• 22 Sep 2020 by Irene Dorsman


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On Thursday, September 17th, it was time for the Annual Okanagan Summit again, this time unfortunately not in person but on Zoom. To provide the necessary foundation, we started off with the “Angel Investing – from first cheque to exit ” webinar on Thursday afternoon. The webinar captivated a record number of (aspiring) angel investors and entrepreneurs.

    With the help of co-organizer Accelerate Okanagan we were able to select a great mix of presenting entrepreneurs and speakers for Friday, the official summit day. The day kicked off with some welcoming words from Kelowna MLAs Steve Thomson and Ben Stewart who highlighted the great opportunities for starting-up and investing in their rapidly growing region. Brea Lake, the CEO of Accelerate Okanagan welcomed all attendees and pointed to the resources available to start-ups in the Okanagan and growing number of investments into local entrepreneurs, a trend further supported by the annual OKGN Angel Summit Accelerate Okanagan hosts.

    The first speaker was Colin Mason, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Glasgow University and considered one of the deans of angel investment research, he is the lead author of NACO’s annual report on Angel Investing in Canada and very familiar with both North American and European angel settings. Mason pointed out how deals continued to get done through the COVID pandemic period and shared some interesting data and trends. We are always thankful for his contributions from across the pond.

    Seasoned entrepreneur and investor Jenny Yang was next in line for a frank discussion with Pieter Dorsman on what angels look for in deals and how to manage the relationship between angels and entrepreneurs. Jenny had some great insights, highlighting the people aspect of finding the right founders to invest in, the key issue of managing cash burn, finding a co-founder and lessons learned from investments that did not work out so well. On the latter point she added the importance of understanding sales and marketing models, if they worked well before there is no guarantee that by adding investors’ money they will automatically scale successfully.

    Qase, Spinndle and Darwin pitched in the morning session and were received very well with a lot of questions and answers. The afternoon kicked off with a lively panel that started with a talk from agritech investor Tom Urban who laid out his investment vision. Tom underlined his number crunching approach to sales and markets and provided a bit of counterbalance to the investors who put more stock into the people approach. The panel then weighed in on the impact of the current pandemic on their businesses. Jason Sparrow from BarrelWise, Michael Riedijk from PageFreezer and Soileos and Sandra Oldfield from Eysian Projects & EiR at Accelerate Okanagan, highlighted the pros and cons of adapting to the ‘new world’. And even though it is harder nowadays to brainstorm at the water cooler, it seemed the panel was quite positive on the ability of business to keep both operating and scaling in this new environment.

    Following this Fable, Flow and Vancouver Computer Vision (VCV) pitched and it is telling that on a late Friday afternoon the audience actually grew to take in all these great pitches. The attendees then voted for the companies and the following awards were handed out:

    • Best Revenue Potential:                                VCV
    • Most innovative:                                             VCV
    • Most likely to go public:                                 VCV
    • The Strongest Team Award:                          Flow, Darwin and Qase
    • Best presentation:                                          Spinndle                                 
    • Invite to present at Whistler Summit:          Flow

     All in all a great summit, also because it was our first one to go fully virtual! We look forward to repeating the experience again next month for our Whistler Summit from October 7-9!

    A big thank you goes to our sponsors Harper Grey, PWC, Apply, TMX Group, OKR Financial, Virtual CFO and Nimbus Synergies.

  • 16 Jun 2020 by Nora Dorsman

     

     As we entered the lockdown phase and the world was moving business communications to Zoom, Angel Forum wasted no time to move its activities online too. Zoom as a platform was an easy choice as was postponing all in-person activities and events. The question was however, how do we go about it? Do we make it a long-term effort or a short one? Do we do it weekly or monthly ?

    We decided on an hour per week and on April 2 our first event was live with LevellingUp and Merkle Semiconductors as presenting companies and Colin Mason as industry expert. Mason is Professor of Entrepreneurship, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow who has done extensive research into angel investing and his exposure to the European markets enabled him to give a good view of the Covid-19 impact on investing from across the pond. 

    We continued using the new formula and the model stuck: the number of weekly attendees kept growing, we had no problem finding keen industry experts to talk about their business and Covid-19 impacts and a steady flow of start-ups interested in pitching connected with us. But more importantly, deals were being made. As the financial markets picked up after the first four crisis weeks, so did angel investing. On April 30, Victoria-based fintech company DivDot presented and the results were such that the company was able to close its round and oversubscribed following its Angel Forum pitch. But more than that, CEO Matthew Smith confirmed that the pitch generated a large number of new customers as well. And therein lies the value of our platform: not just access to investors, but also to support, resources and clients. In short, one strong supporting network.

    On top of that we launched well-attended workshops with Pieter Dorsman doing his ‘Introduction to Angel Investing’ and David Rowat and Alexandra Dawes with a timely introduction to Virtual Companies.

    A quick poll of the membership tells us that we will continue with the online 1-hour format regardless of how the crisis develops as it is a nice complement to in-person meetings. It is quick and easy and it delivers the desired result as evidenced by the DivDot case. What it does not do – and we also noticed not everyone talks freely on Zoom – is establishing personal connections. For that we hope to be back with in-person events starting September/October this year, health regulations permitting. In particular take note that the Whistler Summit is back on, from October 6-9 we will be hosting a more local angel summit at the Nita Lake Lodge. There we hope to celebrate together with a smaller audience our journey away from lockdown and back to normal. Details on that of course to follow.

     

     

  • 25 Feb 2020 by Pieter Dorsman

    Photo credit: Charles He

     

    Or: how a large group of angels and entrepreneurs were able to really take the Victoria investment get together to a new level of knowledge sharing and relationship building.

    On the back of last year’s successful angel summit, the Capital Investment Network (CIN) and Angel Forum got together to see how a 2020 edition could be organized. After a few months of prepping, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel opened its doors to some 120 participants, speakers and 8 carefully selected start-ups (out of no less than 33 applicants). 

    Following opening night drinks at the Canoe Bew Pub in downtown Victoria the show got underway on Friday morning with Pieter Dorsman who opened and highlighted the successes of last years’ presenting companies (Cuboh, Redlen, Interpodia, Limbic) and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. The mayor explained how the city just launched its Victoria 3.0 plan creating a vision for a sustainable, growing, influential city that creates high-value jobs now and for the future. That set the local stage, NACO’s new CEO Claudio Rojas outlined the opportunity across Canada to mobilize more angel capital to build a tech driven future, and quantified how we can unlock $6.9 billion in new investment. Following Claudio, Yaletown Ventures partner and angel investor Hans Knapp took the stage discussing in detail how angel investors evaluated investing in what became one of BC’s greatest success stories, vegan products manufacturer Daiya Foods which was acquired for $400 million. A very instructive case study for the audience with lots of lessons on how to look at market size and intellectual property protection. 

    Before diving into the company pitches the unique and patented angel investor bingo sought to introduce a bit of fun in the morning, also to ensure people sitting around the same table to connect with one another. Thanks to James DeGreef’s connections with the PMO we were able to source an exquisite sock selection as prizes for the winners in the game. After that the stage was for pitching companies VINN, Zennea, Dignii and Divdot to showcase their progress and highlighting why they were attractive investment options.

    After lunch – excellent as always – it was time for the first panel where moderator Richard Egli probed how the various ecosystem players were able to work together and help early stage companies progress. Panache Ventures’ Patrick Lor, Good News Ventures' Mohan Markandaier, Foresight’s Jeanette Jackson, entrepreneurship@UBC’s Kari LaMotte and VIATEC's Rob Bennett all weighed in on this. One of the key things that came out of the discussion was the importance of training leaders and providing help to entrepreneurs. Lor made it clear that Panache’s “no” was now always followed up with some further thoughts and advice on how an entrepreneur could improve or simply do better. Following the panel it was VitaminLab’s turn to pitch, followed by Walletcard and Visualping. It was Spliqs that closed off the day and like last year proving that the last spot on a Friday afternoon is absolutely no obstacle to a strong and engaging pitch. 

      

    Photo credit: Charles He

     

    The finale involved CIN-chair James DeGreef questioning seasoned angel investors Hannes Blum, Stephanie Andrew, Elizabeth Dutton, Jennifer Thompson, Pieter Dorsman and John Robertshaw on their investment strategies, lessons learned, disasters, successes and thoughts about the near future. Again, a lot of the discussion gravitated to the people aspect of investing in and working with start-ups. Manage egos, taking time for due diligence to get to know the team and provide ongoing support, all are key to successful investments. Moderator DeGreef threw in some really terrible jokes to keep everyone on their toes and the audience chimed in with many excellent and probing questions. 

    The summit wrapped up in the Bard and Banker Pub where it was announced that Visualping, Spliqs, VitaminLabs and DivDot were voted as the audience’s favourites and all four earned a ticket to Angel Forum’s event on April 2 in Vancouver. Again, it is clear, Victoria is a lively community with a growing and strong start-up system and phenomenal local entrepreneurs that are building something to invest into and to return to.

    A big thanks to the organizing committee: Stephanie Andrew, Irene Dorsman, Pieter Dorsman, James de Greef, Anna Quinn and Jordan Schley. Thanks also to supporters City of Victoria, NACO and VIATEC.

    An ever bigger thank you goes to our sponsors Harper Grey, PWC, Apply, TMX Group, OKR Financial, Virtual CFO, E-Fund, Raintree and RBC.

     

    Photo credit: Charles He

     

     

  • 23 Sep 2019 by Irene Dorsman

     

     

    Following the success of the Victoria summit earlier this year, Angel Forum embarked on its next regional effort: the Okanagan region. Supported by Accelerate Okanagan,  it was agreed that the spectacular Innovation Centre in Kelowna would be the perfect venue to get local and Vancouver angels and entrepreneurs together for networking, pitches and learning.

    The event got going on Thursday afternoon with my workshop, Structuring Deals and Term Sheets, which is an evergreen favorite for entrepreneurs, investors and service providers. Demystifying common, preferred, convertible and SAFE deals remains on the top of the list for most, including of course the never ending discussion over valuation. The workshop ended with a panel with two local tech investors, Steve Wandler and Brodie Desimone and from Vancouver Vantec’s Thealzel Lee and Andy Creech who represented sponsor TMX. Not long after that attendees and fresh arrivals congregated at the Indigenous World Winery to sample some of the local wines and amazing indigenous styled appetizers. 

    The next morning Kelowna mayor Colin Basran formally opened the event and he highlighted the growth of the city in recent years. The first keynote came from Toronto-based investor and entrepreneur Eva Lau who talked about her journey from being one of the first employees at the incredibly successful Wattpad to now being a full-time investor at her recently launched Two Small Fish Ventures. Eva focused on how her journey formed the basis of her investment thesis as she focuses on businesses that can demonstrate rapid growth through network effects. It was quite interesting to hear her argue that Wattpad can draw on Canada’s many immigrant groups to service the company’s growing international and multicultural millennials. Canada she argued, is therefore much better positioned to understand global markets than the US. And yes, many rushed off to read ‘Finding Love in a Coffeeshop’ which now has had over 10 million readers on Wattpad.

    Morning and afternoon company pitches came from: ProductLift, Kinematic Soup, SaNOtize, Minga, Medident, XCO, Taste Advisor and Talous Interactive. The audience determined that Minga, SaNOtize, Taste Advisor and ProductLift would deserve the chance to present at the Angel Forum on October 17 in Vancouver.

    Right after lunch Ralph Turfus, one of Canada’s most seasoned super angels took the attendees through a life of angel investing. Ralph tells it like it is and demystified angel returns and explained how to build and manage angel portfolios. The core lesson: it is not easy, it takes time and the outcomes are not nearly as spectacular as we are often led to believe. An interesting panel discussion followed where Ralph was joined by Eva Lau and Apply Ventures’ Gautam Banerjee and Active Impact InvestmentsMike Winterfield.  The day ended with a company tour at the innovation center where we visited the offices of Pela, Trellis, Tonit, Playr.gg, UBCO Innovation Hub and Get in the Loop. After that, it was time for drinks at the Curious Café which served a huge selection of craft beers and excellent pizzas.

    But the best part was the deep networking. The keynote speakers had time for all attendees and in every corner of the venue people were talking, exchanging ideas, structuring deals and discovering new areas for collaboration. Some out of towners commented on how fragmented British Columbia’s ecosystem appears to be with everyone doing their own thing. The Kelowna Summit was therefore another step in getting collaboration across the province going with the goal of doing better deals, faster.

    A big thanks to Brodie Desimone and the team at Accelerate Okanagan for making the event happen and of course our phenomenal sponsors: Harper Grey, OKR, PWC, TMX Group, Apply Ventures, E-Fund and WUTIF.

  • 05 Mar 2019 by Pieter Dorsman

     

    Or: how a large group of angels and entrepreneurs were able to build some lasting and well- informed relations in a short period of time.

     

    Organized by Vancouver’s Angel Forum and Victoria’s Capital Investment Network, some hundred and twenty angels and entrepreneurs descended on Victoria to discuss the changing trends in angel investing. After an evening of introductory drinks at Victoria’s classic Bard & Banker pub, the attendants gathered in the spectacular Oak Bay Beach Hotel the next morning to dive deep into the latest and greatest of angel investing. Victoria was not a random choice, as mayor Lisa Helps explained at the opening of the conference, tech is Victoria’s biggest business sector, generating some $4 billion in annual revenues for the local economy. And not only that, a steady flow of new and exciting start-ups is born in this small but increasingly important entrepreneurial hub.

    Participants came from everywhere, a third from Victoria itself, a third from Vancouver and the balance came from the rest of Canada with even a few Americans and Europeans in the mix. It was seasoned super angel Ralph Turfus who got the audience going with some deep reflections on his entrepreneurial and investment career. Ralph brought home some important lessons to the (aspiring) angels attending, some very detailed metrics from his large portfolio made it clear that angel investing more than any other investment discipline requires an extremely focused approach and above all, portfolio diversification. Turfus made clear how more recently he has gravitated to funds, a message the various entrepreneurs took to heart, realizing that trying to corner Ralph for a cheque would probably not be a terribly great strategy. 

    A total of seven carefully curated companies pitched during the day - moderated by Kirk Hamilton - all of them capturing the audience with their enthusiasm, technology and above all strong commercial traction: Cuboh, Interpodia, Vivo Team, Mailchannels, Redlen, Hypernose and Limbic Media. Sponsor E-Fund happily took over the 8th spot following a cancellation from Suva. The presentations sparked quite a bit of discussion and the audience kept going with some strong questions, even after the lunchtime break when audiences tend to get a bit sleepy, not so here in Victoria.  The audience also voted, Redlen, Limbic and Cuboh placed top three and earned slots to present at Angel Forum on April 16 in Vancouver.

    The lunch break was reserved for a fireside chat with Vistara’s Capital founder and managing partner Randy Garg. E-Fund director and seasoned Victoria-based tech investor James de Greef acted as moderator and probed deep into the mind of the pros and cons of providing debt to tech companies that are scaling in excess f $10 million revenue. Following Ralph Turfus’ self acclaimed A-type personality it struck James that Randy was rather ‘chill’ and wondered out loud if equity attracts A-types and debt attracts more relaxed people? Randy did not have an answer for that, but pointed to some important metrics and trends in his industry, which although derived from the debt business were equally informative for the equity players in the room. Co-panelist Richard Egli from Alacrity and Mike Winterfield from Active Impact Investments were able to give some perspective on how early stage investing has evolved and what worked for them in building relationships between funders and entrepreneurs.

    The debate on women in tech also got attention, an attendee pointed out that the ‘investing in women’ label is often marketing by financial institutions and that it is still quite hard for women to get funded.  True indeed. When panel member Jennifer Thompson, herself an accomplished angel investor, was asked why there are so few female investors, Thompson did not miss a beat and responded: “Women are very cheap, as angel investors, they would not blow $50k on a sketchy tech deal the way guys would”. And on that note the attendees realized that one can actually learn a lot more from the more outspoken people with real life experience than from textbook platitudes.

    As the indoor part of the event wrapped up the audience said goodbye to departing NACO CEO Yuri Navarro, a man who has contributed a phenomenal amount of energy and commitment to helping build the Canadian angel investing ecosystem. Yuri is on his way to an exciting new future that brings him closer to doing actual deals, cross border no less. The afternoon concluded with a company tour that included visits to the Alacrity Foundation, Certn, Econics, Freshworks, Kano Apps and Racerocks. The visits were a success and all participants managed to find their way to the Canoe Brewpub where the die-hards went to work on the beers, oysters and other snacks in order to celebrate a very successful angel summit.

    Angel investing is above all building relationships, exchanging ideas and finding ways to find common ground so that there is a framework for collaboration all the way to the exit of a company. The 24 hours in Victoria were evidence of how you do that.

     

    A big thanks to the organizing committee: Stephanie Andrew, Joelle Blaikie, Irene Dorsman, Pieter Dorsman, James de Greef, Anna Quinn and Jordan Schley.

    Thanks to co-organizers NACO and VIATEC.

    And an even bigger thanks to the sponsors: City of Victoria,  Harper Grey, BDC, OKR Financial, BDO, PWC, E-Fund, TMX Group, RBC, Haro Ventures and 100.3 Q.