn into small businesses, that turn into medium businesses, that potentially turn into enterprises. So it’s a much more holistic approach to growth, versus just saying the future is mobile.”
The Startup Zone companies, even if they aren’t all mobile payment-focused, are tied by a common thread of changing the way people interact with brands, and vice versa. Throughout the interview, Peh stressed the importance of supporting the larger Canadian tech ecosystem, but adds that it’s also good business for PayPal.
“It goes back further into our belief that this Canadian ecosystem needs to continue to go online, and continue to expand and become transactional. And of course, this is beneficial for PayPal’s business in supporting and making the easiest way to get paid online,” Peh said.
This intersection between consumer expectations of doing everything online — and enterprises fighting to get ahead — make Dx3 the ideal place for both small tech and big brands to actually have an organic conversation.
“Being able to have an incredible household name like PayPal as a brand, and let these startups have conversations with clients and customers and partners, we’re excited about how we can leverage that,” said Peh. “We’re privileged to have this brand equity, and we’re trying to support and foster the Canadian startup community.”