Well, it was an intense 3-days in Vancouver but it didn’t disappoint. The Pluggin.it team rolled into Van late Tuesday night and headed down to the conference centre the next morning. There were closed sessions going on but it didn’t deter us from checking out the venue and poking around. First off, the VCC is an beautiful building – and I use that word sparingly in my day-to-day. Full stars to GROW on space, location, and aesthetic.
Following a wee walk-about of the area, we headed over to a Lion’s Gate pub for some pints, Setanta, and free wifi while getting some work done. There were a few things that needed doing before we headed out to the GROW kick-off party. Just a wee 600 person mixer. Not a bad gig.
Arriving at the party you could feel the positive tech energy in the room. You could see people everywhere reconnecting, laughing, having a few cocktails, while exchanging cards and info with new introductions. Networking was a feverish theme that night. We lasted for about 3 hours with the socializing, foosball, company launches (A Thinking Ape – thanks for the shirt, Terrence), and feature booths.
Side Note: hard night of networking in Vancouver = late night sushi. Check out Tan Popo (Davie & Denmond). Unreal deal.
Day 2 of GROW is really where everything happens. The day is jammed with speakers and it gets all kicked off with the natural investor/emcee, Howard Lindzon. He’s a riot and wicked-smaht.
The great thing about GROW is the volume of people and ideas. This really comes out more so on Day 2 than the drink infused Day 1. Because the VCC is such an immense space, it’s quite easy to identify folks in the crowd and join conversations. You quickly appreciate how many great ideas are out there and, furthermore, you are connecting with the people responsible for them. The experience becomes richer as you realize how many of these great ideas are being built in your own backyard. While we got to reconnect with our tech friends from Edmonton, we also met a long list of new friends from Calgary. This growth in our local social tech circle was such a valuable take-away from the conference.
On the other end of the spectrum you have GROW’s angels and VCs. If you are looking for this group just look for a hub of bodies patiently sauntering around one individual, jockeying for a chance to introduce themselves. More often than not, there’s a red lanyard in the centre of these huddles. A beacon for funding.
The whole thing can become a bit of a game that way. Anyone with a new idea simply wants to shake hands and exchange cards with investors, hoping for the chance to follow-up in the near future. There is a lot of ear-bending, excusing, and interrupting as angels and VCs wade through the opportunities. You can see them grow visibly tired as the day bares on. And can you blame them? 572 people in this room want to talk to you – today. It’s a tall order.
For a start-up that is the goal; meet as many investors as possible. You never really know who is looking to invest in what (within some reason) and, more importantly, you never know who knows who. Every smart start-up is looking for the “smart money”. To find it you need to do a little digging. Brochures, web profiles, and corporate websites can only tell you so much about a person’s investment interests.
For Pluggin.it, the GROW conference gave us a chance to step into a network of investors that operate outside the conference itself. We were directed to a number of different investment groups we didn’t even know existed. These bits of information and warm introductions are simply invaluable and it’s why you pay the price of admission.
Regardless of whether we: have a new idea, have capital, need capital, or need more capital; we will likely return to GROW next year. There’s great value in the seminars and contacts, but there is also a unique social aspect that a start-up can’t appreciate until going to an event like this.