As Canada’s largest conference and trade show dedicated to digital marketing, advertising, and retail, Dx3 is not a typical home for startups. But as Canada’s largest digital conference, filled with agencies, brands, and retailers, it’s a great venue for startups looking to connect with potential customers.
This year, Canadian accelerator HIGHLINE will be hosting a Startup Zone at Dx3 to highlight its portfolio companies to the thronging mass of attendees. Speaking with HIGHLINE CEO, Marcus Daniels, he indicated that the connection opportunities made the partnership a no-brainer.
“This is not the first time we’ve done a startup zone at Dx3,” Daniels said. “It gets back to our beliefs of having sort of a monthly point that showcases the companies we’ve invested in – not just the companies we’ve recently invested in, but also companies that we’ve invested in previously to help them along. Our brand promises speed to seed, but we help them fulfill that promise with stronger connections with both customers and strategic partners.”
“In a sense they’re pitching to do a sale on the spot.”
For Daniels, the opportunity for startups in HIGHLINE’s portfolio goes beyond broad exposure. He views it as a trial-by-fire method to hone their pitch outside of the boardroom.
“The foot traffic thing is interesting, because it creates a real environment for companies to basically practice their pitches on the fly with different types of customers,” he said. “I think that exercise in this kind of venue certainly allows them to hone it and accelerates how they present their offerings to different stakeholders in a real-world setting.”
“Often these companies are looking to add users, so in a sense they’re pitching to do a sale on the spot,” Daniels continued. “Just that process of getting outside the building requires a certain amount of thought and planning to go around it, and some of these startups often don’t give enough thought on how to go to market effectively or tailor their pitch with different value propositions to different segments. I think this kind of environment for two days forces the kind of thinking which tailors their user and customer pitch.”
HIGHLINE CEO Marcus Daniels in last year’s Dx3 Startup Zone.
HIGHLINE’s commitment to creating high-value connections for their portfolio companies is demonstrated by the regular events held in their accelerator (disclosure: BetaKit’s East and West Coast offices are housed in HIGHLINE’s Vancouver and Toronto co-working spaces). But as Canada’s largest digital event, Dx3 presents a national opportunity, and one that HIGHLINE is taking advantage of, bringing a number of its Vancouver-based startups to Toronto.
“A lot of the Vancouver companies have been excited to have this opportunity – coming to Toronto and having a platform for rapid customer engagement,” said Lauren Robinson, HIGHLINE’s Global Operations Director. “The way that we look at the companies we’re investing in is that they’re not just entering into a network that’s Toronto-based or Vancouver-based. If you think about the typical model of high-potential, seed stage companies looking at organizations like a HIGHLINE, they’re looking for connectivity and these kind of opportunities to build customer bases or find product-market fit to raise a significant round.”
While HIGHLINE is obviously aware of accelerating effects two days at Dx3 can have for its portfolio, Robinson was adamant that attendees will find as much value in the Startup Zone.
“Anyone that’s coming to the conference is looking at where the future of digital applies to where their business is going,” Robinson said, “and the Startup Zone I think captures a really interesting subset of companies that can connect them to that technology or innovation. ”
Robinson pushed the point further, saying “the people I saw at the show last year knew that tech and digital was so relevant to them, and something they need to be up to date on, but don’t really have any way of connecting to that – and that’s something I found in my previous life. Even now I have ex-colleagues reaching out saying ‘I have clients that want to know about X but they don’t know how to connect to that’. I think Dx3 is an example of being able to provide the connection or open the door to those conversations, whether it’s on a customer level or a bigger partnership.”