Every fall, three B.C. startups take home the top prizes in North America's largest startup competition: the New Ventures BC Competition, presented by Innovate BC.
Last week, we hosted an intimate discussion with the founders of these winning companies to share what they did to be successful and what pitfalls to avoid.
Missed it? No problem. Here’s a recap of the key learnings and takeaways from the conversation.
We quickly dove into one of the biggest challenges B.C. tech startups face – scaling. When asked what was most important in going from product market fit to commercializing and scaling, our panelists were unanimous. Internal policies and processes.
The processes only matter when you start to grow, so you want to find a balance. While you’re still in the development phase, you don’t want to spend too much time on processes because you need to build your product. But find the low hanging fruit where you can save yourself a lot of time down the road.
Andrew Just, Train Fitness
When you’re just starting out you don’t need much in the way of policies and processes. But while you may be moving fast, you can’t cut corners. When you’re establishing your company it’s key that you also set up proper processes to support growth and build a scalable business. You need to put the time in early on, because it’ll save you so much more time in the long run. Once you start bringing in new employees and money from investors it’s too late.
This doesn’t mean you need everything sorted from the get-go. There are a lot of resources available like templates and startup packages in the tech community to help you get set up properly. Don’t hesitate to contact your local accelerator to be pointed in the right direction.
Another key theme in the discussion was around hiring for cultural fit and developing an inclusive and diverse team. Culture is paramount to the success of a startup. It’s a challenging work environment and you need people who have the frame of mind to make it work. Remember that skills can be developed but attitude cannot.
Our panelists noted that when you’re starting a company, you get to create the culture, which is a unique opportunity. One suggestion was to create a culture document – outline what your company’s values will be early on so that prospective employees know who you are. You want your mission and key values to be more than copy on your about page. By asking candidates about their values and ensuring a fit, you also ensure that those values are woven into the fabric of your company. And if you don’t find a fit – don’t compromise!
We’re working on a culture document. It outlines the pillars of the company, what we’re looking for in hires, and what sort of culture we’re looking to build. This is something we’re hoping to send out to candidates so they understand who we are.
Sumreen Rattan, Moment Energy
Lastly, we talked about the importance of recognizing biases during the hiring process. Everyone is susceptible to bias, and it can alter your impression of candidates. There are many ways to combat this, like redacting names and addresses from resumes, but the first step is recognizing your own biases. Once you are conscious of your bias you can take steps to mitigate it. For more on inclusive hiring, check out this article.
The burning question on every founder’s mind – how do I get more money? According to our panelists, you must be strategic. When you need money most, is not when you’re most attractive to investors. Get your due diligence package ready. Make a timeline. Think about when you’ll need an influx of cash and raise money when your company is in a good position. Then continue to raise money strategically as you grow. But don’t forget that customer revenue is always the best form of capital so make sure that is your focus.
This is a relationship you’re getting into. It's like marriage, so go on dates first and build that relationship. You need to choose the investor you want to work with too.
Mehrsa Raeiszadeh, TrafficDriven
When it comes time to approach investors, it helps if you already have a relationship with them. If an investor knows you, your product and has followed your progress, they’re more likely to invest. However, don’t just take money because its money. This is a relationship that you’re getting into and you first need to get to know them. See how they support you, share your failures and see how they feel. It’s a two-way street and you need to choose them too.
Don’t forget that there are other sources of non-diluted funding. If you’re early- or mid-stage, apply for the New Ventures BC Competition. Look into all the different grants that are available through the federal and provincial governments. A lot of startups rely on this support before they’re able to raise investment. Innovate BC has a variety of grants and other types of support for small and medium sized B.C. businesses — learn more here.
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