George Borovec, CEO of Treasure Chest Market Place, says the idea to invade the Valley catalyzed over lunch.
Sitting at one of the large tables in the Invest Ottawa lunchroom, Borovec, along with Michel Paquet (CEO of Aetonix), Deepak Dutt (CEO of Zighra) and David Ker (Head of Zination), began waxing poetic about the tech “Holy Land” and the mythology of its potential. It led to the realization that in order to determine what value Silicon Valley offered their businesses, they agreed there was only one way forward; hop on a plane and go.
However, the consortium knew that planning ahead of time was key and going alone would probably amount to little. In a special contribution Borovec penned for the Globe & Mail just prior to their trip, he resolved that “strength in numbers” was critical to maximizing positive outcomes. Borovec explained the rationale this way:
“Why not pool our resources, connections and networks and see what happens? It takes a community to build a community, so why not use a similar approach to when trying to expand one’s reach – whether it’s to find new customers, strategic partners or investors?”
— Jonathan Milne (@jonathanmilne) February 4, 2015
So the group booked flights, found affordable accommodations in East Palo Alto for two weeks and set up as many meetings as possible. From the moment their plane hit the tarmac, the group encountered a whirlwind of networking with investors, famous entrepreneurs from big-time startups (ie: Uber, Bittorrent, Slack and TechCrunch) even public sector organizations like Canada’s San Franciso Consulate.
And in between the madness, the Ottawa Consortium pulled all-nighters tweaking their pitches, analyzing their business model and setting up even more meetings. Reflecting on the experience Paquet said, “The first two days, felt like two weeks in itself”.
However, was it worth the time, money and sleepless nights? If you ask the Ottawa Consortium, the answer is a resounding yes. The group says it’s difficult to articulate why that is, but Borovec believes it boils down to one key difference in Silicon Valley business culture. He says,”Everbody always asks… How Can I Help?“. Borovec says that’s a fundamental difference from the traditional business focus on a win-win relationship. He says the ecosystem in the Valley is hyper-focused on helping YOU win.
In February, the group held a debrief session with other Invest Ottawa companies to share the experience and provide some insights into what start-ups can expect from a visit to the “Holy Land”. There were dozens of observations to choose from, but some stuck out more than others.
Paquet & Borovec spoke to the importance of a slide deck versus an elevator pitch:
Ker says investors and entrepreneurs will find the holes in your business plans and addresses why sales are irrelevant in the Valley:
And finally Ker and the rest of the group says don’t let your surroundings hold you back:
A more in-depth, “fly on the wall” feel of the talk is below (Caution: Some blue language. edited for time and clarity)