From left, Greg Onoprijenko, director of Ingram Micro Cloud Canada; Suzanne Gagliese, VP One Commercial Partner for Microsoft Canada; Bill Brandel, Canada country chief for Ingram Micro; Kevin Peesker; and Adam Nanjee, managing director of Microsoft for Startups at Microsoft Canada. Photo by Dave Gordon.

Published: December 16th, 2019

By Dave Gordon

Describing the roster as “phenomenal,” Microsoft Canada’s president, Kevin Peesker, remarked on the groundbreaking startups and tech innovators who presented at the recent Ingram Micro Cloud Comet Competition.

“To witness the intense capability of the development and startup community in Canada is an honour to see that at work,” he said.

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Peesker was on hand to bestow awards to the winner and three runners-up, from fifteen finalists and a hundred applicants. As the global sponsor of the event, Microsoft partnered with Ingram Micro Cloud for this, its first Canadian Comet Competition, already seen in 16 international cities.

What the winners had in common wasn’t merely that they were helping consumers with efficiencies, or filling a void. For Peesker, it was more about facilitating the need to be future-forward.

“It’s not just building technology for technology’s sake, but how their solution would enhance the operations of the way other organizations are running their business, enhancing collaboration. It’s delivering something that delivers impact,” he told IT World Canada.

“What I’m hearing, and saw as well, is there’s a desire from customers to not be pure slight incrementalists. They’re trying to alter the way outcomes will be driven in the future. There are a lot of me-toos, in today’s agile world of development; iterations are coming out each day on so many platforms. So the companies that will be successful in startup or acceleration phase will be the ones who change the game a little bit in how consumers utilize their service.”

The product pitches at the event had what all good pitches have, he said, and that was a focus on how the consumer could most benefit.

“It is really fundamentally being customer-centric… ‘in what way does this truly relate to the customer?’ I think that perspective of putting yourself in the customer’s lens has a much higher success rate than the old school of ‘I have this great technology and you should use it,’” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about the tech. It’s about what is that fundamental value that will change the organization the way they operate, engage with customers, transform and iterate their own services. If you can frame it in that lens for the individual on the other side of the discussion, you are going to have a much higher rate of success.”

Recognizing that most startups are swimming in an ocean with a million other fish, he advises entrepreneurs to do something to stand out that many believe is counter-intuitive – to interact with individuals who might be doing similar things.

“You have to collaborate and learn from others and competitors. My advice is to go into the ecosystems in the regional area wherever the organization or individual is, and then learn from others, share – not to the point of giving up your secrets – what is required to accelerate the startup phase, and make it tangible so the business can be accelerated.”

Examples of learning portals he cites are Volta in Halifax, LaCamp in Quebec City, MaRS in Toronto, and Startup Edmonton in Edmonton.

“These centres of excellence that are being grown across the country are really places where someone with a great idea who is putting it through the first paces can go get advice, support.”

Meanwhile, every startup should know what’s trending, to keep up with where tech is going and its trajectory, and he believes it will take the shape of what he dubs ‘big platform ecosystems’.

“Customers in the enterprise space and government space are looking for less complexity, not more,” said Peesker. “To me, it’s: be aware of what are the big platforms in the network, and then how can you connect in seamlessly, so it’s easy adoption. Then, critically, it’s how can you demonstrate what quick time to market is with your application.”

He also explained how customers seek niche needs, more than before.

“Whether it is ‘I’m into workplace collaboration and I want to do ‘x’ or ‘I’m in energy, and I want to apply this energy’ or ‘I’m in healthcare’ or ‘I’m in financial services,’ we are seeing much more specific applications that relate to the vertical market. That’s where I’m seeing those ventures be pretty successful.”

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