We are beyond thrilled to be chatting with Joanne Fedeyko. Joanne is the CEO of Connection Silicon Valley. Connection Silicon Valley helps companies collaborate, connect, innovate and partner with Silicon Valley’s world-renowned technology ecosystem. The business is centered around bringing better innovation to Canada by helping startups and large corporates leverage the best of innovation from Silicon Valley. Recently, the province of Alberta signed a major contract with Connection Silicon Valley to connect Alberta tech start-ups with opportunities and capital in California’s Silicon Valley. Tune into our chat as we learn more:
1. Thanks so much Joanne for chatting with us. Can you talk about how Connection Silicon Valley came about? What gaps did you see in the startup ecosystem?
My passion is connecting great people with other like-minded individuals to support their business pursuits – and there is no greater place to put this into action than in Silicon Valley. Recently, I saw that there was a need for startups to have more than one bridge into the ecosystem and Connection Silicon Valley was born. My vision for Connection Silicon Valley is to make the innovation, capital and expertise of Silicon Valley accessible for startups and corporates of all shapes and sizes. With our network, the Canadian Landing Pad and events that we curate, I want to help startups understand how a tech hub, like Silicon Valley, operates, open new doors to people with capital and match them with the right people and expertise that they need to help scaleup their business.
2. You have been adding so much value to the Canadian startup ecosystem and global ecosystem for a long time. What challenges do you see specifically for Canadian startups?
I see that one of the biggest advantages that Canadian startups have is the proximity to Silicon Valley and the national focus on driving an innovation economy. However, in order to really pursue this, startups have to continually challenge themselves to be global. And you can’t be a global company by sitting in an office in Victoria or Edmonton or even Toronto. Startups need to visit and engage with the Silicon Valley community regularly, which will then lead to them gaining access to the right people, money and network that they need. It’s not just capital that Silicon Valley offers, it’s also the depth of experience from people who have launched and scaled a company, or have marketing and sales prowess, which provides a lot of value that Canadian startups can benefit from.
3. We heard the exciting news about Connection Silicon Valley helping Alberta startups connect with the valley. How did this big development all come together?
As a proud Albertan, I make sure to visit my home province regularly. Over the past two years, the tech ecosystem has started to take flight, so my visits became more focused on meeting with the startups, incubators, universities, ecosystem builders and government agencies, to develop deeper connections and understand the opportunities and challenges of the Alberta tech ecosystem.
At the same time, the Government of Alberta saw a need to create better ties between Alberta and Silicon Valley. By committing to a three-year program, the Silicon Valley trade role will focus on supporting Albertan startups with their Silicon Valley aspirations but to also promote Alberta’s emerging tech ecosystem in order to form new partnerships and attract new companies and talent to Alberta. As this is their first official commitment to Silicon Valley, they really needed a company who has established relationships with the key investors and influencers and understands how Silicon Valley works, which is where I and Christy May from New West Networks come in. By partnering with people from the industry, the program has hit the ground running and we are already making inroads in the few short weeks since we kicked off.
4. What challenges startups from Alberta face when it comes to scaling up? Raising capital?
If we compare Alberta’s tech ecosystem to a startup, I would say that it is still at an ‘early stage’, which means it is more challenging for Alberta startups to access capital, companies to partner with and attract talent to the area.
But I also see this as a huge opportunity for Alberta. The benefit of being an early ecosystem is that we can learn from other amazing technology hubs that were once also at an early stage. Alberta stakeholders are coming together to ensure that startups have the support systems that they need around them, but realize at the same time that it’s also critical for founders to have access to resources, mentors, capital and the experience from Silicon Valley. This will allow us to create an environment where Alberta companies commit to staying in Alberta and attract talent to help strengthen and grow its technology ecosystem.
5. You have written numerous articles on how to ask for introduction. What tips do you have for founders when it comes to asking for introduction and networking?
The top two tips would be to establish a relationship first and make it as easy as possible for the person that is making the introduction for you. People want to help you, they just need to know who they are referring. For me, the best approach is to attend events where I’m speaking, judging a startup showcase or hosting events at the Canadian Landing Pad in Silicon Valley, where you can introduce yourself in person. Or, like most things in today’s digital world, engage with me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Once I know more about you, your company and product, and believe I am in a position to help, then it’s as simple as a short, clean email with all of the pertinent info that I can easily forward. The ask has to be specific and you have to know who you want to be introduced to (and why they would be interested in knowing about your company). By making it as quick and easy as possible will ensure you will get a timely response. But let’s build a little rapport first.
6. What is the startup scene like in the Silicon Valley?
I can describe Silicon Valley’s startup scene in three words: vibrant, always-on, and urgent. Silicon Valley is a highly collaborative place to be. While everyone is competitive, they all recognize that others helped them to get where they are and therefore make themselves available to give back. This is why it’s important to not stand on the sidelines but really show up and participate when visiting the Valley and provide value back to the ecosystem. This ethos is what has made Silicon Valley as successful as it is today.
7. What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs interested in building a startup?
I recommend any budding entrepreneurs to work for a startup first and be part of its growth. It’s the best way to learn the pitfalls and best practices to prepare you for what’s to come. However, if you have the killer idea – and have received validation – go out and quickly form your trusted ‘Board of Directors’ to help you build out a business case and get some critical early feedback. When I refer to a ‘Board of Directors’, it is not a formal Board as the word implies, but these are people you trust who will be a sounding board and has ‘been there/done that’ experience that you don’t always have access to when you’re starting out. Founders can contact me if they want to learn more about building their own Board of Directors.
8. Where can our audience learn more about Connection Silicon Valley?