AccelerateMTL Brings Wisdom from Silicon Valley on Building Value and Defining the Future

AccelerateMTL, an event sponsored by the C100, brought together various figures from Silicon Valley to talk with local investors on how best to build value, and create the startups that will define the future.

Wesley Chan of Google Ventures, and Shawn Abbott of iNovia Capital talked about how the mentality that has driven the Valley forward is one of constantly being optimistic while being uncomfortable.

This is why great entrepreneurs can spend so many of their hours tackling problems on a whiteboard. They’re able to grasp and deal with the fact that these problems exist, and they can constantly move forward because comfort is not something to strive for: it is something to displace.

Both idealized a culture of innovation and transparency that allowed everybody to contribute as much as they could. The dangerous recipe for Google’s success, Wesley pointed out, was seen in the clever young hires that were naive and left in high positions where the probability of failure was high. Those that are eager to fail and learn, and who can admit what they can improve on, can quickly become the driving forces behind breathtaking success.

Wesley himself is leaving Google Ventures because he feels too comfortable. He wants to be placed in a position where he can fail and learn once more.

This aspect of talent and what may go into it was noted as an essential factor in a panel that followed. The number one challenge for Montreal-area was getting good talent. There was something in the initial talk that struck a chord for what could be done given that Montreal’s student population has been said to outnumber Boulder’s total population.

Nigel Beck of IBM made a good point on what an entrepreneur could do after they’ve overcome that problem. Trying to sell a good startup to a large corporation can be difficult, especially if you try to argue that the larger corporation should be at the service of the startup: that the startup company will use the acquiring company’s clout and reach to grow itself. The better argument to make is how a startup can help grow the acquiring company’s clientele.

A short demonstration, and a good compelling argument on how a startup’s product can improve what the acquiring corporation is offering to its existing and potential new clients can be more powerful than most other arguments. It was keen insight from the man who is responsible for mergers and acquisitions for IBM.

The last discussion, a deal from both sides, talked about what a financing deal looked like from both the entrepreneur, and the investor perspective. Katherine Barr, the co-chair of C100 and a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures, and Jeff Booth, the CEO of Build Direct, talked about what both entrepreneurs and investors see in a potential deal. The conclusion reached was that it is the role of CEOs to increase the numbers of options for any startup venture, while it is the role of the investor to push entrepreneurs, and ask the tough questions that are needed. Both benefit from having one another.

AccelerateMTL brought ideas from the Valley, but more importantly, it brought a philosophy of its own. Individual insights culminated into a guide on how to build great businesses in the new digital era we live in. As the audience filed out to network with one another, a sense of potential lingered in every conversation.