Month: January 2009 (Page 1 of 2)

BC Technology Industry Association

Had a quick lunch and rushed into a meeting with Cindy Pearson (Vice President & COO, BC Technology Industry Association). Cindy gave me a good overview of the technology industry in British Columbia. The industry is very dynamic and growing rapidly.

What’s even more impressive is the support structure around the industry. While there is some public funds available (not nearly as much as is available in the UK), the industry and the association has largely bootstrapped themselves into existence and growth.

I shared with her the technology sector in the West Midlands and the UK and specifically our ICT Cluster. I invited Cindy to visit us on her next trip to the UK and meet some of our industry leaders.

There are opportunities for companies on both sides of the pond to work with each other and form closer relationships.

More Meetings

Started another hectic day with a morning meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Met with Monika Surma (Trade Commissioner at the Department).

Monika provides advice to Canadian new media and software companies who are looking to trade internationally.

Had a fruitful conversation regarding needs of the Canadian companies when looking to export. Discussed the UK and European markets and specifically the Bridge to Growth initiative by Advantage West Midlands.

Monika was impressed with the program and promised to spread the word among her clients and colleagues

Making Waves On All Fronts

Met with Jim Maynard (President, Wavefront) and his executive team for lunch today (thanks for the sushi guys). I initially met Jim in summer 2008 when he and Michael Bidu (Executive Director, WINBC) visited us at the National B2B Centre.

Its impressive that Wavefront has grown by leaps and bounds in the last six months or so. Jim described an array of impressive partnerships he has forged globally, from Europe to Asia. These include acquisition of equipment and testing servers to help mobile start-ups thoroughly stress test their application prior to market launch.

Wavefront also has strong connections with carriers in North America and is looking to develop similar relationships with carriers in Europe and Asia.

And according to Jim and his team, this is just the beginning. They have plans to continue expansion of the organisation and looking to become a first point of contact for any mobile start-up company.

Between Wavefront and WINBC, British Columbia has established a solid foundation to help mobile start-up go from concept to market in relatively short time.

Small Business British Columbia

Met with George Hunter, CEO of Small Business British Columbia (SBBC) this morning. SBBC is a support organisation for small businesses in British Columbia. They provide assistance to individuals who are looking to start a business as well as to establish businesses to help them grow the company.

George has recently joined SBBC to head the organisation. He shared with me his vision for the organisation and where he wants to take it. He has set himself some impressive but achievable goals for the near future.

We discussed possibility of the National B2B Centre in the UK and SBBC working together to share knowledge and help companies in our respective regions.

Looking forward to working with George and SBBC in the future.

Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit International Forum

I had a pleasure of being on the panel of International Forum with Tony Fish (Co-Founder, AMF Ventures, UK), Jeanette Kopak (Director Project Operations, Centre for Digital Media, Canada), and Jim Baker (Chief Marketing Officer, Icomera, Sweden). The discussion was moderated by Peter Lesyk (Director Business Development, TELUS).

Jeanette demonstrated Movisphere, application that the students at the Centre for Digital Media created for Telefonica, Spain. Movisphere is a multi-platform, massively multiplayer online game where a player can seamlessly switch between desktop computers and mobile phones.

I did a presentation on the West Midlands’ Bridge to Growth program. The presentation was well received with several members wondering if other countries have similar programs. Jim Baker who is currently looking at locations in both the US and Canada for setting up his North American operations commented he wished a similar initiative was in place somewhere in North America.

Jim and Tony, both veterans of international business, commented the need to thoroughly understand legal and cultural differences when doing business across international borders. They mentioned that products and service that needs to be approved by government agencies could be a major stumbling block in international trade. Telecommunication equipment that uses different spectrum for example is one such hindrance.

Recommendation: Seek professional advice when venturing into international trade, but don’t let that be a barrier to lucrative markets for your products.

Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit Specialized Forums

Summit had several intensive discussion sessions throughout the day.  Discussions were generally arranged around investment, technology, international market sand education.

Investment panels were around the topic of raising funds for start-up ventures and how to engage carriers (financially and as partners) with your company.  Focus of the discussions took into account the current investment and economic conditions.  While it is relatively easier to raise money during boom times, but money is still available during the economic downturn.  Venture capitalist work harder to find the right company during this times and work even harder to make those companies successful.

Education forums were moderated by Nokia University Relations group.  They showcased several projects at the University of British Columbia and the Simon Fraser University.  Nokia is actively involved in several universities globally, encouraging innovative idea development by professors, research teams and students.

Discussion about technical and business challenges facing start-up companies was moderated by Brian Roberts (Vice President of Business Development, Wavefront).  Steve Morley (Former VP Technology, Qualcomm) again stressed the importance of keeping things simple and focus on the customer not the technology.

Stephen King talked about Mob4Hire and how the crowed sourced testing is not only feasible but affordable, giving better results than just testing on few handsets.

All in all, the theme of the conference was that opportunities are still available despite credit crunch, downward trending economy and technical challenges.  Key is to focus on the right things and developing right relationships with the right organizations.

Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit Keynotes

Following on from the Leadership Forum yesterday, had a great, information packed Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit today. The conference theme was around Ideas, Innovation, Insight and Investment.

The morning started with keynote speakers from a cross section of the wireless industry, including researchers, venture capitalists and companies.

Tom Huseby (SeaPoint Ventures, Seattle) said this is the best time to start a company. Investment funds, he said, is still available for the right companies. Problem is that people are too concerned about the current economic climate, when they should be focused on creating for the future. Companies that are developing for the upcoming boom in the mobile market will be the winners in 2010 and beyond.

Video courtesy of Bruce Sharpe

Interestingly, Dr. Gerry Chan (Communications Research Centre, Canada) mentioned one of the frustration for his team has been that not enough academics are commercializing their research. Dr. Chan is passionate about changing that in Canada and his organization is encouraging funded researchers to become more entrepreneurial in their outlook.

Keynote session was followed by several intense specialized forums throughout the day and the Summit ended with an upbeat Award Gala dinner

Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit Leadership Forum

Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit 2009 kicked off today in Vancouver, Canada with an amazing Leadership Forum. The Forum was held on the 29th floor of Fasken Martineau‘s offices in downtown Vancouver. During the conference, the fog lifted momentarily to give us a great view of Vancouver waterfront with the Grouse Mountain in the background. Vancouver is a beautiful town, no doubts there.

But back to the Forum. The lineup of speakers was great. Steve Morley (20th employee at Qualcomm and its former VP Technology) stressed that start-up companies should not focus on their technology, but rather their customers. A common sense idea which unfortunately is not very common in the technology start-up world. Reminded me of a phrase Silicon Valley VC often used: technology is only a ticket to the game, not the game itself. The game is business, unfortunately too many companies get wrapped up in the (perceived) greatness of their technology that they forget all about the customer.

Dr. Wang Jing (Secretary-General & Senior Advisor at TD-SCDMA Forum, China), provided a great overview of the telecommunications industry in China. The market leaders, players and most importantly where the current and future opportunities are. Chinese market is growing by leaps and bounds and while major players dominate certain markets (carriers, for example) significant opportunities still exist for start-ups and smaller companies.

While Dr. Jing did not discuss the content space in the Chinese market, I believe there are great opportunities in that space, not only in China, but globally. Specifically, locally relevant content, especially when combined with user selected location based content. This market is ripe for explosion and quite a few interesting start-up companies are working in this area. Canpages, for example is working on the mobile version of their yellow pages. The demo on the iPhone was quite impressive.

Anshu Agarwal (VP Marketing, Keynote Systems) took us through his crystal ball and what the future holds for the next few years. The interesting part of his presentation was how he arrived at the future prediction based on recent innovations in the market place. If Anshu’s predictions are correct, the mobile industry is ready for a major surge, with innovative products hitting the market over the next 18 to 36 months.

Besides the presenters, there were several panel discussions, including a thought provoking panel led by Tony Fish (Co-Founder, AMF Ventures, UK) on convergence (sorry Tony, I owe you a dollar for using the C word) in the mobile industry.

All in all a great Forum. Thank you Michael Bidu and Christina Chowaniec of WINBC for putting together a great event.

Marketing on social networking sites – Burger King did it right, did you?

Social networks are creating a buzz among the marketing folks who are trying to understand how to engage with the various communities online. Many marketers incorrectly assume that traditional marketing (i.e. advertisement) would work just as well on social networking sites as they have elsewhere. They happily go off spending money on that channel.

And they fail miserably.

Social networking is inherently about socialising.  Marketing, therefore must be about the social experience. Members of the site aren’t there to buy widgets, they are there to engage with their friends and colleagues. Take, for example, Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice campaign. Specifically targeted to Facebook members. A great example how to market to the community while allowing them to engage with their friends. Burger King could have opted to simply place an advertisement banner offering free burgers. Some members would have taken opportunity of that offer. But from the community’s perspective Whopper Sacrifice isn’t about free burgers, its about engaging with their friends in a fun way.

Result – not only is the campaign more successful than a banner advertisement would have been, Burger King ended up getting plenty of free publicity too.

Interestingly enough would this same campaign work on LinkedIn? I suspect not. Facebook and LinkedIn, while both are social network sites are used in very different ways by the members. Active LinkedIn members work hard to develop relationships on the site. They will not “sacrifice” a connection for a free meal. So what would work on LinkedIn? Lets see if Burger King can come up with something interesting.

More to the point, if social networking demographics are the right kind for your product, how are you engaging with that community?

Bridge to Growth

If you are looking to expand your business to the UK, look at the West Midlands region, perhaps the perfect place to setup your British venture. With easy access to the London Metropolitan area, West Midlands’ cost of doing business is 30% lower than London’s.

And the Bridge to Growth initiative makes this deal even sweeter. A unique public-private sector partnership, you can quickly register your UK limited company free of charge.

But the offer doesn’t stop there. Free UK limited company is only the first step. To ensure your British company is on the right track, you will also get free advice on general tax and finance issues as well as general legal matters. These could include initial consultation, setup of an accounting system, taxation, etc.

While the above services will help you navigate the legal requirements of setting up a UK business, getting the business going quickly in a new market would mean finding a suitable office space.

Bridge to Growth got your covered there as well. The program provides either free office space for several months or a substantial discount, depending on the location you select. You have a choice of several locations throughout the West Midlands in one of the several participating science parks.

To top it all off, you also get access to discounted lead generation service, potentially allowing you to start selling right away.

So let’s see. Free UK Limited company, free consultation from accountants and lawyers for general finance, taxation and legal issues. Free or discounted accommodations for a few months and access to lead generation.

But wait, there is more. Advantage West Midlands, the regional development body and the organisers of the Bridge to Growth program, can also introduce you to an extensive network of regional partners. These partners can provide further help at no or very low cost. Partners like the National B2B Centre, Manufacturing Advisory Service, MediLink, and IT Futures to name a few.

So if you are looking to expand into the UK, setting up in West Midlands makes sense. You can setup your UK company quickly and at a very low cost, but with easy access to the British and indeed the European markets.

(I just realised, I sound like a commercial in this post. Wonder if there are any opportunities for me to work in one of those late night commercials).

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