On November 8th & 9th, I volunteered at the Canadian IT & Biotech Financing Forum, assisting Dave Thomas, Reg Nordman, Nick Tattersall, Mary McDonald (of McDonald & Associates) and the gang from Rocketbuilders. I had the opportunity to meet the founders and entrepreneurs from 40 different companies and to watch some of them present to venture capitalists for second, third, or higher financing rounds.

These are my personal favourites from the sessions.

Galeforce Solutions: Microsoft CRM for Financial Services. This company has a top-notch management team and are extremely focused on their niche – Microsoft based CRM for mid-tier financial institutions.

Sutus: These guys are building a small office network device that will provide everything a company will need in one box. It will do VoIP PBX for up to 20 users, voicemail/call attendant duties, application/mail/calendar/file services, wired and wireless switching, and routing. WOW. The founder, Phil Holland, has built many companies, the latest of which he sold to Polycom for $125MUSD. I expect this company to do very well.

Genologics Life Sciences Software: Winners of the Forum Favourite Award for Best Company – Biotechnology. Genologics provides bioinformatics software which allows Systems Biology researchers to effectively manage and analyse the vast amounts of data being produced for drug discovery. In short, they are building a Tower of Babel to act as a medium of exchange between all of the incopatible data formats being used by researchers across the globe. This is BRILLIANT.

Upstream Biosciences Inc.: These guys are also going after the complex visualization and data management solutions that will need to be provided to the Systems Biology market as it develops. Again, very necessary. It will be interesting to see if they succeed against the many competitors that will develop in this area.

Argon Security: Wireless, high-reliability mobile surveillance systems for emergency response situations. They were asked to build a system for a U.S. based Sherriff’s office. Once they got it built, and realized how difficult of a task it was, they decided to shop it around. They had $12M worth of orders in 3 months! They expect to go from 12 people to 48 people this year and are based in Port Moody.

Award winners were:

Best Exhibitor – Biotechnology: Twinstrand Therapeutics Inc.
Best Exhibitor – Information Technology: NewHeights Software
Forum Favourite Award for Best Company – Biotechnology: Genologics Life Sciences Software Inc.
Forum Favourite Award for Best Company – Information Technology: GaleForce Solutions Inc.

As well, there were some excellent panel discussions and speeches. On Monday, November, 8th, Terry Matthews flew in from the USA on his way to Asia and had just enough time to deliver his keynote and get back on the plane. Terry Matthews is from Mitel / March Networks and is a pivotal financier in the global telecom business. His speech was at the 100,000 foot level, discussing the major evolutionary cycles that have passed in the teleco sector as well as the logical extensions of those trends going forward. He was a fantastic speaker and if you ever get a chance to hear him talk, do it.

Tuesday’s closing panel session was called “Dual Tracking & Market Drivers” and it was fantastically moderated by Sam Znaimer, a leading Canadian venture capitalist who is also Senior VP, Ventures West Management Inc., a local VC firm. Dual tracking is the term for a company that is simultaneously looking for funding at the same time as it is looking for a buyer. The overall advice from the entrepreneurs was that this is a common and useful thing to do. The advice that came from the VC side, and most vocally from Kevin Cable of Cascadia Capital in Seattle was, “If you are looking for a buyer, don’t tell your VC or you’ll be dropped like a hot potato.”

All in all, it was a great event and I look forward to the one in March 2005! (hint, hint, Dave and Nick!)

listening to: Mondo Grosso – Souffles H – Masters@Work