Exposure a key for Calgary start-ups

The Calgary market for entrepreneurs is a sea of hustle, bustle and opportunity.

“I think in terms of maybe some of the other communities, I think Calgary is an excellent start-up ground,” said Laurie Jensen, the assistant chair of entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University.

“We’ve got a good grassroots organization here and lots of successful entrepreneurs who are really wanting to give back, and wanting to mentor young entrepreneurs that are coming up,” she said.

But where are these entrepreneurs able to meet mentors and future investors to further their platforms?

Exposure key to success

The opportunities for young Calgary businesses are showcased at events put on by organizations such as Start-up Calgary, whose mandate, according to its website, is to “host events that will provide stronger connections among entrepreneurs to the investment community and other government and industry groups.”

These events, which offer networking, feedback and business opportunities, are Neil Grunninger discusses his product with a potential investor at the third annual Startup Calgary 2012 Launch Party. The Launch Party featured the top 10 up-and-coming tech startup businesses in Calgary to gain exposure and valuable feedback.

Photo by Cameron Perriercritical, according to Ray DePaul, director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at MRU.

“They’re absolutely critical, or otherwise a lot of people end up staying in their development mode, and they actually never share their idea with anyone, and this exposes them to people they might otherwise not ever meet.”

Jenn Egroff, community liaison for AcceleratorYYC, shares similar views with DePaul, noting that start-up businesses could experience difficulties without these events.

“I think the challenge would be how to really figure out who they need to be talking to, and actually acquire those first few customers who are willing to support them and back their idea,” she said.

“I think it would be pretty challenging to do it from home, all by yourself.”

Egroff also believes that these events are the most beneficial for businesses just stepping into the market.

“This is the best kind of exposure that you can get, to a really supportive crowd, and people who have the connections to take them to the next level,” she said.

Events a helpful venture

Bruce Matichuk, CEO of Tapestry Systems Inc., stresses that events are critical for networking and for drawing in potential customers and partners.

“You also have to get networked because ultimately a key part of growing a company is not just selling your product,” he said.

“Its bringing good people into your organization; good people at all levels. Good people at the advisory board level, good people at the senior executive level and good people to do the work.”

Matichuk explained that events where companies can pitch their ideas are critical to not only the companies involved, but to the health of start-up industry as a whole.

“You have to have a lot of events like this. That’s why I think the start up industry is so healthy, because they really focus on fostering that start up community.”

Still `green

In spite of the enthusiastic entrepreneurs ready to step to the forefront of the emerging market, DePaul believes that there is room for growth.

“My understanding is it’s been the last two to five years that’s been happening. I just think we need more of this, it needs to mature,” he said.

DePaul, however is optimistic for the Calgary market for entrepreneurs.

“In five to 10 years, we’re going to have a billion-dollar company come out of one of these places. But that takes time,” he said.

“So I think we’re doing the exact right thing at this stage that this market is ready for.”

cperrier@cjournal.ca