The long-awaited ‘Grexit’ haunts a sickly and paranoid Europe. China’s stock market is about as toxic as the smog that blankets Beijing. But it’s not all doom and gloom out there: in Canada’s Pacific Northwest, many of the world’s high-altitude tech leaders and moneyed VCs will soon survey the heights of the new tech-based economy, in its most famous ski resort town – and you could be there to learn from them.
The GROW Conference is coming back to Whistler this August, bringing the wisdom of Silicon Valley back to the burgeoning tech hub in British Columbia. With the theme of ‘Living in a Connected World’, the event once again brings together technology innovators, influencers, investors and more. For those who went last year and think they’ve seen it all, there’s plenty more value on the table – just like we’re seeing in the tech sector at large.
“Tech entrepreneurs used to be fortunate to raise $800,000 in a seed round of funding – and now you can raise ten times that,” says Debbie Landa, the CEO of Dealmaker Media, which organizes the GROW Conference. “Because there’s so much early stage money in the market, there’s a massive seed bubble, with double the amount of seed-funded companies that are in the market. Now it’s harder to get a Series A round because there’s too much competition to choose from – and both companies and investors need to understand what’s happening here if they want to get the advantage.”
“Tech entrepreneurs used to be fortunate to raise $800,000 in a seed round of funding – and now you can raise ten times that.”
To that end, GROW has added a special pre-conference event, “A View from Silicon Valley” featuring top Valley VCs who can give the insiders’ view on this dynamic (and for some, intimidating) marketplace. Attendees will get the inside scoop on topics like “What to do when you raise a big round at a high valuation” – a nice problem to have, or “IPO’s and M&A’s have slowed right now, but Valuations are UP – now what?”
There’s so much funding available in the angel sector that it’s disrupting commonly-held beliefs about how to raise funding for your tech venture – and when. “Now you’ve got a pre-seed round, a seed round and a post-seed round,” Landa notes. “The valley keeps introducing new terms. Entrepreneurs don’t know how much to raise, how to raise, when to raise – and that’s why we’ve added the extra event to help them understand how it’s changed.”
Tomasz Tunguz, a Partner with Redpoint Ventures who focuses on software investments and is speaking at the pre-conference event, provides a bit more insider perspective. “It’s crazy down here,” he says with a smile. “There’s a huge amount of capital entering Silicon Valley. Forty to fifty per cent of it is coming from non-VC funding. We’re also seeing valuations of companies that are multiples, often two times what they are in the public companies. That’s delaying IPOs from companies that don’t need to go through the regulatory hassle and expense of going public. This is having a lot of side effects on the market.”
Why do would-be Canadian tech giants care what Silicon Valley VCs think? Because the investors in the Valley dictate how the rest of the world reacts, Landa says. It doesn’t matter if you’re from San Diego, Toronto or Singapore – the Valley sets the tone for the rest of the world’s big tech investors – and the companies that are getting funded.
That said, there’s not a one-way street of expertise and entrepreneurship on display at GROW. VC investors are quietly coming up to Canadians because they see them in a different light. By the time they start looking for funding, they’ve advanced far beyond the back-of-the-napkin business plan and have real businesses, with customers and revenue. “After what they often see in the Valley, they’re baffled by that!” Landa says. “I don’t know why Canadians are so uncomfortable with promoting themselves.” At the GROW Conference, those Silicon Valley investors will not just be sharing what they know, but getting a close-up look at ‘the next big thing’ – which could be your startup.