This blog post is the one of three chronicling my experiences at The C100′s investor/entrepreneur event called 48 Hours in the Valley. My introduction to this post can be found here: Every entrepreneur should do 48 Hours in Silicon Valley. My next post can be found here: The Top 8 things every entrepreneur can learn from ’48 Hours in the Valley’
Distilling all that 48 Hours in the Valley (subsequently referred to as “48 Hours”) has to offer entrepreneurs into a single blog post is challenging. For an event that offers 20 of Canada’s most promising startup companies two days of mentorship, workshops, investor meetings, strategic partner visits and networking, there are countless reasons any entrepreneur should attend.
Out of everything I experienced, however, four experiences stood out:
1) Mentor sessions
This is startup gold. Anyone who has worked at a startup and had traction will likely thank a group of smart people behind them who continue to help them get to the next level. At 48 Hours, it’s mentoring on steroids.
I got one-on-one time with Michael Buhr and Jeremy Toeman who delivered wildly different (but equally as helpful) perspectives on some of the challenges we face with growth. Both mentors dropped all the fluff and within minutes we were getting right down to business. I’ve sat down and asked lots of questions of lots of people, but the mentoring sessions at 48 Hours were different in almost every way. They came from people who have lived in the trenches and know how hard the entrepreneurial game can be.
Jeremy rubbed his eyes and yawned constantly throughout our session because in his spare time he is also a full-time father. I had to laugh at incredible words of wisdom coming from someone who looked like he might need a nap at any moment, and as a new father myself (I have a 10-month old), it was inspiring to see a successful work-life balance. Jeremy also didn’t sugar-coat anything, which is precisely the kind of interaction and input I really need as a CEO.
Michael was equally as impressive, and I peppered him with hundreds of questions over an hour. Everything from strategy to execution to partnerships to funding. Michael has sat on both the entrepreneurial and VC side so he was able to digest complex issues very quickly and spit out recommendations from both sides of the table.
I would sign up for 48 Hours again just to talk to these two guys. They’ve seen success and can identify early pitfalls that I likely wouldn’t have seen coming. And because they’ve lived in the Valley they have experience that only someone who has been in the tech mecca of the world would know.
In addition to private mentoring sessions, The C100 also paired us up in small groups to have lunch with successful entrepreneurs. I spent time with Rahim Fazal who has been named one of America’s “Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30.” During our lunch session, Rahim went around a table to hear elevator pitches of five companies and what their current challenges were, distilled it all into commonalities, and then offered advice to the group that was applicable, relevant and helpful to everyone. In minutes.
The recurring thing I noticed with mentors in San Francisco and Silicon Valley is that they know their stuff and can help at a deep level, much faster than most people.
Who doesn’t like a good party? And if you’re an entrepreneur (or want to be), who doesn’t love a good party where you have investors actively seeking your talent and an opportunity to help your business grow?
Parties and networking events are the lifeblood of entrepreneur-investor relationships but like everything else in the Valley, it was months’ worth of calls and intros condensed into a few nights.
The parties were especially noteworthy at 48 Hours because you are constantly inspired and challenged with every new person you meet. Everyone in the room has been successful, and more importantly many have failed at some point and wear failure as badges of honour. They’re willing to tell you what failure looks like and what they learned from it.
And in any case where someone didn’t know our space well, they almost always flipped open their Rolodex to offer an introduction to someone who can help. The 48 Hour parties are in a league of their own.
3) Pitching constantly
“Nice to meet you Chris, tell me about Digital Journal.”
I must have heard that 50+ times over the course of two days, and nothing makes you more investor- or customer-ready than having to repeat yourself constantly.
Even though I’ve pitched a lot in my career, there is something different about pitching to a very diverse audience of investor and entrepreneurial talent. I learned more about my presentation skills in two days than I would have learned in two months of “normal” pitching.
You will walk out of 48 hours tired of talking, but when you do get your voice back you’ll be better at what you do.
4) Speaker sessions
Like the mentoring sessions, 48 Hours also puts you in front of several really smart people who will leave you inspired and more educated to make your next decision. Just look at the rundown of who I got a chance to hear from and speak with: Duncan Logan (Rocket Space), Jonathan Ehrlich (Copious), Arif Janmohamed (Lightspeed Venture Partners), Catherine Courage (Citrix), Alex Mehr (Zoosk.com), Rahim Fazal (Involver), Dan Martell (Clarity), Ranjith Kumaran (YouSendIt), Anil Patel (Google), Ryan Aytay (Salesforce), Colm Callan (Ebay) and Jeff Mallet (SNOCAP & Yahoo).
This all took place in less than 24 hours. It also reaffirmed for me just how important networking and getting out to hear from others can be for my business. In almost every case, I heard real-world examples of success (and more importantly, failure) and was given advice on what I could learn from both experiences.
These four recurring themes at 48 Hours were in a league of their own compared to the usual startup events. I can’t emphasize that enough.
Outside of these 4 standout experiences, there were 8 things I learned by taking part in 48 Hours. Check them out here: The Top 8 things every entrepreneur can learn from ’48 Hours in the Valley’