Canadian tech execs in Silicon Valley help to foster homegrown innovation through the C100’s 48 Hours in the Valley program. This year, the B.C. contingent really turned heads
Forty-eight hours isn’t a lot of time to regular folks. To the average person, it’s not even half of their workweek. And it’s barely enough time to catch up on one’s favourite TV shows. It’s a length of time that can be, and often is, easily and utterly wasted.
But for entrepreneurs, 48 hours can represent a bounty of opportunity. It can be enough time to build a startup, as evidenced by Startup Weekends around the world. It can mean millions of dollars in funding, as demonstrated by the team behind the wildly popular Pebble smartwatch on Kickstarter. Or it can mean a dream trip to the startup capital of the world, Silicon Valley, for two days filled to the brim with invaluable experiences.
Three years ago the C100 launched in Silicon Valley, and its impact has been felt across Canada. The C100 is a non-profit, member-driven organization dedicated to supporting Canadian technology entrepreneurship and investment. It’s comprised of a select group of Canadians based primarily in Silicon Valley, including executives of leading technology companies like Apple and Google, seasoned startup entrepreneurs and veteran venture capitalists.
The C100’s mandate is to mentor and grow a new generation of Canadian-led technology companies. Its flagship event, 48 Hours in the Valley, is the driving force behind this mission.
The program, put on in conjunction with the Canadian Consulate of San Francisco and Palo Alto, occurs twice a year and involves two days of mentorship, workshops, investor meetings, strategic partner visits and networking. The most recent round of 48 Hours in the Valley—the eighth to date—took place June 10–12. From hundreds of applications, the C100 chose 19 Canadian early stage startups to participate; six of those companies call B.C. home: CineCoup, ePACT Network, FusionPipe Software, Learndot, SemiosBIO and Skyscraper. So far, of the 141 startups that have participated, 24 per cent have been from B.C.—the highest share of any province outside Ontario.
Previous B.C.-based 48 Hours participants have had nothing but praise for the program. A year ago, the co-founder of Vancouver-based startup LemonStand chronicled his company’s two-day romp in the Valley, noting the electric atmosphere of the region. “The entrepreneurial energy is intoxicating,” says Danny Halarewich. “It was hard to leave.”
This latest round saw some of B.C.’s finest talent to date. CineCoup is making big waves in the filmmaking industry as the world’s first film accelerator to adopt a tech-industry accelerator model. “I want to make international films that happen to be made by Canadians,” explains Jason Joly, CEO and founder of the Vancouver startup, which graduated from local accelerator GrowLab.
Another potential heavy-hitter is ePACT Network, described most simply as a LinkedIn for emergency networks. The name and the one-line pitch aren’t exactly riveting, but the passion of the Vancouver company’s founders is contagious, and they make you wonder: why hasn’t anyone done this yet? Just think of the schools, daycares, sports teams and care homes across North America that still use paper-based systems to track individuals’ information and contacts.
“Competitors are not doing what we are doing yet—a few are putting some pieces together, but we haven’t seen an apples-to-apples comparison,” says ePACT CEO Christine Sommers.
Then there’s SemiosBIO, a biotech startup, which makes it a minority in the Canadian startup ecosystem. This Vancouver company screams potential. It’s combining computer software and wireless networks with chemistry to disrupt the breeding of agriculture pests, confusing insects during their most vulnerable stage. If successful, Semios could alter pest control in the most significant way since Sumerians dusted crops with sulphur 5,000 years ago.
It’s difficult to encapsulate the brilliance of these B.C. startups on a single page. And it’s impossible to capture the wealth of knowledge and connections generated for these Canadians at 48 Hours. With the incredible talent B.C.’s startup ecosystem is showcasing today, I wouldn’t be surprised if Silicon Valley entrepreneurs soon head north for 48 hours of learning from the best.