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!