Last Tuesday evening, BetaKit went public. An event held in the historic Burroughes building, #BetaKitIPO was our Initial Public Offering to the Canadian startup community. A chance to connect, share some news, and talk about the issues that matter most.
At times, it felt like like the entire Toronto tech scene – including healthy delegations from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, and Vancouver – was in the building. It’s been a week, but the BetaKit team has only now recovered. If you didn’t make it out, here’s what you missed.
Just one more thing
Douglas Soltys: It’s always a great feeling as a tech journalist to break a news story; it’s an even better feeling to break your own news. BetaKit has worked hard to deliver the most important stories on Canadian startups and tech innovation in 2015, but we have also been working hard behind the scenes to do more. Here’s the outcome of that work.
1. A new, fresh BetaKit, with new, fresh content
Right now, a new version of BetaKit is being tested behind the scenes, to squash all bugs – and yes, make sure the site works well on mobile (we listen!). While the new version of BetaKit won’t look that different, it will work differently under the hood.
We know that BetaKit readers often care passionately about specific subjects – FinTech, wearables, funding announcements, etc – and less so about others. So we’re making it easier to dig deeper into the thin slice of news that matters most to you. In addition, the new BetaKit will make it easier for us to expand the type of stories we tell, including big, beautiful features and opinion pieces from prominent members of the Canadian startup community.
Speaking of community, BetaKit has also partnered with the wonderful folks at Startup Canada to help grow and give voice to startup communities just now starting to flower across our fair nation.
2. The BetaKit.Fund powered by the BetaKit job board
Yep, BetaKit launched a fund. Just read this passionate editorial by Ian Hardy to learn exactly what the BetaKit.Fund is all about, and why you should care about our investment in the Canadian startup community (trust me, you will).
3. HYPERGROWTH is coming
#BetaKitIPO focused on the current status of the Canadian startup ecosystem, with an eye towards what comes next. Too often, we get caught up celebrating current success, but what comes after success? HYPERGROWTH is a series dedicated to investigating the pains of success: when the funding is in and the struggle becomes building a worthwhile company as well as a worthwhile product.
Focusing on telling the stories of founders who overcame or are undertaking the steep curve of success, HYPERGROWTH will exist in both written form and as an event series travelling across Canada to Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, and Kitchener-Waterloo. The first HYPERGROWTH event, organized in partnership with Communitech, will take place in Kitchener-Waterloo, so stay tuned for the save the date announcement!
“You do it by winning.”
Igor Bonifacic: Despite the rowdy crowd, one of the highlights of #BetaKitIPO was the panel discussion on the Next Step for Canadian Startups that included the collective wisdom of Michael Serbinis, Mark MacLeod, Les Magyar, Satish Kanwar, and Allen Lau.
Tasked with investigating the current state of the Canadian startup ecosystem, and how it could produce more companies like Shopify, the panel tone was in many ways set by Serbinis, founder and CEO of LEAGUE. Returning to his familiar Dx3 refrain, Serbinis dismissed the notion that success was determined by the strength of ‘ecosystems’, saying that Canadian founders must adopt and encourage a culture of winning within their startups and network of entrepreneurs.
It was this context that loomed large over much of the rest of the conversation. The normally soft-spoken Lau, CEO of Wattpad, was the most captivating in breaking down how the global dynamics of the Internet have dramatically altered what it means to be a successful startup. While it used to be that one million users was enough for a company to be considered successful, in Lau’s words, “one billion is the new one million.”
MacLeod and Kanwar both added colour by identifying other hurdles to global success. MacLeod, founder of the newly formed SurePath Capital Partners, explained that without the proper roadmap and planning, most founders can get trapped during the Series B round, where it is no longer possible to “sell the dream.” Leveraging his experience at both Shopify and Jet Cooper (acquired by Shopify in 2013), Kanwar gave practical examples of what winning culture looks like from the inside.
"In Canada, you just have to assume you can and you must be fearless." @skanwar of @Shopify at the #BetaKitIPO
— Kara Collins (@karasurfs) May 26, 2015
Still, despite high stakes, the panel agreed that there’s never been a better time to start a company in Canada. This was perhaps best exemplified by Magyar, co-founder of MetricWire, a startup that moved to Silicon Valley to take part in Y Combinator but later returned to its home base of Kitchener-Waterloo. Magyar said that he and his co-founders never considered staying in part because he believed the quality of talent in the KW Region was unparalleled.
If there was a theme to the panel, it was that Canada’s startups have the potential to be great, but must realize that potential with vision and will.
Every party should have a Fun Czar
Tom Emrich: As Fun Czar for #BetaKitIPO, it was my job to ensure that Canadian startups were not only represented in attendance, but integrated into the actual event itself. After all, more startups equals more fun, right?
While Voovo was busy outfitting partygoers with 3D printed bowties, Thalmic Labs and CFC Media Lab were giving others a chance to interact with next-gen tech. Those looking for a more relaxed experience while eating the delicious entrees provided by Foodee could enjoy the visual projections offered by Lighthouse Labs and Visibull, or head up to the roof for a push-of-a-button cocktail thanks to Bartesian.
In the end, all that was missing was our very own blimp due to last-minute weather concerns, but you have to leave them wanting more, right?
Raise the roof
Photos and video courtesy Amanda Cosco.