Key members from the local tech scene in the Kitchener-Waterloo region gathered at THEMUSEUM on August 22 to celebrate the launch of the Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises’ Canadian Scale-Up Tour. The Lazaridis Institute is recruiting the top ten tech scale-ups in Canada to join the inaugural cohort of its mentoring program and peer network for CEOs, founders and senior leaders who are ready for growth on a global level.
In partnership with local tech incubators Communitech and the Accelerator Centre, this event was the first stop on the Lazaridis Institute’s cross-Canada Scale-Up Tour running from August 22-September 8 in search of the next great tech companies who are ready to scale. Other roadshow event cities include Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary, Fredericton, Halifax, St. John’s, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
“We have great startups here in Canada, coupled with a brilliant ecosystem of talent, ideas, incubators and accelerators, “ said Micheál Kelly, dean of the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics and Chairman of the Global Advisory Board for the Lazaridis Institute. “But the fact is, too few Canadian tech startups get to global enterprise scale: they get bought, move to the U.S. or plateau at a size that generates only moderate economic benefits and moderate numbers of new jobs.”
“The Lazaridis Institute has a mandate to change this. In our vision, the best young Canadian tech companies will have the resources they need to scale to global enterprise firms,” said Kelly. “In order to achieve this vision, we will be launching a number of new programs and initiatives designed to expand the capabilities of our tech ecosystem. The Lazaridis Institute’s Canadian Scale-Up Program is the first.”
Kim Morouney, associate dean of the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics, discussed the three key problems many tech startups face when trying to scale in Canada: access to experience, access to markets that enable scaling and access to capital.
“We’ve designed the Lazaridis Institute Scale-up Program to specifically address these problems. You will learn directly from entrepreneurs who have created world-class enterprises, and who will work with you to decide what that hard-won knowledge means to your specific company,” shared Morouney. “But our goal goes beyond providing you with information, to giving you the resources you need to translate that information into action—immediately, in your company.”
Starting in November and wrapping up in April, the ten selected companies will receive practical advice and mentorship on leadership, product, customer acquisition, finance and operations, and funding – for companies who are facing the challenges of scaling. These Scale-Up weekends will be hosted in tech hubs in Waterloo, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Silicon Valley.
Two experts who will be delivering the program were also in attendance to share practical wisdom gained in their years of experience, in Silicon Valley and beyond, scaling their own companies and helping other companies scale.
“The role of mentorship, of access to experience, is extremely important,” explained Chris Burry, co-CEO of the United States Market Access Center (USMAC) and industry fellow at the University of California Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. Burry used the analogy of climbing a mountain and the importance of having a Sherpa as a way to stress how integral mentorship is to a scale-up’s success. And not just any mentor—in fact, not just any Silicon Valley mentor—will do: “It’s not about having connections in the Valley, it’s about having a connection on a truly global scale.”
Bill Reichert, managing director and co-founder of Garage Technology Ventures, spoke to the art of scaling up. When pitching to potential investors, “You want them to say, ‘WOW, that’s amazing,’” said Reichert. He also talked about how important it is to “make new mistakes”: Reichert explained that learning from experts and working with experienced mentors will help ensure that the companies involved won’t waste their time repeating the same old mistakes others have made.
“It’s going to be an absolutely transformative experience for the companies we select, and that’s why we decided to take this roadshow coast-to-coast,” said Kelly. “We want to get the message out that we’re going to find Canada’s Top Ten most promising young tech firms and we’re going to ensure that they have everything they need to scale exponentially.”
For more information on the Lazaridis Institute Scale-Up Tour or to apply to the Canadian Scale-Up Program, visit www.scaleupprogram.com. Applications close September 23.
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