While the Canadian Innovation Exchange’s top 20 list presented to a room full of potential investors, many advised that entrepreneurs seek funding south of the border to achieve success. The event is an annual presentation of new digital media and ICT companies.
Toronto-based Wave Accounting won the people’s choice award as most innovative ICT company at the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX) today, and Wattpad took the digital media category prize.
Twenty companies in the digital media and information and communications technology (ICT) industry presented to investors at the Toronto event that seeks to connect forward-looking companies with investors and garner them some attention from the media. Limited to companies that make annual revenue of less than $10 million, the top 20 list was winnowed a field of more than 200 applicants.
The annual showcase gives entrepreneurs and emerging technology companies a chance to present what they’re doing to leading investors and corporate players, says Rick Nathan, managing director at Kensington Capital Partners and CIX co-chair. “Those companies that are here and are presenting are not having trouble raising venture capital.”
Canadian startups in the tech space can be challenged to find funding at home. In 2011, Canadian venture capital money funneled to IT-based startups dipped from last year. So it’s no wonder that Mark McQueen, the president and CEO of Welling Financial LP, advises Canadian startups to drive to Pittsburgh if they’re looking for money – after all, it only takes 12 hours from Toronto.
“The fact that we’ve been failed by our government strategy here for the last four or five years, let’s not think about that anymore,” McQueen said during a panel discussion. “The economy can go up and down, but if you’ve got a good story, there were 781 active VCs making investments in the U.S. last year.”
Wave Accounting, the free online accounting service for small businesses with nine employees or less, has tapped funds south of the border, announcing the raising of $5 million in a round led by Cambridge, Mass.-based Charles River Ventures with OMERS Ventures also included in the deal. That’s proof that worthwhile companies can find money, according to Nathan.
“It is a tough market to raise risk capital in today,” he says. “But I would suggest that a lot of the ones who are unable to do so need to go back to the drawing board and come up with some new business models.”
As entrepreneurs presented to a room full of venture capital firms, government development agencies, and banks, media buzzed about with cameras and microphones.
True Voice Technologies Inc. was one of the CIX Top 20 companies, in the ICT category. While the chance to meet potential investors was nice, company founder and president Dough Moffat found the exposure even better.
“The event is one thing, but the lead up to the event has been phenomenal,” he says. “We’ve got to meet people we would not normally meet.”
True Voice deploys a widget to a business Web site that allows visitors to click and be connected to a live person through audio chat. “There’s a place for text chat and there’s a place for live conversations,” Moffat says. “How many times have you been on a Web site and been frustrated waiting for a text chat to begin, or with having to fill out a form?”
To determine the people’s choice award winner, CIX attendees traded virtual stocks of the companies on a Web-accessible exchange using their computers and mobile devices. Each conference registrant was given $10,000 worth of play money to engage in the contest.
Wave came in first, and Wattpad came in second place overall, and was also named the People’s Choice winner for the digital media category. Wattpad provides a platform for readers and writers to exchange stories freely online and through mobile devices.
“It gives them an excuse to play with their iPhone throughout the course of the day, and it’s a nice way to give out the prize,” Nathan says.
Wave Accounting promised a free t-shirt to all those who would invest their entire amount with them.