Today, Charter Member Katherine Barr (Partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures) steps up as the newest co-chair for the C100. We're stoked to have such an amazing Canadian woman in tech help lead the C100!
Want to learn more about Katherine? Check out what she has to tell us about her background, advice for entrepreneurs, what she hopes to accomplish during her time as a C100 co-chair and more:
What brought you into the tech world? What do you love most about tech, startups, and Silicon Valley?
I was inspired by computer technology when my father bought a TRS-80. I used to play games and write programs in BASIC while growing up on a farm just outside of Perth, Ontario. I really got immersed in the world of technology when I came to California for grad school in the late 90s. It was the middle of the dot-com boom, and I helped to run the E-Challenge business plan competition out of the School of Engineering at Stanford. I loved the innovative way startups looked at the world, the fast pace at which they moved, and the massive value they created. Startups can literally change the world and I wanted to be part of that. I was hooked on tech startups from that point on!
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger, less experienced self...what startup/entrepreneur advice would you give yourself?
1-Choose your team members, investors, and other business partners wisely. Life is short; work with people you trust.
2-Be honest with yourself and others – about what you want to build, what ‘success’ looks like to you, how your business is doing and what kind of help you need. No one expects you to know or do it all, but people do expect you to be aware of what you don’t know and to find the best talent to fill those gaps.
3-Test your vision with actual customers and incorporate feedback early on in company building.
What are most interesting companies you have worked with and/or mentored?
I love all of my companies (Ticketfly, Visible Measures, Infusionsoft, BandPage, PunchTab, Ruby Ribbon, Storefront, Retention Science and a yet-to-be-revealed company), so I’m not going to single out any one of them.
But outside of the companies that I’m currently working with, one of MDV’s recent success stories is a company called Verinata Health. They were just acquired by Illumina leading to a nice win for our fund. What I love about this company in particular is that it offers a new kind of early prenatal test that is transformational in terms of its non-invasive nature for pregnant women.
I also love Rocket Fuel, which is a real time ad targeting platform that does automated real time bidding (RTB) into ad exchanges. A lot of technology is moving towards automation, from robots to platforms like Rocket Fuel. It’s amazing technology, and the co-founder and CEO, George John, is brilliant. We backed them when they first got started and also through the downturn of 2008 when no one else believed they could build the platform they did, and get the advertising results that they do.
What are the key qualities that you see in successful entrepreneurs?
-are passionate and determined to fix a particular problem
-suspend disbelief about “why this can’t be done” (balanced with actual market feedback)
-are able to successfully implement their vision through a lot of hard work
-surround themselves with high quality people who can help bring a vision to fruition
-constantly ask questions and learn
-continually track key business metrics and follow through on making appropriate changes when issues are detected (whether related to team, product or financials, etc.)
How did you get involved in the C100?
Tab Borden, who worked at the Canadian Consulate in San Francisco for a few years, brought a group of local Canadian expat investors and entrepreneurs together for lunch nearly four years ago to discuss how to put together a group that addressed the needs of Canadian tech entrepreneurs. I was one of the people he invited to that lunch, which ended up being the genesis of C100.
I was at a point in my life where, though busy, I wanted to start to give back. Given my work as a venture investor and my strong affinity for Canada, I joined the founding C100 Organizing Committee and ran Charter Membership for the first few years.
We still have a lot of work to do, however, I am really proud of what the C100 has already been able to accomplish in a few short years. A huge thank you to Anthony, Chris, Atlee, the Organizing Committee and all of our Charter Members for the passion, hard work and positive impact on Canadian tech entrepreneurs to date. And thank you for the effort and enthusiasm of all of the entrepreneurs who have participated in our programs so far.
What do you hope to accomplish while being a co-chair, over the next year in particular?
I am really excited about building greater Charter Member engagement over the next couple of years. We have an incredibly talented group who are passionate about supporting C100’s mission, and we want to make sure we are leveraging Charter Member capabilities for Canadian tech entrepreneurs to the greatest extent possible.
Anything else you'd like the C100 community to know about you?
I grew up cross country skiing in Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, skating on Otty and Big Rideau lakes, and down hill skiing at Mt. Pakenham, Cascade, Camp Fortune, and Tremblant.
I learned how to play broomball at McGill.
I was taught how to curl by the coach of the Canadian Olympic Women’s Curling Team coach when I lived in Nagano, Japan and worked for the International Olympic Committee in the late 90s.
I genuinely love Poutine. (For all non-Canadians who don’t know what I’m talking about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poutine)