in Startup, Tech, Waterloo Region

The good folks at Communitech held their annual Techtoberfest today – and as you’d expect – the speakers, the conversations, and the networking were amazing as usual. I was able to attend two sessions – the keynote with Michael Serbinis and a panel on VC funding moderated by Iain Klugman.

Keynote

I’m a big fan of the Kobo – so it was awesome to get a chance to hear Michael Serbinis talk about his experiences during the 90’s and 2000’s with DocSpace and Critical Path. There were two points that really stood out to me. First – with Kobo, he spoke about the challenges of building your own hardware. I’ve been around hardware for a while now, but never as intimately as I am at Thalmic Labs now. There’s so much to manage – and not just the manufacturing – but supply chain all the way down the line to suppliers and sourcing. It was interesting to learn how they first focused on apps across multiple platforms and then realized that owning the eReader hardware was were the real opportunity was.

The second thing that stood out to me was his focus on culture. He defined culture as a collection of stories and emphasized the importance on capturing them. As a product manager, I’m always focused on the story that we’re trying to tell our customers – and this is just as important as the story we tell employees and future employees during interviews. Who are we? Why are we doing this? It’s the stories and relationships (and inside jokes) in the office that form the fabric of your company’s culture.

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CEO Panel on VC Funding

Iain Klugman then moderated a panel on VC funding with Jennifer Moss of Plasticity Labs, Adam Belsher of Magnet Forensics, J. Paul Haynes of eSentire, and my boss Stephen Lake of Thalmic Labs.

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It was a great opportunity to hear from CEOs of companies in the region that have engaged VCs at different times, in different ways, or our still looking at when the right time is. I’ve had the chance to work for both boot strapped start-ups and funded start-ups over my career. There are different issues for both – from board demands to fund timings to pressure to meet your investor’s expectations.

Tying this back into the idea of telling your story from above, Stephen Lake had a great point about how to know what level of funding you need.

Think that ties nicely into the idea that you need to know the story of your business.

Finally, the quote of the session for me was from J. Paul Hayes of eSentire –

…and of course, what would Techtoberfest be without the ceremonial tapping of the keg with special guests Michael Litt and Lisa Cashmore