C100 has brought on Michael Buhr as executive director to expand beyond its early-stage roots and help more Canadian technology founders at the growth level.
Silicon Valley-based Buhr, a Canadian who has spent 30-plus years in tech at firms like Apple, Adobe, and eBay in addition to building his own startups, assumed leadership of C100 last week. He took over from Ray Newal, who departs C100 after only a year and a half as CEO.
“I’m going to be more engaged with our board, I’m going to be more engaged with our membership.”Michael Buhr
In an interview with BetaKit, Buhr spoke about how Canada’s tech ecosystem has evolved since he first moved to Silicon Valley and outlined his vision for ensuring C100 better meets the needs of Canadian founders.
He said he “jumped” at the chance to lead C100, share his own experiences, and help others do the same—particularly at the growth stage.
“I’m an incredibly passionate Canadian who really wants to take all of the unique and interesting things that we get exposed to in Silicon Valley and help to share that across the Canadian innovation ecosystem,” said Buhr.
Newal, a former MaRS exec who also spent time with Microsoft and Yahoo, first joined C100 as CEO in August 2022 to spearhead the organization’s international expansion plans, which involved opening new chapters across the United States and beyond. He replaced Laura Buhler.
According to Buhr, Newal recently left to pursue other opportunities. Buhr said his departure was a mutual decision between Newal and C100’s board of directors, and the outgoing CEO is supporting the leadership transition.
Newal declined to respond to questions from BetaKit regarding the reasons behind his departure, instead providing the following statement: “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have led C100, working alongside a remarkable team and connecting with exceptional Canadian operators and founders around the world. With our new [executive director] in place, I’m now focusing on a new project which aligns with my belief in Canada’s potential to foster enduring, category-defining tech companies, with details to follow soon. I wish C100 the best and will continue to be an active member of the community.”
Founded in 2009, C100 is a global network of experienced Canadian tech founders, operators, and investors aimed at supporting Canada’s next generation of ambitious tech entrepreneurs.
Buhr noted that the non-profit association’s initial focus was on helping early-stage Canadian-led startups address early-stage startup issues. Fifteen years later, Buhr said that other organizations have cropped up to help fill this gap and many of those nascent tech firms have graduated into large, successful companies currently or previously led by C100 members.
Going forward, Buhr sees a “big opportunity” for C100 to help other growth-stage companies reach that level by connecting them with folks in its network that have been there before.
“The way I would judge myself is how do we get more really successful billion-dollar Canadian companies like PointClickCare, or like Shopify, where just the creation of those companies and the wealth that [they] generate, and the entrepreneurship [they] generate, will then continue to create a much bigger ecosystem across Canada.”
To help achieve this, Buhr plans to expand some of C100’s existing events to include growth-stage founders and launch new programming catering toward them as it looks to create more forums for experienced entrepreneurs to share their knowledge with developing founders—while still supporting early-stage folks.
“The intent is, how do we not only support the early-stage entrepreneurs but now, going forward, how do we continue that so that we can help you as a company figure out how to grow from $10 million revenue, to $100 million in revenue, to $100 billion in revenue,” said Buhr. “Why? Because somewhere in our membership, somebody’s already been through that.”
With Buhr at the helm, C100’s focus has returned to connecting Canadians with Silicon Valley. “There is less focus on opening new C100 chapters globally,” he said. “There is still so much opportunity to harness the learnings in Silicon Valley to Canada—for early and growth stage.”
This time around C100 chose to make its leader an executive director instead of a CEO.
“Where there is a really big opportunity is to engage our membership in the C100 even more than we’ve been doing,” said Buhr. “I’m going to be more engaged with our board, I’m going to be more engaged with our membership, while also running and acting as the CEO.”
UPDATE (02/03/24): This story has been updated to include comment from Michael Buhr on C100’s return to focusing on connecting Canadians with Silicon Valley.
Feature image courtesy C100.