DFAIT California Market Access Program Boot Camp in Calgary

The first ever DFAIT sponsored California MAP boot camp was held in Calgary last Friday. Although delivered in Central Canada previously, this is the first time it’s been brought out the western frontier. Besides Calgary, Thierry Weissenburger and his team took this road show to Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Victoria and Vancouver with the folks from Miller Thomson, who sponsored it in part, promoting their MTech program.

Based around funding preparation and presentation, Chris Gill, the president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs (SVASE), took the crowd of about 70 people thru the paces of what to expect from U.S. based venture capital firms.  This was very informative, as Chris pulled no punches about not only how difficult it was, but all the do’s and dont’s as well as whether or not your business might be venture fundable. As we all know, VCs want high returns from hign inputs, and a very small number of firms even in the Valley qualify.

It was evident that Chris knew his stuff. As he should as SVASE has helped raise $78 million in 2008 for it’s members by holding events 10-12 times a month! Membership for those outside the Valley is $25 while valley members pay more ($99) presumably because they get to go to the events.

After the overview, handouts (Do you REALLY need venture capital, Questins to ask VCs, Is my business Fundable) and pitch coaching from Chris, all the participants had the opportunity to pitch a panel (Dragons Den style), and get feedback. In addition to the constructive feedback, the various pitch styles were very interesting to see and get reaction to.

It’s also good to see the Miller Thomson folks of Greg Shannon and Coby Schneider still promoting their MTech startup program. This is something usually seen in the Valley, and it’s good to see the MT people stepping up to help Canadian companies get some of the legal help without breaking the bank. Of course they’re hoping some of you will become the next RIM, and thus will pay back this early stage assistance with more legal work later.

Thanks to Emily McLaughlin and her team for making it happen in Calgary! Alberta can use all the help it can get to diversify and new events like this help move that objective along. Just like an entrepreneur’s business, it all has to start somewhere and this is a good step forward.