Thoughts from BVF ’09

Written by Kevin on October 3rd, 2009

The 2009 Banff Venture Forum finished up tonight with a keynote from Steven Woods of Google Canada.  He told the entertaining story of his life through 2 start ups, one very good and one not so good, and then related it to the entrepreneurial culture he found at Google.

This was my 3rd BVF and I have to admit that each experience has been different.  BVF ’07 was my first step into the world of tech ventures in Canada.  I remember that upon returning to Alberta from California I composed a “hit list” of a bunch of people who were active and respected as either entrepreneurs or investors in the tech space who would probably be at Banff and headed out with nothing but pictures and internet bios to track them down.  It was there that I initiated what have turned out to be some extraordinary relationships and I always appreciate the opportunity to come back to Banff and spend a couple of days with many of these colleagues.

Really enjoyed meeting Seth Levine from the Foundry Group in Colorado.  Seth is also involved in Techstars, which follows a model that I know a few people in Edmonton are looking at.  It was valuable to hear Seth’s thoughts on it as well as life being a “younger” VC.

I will have some follow up posts concerning growing tech companies in Alberta as I had some excellent discussions with some of the groups and individuals who are trying to contribute to this.  I have to admit that there are some good people involved in government and the private sector and was generally encouraged with what I heard.  More on that later, first some thoughts on the pitches from the companies in the ICT stream:

  • Was rather uninspired by the pitches this year.  Not sure if this is me becoming more critical as I learn this business or if it was just a weaker field.
  • A lot of companies are focusing on mobile, but it was very hard to distinguish exactly what problem they were trying to solve.  The mobile space is obviously immature and it will be interesting watching it develop.
  • There was not a lot of young entrepreneurs pitching this year.  In fact, half the companies had CEO’s well over 40.  Not saying this is good or bad, just saying.
  • A few companies were trying to raise small rounds at low valuations after taking on huge rounds on large valuations not too long ago.  Would like to say that this is a result of the financial climate this past year, but I don’t completely buy that.
  • Observed a panel on monetizing social media, local VC Shawn Abbott participated, and had some excellent discussions afterward with a group on what we have learned at Nexopia.  It is something that is still not completely solved, but I can tell you what doesn’t work.  Not a big fan of trying to improve ad revenue via analytics and user behaviour, yet so many companies are still going after it.  Why?

All in all, it was once again a great couple days and a great chance to step back and look atythe things I am involved with from a higher level.  The thing I love about being around a group of people like this for a couple of days is that it re-energizes and inspires me to go back to Nexopia and keep pushing even harder.  Entrepreneurship is contagious and you can never underestimate the power of surrounding yourself around the right people.