How do you go from the basement to the boardroom? We asked leaders of Canada’s hottest technology companies for their advice.
As a technology entrepreneur, there are a number of questions that may be keeping you up at night. How do I go from the basement to the boardroom? How do I reach new customers? Can I break into the U.S. market? At what stage should I try to go global? If you’ve asked yourself any or all of these questions, you’re likely a technology startup looking to take your company to the next level. These questions aren’t easy to answer, but they’re the ones you’ll need to solve if you’re going to grow.
At Google’s Go North event, which brought together Canada’s startup community in late 2016, we asked some of the country’s hottest tech leaders for their advice about scaling a startup. Here’s what they said:
The future of our economy is in technology, so the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can achieve. Thinking big seems to come naturally to Americans, but Canadians tend to think smaller. Don’t put any artificial limitations on yourself and imagine how far you can go. Then make a plan to get there.
The ride ahead likely won’t be smooth. You’re sure to come across bumps in the road, even disenchantment and failure. You’ve got to be able to learn quickly and pivot when the path you’re on has too many barriers.
When you’re starting out, you want to hire for potential, passion and loyalty. Then it’s time to layer on experience. Find like-minded people who know how to scale up a company and can guide you through the process. But what about outsourcing your expansion? That job has to stay with the founder. You know your business best – outside help can support you, but you’ve got to hold the reins.
The U.S. is likely where you’re going to find the experienced talent you’re looking for. It also sets the tech agenda for the world, so you need to get your company exposed to the U.S. market, and accepted within its tech community. If you want to grow, you have to win the U.S.
As you get bigger, people start to care about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Get up to speed on regulations and have your patents in order.
When you recognize that there will always be more to learn, more problems to solve and more risks to be taken, you’ll be a force in the industry.
Each growth step will be hard for different reasons. You’ll have to design new layers of management, keep up with regulatory changes, learn more about taxes and foreign policies, and remember the names of more people. Keep experienced individuals close by who can help you move forward. And just imagine where your little startup can go.
As Senior Vice President, Office of the CEO at RBC, John Stackhouse is responsible for interpreting trends for the executive leadership team and Board of Directors with insights on how these are affecting RBC, its clients and society at large. Prior to this, John was editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail (2009-14), editor of Report on Business, the newspaper’s national editor, foreign editor and its foreign correspondent based in New Delhi, India (1992-99).
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