From Silicon Valley: Victoria’s Locarna Systems reflects on their 48 Hours

As part of Techvibes’ intensive pre-event coverage of 48 Hours in the Valley, we profiled several of the Canadian start-ups attending the event. With the event over, these start-ups reflect on their two days in Silicon, and what’s next for them. First up: Locarna Systems, hailing from Victoria, B.C.

Staff blogger Knowlton Thomas speaks with Colin Swindells, Co-Founder of Locarna Systems Inc.

KT: How was the atmosphere of 48 Hours?

CS: The atmosphere was much more open and vibrant than I had expected. Senior folks from other companies were typically present for both the mentoring sessions and presentations. Instead of fostering an atmosphere of hostile competition, the representatives from other companies typically went out of their way to join the mentors and investors in suggesting ways to improve each company’s business strategies. The event introduced us to environments most likely to convey the “feel” of the Valley. For example, two Canadian Valley-based start-ups, Uptake and Picaboo, hosted the mentoring sessions with C100 folks. Later, presentations were hosted at the Plug and Play Tech Center.

KT: Was this your first time in Silicon Valley?

CS: No. I travelled to the Valley a couple times as a kid, and I visited with colleagues at Immersion Corp. and Stanford during a human factors research conference in 2007. In October 2009, folks at the Consulate General of Canada gave me the opportunity to present at the Plug and Play Acceleration and Collaboration Track (PACT) in Sunnyvale. I was impressed by the Plug and Play Tech Center, a large complex in the Valley that is home for about 200 active start-ups. It was during this PACT event where I met an advisor, Dan Pitt, who we later hired as our CEO in February.

KT: What was your favourite portion of the event?

CS: Definitely the first break after Locarna’s presentation at the EXPO. Our 2 minute pitch was only a few minutes before the break, so Dan and I rushed back to our demo table just outside the presentation hall. We were literally swarmed by interested collaborators and investors—as well as one very sharp freshman from a local high school. Skipping out from school, he later told me that he wanted to be an investor after graduation. At the rate he’s going, I think he’ll be a partner at Sequoia Capital by his Senior year!

KT: In what ways do you believe the event has bettered your business? 

Locarna Eye Tracker

CS The mentoring sessions were the most helpful events for our business growth. On Wednesday [May 19th], we paired with two successful Canadians in the Valley, Sundeep Madra and Gordon Smythe. Sundeep helped suggest better ways to monetize Locarna’s eye tracking technologies. Locarna, like most of the start-ups present, was founded by techies, so the subtleties of pricing and packaging the “whole product” have challenged our team. Sundeep’s advice provided clear actions that we can take within the next few weeks to improve the ways we make and sell eye tracking technologies. Gordon was particularly well-prepared for our meeting, and suggested ways for Locarna to prioritize our productization and R&D efforts. He also suggested several valuable connections who could help us accomplish these efforts. 

KT: So what’s next for Locarna?

CS Locarna’s eye tracking technologies are well-suited for market researchers, so we’re currently interacting with early clients in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, based on the feedback we received during the event. For example, I’m looking forward to learning more about the needs of our market research clients during the upcoming MRIA (Market Research Marketing Research and Intelligence Association) conference in Toronto. In mid-June, I’ll move down to the Canadian Accelerator in the Tech Center in Sunnyvale, California. During the subsequent three months, Dan and I will refine our business case for growth. I’ll then return to British Columbia to continue business development from my home in Victoria, and work with Locarna co-founders Ricardo Pedrosa and Mario Enriquez.

KT: Thanks for your time, Colin. And best of luck to Locarna!