A lot can happen in two years, especially in the move-fast-and-break-stuff world of tech. In Kitchener-Waterloo, the tech scene is growing more robust by the second.
The past two years have seen the evolution of innovation outposts at Communitech, attracting big brands like GM, Fairfax, and Canadian Tire into the region to actively participate in the startup ecosystem. Add that to B and C series announcements ringing out every time you turn around, the 350-person Google engineering office, and more than 45 startups with a combined workforce of 800 people setting up in the downtown core.
And what’s a growing tech scene always hungry for? Talent.
It’s no coincidence that Artemis Canada was founded two years ago to support and help build the innovation ecosystem. With more than 15 years of recruitment experience, Kristina McDougall saw an opportunity to work with a laser-focus on executive search roles for tech startups in KW. “The needs of innovative companies are unique,” says McDougall. "They're moving fast and often require very specific skills and experienced leaders who will get them to the next big milestone ahead of their competitors. Being part of the Waterloo Tech ecosystem has been fascinating, as we've been able to partner with companies at all stages of their evolution - from development and commercialization of breakthrough technologies, to the building of serious enterprise technology businesses."
A clear reflection of the growing startup scene and it’s increasing need for A-player talent, Artemis has been growing right alongside it. With reach that expands across Canada and the US, the team recently moved to a new office in uptown Waterloo, a beautiful home renovated into a boutique office space.
Today, Artemis Canada is hosting an Open House for friends and partners in the community to celebrate 2 years of success and their move to a new office at 22 Regina Street N.
“This new space really reflects our personality. The team feels at home, and it's great for collaboration." says McDougall "We're also situated right in the heart of Waterloo - in the middle of a fascinating, fun and fast moving community. We can't predict what incredible innovations and businesses we'll be helping to build over the next decade, but we know for certain that we're in the right place for success."
I recently spoke about career growth to a group of women, all working for a successful and growing tech company. In the Q & A someone asked "What can I do if my manager doesn't give me the promotion or growth opportunities that I want?" This was a great question, but there was one word in there that lit me up.
No one is going to give you opportunity and growth. You have to go and take it. Ask for it. Prove yourself worthy of a challenging new task or project. Show that you have guts and ambition and that you can take initiative. If someone tells you that you can't, prove them wrong, or ask them flatly what you need to learn in order to be more qualified for the task.
This one little word is the difference between people who quickly accelerate their careers and those who sit back, waiting for success and opportunity to cclimb into their laps.
The companies that are really moving quickly value initiative and confidence. They don't have managers who focus solely on allocating work and delegating projects. Everyone is carrying a lot of responsibility, and often cool tasks get snapped up by the first person to offer help and get started.
But what if you do all of this, and your organization holds you back or tells you that they don't want or need your best, most creative energies. Well, it's obvious, this is not the place for you to thrive and grow. Your employer isn't moving fast enough or can't see that value that you bring. Now that you know this, go find another outlet. If you are in tech, and you're talented and keen, you are in demand.
Your best manager has just come into your office to resign. You quickly move through the shock, and denial phases and move right to bargaining … “Would you reconsider staying if we offered you …”. Someone once told you that extending a counter-offer is a bad idea, and that accepting one is worse. But what do they know. If you can just make this guy change his mind, everything will return to normal.
But can you really move past the disloyalty and the betrayal – knowing that he’s been having secret liaisons with your competition? Sure you can. Get real – it’s not quite like learning that your husband has a profile on Ashley Madison. So maybe you offer more money, a bigger title, cooler projects and a shiny new laptop. There, there … now it’ll all be ok.
Experience tells me that great people are pretty good at making decisions. They know how to evaluate opportunity and risk, and they don’t leap into greener pastures without first doing everything possible to make the best of their current situation. A good recruiter will have walked them through some scenarios, to be sure that staying put isn’t a viable option.
While a counter-offer could send a message that someone is in fact loved and wanted, it is always too little too late. If it takes a resignation to be awarded the compensation, recognition and fulfilling work that your people really deserve, you have bigger problems than this one empty seat.
Why not pre-empt the resignation entirely. Look around and imagine that each of your top employees is out there interviewing – it is a reasonable possibility. What can you do, and what should you do to make them stay. You need to ask them what they really want to be doing and what is important. It is probably not just about money, but about working with great people, on important projects and getting appropriate recognition. Now what can you change?
You might not be able to give every person what they want and need, but listening will go a long way. Then, if that manager still comes into your office to resign, you can be supportive in their decision and confident that you’ve done everything possible to keep them.
Last week we celebrated the Top 20 hottest startups in Canada at the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX) conference. It was a packed event with entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders, all with one thing in common: a relentless passion to support local innovation.It was no surprise that Shopify was named CIX Innovator of the Year, an award given to a Canadian company that disrupts and transforms an industry in profound ways.The Top 20 represented a wide mix of industries, including everything from marketing, manufacturing, open data, location analytics, recruitment, robotics, financial services and customer service...to name a few! The full list of the impressive Top 20 can viewed here.
If you missed the event, here were some key takeaways:
Challenging traditional management practices: Leerom Segal, CEO and Co-founder of Klick Health, made a decision in his organization to ban email for internal communication. Sounds easy enough, but could you do it? They implemented a ticketing system instead and encouraged leaders to learn from data, and let technology be the coach. As another example, a video game company, Valve, decided to remove all titles and assign projects based on contribution. The result? The increased autonomy and accountability led to empowered employees making better decisions.
Moving from startup to serious- the Series B: Why is the Series B round more difficult than Seed Funding or a Series A? There needs to be a huge jump in progress, functionality and the ability for investors to participate in the upside. Companies raise a Series B to be a market leader, and they need to prove that they don’t need the cash in the short term- it’s for building long term relationships.
Canada vs. US, is there still an investment gap?: The experts say it seems to be lessening. The top tier US investors can still provide startups with a depth of network and knowledge that is hard to find elsewhere. However, a lot of the barriers have been removed (ie. startups do not have to move Canadian operations down to Silicon Valley anymore to get US funding) and Canadian funding is much more readily available.
FinTech is bringing sexy back: We saw the FinTech emergence last year with WealthSimple, a CIX Top 20 in 2014, with their low-cost wealth management platform. This year it was Plooto and Control in the payment processing space and Q4 Web Systems providing detailed analytics on the capital markets. What are the key drivers for the growth in FinTech? The panel spoke about three main factors: 1) There’s a higher level of trust needed for transactions, and consumers are okay with that (think Uber and Airbnb); 2) Tech is more accessible than ever before...everything is in the cloud and mobile making it easier to collect data and develop sophisticated algorithms; and 3) The financial sector has the largest profit pools of any industry, yet they are the slowest to innovate. There is a lot of disruption that could happen- but few are actually doing it.
Machine Learning is going to change the world: You can’t learn machine learning from a textbook, it’s a craft and way of thinking. There are more opportunities in machine learning and data science than there are people to fill them (we can attest to this!). Companies like Deep Genomics are solving problems about human disease that humans cannot solve. D-Wave Systems is mimicking human intelligence in machines….the future has arrived!
It was an impressive turnout and showcase of Canadian innovation, and we’re looking forward to seeing these businesses continue to grow!
If you’re interested in hearing podcasts with entrepreneurs from the 2015 Top 20 and previous recipients, check out Small Rooms.
These Tech Highlights were written by our friend Chris Wormald of IronHorse Angels. His goal is to provide you with a monthly primer on significant news events from private Waterloo-based technology companies in 5 minutes or less.
TritonWear have finalized their form factor and have beta agreements with two swim clubs.
The Voltera V-One is available for pre-order following their successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s a piece of innovative hardware that enables a prototyper to print a circuit board in minutes.
Neverfrost has 16 paid pilots going and remains on track for a v1 launch this fall.
DraftingSPACE has been acquired by BuildDirect.
MappedIn has launched with Canada’s largest retailer with product level search and turn-by-turn assistance. They are also live at Pacific Center in Vancouver.
Beagle has launched their beta product with a 30-day free trial. They now have an association with CodeX, the Stanford Law School Informatics program.
They will be demoing on July 10 at Microsoft’s demo day.
Ansik introduced PitStop an Uber for Auto repair. Plugging their connector into a car’s OBD2
port will produce a diagnosis and put your job up for mechanics to bid on. They also announced that they have been accepted to the Techstars Mobility accelerator in Detroit.
Shinydocs have just signed their 7th customer with average deal sizes north of $50k.
Magnet Forensics held an open house to show off their new digs, attracting a swath of politicians, tech leaders, customers and self proclaimed celebs.
Dejero continues to enable journalists to blend into the masses and report with familiar
devices, signing up BFM TV, (France) and TV TEM (Brazil).
In The Chat’s help desk platform powered the service desk at Call Center Week in Las Vegas.
Kik reports that since the March introduction of video chat, 7 million users have shared 110 million videos.
It’s official. We have a commercialization challenge in Canada’s tech sector. The government is quietly questioning the returns we get from the billions of subsidies pumped into business innovation. Technology and thought leaders are openly questioning the same thing (stories here, here, here and here). Even journalists are adding to the discussion.
How can Canada do such a great job of fostering entrepreneurship and innovation but fail so badly in the transition to sustaining commercial success in the tech industry? Like our national attitude towards the delivery of education and health care, does the focus of producing “good enough” for the masses disable the conditions required for sustaining greatness to emerge?
Sustained commercial success is not an infinite monkeys and infinite typewriters situation where something great magically pops up. So why do we hope for greatness from fledging tech companies when the conditions rarely exist for greatness to emerge? The Bay Area’s resilience comes from the quality of the top people who power the tech industry, not the quantity of companies. Many people seem to confuse cause and effect.
I recently read Scary Close by Donald Miller, an excellent and challenging book about a writer who resolved to drop the act in his search for true intimacy. In a similar vein, I really like Dan Herman’s thoughts and the courage TEC Edmonton shows by publishing their success and failures for all to see. We would benefit from more standardized
reporting systems like this.
I started this newsletter because I believe we need increased transparency and a better understanding of what’s really going on. There are great opportunities to produce global competitors if we find the right ingredients to support the right opportunities. Yet today, it feels like quantity remains the trump card that carries the hand. I’d like to help change that.
Looking ahead, the Velocity Fund Finals will be held on July 23 at UW. It’s a semi-annual event that’s worth attending.
Waterloo Tech Highlights is a communication initiative run by a group of experienced investors and strategists who would like to receive and share real news about the vibrant Waterloo, Ontario tech community.
If you would like to share news with us, or our readers, email email@example.com
If you are interested in continuing to receive Waterloo Tech Highlights, you can subscribe at www.ironhorseangels.com.Chris Wormald@cwormaldRead More...
With the release of the new RIM/Blackberry tell-all Losing the Signal, the Canadian tech community is abuzz with chatter about the spectacular downfall of the local tech giant.
It seems that the former Research in Motion, now Blackberry, has been a local company that everyone loves to hate. Even when stocks were soaring and Blackberry devices were flying off shelves, the sentiment in the community was often negatively focused on how the giant was unfairly inflating salaries and poaching development talent from underdog start-ups. While the co-CEOs poured hundreds of millions of dollars into establishments like the Perimeter Institute, CiGi and University of Waterloo, we were more likely to read press reports of leadership mistakes or un-Canadian egos. As a nation of under-dogs, we were quick to criticize and view our homegrown success story as ‘the Man'.
And so this continues today, with an “I-told-you-so” attitude, as so many within our tech community reflect on the Blackberry situation and what they would have done differently if only someone had asked.
It would be really refreshing for someone to start talking about the success of Blackberry. Yes, we can certainly learn a lifetime’s worth of lessons through reflection on what caused the decline. But we really need to take a good look at what went right, and how the success of Blackberry has left the Waterloo Region and the Canadian economy much better off.
A group of Canadian innovators built a technology and created a market that changed the world and generated $Billions in economic impact. Wow.
More than 20,000 Canadians were employed at Research in Motion throughout it’s evolution, and are now armed with the experience of having been part of an incredibly successful global tech company. The value of these individuals to our economy is not dampened by the eventual decline of the business. The seeds of innovation and the appetite for big time success that these individuals now carry, is being sprinkled generously across every sector of the economy, and the impact will be profound.
So we should definitely congratulate all of the talented leaders who have been liberated by Blackberry and are now driving innovation and growth within local and global tech companies. But perhaps we should also send a note of thanks to the Research in Motion founders who were just brave and imperfect enough to build a billion dollar tech company in our own backyard.
The Iron Horse Angels Tech Highlights are delivered monthly and a reproduced here with permission. The goal is to provide you with a monthly primer on significant news events from private Waterloo-based technology companies in 5 minutes or less.
Igloo continues to grow its core business. Q1 ’14 vs. ’15 they reported 56% growth in MRR, 71% growth in net new bookings, 77% growth in new platform users, and 94% growth in documents on the platform
eSentire announced they have expanded to Ireland, opening a Security Operations Center (SOC) there to support their European expansion.
Auvik Networks was named a Cool Vendor by Gartner
Aeryon Labs and Dejero announced a strategic technology partnership to enable distribution of video captured by Aeryon UAVs. They demonstrated their solution at the AUVSI conferenceAeryon Labs received FAA clearance for power line inspection.Deep Trekker conducted open water demonstrations of their new flagship product at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa.
Thalmic Labs announced Myo for Presentations, allowing presenters to use the armband to control a number of effects in popular presentation software.
Palette provided an entertaining and revealing blog chronicle of their efforts to manufacture in China.
Open Data Exchange (ODX) received a $3M grant from the Federal Government along with funds from Open Text, D2L and the University of Waterloo. ODX acts as a clearinghouse for data as well as supplying data from Canadian government databases.
Oculys Health was named to the Top 25 Canadian Up and Coming ICT Companies by Branham Group.
These Waterloo Tech Highlights were put together by Chris Wormald, founder at VeraMito and leader at Iron Horse Angels.
Lots of opinions about the latest BlackBerry book, “Losing the Signal” around Waterloo Region. Personally, I really appreciated getting a fresh perspective of why tech industry catalysts rarely end up succeeding. RIM spent so much time disrupting the existing value chain for cell phones and breaking up the status quo, it became the lightning rod for critics, incumbents (and patent trolls). It feels like you’re taking on The World.
Like a cyclist leading out the pack in a sprint, RIM got early attention for creating the smartphone yet created an amazing draft opportunity for others as they ploughed wind and built lactic acid. The leader lacks a clear view of all the dynamics going on behind, as they fight the elements, while creating draft for their real opponents – who they can’t see. The drafters get the benefit of lessons learned without paying the price.
I thought the book did a good job explaining the strain and fatigue that front-running created for RIM. I maintain the feeling of supreme privilege for getting to play a role in the race.
More than once as I was reading, I found myself thinking of Uber and the draft they’re creating as they take on The World. They’re hoping their cash buys them a big enough lead that they can power their way to the top of the podium. They're also hoping that tech trends don’t apply to regulated transportation markets.
Waterloo Tech Highlights is a communication initiative run by a group of experienced investors and strategists who would like to receive and share real news about the vibrant Waterloo, Ontario tech community.
If you would like to share news with Chris, or our readers, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit the Iron Horse Angels site here.
This year’s Tech Leadership Conference topped the charts. With a focus on visioneering, the main themes were: harnessing the power of introverts; disruptive innovation; design thinking; internet of things; emerging intrapreneurship; and managing innovation in a time of immense change. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, here’s my recap:
Iain Klugman started the day off highlighting the tech shifts that have happened in Waterloo Region over the past few decades. We’re in an entrepreneurial driven economy, where Canada and KW are now on the map. The focus remains on fighting the war for talent, connecting with Toronto, supporting startups, and scaling up.
Susan Cain, author and co-founder of the Quiet Revolution, was the first keynote and opened our eyes to a topic we don’t often discuss- the power of introverts. This is a game changing trend that we need to pay attention to, as one-third to one-half of our population are introverts.
There is no such thing as a one size fits all work environment, so we need to collectively rethink leadership and how we work to appeal to all personality types- introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts. Group brainstorming meetings and open concept workplaces can stifle creativity for introverts, who prefer quiet and solitude to work through problems and generate ideas.
Susan encouraged us to open up this conversation- who are the prominent introverts in your organization and how can you support them? If you want to learn more, watch Susan’s TedTalk here.
Selecting a break-out session wasn’t easy, with some terrific options, but my imagination was captured by the Design Thinking talk with David Schonthal (Professor at Kellogg and leader at IDEO). He walked us through the cyclical journey of learning about the world, having ideas and turning them into a reality. At the root of this is a deep understanding of human behaviour. We looked at analogies (ie. how is a F1 racecar team similar to an ER trauma team?), talked about going to the extremes and not just looking at the core customer, and designing with empathy in mind. When generating ideas, don’t prejudge or dismiss wild ideas, and view prototyping as a non-linear process. The scrappier the better because you’re launching to learn.
In the first of 3 riveting T-5 presentations James Slifierz talked about how his start-up, SkyWatch will revolutionize the space industry, offering modern data solutions for a heritage industry. Loren Padelford of Shopify shared the secrets to his success in hiring sales people (look for traits like creativity, curiosity, a history of success and coachability) while avoiding the shining stars and megalomaniacs. Matt Scobel, leader of the Canon Innovation Lab, shared reasons why innovation and creativity get stifled - but the solution is simple, if managers can let go of control to let great things happen.
On the hot topic of the Internet of Things, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Designswarm) spoke about how grassroots movements in IoT are changing business. Hardware is becoming increasingly simple and inexpensive to access. Learning and design opportunities are everywhere we look. We were challenged to design for what we know, to consider invasiveness of innovations, and to translate IoT data into value for users as well as business.
In keeping with the ying-yang conversation of introverts and extroverts, the final keynote Eddie Obeng (educator and author) is likely as extroverted as they come! He asked what our hopes and fears were for his presentation. The lesson? By vocalizing our fears (ie. boredom, buzzwords, etc) and eliminating these concerns we become more engaged. His thrill ride of a presentation had us roaring with laughter, and challenged our assumptions about organization structure and work in a world that is changing faster than we can learn about it.
Now, what’s with The Goat? We’ve all been wondering what Communitech’s new goat mascot is all about. The mystery has been solved, as we were encouraged aspire to be more like goats - climb rocky terrain, be naturally curious, ask questions, and have a taste of everything to get experience. So, go out there and roam!
Yesterday, Artemis Canada held a workshop focusing on the Gallup StrengthsFinder approach with our guru on the topic, Omer Aziz. We brought together a group of talented tech leaders, to talk about becoming aware of our strengths and leveraging these talents for both self-development and building successful teams.
This was our second workshop on this topic (see our last recap here). This time the focus shifted to actionable takeaways.
If you set aside an hour to dedicate to self reflection, here's an exercise that we would like to pass along:
1. Tune into your talents
What are the top 5 strengths that are unique to you? These can be found through the StrengthsFinder assessment. Studies have shown that you will be happier and more productive if you focus on doing the things you love, versus trying to improve your weaknesses. Once you know your strengths, you'll be able to communicate your talents more effectively as well.
2. Observe strong moments
When you use your strengths, you can achieve what's referred to as 'Flow' . Flow is that trance-like state where you lose track of time and get amazing things accomplished. Think about times when you were in 'Flow' at work. Write down the activities or 'strong moments' that put you into flow. It's a simple exercise that will make you much more aware of where your greatest productivity and enjoyment is. It'll tell you what it looks like when those talents are in action.
3. Analyze and optimize
The underlying patterns in your 'strong moments' are unique to every individual. Once you start to analyze these trends, you can aim to focus on those activities as much as possible. For instance, can you devote a half day agenda to focus on those things that you love doing, and that deliver incredible results? Once you see what puts you into flow you can make sure it happens more often.
4. Start the dialogue
Now that you know your strengths, can communicate them, and can plan your own work in ways that enable you to utilize your talents, bring this insight to your team. Ensure that your leaders know what situations bring out your best performance. Next work with your team to help them identify their strengths. Look for their strong moments and aim to design their work in such a way that they can leverage their talents for at least 50% of their working day.
5. Watch the results
With both you and your team working in Flow, both strategy and execution will improve as your levels of engagement and job satisfaction across the team soar.
We've become advocates for this approach, having witnessed how the top tech leaders are both highly self-aware and also keenly focused on working in ways that enable them to exercise their strengths.
As your company moves from start-up to scale-up, from a handful of people to a few dozen, lots of things will start to shift. There will come a time (which will be sooner than you think) where you need to decide on the best leadership structure to successfully grow. You're not alone. This is one of the biggest challenges startups face.
We recently talked to a group of early stage companies about how they can plan ahead for bringing on an executive - not how to recruit, but how to know when and why.
The reality is that many startups hire a CEO once its time to scale the business (think Cisco, eBay, and Google), but there are also countless examples of founding CEOs (Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell). How do you know whether it’s right for you to step aside and hand over the reins? Here are some highlights from our conversation.
To be Rich or To be King?
If you haven’t read the Founder Dilemma, start here. Noam Wasserman’s insight into this fundamental question is priceless.
As the founder of a company you have to, from the very start, decide whether you’d rather maximize the success of your business or build a personal empire. There will come a day when you’ll need to make a choice, and the success of your business may come at the expense of your ego and your ability to control the destination.
While it is sometimes a founder that willingly, and sometimes eagerly, hands over the reins to a new leader, often it is the investors decision. The reality that many founders resist, is that the strengths and the passion that enabled them to generate a new business idea and bring it to market are different from the skills they’ll need to scale and operate the business. Some rare individuals successfully make this transition, but few can or should.
Self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership traits. A founder who is most likely to build a successful enterprise will know what they do best and will focus their efforts in their sweet spot. In the early days, you’ll need to wear lots of hats and you’ll find yourself often outside your comfort zone, but when it comes time to scale you need to find the spot in your org chart where you are the best person for the job.
There are some great company founders, who happily work as CTO or lead architect, and others who are great customer-facing leaders who remain very close to the problems their business is solving. Inviting experienced executives onto your team will inevitably mean releasing some control, but it'll also free you up to focus on the aspects of your business that you love.
Even with all of the data and the logic, highly intelligent start-up founders remain skeptical of the need to round out their leadership team with ‘outsiders’. Why?
As a founder you may think that you are the exception to the general rule.
But more likely you are afraid of the risk. Ironically, when faced with making their first leadership hires, entrepreneurs are the most indecisive hiring managers I've ever worked with. While fear and risk aversion are not the dominant traits of founders who've sacrificed everything to get a start-up off the ground, the risk of putting their baby in the care of a stranger is just too great.
This is why most early new execs to start-ups are not the most qualified, but they are the people who you know. They are far from perfect, but at least you know what you’re getting.
Reduce the risk
Before you have a single interview or conversation, you have to really know what culture fit means to you. (hint: go beyond having a good gut feel). I could write a whole series of blog posts on hiring for cultural fit, but for now will just say that you need to really know your values and be able to identify them in the behaviours of your prospective teammates.
Don’t compromise on the value fit, but get comfortable with the fact that you’ll have to accept less than perfect knowledge and skills in order to get an ideal match with your culture and vision. The person who has passion for your business and who can complement the team, may have to learn about your industry or product, but in the long run will have the drive and alignment to go the distance.
No easy answer
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple recipe to a successful and risk-free executive hire. As a founder, you’ll need to invest time and effort in understanding who you have on your team, and what role you should be taking on in your growing business.
Put a plan in place to gather as much information and insight into your prospective hires as you can. Beyond formal and artificial interviews, have thoughtful and authentic conversations, talk to references and arrange practical assignments, presentations or working sessions that will make you comfortable with the human behind the resume. Then be prepared to make a decision and take a risk.
We are a boutique executive search firm exclusively serving Canada’s Innovation Economy.
Our partners are the inventors, builders and leaders who are changing our world, enriching the lives of their teams, strengthening their communities and delivering valuable innovations to global marketplaces.
"I have worked closely with Kristina for approximately 15 years, reaching out to her whenever we are searching for the hardest to find skills. She understands the industry, she’s smart, she listens to exactly what we need, and she never wastes our time. Kristina, and the Artemis team, deliver time and time again. When we need an external recruiter, I find it hard to work with anyone else!"
Pete Devenyi, VP Global Software