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Shot at funding spurs visit to Silicon Valley

Nathan Leggatt is the founder of EmmaActive.

To be a startup in the tech industry is almost, by any definition, a tough, lonely battle: long hours, constant challenges and a single-minded focus on a dream that demands constant nourishment.

That's before you even begin to think about how to get noticed, affirmed and funded.

EmmaActive is our answer to the question: "Where can I buy that?" The company monetizes images on publisher websites by overlaying them with product placement tags, allowing pictures to connect consumers with the businesses selling the products. The platform makes it easy for e-commerce sites, publications or technical presentations to add product hotspots to any photo without technical know-how.

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The tags can increase search-engine optimization (SEO) value and reduce friction during the sales and conversion process. EmmaActive also overlays the products in images with social sharing icons, which allow users to push products they love to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. We make photos interactive and social.

EmmaActive had the privilege of being one of the startups invited to be part of the last 48 Hours in the Valley event hosted by the C100, a group "comprised of a select group of Canadians based primarily in Silicon Valley."

Before we had the opportunity to participate in the 48 Hours event – which invites 20 of Canada's most promising startups to Silicon Valley for mentorship, workshops and investor meetings – we had been developing and funding the product ourselves over the past couple of years, with the help of some local investment. The 48 Hours program was a great opportunity to get our product in front of some of the leading venture capitalists (VCs) and investors looking to help fund startups.

It was also an opportunity to put our product on a wider playing field. As we developed EmmaActive, one of the hardest parts of the process was making connections in the technology investment industry, particularly in Silicon Valley. While Vancouver, Seattle and Kelowna, B.C., are becoming important players in the growth and funding of startups, Silicon Valley is still recognized as the place you need to be in order to obtain real recognition and money. As we began the 48 Hours event, we were excited to be able to get a glimpse of the Facebook offices as well as a tour of the main centre for all the tech industries near Stanford University.

As part of the event, we also got to sit down with a number of other startups and VCs. Each of the other participating companies, including our own, got to share pitches and hear about some of the new ideas coming from other startups. It was inspiring to be introduced to so many fantastic ideas and products from innovative people and companies. It was also wonderful to see how so many other businesses were in the same position as we were, with the same hopes, dreams and issues.

Of course, the biggest draw was the opportunity to meet with potential VCs and angel investors. We received a lot of feedback and advice, which was extremely helpful to our company. Relationships have always been one of the most important currencies in the technology industry. While we were definitely hoping to secure funding, one of the valuable things that always comes out of an event like 48 Hours in the Valley is the chance to make connections and build relationships not only with potential investors but also with other companies.

While we have yet to receive any funding resulting from 48 Hours in the Valley, we were definitely able to build some great relationships with other companies, such as Ethical Ocean. Many of them continue to connect with us, whether it involves approaching us at other events, e-mailing us to see how we're doing, or put us in contact with other companies to help us out.

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Being connected through the C100 program has also given us valuable opportunities, including shared office space in San Francisco near other startups and investors, as well as a pipeline to a remarkable group of people who have continued to give their time and energy to advise us in an increasingly complex industry.

Taking a startup from idea to a finished product has always been difficult. Navigating the myriad paths of advice, a startup begins to wonder if it will ever get its great idea into the hands of those who can take it to the next level. And that is what we got out of our 48 Hours in the Valley: a sense that we were not alone and that more possibilities were open to us.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Nathan Leggatt is the founder of EmmaActive and he is still looking for funding. You can reach him at

This is the third in a four-part series on 48 Hours In The Valley, and how it helps Canadian tech companies in the short- and long-term. The stories appear every Wednesday in December on the Report on Small Business website.

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