Canadians in Silicon Valley help homeland start-ups

A newly formed Silicon Valley-based non-profit group, comprised of Canadian tech executives and venture capitalists, wants to erase Canada’s reputation as a country full of great start-ups that fail to commercialize their products.


The C100 Association said Canadian companies do not carry a “brand of success” in Silicon Valley, a trend that it sets out to reverse in the near future.


The organization is comprised of Canadian CEOs, start-up entrepreneurs and venture capital investors working in Silicon Valley. Members include executives at Apple Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., eBay Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., Electronic Arts Inc. and Facebook Inc. It also features investors representing more than $8 billion in capital.

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Chris Albinson, the managing director of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Panorama Capital LLC and one of the founders of C100, said the organization will connect the country’s expat community with entrepreneurs back home. The goal of C100 is to emulate the way the Indian and Israeli communities working in Northern California give back to aspiring tech start-ups in their homelands, he added.


“We thought there was 150,000 Canadians working in Silicon Valley, but really we found there are 300,000 in Silicon Valley,” he said.


Albinson, widely known for selling his start-up Digital Island to British telecommunications giant Cable & Wireless for US$348 million just before the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, said that getting some of these workers together to create a network of contacts into some of California’s biggest companies is central to C100’s mission.


Andrew Foti, a partner with Canadian law firm Gowlings Lafleur Henderson LLP, said his organization is heavily focused in the tech vertical. He said the growth of Canadian start-ups in the U.S. will be fueled by their ability to effectively access the Silicon Valley market.


“This is not only for revenue, but also for financing opportunities,” he added.


As for the type of start-up on its radar, C100 is ideally looking for companies in the “post-product” market.


The company should have a product that is useable, but not necessarily any significant stream of revenue. That’s where C100’s network of contacts will come in, Albinson said.


One company that he found just prior to starting C100 is Calgary-based Tynt Multimedia Inc.


The innovative company, which designed a product geared toward media and publishing sites, can track copy and paste activity on Web pages and automatically add a link back to content when it is pasted somewhere.


The service allows companies to better understand the traffic they receive, Albinson said. He added that the company’s name will soon be “in the vernacular of everybody on the planet.”


“Links are only generated by two per cent of people on the Web, so the whole lens has really been defined by only two per cent of users,” he said. “This distorts the lens pretty dramatically to the detriment of users and publishers.”


With Tynt’s technology, Albinson said, media organizations can move away from the notion that link clicks are the measure of what is interesting on the Web. He added that 86 per cent of Web surfers use Ctrl+C when browsing online.


After discovering the company, Albinson got Tynt’s designers into contact with executives at Google, Microsoft and Twitter — all of which were very interested in the new technology.


The Tynt example, he said, provides a perfect case study of what C100 intends to do for dozens of Canadian entrepreneurs.

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