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Our Top 5 Takeaways from GROW Conference 2015


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The awe-inspiring landscape of Whistler was the perfect backdrop to this year’s GROW conference, which hosted a gathering of emerging and established tech entrepreneurs, investors, creators and executives from across North America.  Here are some of our highlights:

#1. Wearables – So Hot Right Now!

Despite the tepid reception to Google Glass, the wearable space is still searing hot — especially when it comes to sports. One of the first presentations was led by Marcus Weller, the founder and CEO of Skully, a motorcycle helmet packed with smart features including hands free calling, transparent heads up display, and a rear-view camera. This video had most attendees wishing they had their own bike to validate a helmet purchase (us included!).

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But Dan Eisenhardt, CEO of Recon Instruments, a Canadian smartglasses and heads up display company that was recently acquired by Intel, was quick to share some of the challenges of achieving success in the wearables space: “if you put something on your face it has to make you look better, or at least not worse.” Eisenhardt says the ultimate goal for their product will be making it invisible. His comments allude to a likely future for  wearables, which is that they may not be wearable (in other words, hardware) at all.

#2. The Future of Fintech

One running theme throughout the conference was how explosive the fintech space has become in Canada. Literally titled “Blowing up banking: How Tech Partnerships Can Change Financial Services”, Wednesday’s session was all about how big banks should be terrified of not adopting and innovating. Gabriel Woo, VP Solution Acceleration at RBC admitted that banks have woken up to the fintech disruption and “the need to be more agile and able to adapt.”

While the final solution for fintech growth is yet to be determined (and there are a wealth of startups offering creative solutions) don’t expect the big banking institutions to simply disappear without a fight. Instead, expect them to find those disrupting startups that offer opportunity to wrap within their current platforms; that could be anything from finding a better way of moving money between friends like Payso, WealthBar’s online investment management platform, or handling small business e-comm through Shopify.

It’s not exactly the wild west, but there is definitely opportunity for change.

#3. Tech PR

GROW Conference 2015 Tech PR – One question we often get from the startup community is: How do I get my company in the news? With hundreds of startups lobbying for the attention of a handful of media, this can be daunting task. So with a panel loaded with leading tech journalists the audience was prepared to walk away with the knowledge they needed to land their big media stories.

What was the take away?

“Reporters are people, not a commodity to push forward a marketing plan,” said Sarah Buhr of TechCrunch. Sean Silcoff from the Globe and Mail agreed that a personal touch or connection to the reporter is definitely one way of getting attention, but at the same time know who you’re pitching and what their audience is, “we’re very conscious about what’s going to move the needle with our readers.”  

At the end of the day, it’s all about the quality of your pitch and your product, Rafe Needleman of Maker Media said it best “the secret is to have a really good product…the best pitch in the world won’t work if it’s a boring company.”

#4. Companies to Watch

Referral SaaSquatch– Victoria based Referral SaaSquatch won this year’s “Under the Radar” pitch competition and is one to watch. Offering a customer referral program built for SaaS companies so they can quickly turn around customers with discounts and upgrades, they aren’t reinventing the wheel, just offering a sleek interface and program analytics that impressed the panel of judges.

Grouplend-  Vancouver based Grouplend kicked off Grow with some big news, the company announced a $10 Million funding round led by Plenty of Fish CEO Markus Frind. That’s an epic win for a company that basically just came on the scene 10 months ago.

FunnelCake- Another contender and finalist for the Under the Radar competition, FunnelCake offers a dynamic solution for tracking the buying decisions of your customers. The hook here is with FunnelCake, you know the entire buyer journey from their first exposure to your brand down to what ultimately makes their decision to buy.

#5. Notable and Quotable

And finally, with a roster of prolific speakers there was no shortage of lesson learned and words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“All you need to succeed in is BBD: a brief case, business cards and a dream” –  Sean Clark, CEO of on how to launch a startup.

“Disruption is either going to happen to you or because of you”- Brian Solis, Altimeter Group on embracing revolutionary thinking.

“Sometimes it’s easier to aim for a moonshot than try to improve something by 10 per cent”- Amit Singh, President Google for Work speaking about #ProjectLoon and why big ideas can trump small improvements.

“If you’re not empathetic, you can’t do a good job”- Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack on the key ingredient to success in business.

Jennifer Maloney