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Saskatoon Swagger

March 23, 2017 - Author: admin

Back in November, I wrote about reaching beyond Silicon Valley (link to blog post) to encourage innovation in other cities and towns.  The next industrial revolution will be all about technology, and cities who are not preparing for that may be left behind like we’ve seen in some of the regions who relied too long on outdated manufacturing and energy economies. 

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Saskatoon, Canada to learn more about their burgeoning tech industry and how to support the start-ups in the area.  I attended an event called “Flip the Switch,” which was about turning on the tech industry infrastructure needed to make Saskatoon entrepreneurs successful without having to move to Silicon Valley.

Canada is the fastest growing country in the G7, and Saskatoon is the 3rd fastest growing city in Canada.  Saskatoon was also named one of three cities to watch for tech job growth in Canada.  With travel bans and uncertainty in America this year, Canada has been trying to lure many tech companies to open offices there.  Most tech companies find Vancouver most like Silicon Valley, but like Silicon Valley, it is very expensive.  Toronto has attracted many companies with its proximity to top universities.  But Saskatoon is making its mark, and I thought it was worth exploring how this city and the province of Saskatchewan is working to incentivize tech growth.

I met with several tech companies in Saskatoon and listened to their company pitches, their successes and their challenges.  I also met with several government officials who were kind enough to provide some of the data and statistics I cited in the above paragraph.

The biggest difference between Silicon Valley and any other city or area that wants to grow its tech business is simply the infrastructure.  Silicon Valley lives and breathes tech every day.  We have universities, VCs, entrepreneurs, large tech enterprises, lawyers, marketing people, etc. who all understand the tech industry.  That adds up to a large amount of resources that are completely devoted to helping technology companies grow and thrive and have unprecedented experience.  Deals get done in coffee shops and at school drop-offs because everyone is in the business.  That’s very hard to duplicate.

Therefore, what cities like Saskatoon need is more tech companies.  That is why they had this event.  They want to demonstrate that Saskatoon and Saskatchewan have the people and infrastructure to support growing tech companies.

That may or may not be true right now, but as more tech companies look to set up hubs in Canada, Saskatoon could be worth a look.  There are solid universities in the area, growing investments, and the government is committed to making the area attractive to tech companies.  Plus, the cost of living is very attractive.  In the past, the region has mostly brought in oil and gas, agriculture, mining and ranching.  These industries are ripe for innovation, but there’s also start-ups in enterprise and consumer software.  Coconut Calendar is a good example.  As you recall, Katherine Regnier, the CEO of Coconut Calendar, is one of the Neal’s Running Start entrepreneurs and she organized this event to get the tech companies organized.  That’s a great start.  Just getting the support systems talking to each other will go a long way to retaining and attracting new tech companies.

Since my return the potential investment opportunities have been encouraging. I have been contacted by a few Saskatoon based companies as well as two in Calgary. They all have early sales traction and in one case multiple millions in revenue all with minimum levels of Investment or no outside funding. That’s a nod to the hard work and dedication of small-town people who expect to succeed on their own merits.  I’m continuing to investigate these companies and have been happy to receive several other referrals from the Saskatchewan government.

Saskatoon has a long way to go before it becomes a new technology hub.  But this kind of commitment from the local community, businesses, universities and the government are exactly what I was talking about in my previous blog.  Tech innovation is going to have to spread out, and Saskatoon is a great example of how a city can make a strategic plan to be well-positioned for the next economy.  I look forward to my next visit.

For more information, have a look at a radio and TV interview Katherine and I did during my visit:

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Neal’s Running Start Entrepreneurs Offer their Top 5 Tips and Lessons

February 22, 2017 - Author: admin

Last week, I had the pleasure of inviting all the Neal’s Running Start entrepreneurs to Aspen, Colorado for a reunion.  It’s been a little over a year since these four entrepreneurs from scattered parts of the globe were chosen to be part of the NRS 2016 program.  Their month with us was a non-stop marathon of lessons on business from Silicon Valley’s finest.  I wanted to see how they’ve applied what they learned since leaving.

I thought I’d share some of the lessons we talked about, as they can apply for any entrepreneur.  And they also had some good tips for any entrepreneur who might be facing the same challenges.   We’ll start with some lessons they took back, applied to their companies, and made a big difference:

Top 5 Positive Outcomes:

  • Cash flow – cash is king, so master your cash flow management, and that will make a huge difference for the survival and growth of the company.
  • Embrace change – if what you’re doing isn’t working, change.  If you have to make changes, do it fast and decisively.
  • Raise as much capital as possible – if cash is king, so is capital. You’ll need it to grow and keep up with the market.  Don’t worry about taking too much capital, as investors will only give you what you need and observe you how stretch to make it work.  Take capital from multiple sources, including VCs, angels and government sources if you can.
  • The right customers – everyone needs customers, but choose the right customers who fit with your long-term vision. Minimize customizations that can slow down product development.
  • The right team – hiring the right team members can take burdens off the CEO and bring new inspiration. The wrong hire can be detrimental to the company, brand, reputation and finances.  Hire carefully, but fire quickly.

Top 5 Challenges:

  • Cash flow – the inverse of mastering your cash flow is not having the cash flow to master. All the entrepreneurs have learned the importance of revenues and if you don’t have cash, you must solve that problem first before anything else can happen.  Have a back-up plan or a cushion in case fundraising takes longer than expected.
  • Product – managing the product direction can prove difficult when you’re being pulled by customers in various directions. Pick a vision, but go where the money is.  That’s a hard tightrope to walk.
  • Managing growth – once you have investment and cash, deciding how best to apply it to manage growth is challenging. From which hires to make to what R&D investments will yield the most results, managing growth is complicated.
  • Making cuts – sometimes, you must make the hard call and cut a team member who isn’t working out as the company grows. Sometimes you must cut people to manage cash flow.  But no matter the reason, in a small business letting people go is difficult because it’s personal.
  • Don’t give away the company – at an early stage, people will be vying for stock. While you need to give some away to get investment and a committed executive team, don’t lose your ability to call the shots at this early stage.


One of the entrepreneurs had a tip that everyone liked:  Make a one page list of your yearly goals.  Keep it where you can see it every day.  That will help everyone manage tough decisions and prioritize activities.

I’m proud of the entrepreneurs.  Running a company is never an easy climb.  There are always ups and downs.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No company I’ve ever worked with has been a straight shot to the top.  They all face challenges as they go.  Our reunion was a chance for us to share the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life, and have some fun in the mountains at the same time.

I’ll continue to keep you posted on our entrepreneurs.  We haven’t seen the last of them yet, and I look forward to more great times in 2017 and beyond.


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Tech Industry Post-Election

November 22, 2016 - Author: admin

What a difference a couple of weeks makes.  In my last blog post, I talked about how technology presented an opportunity for cities around the world to become innovation hubs.  Since then, we have been through an election cycle in the US.  President-elect Donald Trump was a surprise win to many, and in the post-election analysis, the issue of cities left-behind by the economy has been identified as a key factor in him being the chosen candidate.  We need to face the fact that technology has contributed to this economic disparity.

The technology industry is most proud of the way it “disrupts” industries. We have replaced jobs with machines in many industries and continue to do so.  Technology is expected to upend healthcare, education, transportation, food, housing and just about every aspect of daily life.  But when we “disrupt”, we often destroy.  We leave entire careers at the wayside, and formerly thriving towns economically devastated.

Now it’s time for tech to disrupt itself and acknowledge the role we are playing in good disruption and bad.  We need to put together think tanks on how to replace the jobs we usurp.  Do we have an obligation to hire a certain percentage of the workforce displaced?  Robin Raskin in her recent Huffington Post column suggested a tech Peace Corps to help find solutions to revitalize devastated communities. Do we have an obligation to create and contribute to a universal income strategy as jobs are lost and not replaced?

The bottom line is, we must start finding solutions to the problems we have created.  We must take our fair share of responsibility.  Our own survival might depend on it because if enough people are left financially devastated by technology’s disruption, we can expect more revolution in government like we saw with the Donald Trump election.  We must recognize that while globalization has been great for tech and tech workers, it has left others in ruins.  It’s time to disrupt that pattern.

My time with the Neal’s Running Start entrepreneurs opened my eyes to the world of ideas and knowledge that is happening in the most unlikely places, like Saskatoon, Canada.  We need to support these entrepreneurs and equip cities, governments and educators if we’re going to accelerate local economies, move struggling cities from out-of-date industries that do not offer long-term viability, and usher in the next season of economic prosperity for all.

VCs need to consider social investing in remote places and with people solving third world and first world social and economic problems.  We need to look to an unlikely group of entrepreneurs to give us new ideas, new perspectives and help us see beyond the next unicorn.

In the next few months, I will be visiting various cities and talking to smart people who are looking to be part of the solution to the economic damage inflicted on our American towns and cities.  I will be researching ideas and opportunities.  I’ll share my discoveries with you as I go, and I look for your input along the way as well. If you have ideas to share, people you think I should meet, places you think I should visit, I’m excited to hear from you all.  Let’s do this together!

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Reaching Beyond Silicon Valley

October 18, 2016 - Author: admin

I’ve spent the last few years meeting entrepreneurs from around the globe.  I’ve been to conferences like Web Summit, White Bull, and many meet-ups across the US and Europe.  There’s lots of talent and ideas outside of Silicon Valley, which is probably no surprise to anyone who lives outside the Bay Area.  However, many VCs and investors tend to keep their dollars in this region.  Of course, there are some large VC firms with overseas presence, but the majority keep their dollars in the Bay Area.  Perhaps it’s time we widened our scope because the tech disruption isn’t going to be limited to Silicon Valley.

It’s true that the reason VCs are focused on entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley or those who are willing to move to Silicon Valley is because of the vast resources and networks here. While other cities and countries have tried to duplicate the Silicon Valley mentality and culture, no one has succeeded yet.

Perhaps it’s because San Francisco and the Bay Area has a history or risk-taking on crazy ventures.  From the Barbary Coast to the Gold Rush to a computer industry founded in garages, the Bay Area has always defied convention socially and in business.

The disparity in funding risks between Silicon Valley and European VCs is another good example.  Two million is a seed round of funding in Silicon Valley, while that’s at least an A round of funding in Europe, if not a B round.  And for better or worse, Silicon Valley VCs are more likely to keep investing in a company to help them pivot if the first idea doesn’t work, whereas European VCs are much more conservative on that front.

Having completed the Neal’s Running Start program for entrepreneurs outside the US earlier this year, I saw first-hand how entrepreneurs can flourish with the right guidance and network.  Neal’s Running Start took four entrepreneurs from outside the country and brought them here for just thirty days.  I was amazed at how these eager minds transformed completely in such a short amount of time.  What would happen if they had consistent access to Silicon Valley without the costs of moving to Silicon Valley?

Over the next year, I’m going to focus on learning about and talking about methods to make tech innovation more inclusive for everyone.  We have massive industrial shifts happening across the globe. The World Economic Forum’s report on Deep Shifts: Technological Tipping Points make it clear how technology will completely disrupt social and economic systems in the next 15-20 years.  That means we have to be thinking and innovating not just in Silicon Valley, but across the globe if we want to be prepared for changes in major industries and social and ethical dilemmas.

These shifts will give cities across the US and the globe the opportunity to be the new centers of innovation on a variety of technological advancements, from transportation to AI to big data and privacy issues.

I want to be part of helping smaller cities that may not be on the VC firm radar, meet their innovation potential.  I want to help entrepreneurs, educators and city officials make these shifts.  I’d welcome your input as I evolve my thinking and research on this topic. I hope to foster open discussions at conferences, universities and municipalities looking to lead the way for these coming changes.  If you see me at a conference, strike up a conversation.  I’d be happy to hear your viewpoint.  And if you’d like to host a discussion, drop me a line as I’ll be planning various speaking and meet-up possibilities.

Look for more on this page, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and input as we look to grow the Silicon Valley ecosystem beyond the Bay Area.

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That’s a Wrap!

July 2, 2016 - Author: admin

It’s been a month now since the Neal’s Running Start gang left San Francisco.  I’ve started to get back to my normal routines, but I miss their energy and the fun times.  I’m currently enjoying a trip to London to watch the Wimbledon matches and it happens to be Canada Day. So, I am reminiscing about my time with the European and one Canadian entrepreneur.

I am compelled Mentors to share a bit of what happened during the inaugural Neal’s Running Start program.  But don’t worry because there’s much more to come!  We videotaped many of our sessions together so look for a full video series on the Neal’s Running Start experience soon.  I think anyone who is trying to make it through a goal or a challenge can take something away from what these entrepreneurs experienced and learned. So, I hope the video will be a way for everyone to do their own Running Start program and kick-start an important goal in your life.

As a runner, I will relate their journey to training for a run or a race.  Everyone starts with the end goal in mind – you’re going to get fit and cross the finish line and be the best runner since Usain Bolt.  For entrepreneurs, they start a company with success in mind – they can see it already!  They are the next Zuckerberg.  Movies will be made about their ascent and how they changed the world!

Day one:  Day one o f a run starts out fun and energetic, but your dreams of running a marathon on the first day rarely come true.  Instead, day one only serves to show you just how far you have to go and just how out of shape you really are.

For our entrepreneurs, day one was similarly “come-to-Jesus-y”.  They each had to present their company to a group of investors on day one.  But the first day was just like the first day of a run – a metric for how far they really had to go, and for some of them, how out of shape their companies really were.

There were inaccuracies and sometimes flat out fiction in their presentations, which were too easy to spot and call out.  The presentation designs needed work.  Their whole flow needed work.  And truly, a presentation is often a reflection of the state of the business itself.  So, flaws in the presentation reflect real flaws in the underlying business. I tried to not be too hard on them and ease them in with gentle critiques.  But by day 2, the gloves were off.  We only had 30 days and no time to waste, so it was time to throw niceties aside and get to work.Road Trip

The next few weeks would prove to be exhausting, exhilarating and sometimes brutal.  Each day had an uphill run on the schedule, and like us runners, I’m sure they sometimes wanted to dry heave at the top of each hill or sit down and rest for a while.  We kept pushing, even literally having them dunk themselves in ice cold water for one investor pitch.

But the one-on-one meetings I had with each entrepreneur were where all the exercises and learnings came together.  One entrepreneur skirted closer to the death of their company than any entrepreneur wants to come.  But through close direction, that company turned around and was on track by the end of the 30 days.

More than one realized they have to move their company.  Some to Silicon Valley, and some just to where their customers are.  But most realized they were going to have to physically move their companies, which is not an easy task.

They all found ways to use their greatest strengths to overcome their greatest challenges.  One had a “take no prisoners” approach to getting big things accomplished every day, and that helped the entrepreneur almost completely overhaul their business approach during the time in San Francisco.  Another was excellent at networking and took advantage of every conference, meeting and connection they could make while in town.  Yet another was eternally optimistic, which I think is a key ingredient for any entrepreneur to persevere through the many obstacles that get in the way of growing a company.  And one transformed their stubbornness into an advantage to not give up and dig until they found a solution to the problem, rather than allowing fixation to get them stuck on one problem.

Because none of these entrepreneurs had ever spent time in Silicon Valley, they were the most naïve early stage founders I’ve worked with.  The lack of mentorship and guidance available in their respective cities really impacted their mindset and how they operated their businesses.  Therefore, each entrepreneur found at least one other mentor, besides me, who really inspired them or understood their unique market challenges.  That is one of the clear advantages of being in Silicon Valley.  Not only is there a plethora of wisdom and experience here, there’s an unspoken code that yoGolden Gateu help others.  One of the entrepreneurs remarked how willing everyone he asked was to meet and share experience and ideas.  Whereas in his home country, he rarely found mentors with a willingness to be so open and helpful, unless you paid them for their time.  In Silicon Valley, wisdom flows through friendly meetings at coffee shops, offices and the Rosewood happy hour.  Tapping into a brain-trust of experience and listening well to what those advisers have to say is a critical ingredient to success.

All the entrepreneurs walked away with their eyes wide open, but now comes the critical part – what they do as they return to their companies away from the Silicon Valley bubble, if you will.  I know they are all struggling right now to fight the old inertia and apply the lessons learned, so we’ll follow-up with them soon and check on their progress.

They all need financing so I’ll be tracking that progress over the next few months.

But first, I want you to get to know each of them and hear for yourselves their unique, individual stories and journey through their 30 days in the Neal’s Running Start program.  Look for our video series in the coming weeks.  If you’re looking to start a new goal or tackle a challenge, join us for the video series and see if you can take some of the lessons learned and apply them to your own path to success.

Cold PitchesUntil then, here are some photos to give you a taste of the entrepreneurs and their time here.

Last Day

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Nourishing Silicon Valley

June 10, 2016 - Author: admin

Raul and NealRaul Lozano has spent his life feeding and nourishing people.  From his time as a young person harvesting food in California’s Central Valley, he has been aware of the divide between the fed and the hungry.

That gap has gotten wider as vegetables, especially organic vegetables, have gone up in price, making healthy food out of reach for many, even in Silicon Valley’s tech-fueled-wealth environment.

Raul founded Valley Verde to help San Jose’s most vulnerable residents have access to healthy, organic vegetables. His non-profit organization teaches low-income families in Santa Clara County to grow and maintain their own organic vegetable gardens at no cost.  The organization is particularly focused on serving immigrant communities.  Valley Verde is the only place where many of these families can find seeds to grow vegetables that are indigenous to their native countries, including okra and bok choy.

Valley Verde funds this effort by selling gardening kits to individuals and organizations.  The organization is also starting to sell some of these organic seedings to other nurseries to raise additional funds.  However, the need for low-income families is far out-pacing the sales side of the business.

If you have read any of my posts in the past, you know that giving back is a core life value for me.  That’s why I’ve been happy and honored to contribute financially to Valley Verde since its beginnings.  I feel strongly about Raul’s vision for feeding Silicon Valley’s people and his savvy in driving a non-profit organization, which isn’t easy in any climate, but can be especially challenging in the Silicon Valley world where most funding goes to for-profit start-ups.  That’s why when our four entrepreneurs from Europe were here last month for Neal’s Running Start, I made sure to build a day focused on giving back where we invited Raul to share some of the things he has learned as a non-profit founder and leader.

Giving back to the community in whatever way you can is part of being a responsible and contributing human being.  Some people, like Raul, give their time, talents, ideas and hard work.  Some of us, like me, volunteer time and money to assist the Rauls of the world in realizing their vision.  What’s most important is that everyone do something to help others and give back.  I challenged our four entrepreneurs – Katherine, Antti, Mario and Odie (our nickname for Neal Oddens) – to take this lesson back with them and treat it with equal importance to all the business lessons they learned during their stay in Silicon Valley.

Recently, I also challenged Raul to raise some additional funds so he can meet the increased number of families his organization helps teach families to learn to become self-sufficient organic gardeners.  He raised $10,000.00 in total from other donors like the Kellogg and Packard Foundations. I decided to match that $10,000 because I am proud of what he’s done and what he is doing to nourish our families in need in Silicon Valley.  But I’d like to see the Silicon Valley tech industry do more.  I’m chRaul and Bayallenging my colleagues in the VC world, entrepreneurs and tech leaders to raise another $10,000 for this important cause.

If you’d like to donate or buy one of his gardening kits to help support Valley Verde and ensure our vulnerable populations are getting the nourishment they need and deserve, please visit his website at

A big thank you to Raul from all of us at Bay Partners for the important work he does for our community.  We are extremely proud to play our part!

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Meet Antti Rikkinen

April 6, 2016 - Author: admin

Many of you know that I started my career in sales.  Therefore, I have a special connection with the sales people of the world.  Antti Rikkinen, our third entrepreneur in the Neal’s Running Start program, is the founder of Zero Keyboard, and his company is setting out to make life easier for the hard-working, never-sleeping people in sales.

Zero Keyboard is a mobile app that allows people to enter data to Salesforce without typing. The user simply answers a ready-made set of questions with gestures, pictures and voice recording.  Then Zero Keyboard turns everything into readable explicit information in Salesforce.  If in my days as a sales rep, I could have simply spoke information into my phone and had all my CRM information completed, I would have probably closed more deals because of the saved time dealing with paperwork and data entry.  Moreover, everyone on my team would have had more comprehensive information about my customer interactions.  Filling out forms on the road is a real pain for sales people, so I saw the appeal of Zero Keyboard right away.

While this is Antti’s first time as a co-founder of a company, he is no stranger to putting himself out there, so to speak.  If you live in Finland, you might recognize him from the TV mini-series Toisen kanssa.  In addition to running a software company, Antti is also an actor in Finland, which probably makes him a fantastic sales person as well.  We will be filming most of the Neal’s Running Start program, and we’re lucky enough to already have a star who is camera-ready.  This should be fun!

Antti is from Helsinki where there has been an emerging tech start-up scene recently.  In fact, we have two entrepreneurs from Helsinki in this program.  I will be looking for Antti to expand his knowledge and experience beyond sales while he’s here.  I understand a little bit about that, so I’m looking forward to guiding him along that growth path.

For Antti, this is an opportunity to make important connections in Silicon Valley, including a partnership or alliance with Salesforce.

“Our product is obviously built to serve the Salesforce community,” said Antti.  “This opportunity to be so close to the heart of the tech industry, including the Salesforce headquarters, is important to our company.  I plan to make the most of the experience and pursue connections at Salesforce and beyond while I’m in San Francisco, and Neal’s expertise in my market brings a tremendous learning opportunity.”

Welcome, Antti! Twitter: @rikkinen


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Meet Mario Aguilera

March 31, 2016 - Author: admin

Mario Aguilera may currently reside in Helsinki, but he’s originally from Bolivia.  He first got the idea for a line of solar-powered back-packs from his days in the Bolivian army. While training with special forces, Mario and his unit would spend many days deployed in remote areas.  The only reason they had to return to base was to charge their equipment.  That’s when he began thinking about wearable technologies that could expand battery life.

Tespack provides a line of designer, wearable technology accessories, such as backpacks, that use solar energy to power devices like laptops and mobile phones.  Harnessing the natural energy of the sun, the Tespack wearables provide a continuous power source for devices and is built to withstand rugged outdoors and extreme weather conditions.  The company blends fashion with technology and military-grade endurance.

Designer wearable tech is something new for me, but I found Mario’s idea fascinating and certainly practical. My personal interest in this product is my ability to get lost on long trail runs or overnight hikes and have a wearable technology product keep my gear charged and ready to go. This product clearly presents an opportunity for large consumer markets. As a limited partner of True Ventures, who are the largest investors in Fitbit, this is an area I’m watching closely.

Mario has plenty of background in the clothing industry to support the sleek design of his products.  We may both be learning a few new things together, but I think the challenge for Mario will be focusing his growth potential when there are so many directions he could take this company.  That is a challenge I understand well, and I look forward to helping him make some smart growth decisions to push forward his smart wearables.

Mario already has a seed round of funding.  This trip will help him expand his contacts for the next round as well as make some important contacts in the manufacturing sector and in consumer products and retail sales here in Silicon Valley.

“Tespack has experienced rapid growth internationally, and with that growth comes big challenges such as manufacturing, design and distribution channels,” said Mario. “This opportunity comes at just the right time for my company, and I’m looking forward to high-impact learning with Neal on how to manage a high-growth consumer company.”

Welcome, Mario! Twitter: @aguileramario


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Meet the other Neal – Neal Oddens

March 22, 2016 - Author: admin

Well, this is going to be confusing.  One of our entrepreneurs is also named Neal.  Neal Oddens. He even spells his name the same way as I do.  Therefore, I have to choose a new name for him. Let’s call him Oddens for now to save confusion.

Oddens is CEO of IncreaseOnline, a company that uses analytics to help companies price and sell their digital media online. AdTech is something that is near and dear to my VC heart these days. I have several investments in AdTech companies, and it’s a space I think has tremendous potential.  That’s why I decided to bring Oddens to Neal’s Running Start.

I also like that this isn’t Oddens’ first rodeo.  He founded, a Dutch e-commerce platform for tires. With growth of 1700% over 5 years, has become a market leader and is now a popular household “go to website” for tires in the Netherlands.  I’m interested to see not only if he can do it again, but if he can take IncreaseOnline even further this time.

Oddens hails from Amsterdam, one of my favorite cities.  Lately, that city has been ripe with new internet talent, with the rise of incubators and communities like Appsterdam. I think there’s a lot of opportunities for IncreaseOnline and for entrepreneurship in Amsterdam. However, as progressive as the Dutch start-up scene is, there is still a largely conservative approach to company growth and investing in the Netherlands.  I’ve had a couple of angel investments there before, and I know the pros and the cons.  I hope we can give Oddens some real pointers for jumpstarting his company’s growth and taking back some of that wisdom to Amsterdam in May so he can pave an aggressive path to even greater success than he’s experienced in the past.

Oddens, like his namesake (me), agrees:

“While I’ve built a successful company before, I feel it’s time for the next level, ” said Oddens.  “I’m excited to spend time with Neal learning about how to build a company that reaches farther and grows bigger than I’ve ever managed before.  For that, I’m going to need a good mentor, and I’m so grateful Neal has chosen me to be part of this program.”

Welcome, Neal, or um, Oddens! Twitter: @nealoddens

Neal Oddens photo

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Meet Katherine Regnier

March 3, 2016 - Author: admin

KatherineI know you’re all curious about who made the cut for the Neal’s Running Start program and why.  So I wanted to profile our 4 winners before they join me in Silicon Valley on April 23.  I’ll introduce one entrepreneur each week on the blog, in alphabetical order by their company name.

Our first winner is Katherine Regnier.  Katherine comes from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.  Harry Marshall first met her at Web Summit in Dublin last year and was so impressed, he made an introduction and asked me to consider her for the Running Start Program.

She founded a company called Coconut Calendar that allows customers to book appointments with businesses online. Now, you might be yawning at this, thinking this has been done. However, in 2015 Katherine saw an opportunity in the retail industry to introduce a white label calendaring product, which has garnered interest from some top name brands.

I like Katherine because of her drive.  I like her willingness to learn and pivot the company with her new knowledge. I’m impressed that she’s built a thriving company despite living so far away from any tech center, and that she has landed an impressive list of customers with no investment.  She has many of the characteristics I look for in phenomenal entrepreneurs.

Saskatoon is a long way literally and figuratively from Silicon Valley. I hope this time in Silicon Valley will be a fantastic opportunity for Katherine to network and experience first-hand how to drive a high-growth company with Silicon Valley aggressiveness while keeping her small city corporate values.  Besides me, I’m sure she’ll meet some mentors who can guide her when she needs it after returns to Canada.  I’m excited about the unique talents she’ll bring to the program.

And Katherine has her own goals for the trip:

“First and foremost, I’m grateful for Neal’s generosity in offering this truly unique opportunity. During this fast paced ride, I hope to learn as much as I can from the best in the business. Taking an idea and turning it into something grand is my passion, and with this opportunity I will be able to launch my business into new heights.”

Welcome, Katherine!

Twitter: @katregnier

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