5 Things We Learned at Techweek 2017

Techweek Toronto took place last week and the Legal Innovation Zone was fortunate enough to attend many of the events. Through panels, fireside chats, and networking events, LIZ staff and entrepreneurs were surrounded by like-minded individuals trying to make their mark on the technology scene. A lot of valuable lessons were taught in only a couple days, but from our Techweek experience, here are 5 things the LIZ learnt.

1. Your network is your net worth.

To build a business, you of course need customers, valuations and funding, but the connections you make along the way are just as valuable. At the “Making an Impact with Your Startup” event presented at TribalScale, Paul Teshima, CEO of Nudge, and Erin Bury, CEO of 88 Agency, drove this point home. “You’re told when building a company to keep your head down and focus. Do more of the opposite,” said Teshima. He said to get out there and talk to as many people as you can. Bury mentioned that doing pro bono work also helps. You get to meet people from other industries and you derive value from the project itself, not the monetary price.

2. Have a solid foundation before scaling

Scaling requires the development of a solid infrastructure to support the growth needs of the startup. Things like a repeatable sales process, billing and receiving and strong team dynamics. Ben Zikfin, CEO of Hubba, was one of the speakers at the fireside chat about scaling and he mentioned how it’s important to consider the startup culture – be transparent and have clear channels of communication. It’s also important to incorporate an environment to fail fast and learn quick, staying objective yet enjoying the journey. Essentially, the startup culture should not only encourage growth of the company, but personal growth of the employees as well.

3. Do your due diligence

Another main take away was to always do your due diligence, whether it’s researching investors when raising funds, when you’re trying to scale, or when you’re doing market research. At the “Building From Your Mistakes” panel at Steamwhistle, the panel spoke a lot how doing that extra step of research could have helped them avoid a lot of pitfalls and mistakes.

4. Be part of social media conversations

During the fireside chat with Cam Gordon, Head of Communications at Twitter Canada, he spoke about doing more than just making an account on social media platforms for your company and scheduling content. Being present and engaging in conversations, whether with customers, partners, or influencers, is the ultimate way to gain exposure for your company. As a startup, you have more leeway than the average corporate account on social media. Be funny, take risks, and use gifs and emojis in your messaging to get noticed more. The final tip: optimize video as much as you can. Gordon said that Canadians love video content, even more so than our American neighbours.

5. Choose a VC partner based on their fit, not their resume

At one of the final panels of Techweek, it was all about acquiring funding with a focus on VC investment. Although the discussion started with comparing Canadian VCs to Americans, in the end, the panel seemed to agree that it’s about the specific personality, not where they come from or what they’ve done that matters (too much). One of the panelists Corey Gross, CEO of Sensibill, says the ultimate factor for him is if he thought he could get along and work with that person for the next 5 years at least. This lesson can be carried over to startups that are hiring. Find the talented people that you can also see yourself spending a lot of time with. And if it means going to the USA to increase your probability of finding that right person, then do it.