Kal Kotecha PhD
On Wednesday March 30th, I was honoured to accept an invitation to be the guest speaker at “Thinking North” — a new leader in connecting businesses to the investment community. Every two months the best and brightest of Toronto’s business leaders are invited to present their business or company to an audience of investors and financial professionals.
Canada’s Silicon Valley North namely Kitchener-Waterloo, along with the Great Toronto Area hold some of the brightest and finest tech companies in North America. Thinking North assists in connecting these and other sector companies to Toronto’s venture capital.
Thinkingnorth.com is the brainchild of Toronto Venture Capitalist, Steve Singh. After reviewing investor social networks in San Francisco, Toronto and Bogota Colombia, it was readily apparent event originators were more about filling the rink rather than aiming the puck at the top right corner of the net. “For me, it was more about filling the room with the right people and achieving the duality of good/interesting companies at various stages of evolvement pitching to a targeted audience of savvy investors,” says Singh. Together, with Natalie Yavorska, an astute business professional, and Raj Ravindran, entrepreneur, mentor and analyst, Thinkingnorth was born. ThinkingNorth is an arena for sharks, dragons and emerging species.
The night started with introductions followed by my talk. I focused on the importance of tax breaks for corporations and small businesses. Also, where I think the economy is headed and how to capitalize on the technological brain power located between the 401 corridor of Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo.
Following my talk, presentations were made by Venture Capitalists plus six start-up stage companies. They were given five minutes each to represent their business vis-a-vis product/service, competitive influences and monetization strategy.
Jeff Maser from the Tinley Beverage Company opened the round of presentations. The firm manufactures a drinkable vitality supplement containing hemp stalk extract called Hemplify. The drink satisfies more than thirst, it is also an aesthetically pleasing package. Featuring a beautifully-designed sleek bottle, the product contains non-psychoactive terpenes, essential oils, vitamins, electrolytes, and omegas making it a revitalizing source for athletic, contemplative, and creative activities.
Fertilify took the stage next. This company manufactures a health supplement designed to help women support and maintain reproductive health. They have set themselves the ambitious goal of helping modern and career women who delay giving birth, to maintain the proper level of vitamins in order to ensure they do give birth to healthy children. The company’s intelligent and radiant President Lalli Chapman stated, “I started Fertilify to confront the issues facing women’s fertility today, and help do something about it.”
Another company with the theme of hemp-based products was presented by David Vinokurov from Budhubz.com. Vinokurov showcased a new app akin to Air BnB with a focus on 420-friendly guest facilities and dispensary relationships.
Next to be featured was a luxury all natural water company called Flow Water. This product boasts high natural levels of certain minerals such as calcium taken from a family owned water source in Ontario, and also displaying exotic packaging.
Following this was an exciting new career oriented app called Paddle which helps workers navigate the complexities of today’s career cycle. Paddle has already signed agreements with major universities in the U.S., including Harvard and Stanford. Given the current climate wherein people are expected to have many careers in the course of their working life, they hope to revolutionize the way people approach careers and make it easier to hop between different roles and industries.
The closing speaker was probably the most dazzling. Mark Itwaru from Peeks presented a potentially disruptive technology. With the foresight to patent his ideas surrounding this technology, he has created an application that gives its users a chance to broadcast themselves and be their own wealth creator, simultaneously in real time. A built-in proprietary payment engine makes it possible to drive revenue through a variety of channels, ie. tips, product sales, advertising, and various others. It was exciting to hear about a brilliant and evolving new technology.
After each of the presentations, a panel of venture capitalists and investors had five minutes to ask questions. After all was said and done, the event closed with another round of networking. Besides being highly informational from an investor perspective, I must say it was loads of fun from a social perspective.
The team at Thinking North are optimistic about the future – no matter what the state of the market, there are always great people doing exceptional work. There is always capital to be accessed for investing in good ideas and projects. Ultimately, organizations such as Thinking North are here to help Toronto play at the top of the league alongside their neighbours in Silicon Valley and to help Canada maintain its braintrust leadership amongst its peers.
Thank-you Steve, Natalie and Raj for creating a much needed venue that connects investors to great projects.
I now have the honour of being on the investment panel for Thinking North. If you are ever in the Toronto area, feel free to attend the event. The next meeting is expected to have close to 500 investor attendees. The information will be posted on ThinkingNorth.com
Kal Kotecha PhD