In 2010, our company was at a crossroads; either we needed to pivot and raise funds from the U.S. or we needed to call it a day. In the end, my co-founder, Michael Garrity, and I decided to refocus and raise venture capital, which marked the beginning of Financeit and our relationship with the C100.
Michael and I had met with what felt like every single investor in Canada who was willing to hear our pitch. We managed to complete a small bridge round with an angel investor - which bought us some runway - but our goal was to raise a venture round to help us grow. We were also in a tough situation in the Canadian startup space: in between early-stage and growth-stage funding requirements.
Meeting the C100
It was around this time that I discovered the C100. I submitted an application right away for the C100's annual conference, 48hrs in the Valley. The next thing I knew Michael and I were in San Francisco at the 48hrs kick off session.
With open minds and no expectations, we met our cohort and the friendly C100 team. We were about to receive a much needed reality check.
The great thing about 48hrs is you get to meet Canadian entrepreneurs and VCs who have made an impact in the startup world. People who have helped build billion dollar companies. As an entrepreneur, this experience is invaluable and the common theme is Canadians think too small.
For our mentoring sessions, we were fortunate enough to be paired with Michael Buhr, former CEO of StumbleUpon and head of Corporate Development for eBay. He basically told us that US VCs want to know you've opened a US office and relocated before they'll even consider giving you money.
Key lesson: think bigger
We needed to be more aggressive and sell a bigger concept - our old pitch wasn't going to cut it. The majority of Canadian investors we had met were focused on when we would be profitable; while in the US the idea was more important.
You have to be able to explain why your idea is meaningful, and paint a picture on how you're going to build the next billion-dollar company.
Before going down to the Valley for 48hrs, we set up a few meetings on our own with some big name VC firms. Our pitches weren’t well received; it was an extremely painful experience.
Michael and I didn't speak much on the return trip to our hotel and that evening we spent the entire night reworking our pitch for the final 48hrs event on Sand Hill Road, Demo Day. This was the final day where companies could pitch their business to any number of VCs that showed up.
After a "trial by fire", our Demo Day pitch started to hit the right notes after we incorporated the feedback from our first meetings and the 48hrs mentors. We were later approached by several interested VCs who had come specifically to learn more about Financeit.
A new direction
This was the beginning of a new direction. One which ultimately lead us to focusing on U.S. investors and showcasing our product at Finovate, a conference dedicated to financial services innovation. This exposure continued the momentum that helped us land the $13M Series A round we announced in mid-November.
If you’re lucky enough to get into the C100, take it.
The startup community is an ecosystem and the C100 gives you access to an amazing group of minds. The 48hrs in the Valley event can be a defining moment for your company - it certainly changed things for us.
About the author: Casper Wong (@wongcasper) is the COO and Co-Founder of Toronto based Financeit. Financeit includes everything you need to offer and approve loans at the point of sale. Follow @financeit on twitter