I have been getting a ton of questions and thought it was time to let everyone know that I will not be producing the GROW Conference in 2016. This was not an easy decision. Over the last few years I’ve wanted to move on and try new things, from starting a company to joining a team but each time I’ve tried, GROW – and the awesome community – pulled me back in. I have never regretted it, but this year I have made a commitment to myself that I’ll pursue those new things.
I also feel that it’s the right time for GROW to take a pause. The original purpose of GROW – bringing Silicon Valley to Canada to drive innovation – has been realized. Over the last 6 years, Silicon Valley quickly embraced and invested in some of the leading Canadian entrepreneurs. In turn, the Canadian ecosystem stepped up, created, built and invested in their own community, showing the power and influence that happens when a country unites. The Canadian ecosystem is deeply integrated and well represented. Investors in both countries no longer see the border as a barrier. Canada has it’s own unicorns. It’s time for GROW to take a break
For those of you who don’t know me well, I started Dealmaker Media back in 2000 with the intention of covering and profiling early tech companies and trends in the startup industry. It grew to educating the broader community and helping more traditional industries better understand the changes in tech and the companies they should be meeting. I found the best way to impact the ecosystem was through highly curated conferences.
The Under the Radar conference ran for 10 years and was one of the most well respected startup conferences in Silicon Valley. We showcased over 600 early stage startups which included 7 IPO’s and 14 of the top Unicorns including: Linkedin, Marketo, Cloudflare and Twilio. If we became a venture fund, we would have crushed it.
In the early days of the LA’s “Silicon Beach” community, we had a very successful event series thanks to the support of Mark Suster, Peter Pham, Jason Nazar, Dana Settle, Nicole Jordan and Mike Jones. At the same time, with my friend and now infamous wildman, Dave McClure of 500 Startups, we started one of the first “lean startup” style conferences known as Startonomics.
In 2010, thanks to the nudging of my friends and fellow entrepreneurs, Danny Robinson and Maura Rogers, I launched the GROW conference, which quickly became one of my proudest achievements. Building and launching a new product is invigorating, rejuvenating and fed every inch of my creative soul. The enthusiasm and appreciation from the Canadian ecosystem was humbling. It was their excitement and spirit that propelled our conference into one of the leading tech innovation/startup conferences in North America. I couldn’t be more proud of the community that was created and the friendships that were built.
For those of you at the first GROW in 2010, introducing the talented Canadian tech ecosystem to the Silicon Valley community was a profound moment in Canadian history. The conference also spawned the birth of GrowLab (now Highline), along with my 3 co-founders; Boris Wertz, Leonard Brody and Jason Bailey, we created the first pan-Canadian accelerator that bridged the gap between Silicon Valley and Canada.
Producing the GROW conference was like building a completely new product. The conference theme changed yearly to address the latest technology innovation and explore the current state of entrepreneurship and funding. As part of the product discovery process, I traveled the globe to meet investors, entrepreneurs and corporates to learn how global communities are influenced by and use technology. I spoke with investors about trends and emerging sectors of interest, corporates about innovation and competitive advantage and companies that were building amazing new products. It was all consuming and I am really proud of what we created.
Alas, 2016 is a No Grow Year. That’s to not to say that I won’t produce Grow again.
But I am ready to explore other opportunities. I’ve made a few personal angel investments and will continue to stay closely engaged to the community via the C100. If you want to discuss new exciting opportunities, board seats, or advising, I’m open and interested in having a chat.
A big, heartfelt thank you to all the friends, sponsors, VCs, entrepreneurs and tech community for all of your support over the years. I’m grateful for all the memories.