Jump On A Plane And Go Do Business In The Valley

…said Steve Wandler, the founder of one of Kelowna’s start-up successes, when I last spoke to him at New Media BC‘s FUSION Forum. Steve started his company, YourTechOnline.com in 2000 and was bought-out by a NASDAQ traded company in the Valley in 2008. So he was at the forum to inspire and help other start-ups get closer to that sweet place where he was just last year.

Steve is also looking for things to do. And that one thing might be investing in your company or helping you meet investors from California. He has a new company called Metabridge that aims to do that. In partnership with EDC and BCIC, if you qualify, you can shake hands with Silicon Valley big-wigs and network, network, network. But you have to have ambition, a solid business plan and the intention of going south to Silicon Valley and networking your tuchus (bottom)-off. That’s because Steve thinks that we just don’t have the critical mass and marketing commercialization up here in British Columbia (and Canada to say the least) to make it happen.

However reluctantly we want to agree, we sort of have to take a deeper look at BC’s start-up and investor scene and be honest. Does Steve have a point?

As you know, FUSION is a forum where 20 high tech companies got to pitch their ideas and got feedback from major local and visiting investors and experts about that idea. Would it work and was it a good idea? That kind of thing. So when I asked Steve about what we were missing in BC or why he was at the forum, Steve’s point of view was clear and not complicated. He said that while we are bubbling-over with innovators in the tech-sector in BC, he thinks that unless we go to the Valley and meet those “movers-and-shakers” that can get things to move-and-shake, we’re not really getting it. So his message is to hop on a plane, go network and meet influencers that can actually not only invest in your business, but also help you make connections for future investment opportunities.

Following is my interview with Steve.  If you have any questions, please contact him on his Web site.

How Do You Like Vancouver for Start-Up Business?

British Columbia as a whole, the tech-community isn’t that large as it relates to the Valley, so Kelowna and the surrounding communities need to use Vancouver as the central place to meet. I’ve been very active to get government and entrepreneurs to understand that you need to come together, rather than doing it on your own.

What I’m trying to do is push the community. We talk a lot, but we need to be more aggressive and get out of our comfort zone and try to get companies here at the Fusion forum to go down to the Valley. Get them out of the nest, because if you haven’t been to California in the last 6 months…it’s almost too late. You need to get down there and build relationships there.

Don’t we have something here that does the same thing, maybe Bootup Labs?

I think what Danny, Boris and Bootup Labs is doing is fantastic. But it’s not the end. You are still required as a start-up to hang out and partner in California. Ultimately it’s up to you to fly two hours and find out what it’s like to do business there. If we want to create something, we don’t need to be the Silicon Valley, we need to be ourselves.  But still there is not enough here. It’s not here. We don’t have the critical mass. We’re weak in that one area. Not innovation, but we lack in commercialization size, the marketing and partnership aspect.

More on California…

You need to go to California and get people in front of you, your product or service, and help them understand why they should be partnering with you. They’re not here, so you have to go there. If they start to understand that it’s here, they’ll come. But they’re not engaged yet.

What is your remedy?

My remedy is that I’ve teamed up with the EDC and BCIC and created a business called Metabridge. We bring people together–founders and entrepreneurs and investors– in a personal party with about 50 people in it and we actually put you into a room with them. We filter through people by where they are in the cycle of their business, they’ve pitched a few times, they have a business plan, they have got to have something. Once that is there, we put them in pre care and after care.

Structure like this, forums and places where people pay money to hang out– it’s all over the place. I’m more interested in how do I get you talking to Stewart Butterfield when he knows people, connecting people through business. We’re doing a party at CES actually where we will do this. We’re all about connecting quality people.

If you’re interested in Metabridge, contact Steve @stevewandler or on his site.