I get invited to a lot of conferences, and, truth be told, they’re not always worth the time and effort to attend.
I found the GROW Conference to be different, especially in the way it helped put the Canadian ecosystem on the map of Silicon Valley investors. I spoke at the very first GROW event many years ago, and I can tell you that only a few of us took the trip from San Francisco to Vancouver. I noticed that local entrepreneurs were quite shy; I jokingly mentioned to GROW organizers that they had to learn mobbing investors.
Over the last couple of years, I have seen many more Silicon Valley and New York-based VCs hanging out for a couple of days with the local community, recently joined by a number of international startups. Oh, and I was mobbed alright.
This year’s theme, “The Intersection of Design and Entrepreneurial Thinking,” is particularly exciting and really resonates with me. When I look at startup teams building end user services, I always watch for the three D’s:
1. Distribution: can the team market, lead, and sell?
2. Development: can the team build and scale the solution?
3. Design: can the team deliver an awesome overall product design and experience?
You need all of the three D’s to succeed, but many times early stage startups—having a great idea or product—can overlook design. This is a mistake. Great design is what gives us the simplest, most elegant solutions to everyday problems, and is what really "talks" to people, engages them and excites them.
The intersection of design and entrepreneurial thinking delivers the creativity behind the purpose—making the user experience either fantastic or forgettable. With great design you get the most intensely loyal fan base. You do this by demonstrating an instant understanding of the things that are most important to your audience or customers: making a brand. And make no mistake, a well-designed product does not require as much artificial “growth hacking” to scale or retain users.
RELATED: What Happens at GROW…
Yet design requires inspiration, and the GROW founders are doing their part to help deliver that inspiration. Set in a beautiful, welcoming city and with an on-the-mark agenda and a diverse and talented group of participants, GROW gives me a good reason to venture out of Silicon Valley for a couple of days.
And in case you wonder about the quality of Canadian startups, I am happy to report that our Canadian portfolio is going strong, and that we are actively looking at opportunities out there, hey.