As Canadians seek funding in the United States, Canada House provides a safe haven

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When Lindsey Goodchild goes to Silicon Valley, she needs a place to park her laptop and work. So when she lands in San Francisco, Goodchild, co-founder of Toronto-based start-up Nudge Rewards, heads to the Canada House in San Francisco, a home away from home created especially for Canadian entrepreneurs.

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Goodchild is looking for venture capital funds in the United States and discovered Canada House after coming into contact with C100, the nonprofit organization for Canadian entrepreneurs that runs it. It is one of a range of interconnected programs run by the Sponsorship-Funded Mentoring and Networking Group, which focuses on Canadian tech companies trying to get south of the border.

“I got to know the organization through Toronto’s tech community,” says Goodchild. “Everyone was talking about the 48 hours in the valley and the importance of going there. 48 Hours in the Valley is another C100 initiative that invites young Canadian tech companies twice a year to meet potential investors in Silicon Valley. She went there in December, chasing the Series A money.

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“It’s a great introduction, a great way to get acquainted with the opportunities and the people who are part of the network out there, but it’s just the start. It really is a launching pad.

It houses offices and meeting spaces for businesses visiting the Bay Area, (increasing the) possibility of chance connections

In 2012, Goodchild, a former consultant, noticed that while good ideas come naturally, executing them is more difficult because it is difficult to reach the right audience. She came up with the idea of ​​using smartphone technology to communicate with a community of employees and measure their understanding, and that year Nudge Rewards was born.

“It is designed to engage, educate and reward frontline employees and managers to improve in-store performance,” she says. Companies use it to educate their employees on everything from customer service programs to new product lines.

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Goodchild and his team designed the app for millennials. Business clients of his company send their employees push notifications called “nudges,” asking them questions about company programs, for which they can score points and rise in the rankings. Gamification is a big part of Nudge Rewards’ service proposition, she says, adding that the company uses behavioral psychology to attract users.

Entrepreneurs who form ties south of the border will return there, and Canada House is a good place to operate from when they do. Goodchild adds that “2017 is the year we are expanding significantly in the United States, while also looking to increase some US-led rounds, so we will be spending more time (at Canada House),” says- she. “Having a home port in downtown San Francisco will be a huge asset for us. “

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C100 launched Canada House in January 2016, in collaboration with the University of Waterloo’s Velocity entrepreneurship program; RBC; the Communitech Innovation Center in Kitchener, Ontario; and MaRS. Housed in the downtown San Francisco space of collaboration firm WeWork, it’s designed as a hospitality resource rather than a space for long-term tenants – and it’s a free service for applicants. accepted, said C100 Executive Director Laura Buhler.

Canada House “hosts physical offices and meeting spaces for all of the portfolio companies of these partners visiting the Bay Area, (increasing the) possibility of incidental connections that may occur in a physical space”, she says.

Other initiatives created by C100 include the Valley 101 and Canadians in Tech networking and education events, and Venture North, a 2015 Canadian tech conference. Other companies spending time at Canada House include These include Vancouver-based travel and expense management company Trippeo and Toronto’s KitchenMate, founded by former software architect Yang Yu.

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March
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Yu’s business isn’t big enough to participate in the 48-hour program yet, but he’s still enjoying Canada House as he also raises funds for his soon-to-launch consumer electronics game.

KitchenMate will sell a cooking appliance that automatically cooks high quality boxed meals sent to customers. He wants to launch an open marketplace for third-party companies to offer their own boxed meals, in what looks like a cross between the Keurig coffee machine and the iTunes app store.

The focus is on high-end restaurant food for under $ 10, rather than sodium-filled frozen TV dinners, he says, adding that he’s trying to solve a larger problem.

“How do we ensure that low-income people have access to better quality food and put it in food deserts? Asks Yu, who remembers years of basic culinary sustenance as a student in Edmonton. “How do you get busy millennials back to eating fresh? “

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He has already secured $ 500,000 in financing for his business, 50% of which came from the United States. Since his request for access in March 2016, he has spent approximately 25 days at Canada House generating interest in Valley-side.

“One of the hardest things in America is knowing where to start. As a Canadian company, it is difficult to access local networks. he says. This is part of what makes Canada House so useful to him. “This place has a lot of startups and it’s pretty easy to run into other founders and potential investors. It’s a good way to easily integrate into the community.

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The numbers suggest that Canada is opposing a global trend with its strong venture capital investments, but Yu nonetheless highlights access to capital as a key issue for Canadian startups, especially those in consumer electronics. The United States is a haven for those seeking growth capital, he says.

Salim Teja, executive vice president of enterprises at MaRS, agrees. “We still believe that there are not enough venture capital funds in Canada, so there is still work to be done to develop new funds.

Some sectors, such as healthcare and cleantech, are still under-represented, suggests Teja, adding that welcoming businesses in these sectors could be a key goal for Canada House as it enters its second phase. development this spring.

There are only a limited number of places in the 48 hour events to take the tour. Buhler wants to address this next. “In an effort to get us to reach more startups with this material, we plan to launch new online programs that will provide exceptional information and interaction to a much larger audience alongside our events in Silicon Valley,” says -she.

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