As the old saying goes, “your desk is a scary place from which to view the world.” This certainly rings true when you think about how small our domestic market opportunity really is for the technology we produce here. We need to get “in market” to rub elbows with the people who are shaping the industry trends and represent the big money buyers of our products. As exporters of technology, we ignore markets such as Silicon Valley, Boston and New York at our peril. On this list of hotspots, Silicon Valley arguably ranks as the epicenter for many tech sectors. It is its own ecosystem unmatched in scale – anchored by an impressive academic and corporate complex and driven by a stellar talent pool – backed by some of the biggest venture funds to fuel the boldest of entrepreneurial dreams.
Our technology start-ups need increased market visibility with potential reference customers, investors, industry analysts and other key opinion leaders in places like Silicon Valley. Yet it’s the Canadian tech community, especially in the digital media sector, is vastly underrepresented at top-tier conferences, compared with the participation seen by companies from many of the EU countries and other major tech nations such as Israel. In short, we as a community have got to do less “talking to ourselves” and get more start-ups up on the road.
So that’s precisely what we’re doing. This week half a dozen CEOs, together with a host of advisors from MaRS, Communitech, TechAlliance and OCRI in addition to the CVCA and a few “active” investors from such fine firms as Wellington Capital, Tech Capital Partners and Growthworks are boarding planes and heading west to the 7th Annual AlwaysOn Stanford Summit.
This executive gathering features 800 attendees, including the most innovative companies, eminent technologists, influential investors and global tech journalists for panels, pitches, keynotes and debates. The AlwaysOn & STVP Summit highlights the significant economic, political and commercial trends affecting the global technology industries. Featured speakers include Marissa Mayer, VP Search and User Experience, Google; Bill Gurley Managing Partner, Benchmark Capital; Vinod Khosla, Managing General Partner, Khosla Ventures; and Mitchell Baker, Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation.
As part of our services that focus on assisting select high potential Ontario companies, MaRS and our partners across the province understand there is a clear need to drive more targeted business development in certain US and international markets. Tradeshow events such as the AlwaysOn Summit at Stanford present a compelling opportunity to engage with these audiences while showcasing our best technologies under the MaRS banner to a sizable international audience.
We have a very busy program planned for our CEOs. Reaching out to personal networks and our partners such as DFAIT we have put together a very engaging Day One schedule of corporate briefings and VIP tech tours of world-class facilities at Google, Cisco and Microsoft. Day Two moves to a more hands-on interaction with some of Silicon Valley’s smartest tech players: Paula Phelan, Founder of Nadal Phelan Communications, Rick Rasmussen, former CMO of LSI Logic and now on assignment with our friends at DFAIT; and Grover Righter – our legendary Experience!Tech 2008 conference keynote who is taking yet another start up (Mezz0.com) out of the garage. This will be followed by a luncheon hosted by Sam Angus at the Fenwick & West offices where a few Bay Area VCs have been invited to sit in on a “pitch practice session” with our CEOs. Then it’s on to the main stage at Stanford.
Our delegation of six leading tech companies has been given a prime opportunity to showcase how they solve some big problems where there are large market opportunities. With solutions that do everything from capturing aerial imagery for police departments, measuring the value of social media buzz, sending HD television broadcasts over mobile networks, to more accurate GPS platforms, our CEOs will indeed generate some interest.
A list of the Ontario companies attending are:
Please note a live feed of these main stage presentations is expected to be broadcast. For the updated event agenda and broadcast feed click here and follow the links. You can also follow MaRS on Twitter and/or the hashtag #MaRSAO2009 for updates from the MaRS Stanford team.
With showcase opportunities such as this, plus the wonderful balance of networking, education, inspiration and collaboration that we’ve baked into this program, we’re expecting some big things from these Ontario companies. Let’s wish them all a great road trip.