Baring your company’s soul onstage is a lot of work. There are dozens of competitions that give founders a platform to deliver a consolidated pitch of their company to groups of investors, other founders, and even celebrities. But when one of the largest companies in the world is the organizer, these competitions elevate themselves beyond a clash of founders and become an event for all to see.
Salesforce hosted their first Dreampitch in late 2016 as part of their yearly Dreamforce conference, bringing together thousands of founders, employees, Salesforce users and more. Dreampitch was put together to offer companies a chance at entering Salesforce’s startup accelerator and access to thousands of dollars of free services, along with feedback from some hugely influential judges.
As all great spectacles must be seen by as many as possible, Salesforce decided to showcase Dreampitch around the world, bringing it on their World Tour for 2018. The journey takes Dreampitch to cities like London and Toronto, making sure to keep the vision unchanged.
May 3 will see Dreampitch hit Toronto for the first time ever, with three companies pitching for a shot at $100,000 USD. Choosing Toronto represents a validation for Canada’s tech scene, cemented by a recent promise from Salesforce and its CEO Marc Benioff to invest $2 billion into their Canadian business after a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—not to mention Toronto’s growing rank as an international tech hub.
Dreampitch is taking place at the Beanfield Centre and the judges for the event represent the Canadian tech elite: Candice Faktor, the founder of Faktory Ventures; Kirstine Stewart, the president and CRO of TribalScale; Michael Litt, the co-founder and CEO of Vidyard; and Kristina Shen, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners.
This panel of highly experienced individuals is comprised primarily of women, representing the real push Salesforce has made to highlight diversity and women in tech over the past years.
“I think we still have far to go when it comes to the proper representation in general for tech, but diversity happens in all kinds of formats,” says Stewart. “People, companies and ideas only benefit from having diverse perspectives from what will ultimately be your customer base. It’s not just a nice-to-have, but it’s business-imperative.”
“It’s a great acknowledgment when you see a panel assembled like this.”
The panel will take a close look and critique pitches from three different companies. Businesses that enrolled to pitch had to have been built on or integrate with Salesforce, have less than $5 million in funding and be an independent Canadian corporation.
After much deliberation, the companies chosen to participate in Dreampitch Toronto are FunnelCake, a Kitchener-based company helping B2B marketers understand their levels of impact; Lane Four, a Toronto-based lead management platform that focuses on accounts; and Grapevine6, a Toronto company that focuses on content engagement and accelerating sales and marketing.
The purpose of Dreampitch is not just to hand out cheques but for Salesforce to truly learn how the companies using their platform work and operate, while also providing services and expertise to the organizations that really understand what a consumer wants. The money and critique from judges is great, but forming a lifelong partnership with Salesforce to truly understand customer intent and workflow is the true name of the game.
But still, amazing feedback from influential tech luminaries never hurts. The judging panels have become a highlight for Dreampitch. Aside from Toronto’s panel of influential leaders, that inaugural Dreampitch judging panel featured billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban; musician and mogul Will.I.Am; Lowercase Capital founder Chris Sacca; and BBTV founder and CEO Shahrzad Rafati. With an incredibly deep and diverse judging panel, Dreampitch is showing it’s not a normal pitching competition.
Leyla Seka was chosen to lead and host that first Dreampitch, drawing from her knowledge as Salesforce’s EVP of AppExchange as well as her track record of working with companies of all sizes, from small new businesses to huge enterprises like Coca-Cola or Wells Fargo. Seka will be the host for Toronto’s event and bring her trademark high-energy delivery to the city.
“One of those things that came from our perspective of working with both startups and larger companies was that we should do a Dreampitch,” explains Seka.
“We should really encourage startups around our ecosystem to come on stage at an industry event and really pitch, and do it in front of real VCs and judges to get that sense of what it feels like on a big stage.”
Since that inaugural Dreampitch, the event has grown on a massive scale, but the pitching companies have stayed hungry. The 2017 edition featured a $250,000 Salesforce Ventures investment for the winner, and now Salesforce is bringing the dream on tour around the world and handing out hundreds of thousands to aspiring businesses that want to grow and scale within the SaaS ecosystem.
Techvibes is the official Media Partner of the Salesforce World Tour Toronto / Dreampitch Competition.