One surprising afternoon, we received an email from Atlee Clark from the C100 asking for a high res version of our logo and some hotel information.
Huh? Was this a mistake?
Apparently, LemonStand was accepted to 48 Hours in the Valley—and the acceptance email got picked up by our spam filters. After the initial confusion subsided, excitement (with a touch of anxiety) set in.
What was the event going to be like, exactly, we wondered? Who was going to be there? What's the format of the pitches?
We went into this from an interesting perspective. Until recently, we had our heads down, quietly building our product, and didn't get out much. So an event like this was a new experience for us.
Two times a year, the C100 holds an event called 48 Hours in the Valley, that invites 20 of the most promising Canadian startups to the Silicon Valley for two days of mentorship, workshops, investor meetings, strategic partner visits and networking. It was quite the honour that we were plucked out of the applicants.
Monday evening was a meet and greet held at Mozilla's beautiful offices. The space (and the food) was amazing.
The invited companies had a chance to meet each other, and mingle with C100 charter members, organizers and event sponsors. Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, set the tone with his introductory talk. What stood out to me was his focus on Canadian startups needing to think big, and connect with one another in order to share insights for the greater good of the entrepreneurial community.
The bulk of the day was held at Rocketspace, an accelerator and shared workspace, run by Duncan Logan who gave a terrific talk that morning. There were other talks by other inspirational entrepreneurs, but the standout talk of the day for me was Jonathan Ehrlich's.
He talked about having a big vision (a common thread throughout the event), being tenacious and always shipping. It was a very inspirational and practical talk.
After lunch, it was the mentor sessions. Each company got two sessions, each just over an hour long, with an experienced entrepreneur. We found our sessions very helpful, and the other companies we spoke to seemed to all feel the same. It was great to get feedback on what you're doing and talk strategy with top notch mentors that were participating.
That evening we found ourselves at a party, held at Achiever's offices. The food, beer and networking was amazing. It was absolutely thrilling to speak with so many founders, investors and other inspiring people in a single night.
There were so many great people with great stories, it was hard to leave. That's why we were one of the last.
We all hopped on a bus bright and early, and headed down to Menlo Park, specifically Sandhill Road. This was pitch day. And we were doing it inside one of the highest concentrations of VC firms in the world.
There was a Q&A panel, with some M&A people from Amazon, Salesforce and eBay. We later broke out into groups where we got to have a discussion with one of the panel speakers and get feedback on what we were building.
Mid day, Jeff Mallet gave a really great talk on celebrating failure. It was full of very insightful gems, and practical advice we all took to heart. And, he's just a great speaker.
It was now time for the pitch sessions! It was broken into five sessions. There was four round tables in a large area. Five companies at a time were assigned a slot and a table, where they would give their pitch to any investor who chose to check them out.
The format definitely felt less formal and intimidating than many of us anticipated. And looking back, it was just a small sliver of the event as a whole.
After the sessions were over, we had some refreshments, more networking, and took the bus ride back to San Francisco, and reluctantly said goodbye to some who were flying out that night, and happily made dinner and drink plans with others who weren't.
48 Hours in the Valley is a very high quality event.
They were definitely some of the busiest days I've had in a long while. It was exhausting. And it was well worth it. It was an experience that I won't soon forget.
And I'm excited to be a part of, and help build, a great startup community here in Vancouver. Think big!
Photo: Kris Krug