2018 Hunter Hub Silicon Valley Tour
Being selected to participate in the inaugural Hunter Hub Silicon Valley Tour has been a rewarding and invigorating experience. As a law student who has been working with the BLG Business Venture Clinic for nearly a year, I have received some exposure to the start-up industry within Calgary. I applied for the SV Tour with the intention of gaining a better understanding of what drives success in entrepreneurship in the Bay Area and planned to use that knowledge in my legal practice. I came out of this experience confident that I could use my knowledge to assist my future clients in their business endeavours but even more so, confident that I possessed key information that would support me in beginning my own venture. I wrote this blog post as a reflection for the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking in the hopes that the agenda and lessons learned are inspiring for any potential participants.
The tour officially began with a standing reception at a trendy San Francisco restaurant where Cathy Han, the co-founder and CEO of 42 Technologies Inc., and Sean Lynch, the co-founder of TapEngage, spoke about their experience as entrepreneurs. As the first event, this was an extremely informative and engaging talk that motivated the inspired attitudes that persisted throughout the tour. It was at this first event that I understood how important connections were in the Valley and how close-knit the Canadian community was within San Francisco. It was amazing to realize that Canadian entrepreneurs were eager to share their connections and to help each other in any way they could. This collegial attitude was echoed by every Canadian we met during the tour, and really resonated with our group. We knew that if we were ever to come to the Valley, there would be people there who would help us find our bearings.
The next day, our tour continued with a visit to 500 Startups, Rocketspace, and Azure Capital. While all of the companies provided insight into the inner workings of Silicon Valley’s functionality, it was Rocketspace that stood out that day. With a new office coming to Calgary, I was excited to see how the accelerator operated and what their overall environment was like for entrepreneurs. When we sat down to talk about the accelerator, the founder dropped in for a surprise visit to discuss the ambition that was required to succeed in competitive markets. One of the most important lessons that he conveyed was how necessary it is to focus on your goals, and to ignore the negative reviews you may receive. I walked away from the discussion with the understanding of how important it was to be resilient. I think ambitious people will always make enemies, but it is imperative to have the ability to withstand criticism and hurtful comments.
The night ended with a University of Calgary alumni event at Harper & Rye, and the next morning we were up and ready for another full tour day. The agenda was full with tours at Canvas, Uber, iNovia, Microsoft, and Relay Ventures. While every company and firm was impressive, my favourite part of the day was hearing from Norman Winarsky, the co-founder of Siri. The day had exhausted me, and I was honestly unsure if I would be able to pay attention to another discussion, but Norman was so engaging that I was listening to his every word. It helped that he had a great sense of humour, too. Norman discussed the importance of a good team in the Valley and how increased competitiveness has made it necessary for entrepreneurs to have an unfair advantage if they want to be successful. In considering this unfair advantage, he talked about traction and how necessary it was to be different. His knowledge of the Valley and artificial intelligence technology was unparalleled. It was a privilege to be able to ask him questions and hear his thoughts. We ended that day with a private group dinner, buzzing with excitement over the day we had just had.
Our second to last tour day was packed with a trip to Draper University, Shopify, and the C100 Event. One of the best things about doing this tour and meeting so many Canadian entrepreneurs at each company was then getting to reconnect with them at the C100 Event. This really confirmed the very first lesson I was taught on this trip – the Canadian network is very tight-knit and people want to help you succeed. It was wonderful to get to chat with a collection of intelligent people, hear about their ventures, and discuss our own goals. It was a great evening that inspired thoughtful conversation and encouraged entrepreneurship.
The Silicon Valley tour has been a highlight of my academic career and I feel confident that I have partaken in a tour that has equipped me with knowledge that I can use in my future legal career. Further, I feel more assured than ever that Canadians are capable of succeeding in the entrepreneurial market and that we are just as prepared as any other nation, if not more so. Touring the Valley has been engaging, informative, and fun. I recommend it for anyone who is passionate about business in any form and wants to learn about what makes an entrepreneur successful.
UToday's article on the tour can be found at: http://www.ucalgary.ca/utoday/issue/2018-03-08/silicon-valley-tour-puts-students-nucleus-startup-culture?utm_source=UToday&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=March-8-2018&utm_term=Silicon%20Valley%20tour%20puts%20students%20at%20the%20nucleus%20of%20startup%20culture.
Kayla Dhaliwal is a 3rd year student at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law. She was an inaugural participant in the Hunter Hub Silicon Valley Tour, worked at the BLG Business Venture Clinic for the 2017 summer session, and is a caseworker at the Clinic for the 2017-2018 school year.
Blog posts are by students at the Business Venture Clinic. Student bios appear under each post.