This week I have been fortunate to attend an event in Silicon Valley known as 48 Hours In The Valley, representing Moby, a company I co-founded. I am pleased to share my experiences from the first 24 hours of the twice-a-year gathering, hosted by a non-profit organization called C100, which is "dedicated to supporting Canadian technology entrepreneurship and investment."
Moby helps today's busy families stay connected, co-ordinated and in control by using a smartphone app that lets parents and their children privately share their location. Our vision for Moby extends into family communication and scheduling, and the concept was one of the original ideas behind Contigo Systems, a GPS and location-based services company I co-founded in 2002 with John Tedesco.
After completing early research and development for Moby under the Contigo umbrella, we have contemplated spinning Moby out as a separate company. With a decade of experience in software and location technologies, and having validated the customer need for our product, we felt the time was right.
But as a company based in Vancouver, we have learned how difficult it is to raise money in Canada. We continually hear stories about entrepreneurs who have accelerated their businesses simply by their presence in Silicon Valley. As the stories go, these companies get a tremendous kick start by being at the epicentre of the startup ecosystem, where they gain access to the talent, venture capital, and mentorship that seems to exist in every coffee shop in the area.
We have also learned how much our market has been heating up, and how the investment climate in the United States has become more "Canada-friendly." To succeed, we knew we needed to get plugged in to Silicon Valley.
Enter the C100
We first heard about the C100 when we started testing our product and speaking to members of the press in San Francisco in July. We soon heard more about this mysterious group of 100 entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists who are proud Canadians living in Silicon Valley. We were told they understood the Valley way of life, and the subtle but important differences between our two countries, including the challenges of raising money in Canada. The group was uniquely positioned to bridge the divide for Canadian entrepreneurs seeking a foothold in the United States.
We also learned that since 2010, companies that have participated in C100 activities have raised more than $388 million in funding. That was impressive.
When word of the C100 flagship event – 48 Hours In The Valley – came up, it became clear that this group could help us achieve our goals of retaining mentors and gaining access to investors with expertise in our market. We were fortunate to be introduced to members of the C100, including Dan Martell and others, who have given us excellent advice. And we were fortunate to have been accepted to participate in the program, which runs until Wednesday. We have arrived.
The first 24 hours
If the first day was any indication, I'm confident we will look back on the two days here as an ignition point for our company's growth.
On Monday night we attended a networking event at the Mozilla headquarters, and in a few short hours we had made connections with possible advisers, partners and even financing leads. Monday evening alone was worth the trip.
During the morning sessions on Tuesday, our group heard from a leading venture capitalist, the founder of AngelList, and a highly successful entrepreneur, each of whom dispensed excellent advice on how to raise money as well as the importance of being "un-Canadian" by embracing a bold, confident attitude when thinking about our ventures.
In the afternoon each company was paired with two different mentors, and given time with each of them to discuss our businesses. The mentors didn't disappoint and in the short time with each one we were able to work out solutions to challenges facing us, and we were offered introductions to investors from around the Valley.
Tuesday evening brought another excellent networking event where we were able to interact with our C100 hosts and other 48 Hours attendees in a social environment that sparked further conversations and offers to help.
The next 24 and beyond
We hope the relationships forged during this program continue to evolve and deepen over the weeks and months to come. Ultimately, the measure of success will be whether introductions from the event turn into investment dollars or further assistance in helping Moby scale.
To read more about how 48 Hours In The Valley unfolds, visit our blog.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Rob Goehring is the co-founder and CEO of Moby, a developer of a smartphone app to keep parents and their families connected. You can reach him on Twitter @robgoehring.
This is the first 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 will appear every Wednesday in December on the Report on Small Business website.
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