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  • 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