Banff Venture Forum Delivers on Promise of Connection

Banff SpringsWe are living in a virtual world. Able to connect with more information and more people on a daily basis than ever before. I can sit in my home office in the early morning, Skype with someone in New Zealand, scan ten twitters, check out my friends’ Facebook status, write a blog post, load up my customized iGoogle page with RSS feeds … all before I’ve put my shirt on and had my second cup of coffee.

But something is missing in that existence. The physical presence of other humans. As we walk through our increasingly digital days, it’s so important to make time for ol’ fashioned analog relationships. That’s why grassroots events like the Banff Venture Forum are so important.

To be clear, I didn’t attend the whole event last week (October 2 and 3) at the Fairmont Banff Springs. We (the guys at, where I’m CMO) booked a table to hear Terry Matthews, founder of Mitel, Newbridge Networks, and a boatload of other companies, pontificate about being a billionaire on Friday night. Luckily, that’s not what he did … Terry had some great pragmatic advice for being successful (in both his speech and the 15 minutes I spent with him afterwards):

  1. Change the rules
  2. Have a good logo
  3. Leverage the global economy
  4. If you’re doing business, wear business attire (he frowns on eyebrow rings)
  5. Give everyone in the company ownership
  6. Know why, who and where your revenue is coming from
  7. Have some passion and love give your competitors a little kick!

Anyway, the stories of the companies hooking up with the VC’s lining up to invest are important, but more fascinating are the people behind them. It was great to see the winners of the Banff Venture Forum awards get so excited as they went up to the stage … you could tell they were proud of the hard work that brought them there. For the record, here’s the companies who won the “Best in Track” awards:

  • Life Sciences: TheraCarb Inc. (Mary Earle). Working on a number of vaccines, the lead candidate being a vaccine to target systemic candidiasis (a.k.a. thrush)
  • Energy: Asat Solutions Inc. (Manford Kwan). Providing substation server platforms and system integration to help electric utilities improve power system operation.
  • IT: Akoha (Austin Hill). “Play it forward” … great fun concept … a “social reality” game. Give your friends playing cards that also include acts of kindness … then track the cards (and acts) around the world as they get passed around.

After the main event, I attended the “unwind” after party put on by CTI (Calgary Technologies Inc.) in another room of the Banff Springs. This was a collection of “who’s who” and “who’s new” of the local entrepreneur community, and it was a great time. This is an important role that CTI plays … being a community hub … and everyone appreciated it. Kudos to CTI for “getting it.”

David Cree, Stephen King, Rob Lewis at Banff Venture Forum 2008 CTI AfterpartyI finally met Rob Lewis, editor of Techvibes. Talk about your virtual relationship (and the importance of these grassroots events) … I’ve been blogging for Techvibes for almost a year, and we’ve never seem able to cross paths. Speaking of media types, I also met David Cree of the newly launched Propel Magazine that’s a print version (with web accompaniment) of the Alberta scene. That’s the three of us standing in the picture at the CTI afterparty (David, me, Rob).

Finally, before the night moved on to the Rose and Crown in Banff (of which there are many stories to tell, but none that will be told), we had a discussion about the nice autumn gourds placed around the room (a nice touch, I might add). Since CTI is a publicly funded organization, I assumed Premier Ed Stelmach payed $3.98 for the 7 gourds. Then, I got a little lesson in how CTI works. I was surprised to learn that ~65% of CTI’s funding comes from industry … for example, the revenue they make from leasing their building. 20% comes from federal funding. Only 15% comes from the Alberta government. Which essentially means that a single gourd cost Premier Stelmach 8.5 cents. Even the smallest conversations can have insightful moments!

Based on the people attending, I know that there were lots of conversations and insightful moments. I’d love if anybody that attended the forum would add some additional comments below.