It takes a village to raise a startup – c100 48hrs in the Valley

January 22, 2014 Janice Diner


Horizn is a growth stage company with a high-performance sales activation platform that helps get salespeople knowledgeable and excited about selling their products. The platform is being used by companies in 15 countries and 10 languages, with more being added as this is being written. A war is being fought for the hearts and wallets of consumers between the offline and online worlds. We are equipping retailers and Fortune 500 brands with the power to engage on any platform at the point where decisions are being made. 

Taking the time away from the day-to-day running of the business has been a critical factor in our strategic planning and vision for 2014. The C100’s 48 hours in the Valley provided the opportunity to interact with world class thinkers and hone our understanding of what we have accomplished, what the opportunity before us is and a vision for moving forward. Below are some of the learning’s and insights we are weaving into our thinking

 The role of the CEO in a start-up

Listening to Sukhinder Sing Cassidy of Joyus talk helped form the basis for my “job description”.  I walked out of this session with a clearer understanding of my job and how to staff for scale. She provided clear direction on how important talent management is on an ongoing basis.

 I learned:

 1.     As CEO your single most important role for your company is to be the recruiter for your company. It takes evangelism and work to meet and engage best of breed talent. 

2.     Do you have operating range and does your team have operating range? As a CEO you fundamentally have operating range, but what about the people you work with? Do the people on your management team fly high or low, are they able to move between the two with ease. Know when to get into the weeds and when to step back.

3.     Regularly check in on the vision and the talent management plan. It is too easy to get caught in the day to day and lose track of the longer-term goals.


Defining your market and creating a vision

We met with Katherine Barr and Abhas Gupta of Mohr Davidow. Going in we gave our pitch and then things got interesting. We came away with a much clearer definition of the marketplace we are selling into and the basis for a vision statement for how to penetrate our marketplace and define our company. Sometime spent over coffee with Scott Bonham of GGV Capital furthered helped clarify the overall market opportunity of retail offline 2 online.  It seams clearer to us at Horizn that the winners will be the retailers and brands that can blend offline and online, the physical and the digital mobile world into one integrated omnichannel commerce solution.

 Telling your story

I know we hear about this all the time, as CEO you need to weave a tail, paint a picture of the product vision. I grew up as a creative director in the advertising business, where I spent many hours with clients selling the “story” that this should be second nature to me. Two sessions in particular stood out. Rosco Hill showed us how to make the story clear, concise and engaging (on the back of his business card). Lars Lackie of Hummer Winblad clarified what parts of our story that would engage and attract a VC.

In conclusion, for fellow startups get your game on, fill out the application for the c100 48hrs in the Valley it is critical to your business that you hear, “best of breed” tell you how they did it. And as I often say at MaRS Discovery District where our offices are located, it takes a village to raise a startup. Thank you c100 for welcoming us into the village.

About Janice Diner – Founding Partner and CEO Horizn

Janice is an award-winning creative director and technologist. She is founding partner and CEO of the Horizn Platform. Janice has a proven track record with global brands such as Motorola Mobility, LinkedIn, TSN, Sony PlayStation, TD Canada Trust, and BlackBerry. Prior to starting Horizn, Janice has held senior positions at Syncapse Corp, Euro Havas and Interpublic.

About Horizn -- Horizn’s mission is straightforward: we want to change how brands and retailers train their sales teams by giving them a powerful platform that educates, engages and rewards. Combining the power of education, incentives and a social community, Horizn offers a high-performance sales training platform that drives measurable results: increased product sales and more recommendations.


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