Sydney Wong

"Your attention in marketing is the most expensive thing that you can ask for from your audience."

- Sydney Wong

Sydney outlines what she looks for in a start-up

Talk Takeaways

Watch Sydney Wong as she talked about her exciting journey from a marketing specialist to an early stage investor. Driven by her love of innovation and technology, Sydney started VenturX as a way to help startups get funded. Sydney also shared the common marketing struggles a startup may undergo before finally finding the right product market fit.

As an investor, Sydney also discussed the unique process she takes in the investments she makes as well as shared tips on how startups can approach an investor. She also shared her interesting views on the possible winning and losing vertical as changes happen due to the pandemic.

About

I grew up in Victoria BC. I’m the first generation of my entire family born in Canada, or any first-world country for that matter. Growing up, I sold a lot of chocolates and cookies to raise funds for UNICEF and things like that at school. Fun fact: After my first year in University, I was qualified for zero jobs so I ended up selling knives. I once cut myself during a demonstration, which did not work out well.

After graduating from McGill, I did a Master’s in Paris at a school called ESEC in International Marketing. I came back to Montreal, worked in online marketing and web marketing since then. Those were booming industries back in 2009 when I started. I actually did my internship at Ogilvy and Mathers, which is one of the biggest advertising firms in the world. Technology was moving fast at the time and it was the only place where innovation was taking off like crazy.

That’s where my career started in fields like marketing automation and CRM. I began managing websites for Procter & Gamble in Montreal. I also worked at WebMD, where I did online marketing for 112 pharmaceutical clients – mainly newsletter and email marketing. After that, I worked as a consultant for marketing automation. That allowed me to travel a lot, and I even lived in Silicon Valley for a while. I met with friends there, and went to tech conferences. I was told that if I wanted to learn more about tech, this was the place to be. Luckily I was offered an opportunity from my friend and just hopped on a plane to move there with a one way ticket. I moved back to Montreal to start my company.

I started this when I knew who I wanted to help after my life in technology. I wanted to help startups who were going to change the world one day. A friend of mine then said that if I was serious about tech and startup, I should move to Silicon Valley so I did. I moved in with him. When I returned to Canada, I wanted to bring that kind of startup structure and energy. So I traveled across Canada on a shoestring budget to research the biggest pain points from startups and investors and how to help.

The biggest pains for startups are that they do not know how to get to that next step in their business and have trouble with funding. Currently, VenturX has both cross-industry startups from across the country and investors on our platform. We provide a dashboard to measure product market fit, runway, conversion and engagement. The startups can compare their business metrics to other companies in that similar industry; when they feel ready, they can submit it for funding to our investors. The metrics help startups know where they stand and help investors cut their due diligence time. These metrics were constructed from our Board of Advisors which includes investors, grantors and bank partners who fund startups.

Since starting VenturX, we have won Startup Canada’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, won top 6 startups in Montreal by Startup Canada, featured in Innovate Montreal Book in 2019, nominated for RBC’s Woman of Influence and, nominated for 3 Small Business BC Awards.

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
Welcome everybody. Today we are — I should check the number of course — but I believe this is somewhere in the range of say 30 to 50 people we’ve interviewed. I don’t remember the number but i think what’s exciting about this is that today we’re with Sydney Wong and she’s going to be fantastic. She has a lot of great insight and that she’s a new investor which makes things even more exciting because she’ll have a whole different perspective of what’s going on in this early stage world so without further ado I’d like to introduce Sydney. And Sydney maybe you can give us a little bit of a background on yourself where you’ve come from the things that you’ve done and one thing about you that nobody else will know.

Sydney:
Great. So my name is Sydney and well I’ll tell you how it got kind of got started in this industry and then I’ll go into something that no one else will know. So a few years ago when I was working in marketing and tech, i was invited by a friend of mine down in San Francisco who said if I was very very serious about learning more about startup and tech then I needed to move down to the valley. So within that conversation I bought a plane ticket within 10 days and I moved down there and i moved in with him. I felt like that was an invitation. And then I was there for several months trying to find my own place trying to get anybody to accept my Canadian credit report which I didn’t know was that different from an American one. I felt like it should have been way easier than it was. So I went through a lot of ups and downs but most importantly I met a lot of really great startup founders. And that’s when I felt that great passion to want to help in this industry. I felt that this was a very unique time, and very unique industry where this is the kind of thing where people look for innovation on a daily basis and yet the industry in itself has not been innovated for many generations and this was the right time to do it. So I came back to Canada because the IRS was very polite to explain to me that my visa was up. And so i moved back to Canada and then I started VenturX, and it’s a platform that helps startups with their metrics and their analytics in order to get the best chances for funding. And then this year in 2020 as Jeff mentioned, we have launched our new angel arm Venture Capital and we are starting to close our first investment. Ao it’s been a very exciting journey from start to finish and yeah so now we have both the platform for startups as well as the investment arm for angel investments. We write about 25 paychecks as early stage investors and it’s really exciting to to get to do that. One thing that I think that a lot of people didn’t know about me is that I lived in a lot of very interesting places. One of the places is it’s been 19 years since I last traveled back to Hong Kong in China which I went to last year. And it was so incredibly different. A few things that really stood out for me from my trip there was that I was living with family so that was great, i do speak the language which is helpful, and i was there to actually do a conference. Well it is in English but it would have been very impressive if they asked me to do it in Chinese for Hong Kong fintech week. And yeah so a few things that really stood out to me was how incredible it was to see Hong Kong kind of come onto the scene the way that they did in the last hundred years when you know British was occupying it and everything and the relationship with Hong Kong and China I must say don’t want to get too much into the political scene but as an outsider it was definitely very interesting to see. One thing that I didn’t tell a lot of people mostly because I’m probably afraid to was that I was doing a lot of business calls, people kept asking me how the protests were and if i was safe, and if I was okay. When I was in China and I was answering like everything’s fine, this was just small talk right.. Clients are being nice, investors are being nice, they’re just asking to make sure you’re okay. The wi-fi would drop and it would scare the living like hell out of me because the wi-fi would drop so i felt like I was immediately being monitored and that fear went on for several months while i was there. So that is something that I didn’t tell a lot of people mainly because I’m not sure if I’m being monitored now. I’m usually not a superstitious person.

Jeffery:
So was it the whole internet that was dropping like down on the city street or just your internet connection?

Sydney:
Mine. Just mine. Everyone else seemed to be fine. I couldn’t confirm that for sure though.

Jeffery:
Oh okay yeah I guess it could be anything, you never know. Well Hong Kong is a bit different from from China so that who knows who is blocking who. But there was talks i think that this was pretty common that they were dropping networks and causing as long as the information wasn’t getting out they wanted to prevent those types of things right…

Sydney:
So yeah so i think they were like picking up key words and and things like that.

Jeffery:
No exactly. Well i guess that’s exciting and I’ve had a few friends that have shared the same sort of issue in Hong Kong. Mostly they’re from there as well so they’re in in different stages of not so much in the startup world, so they weren’t sharing too much about that. But still fascinating I’m a huge kong fan. It’s in my was and still might be in my top three countries in the world to live and visit. I’m just a big fan of how organized and structured the country is.
For the amount of people that live there and i’ve probably been there a dozen times and it’s every year it just seems to keep growing bigger and better and faster so it’s a pretty fascinating country for sure.

Sydney:
Absolutely. Yeah every time we go visit it’s it’s a lot more different than when our auntie from Hong Kong comes to visit Canada and she’s like oh you guys are — yes things have been the same but I’m not lost. I’m like all right great —

Jeffery:
(Inaudible) We were on the production side but it’s different when like in other countries and well in the Hong Kong or in mostly in China where you control your your dollar and everything else. you control a lot of pieces you can make things move a lot faster so.

Sydney:
For sure yeah

Jeffery:
So you mentioned before that your background was in marketing, can you give a a better idea to the audience on kind of where that fits in and how this shapes your philosophy around what you’re investing in or how you’re approaching your investments?

Sydney:
Yeah absolutely. So it’s really funny that when i graduated from university, I graduated from my masters, the jobs that were available in marketing because I happened to graduate at a the last recession, so that wasn’t ideal either. It was it was funny because the jobs that were available in marketing were very highly in either oil or tech. And so that’s kind of why I went into tech in the first place because they were hiring like crazy, these industries were growing like crazy. And then now we are seeing it in a very similar way that you know the market is going up and down like crazy but there are certain industries that really are leading the way tech still being one of them right. And the way that we are marketing in tech these days are very aggressive and competitive and it’s a very different realm so one thing that i found to be interesting that i hope we can see more of in the future in the world of marketing is to be able to teach marketing better for people that are coming into the world. So we still don’t teach um for example growth marketing and growth hacks and learning from case studies as well as we really should be. Because the old ways of doing it are not really going to cut it when you come on to the scene right. So for example i have two marketing interns that just started on our team and they’re both doing something different but one of them is doing something in a little bit more of growth because all of our stuff is online and it’s funny because she’s learned it. But of course she’s never learned it I know that i didn’t expect that but at the same time. You know you kind of wish that these kinds of trends are embedded into the generation that has the most capability of learning marketing the fastest and easiest and most efficient ways and so i think that we all have to keep in mind that there are new hacks, new ways, and new shortcuts that are being are coming into the market every single day because your attention in marketing is the most expensive thing that you can ask for from your audience. And i think that we forget that and take that for granted way too often and it’s just becoming more and more and more limited every day.

Jeffery:
So what you’re getting at is the from a marketer standpoint and I’m not sure education can only give you an overview of how something works versus being granular. Most of the marketers out there have learned from experience not from school. So i can’t see how a school can shift if the technology shifts too much. But if you learn the basic fundamentals on creating funnels and building from funnels, I’m assuming that this would be probably the best way for someone to learn and to be able to better understand how a business can grow.

Sydney:
Yeah exactly. So a lot of you know especially when you are starting out, you’re doing a lot of trial and error, but really paying attention to what trial and error is and what is working what is not versus what you want to apply because you have this like you know preconceived notion of what’s going to work because you think that you know a competitor’s either done it or this industry tends to be like this but no that’s not really what the market is telling you. So being able to keep all of that information and data close to you and being able to work with it and change it and adapt to it is very very key these days.

Jeffery:
So how do you — how does a startup manage this? I guess, how do you push this with startups to better manage on a marketing funnel side or learning new ways and faltering old ways, how do you emphasize this with their startups when they have limited resources if any and they have limited funding if any so how do you approach that with them?

Sydney:
Yeah so there are two ways that we do that. So for example the startups who have you know — we have for example are our startup who is in b2b SAAS. They’re gonna have fewer customers because b2b SAAS. But each of those are going to be high value. So go back to each of those customers and ask how did you hear about us in the first place? You know what was the tipping point and how many times did you hear about us and all of these things. Do a quick little survey kind of thing just verbally and have them explain to you what is it that caught their attention, did it come at the right time yes or no, and what was their kind of tipping point, what was the selling point to convert them, what was the final straw. And so having all of this from just a few existing customers will help you double down on those efforts. And then the other way is if you have mass customers, and you’re not really sure where to structure your efforts, you do have to do a trial and error and track each campaign. Whether it be email or whether it be social media or whether it be contests, anything that’s kind of out there, make sure each of them have different tracking codes or UTM codes if you’re using those and being able to see with your team which one is most effective and why because it’s really a click through and the registration and the sign up rates that are most important as opposed to just general awareness. Right you’re not looking for likes you’re looking for conversions.

Jeffery:
So while you guys are working with your startups or looking to invest in the startups do you guys offer this as a program for them to work with them, or do you make suggestions on how to help build this out, or are you just looking at being cash in and move forward from there?

Sydney:
So as investors we try and see what they actually need first. So they are usually people that we’ve worked with for a while so they understand where each of our expertise come in and where each of our expertise will help them at the right time. We just don’t want to overwhelm them with things that they may not be super laser focused on at this time and come in and help them during the times they really need it and when they want our restructuring or our strategy help.

Jeffery:
And you mentioned before that or earlier in the discussion that you’re part of a group. So does this mean that you operate as a fund or as an individual investor? And how do you work with these groups or how do you function with them to allow for the right skill set to come in to help
them I guess succeed if you’re going to make an investment?

Sydney:
Yeah so that’s a great question. So how our fund works is it’s very different than a lot of other funds. It’s much more on a lateral basis. So we have — we all work with the same family office that is out in Victoria BC, so my hometown. And most of the partners are actually from there or live there, currently. And so i’m one of the few ones that are from there but i moved to Montreal. So on purpose, our partner he has allocated you know this fund that is for all of us and then we have reincorporated as many funds under the parent company. So that’s how that works so we have as many or as few investments as we want but because it’s on a lateral basis if something is not a great fit for me, we can send it to any of the other 15 partners that have expertise in those areas whichever it may be.

Jeffery:
So does it fold up to the larger funds or ULPS in their fund or you mentioned your many funds so does that mean you’re allocated? Making something up but they have a one million dollar fund and you have a hundred thousand of that fund and is that cash you put into the fund or that’s your fund allocation? So you raise funds to come into your portion and you own a percentage of the main fund and then you take that money and invest it yourself because that’s the hundred thousand you have in there… Sorry, I’m just trying to understand the whole process…

Sydney:
It’s okay. It’s actually much more flexible than that. So the the fund in general is 10 million dollars in terms of the parent fund, and we each can write our check size of what we each write our checks but as many or as few as we want per investment and then per investment that’s when my personal capital comes out.

Jeffery?
So if you write — so you have, you can write up to 10 million or you can write up to 1 million of the fund?

Sydney:
There is no, there’s no restrictions to that. yeah we all share the10 million.

Jeffery:
So how do you garner on the investment side… So if you find a great deal and decide to put in 1.9 million everybody else is cool they don’t?

Sydney:
Oh. All of our check sizes are 25k so that won’t be a problem. It’ll take a while to get to 10 million.

Jeffery:
Oh okay so each, you have those increments so you wouldn’t go over that and what if each person wanted to invest in the same company that’s not possible?

Sydney:
That’s not possible.

Jeffery:
Okay so you’re distributing at 25,000 each into companies that you like… So do you all go into that 10 million dollar fund or is that other investment money that’s come in..

Sydney:
Yeah that’s right. Yeah the other investment money that’s coming in that’s the 10 million. And then for each of our per like picks for investments that’s when our personal checks go in. That’s the only time —

Jeffery:
You take 25,000 from the fund you invested in company A. You really like the company so then you can jump on top of that with 10k. And around at 35k so you own 10k in that but the fund owns 25.

Sydney:
Yeah so we all have very similar but different contracts but it’s along those lines, yes.

Jeffery:
Okay very cool. I’ve never heard that so that’s pretty fascinating.

Sydney:
So it’s very different yeah.

Jeffery:
If you choose to invest from the fund but not through you then that’s okay?

Sydney:
We don’t, I don’t think anybody has invested in the main fund except the
family office thus far. I don’t know how that might change in the future though.

Jeffery:
No but I mean from when you invest in the company, not in the but from sorry yeah into a company, can you make an investment of 25k into a company and you don’t personally go in?

Sydney:
No we all have to personally go in as angel investors.

Jeffery:
Okay so it’s not it now now then I’m lost. So there’s 25 grand that you’re taking from the parent fund and you’re investing in company A of have you invested in the fund or you’re investing in that 25k… so you’re actually —

Sydney:
I’ve invested in the 25k yeah so we kind of go in together as one check every time that we like sign yes i vote for this yeah exactly okay we’re already in that 25k in one way or
the other.

Jeffery:
So then it’s allocated by the amount that you choose by your contract that says that they will match you 50 50. So if you go in you got to put in 12.5 they put in 12.5. Here’s a 25k you guys make the investment so you’re you’re at just as much liability as they are in order to prove that this company is going to work

Sydney:
Yeah we have 50/50 equity.

Jeffery:
Okay, interesting. It’s fascinating. It’s obviously a different way of doing it, puts more risk on your side i guess but at the same time they’re matching or however the contracts set up but that’s pretty cool. So now based on that structure or based on your investments or your potential investments, how have you found the reception on the startup side? Are they I’m guessing, they don’t need to know these details, they just need to know that you put 25k in and it comes from entity x?

Sydney:
Yeah, yeah. So each of the partners like myself go and hunt for the different deals .We look for
the ones that we best resonate with, the ones that we think are best for the fund and for us, and then we’re usually the contact person and the go-to person when it comes to the founder versus the investor relationship. And we just get it okay by the family office that I told you about. And that’s it we are follow-on investors, so I don’t think that any of the other angels have actually led as well so that kind of complexity is also out of the equation.

Jeffery:
And what do you mean by lead, is that if that investor chose to put more than 25 in, put 100 in then only a percentage would come from the fund, the rest would come from them. So that’s something that you’re saying doesn’t tend to occur then?

Sydney:
Yeah we don’t usually lead in terms of the due diligence and organizing other investors and all those kinds of you know voting and things like that in the in those contracts. We would get the contract as a follow-on and then you know go yay or nay on it.

Jeffery:
Okay. Well that’s awesome. Okay cool well, like i said it’s new so that’s awesome. I got to learn something completely on how this fund is working and how you as investors are attacking this. so that’s good.

Sydney:
yeah yeah

Jeffery:
So if we take a step back and we would go back to what you know which is on the marketing side and being able to facilitate that piece, what do you find as being the biggest shortcoming for startups and where do you think the biggest gap is that you as an investor can help them as they move forward and is it just marketing or are there other things that you’re seeing in the deal flow that you’ve been working with over the last few years?

Sydney:
Yeah so that’s a good question. So there are two big gaps that I’m seeing. One of them is that for founders who actually don’t have a marketing background or a sales background or those kinds of things, we really look for you know what is generating their relationships with their customers and sales with their customers and are they expecting to allocate a certain amount of ambiguous funding or budget to marketing and then kind of praying that it’s going to work and you know expecting either this to be going towards effort or person or both. and just kind of like I said praying that it’s going to work that’s usually a very bad strategy. Because they themselves are not um working with the marketer or working with the team. Or really being there to kind of see it step by step. Because the truth of the matter is they may have not found product market fit. They may just think that they’re at a certain stage but they’re really at a very different stage. And so hiring for marketing and kind of leaving it alone isn’t really going to to answer that question. And then the other thing is also when there are some seed stage VCs and I’m not going to give you which names are which then have their own marketing firm but it just means that the companies that they wrote text to will just come back to them through something called marketing and it’s a person that’s never worked with a startup, or it’s a team that’s never worked with a startup but at the same time it kind of is kind of like I’m giving you a check but I’m really going to take back this money through these other means and I’m giving you effort instead or I’m giving you these other kinds of support instead. But then they’re not able to use the money to pay the people that they already have on their payroll and so on and so forth so you’re kind of melding, kind of a force melding, a marketing team. It’s usually a marketing department that they kind of put in there, the team that they’ve never worked with before either so then there’s lack of that kind of team cohesiveness going forward and i know a couple of those have been popping up especially around Canada too. In the past years i don’t know if they’re going to stay a kind of a trend in the future years but that is a great question for startups to ask the investors directly. Are you going to be providing me this kind of support and how exactly is this going to work? Is it going to come out of the check that you’re giving me or how is that going to work? So these are the kinds of questions that they really need to ask either the person they’re hiring or the person who’s giving them money.

Jeffery:
So it’s kind of like a dragon’s den style setup i believe. Some of them do this…

Sydney:
Some of them do this because some of them have a firm. Yeah

Jeffery:
Yeah and you’re saying make sure that you have that discussion because if they’re in an early stage and they think they’ve got market fit and then they go and hire this firm. They’re taking money to use the firm to grow but they probably haven’t found the fit so they’re going to burn through that money quickly, they’re going to be stuck in a position where they probably don’t have the right concise message. They’ve got it all outsourced and it’s costing them too much money to do this in the first place. They’ve given up a lot of equity to support this, the money’s going out the door, it’s basically paying them to pay themselves back, they lose the equity, they lose the value who knows what the outcome is and now they don’t have a brand voice internally. And they should really look at this beforehand to put something better together so they can have the brand voice and minimize what they would be outsourcing and paying out the door if they’re taking money that way.

Sydney:
Absolutely, absolutely right yeah

Jeffery:
No that’s that’s some good advice and some and a great way to I guess learn quickly about what are the other ways people are venturing and putting money into companies. So i like that and appreciate that background. So now outside of that you mentioned the fund or you mentioned the building their customer relationships, is there something in here where you know you’re in a good spot like where a startup will actually understand like they’ve got the right product fit and what does that look like and how do I know I’ve got the right product fit?

Sydney:
Yeah, that’s a great question. So there’s no real formula or no real like top tier answer because there are companies that have survived for many years and actually have never hit that point where they’re really skyrocketing. They’ve just been doing well enough that they can keep going the next year. So there’s a lot of range when it comes to product market fit. One great way that you can test it out is to see if a paying customer is so happy with what you’re doing that they’re really able and willing to refer you to another paying customer, right. And then how many times can you replicate and duplicate that. What are you doing that is so successful that other people aren’t able to copy you because you’re doing it so well and b that the customers are so happy that they really want you to be doing more for other people and they want to refer you and they want to do all of these things. So this would work in a lot of cases probably not every case if it’s just a competition, if it’s just you in the competition you’re probably not going to refer them. But in a lot of scenarios you want to be able to have that kind of retention, that kind of customer satisfaction and that is one of the things that you know we do look for in our portfolio companies is how happy are your customers. We do call them up to ask them and this is one of the important things that i think are crucial in today’s world is that real human connection. Now that things are so abstract as technology evolves, we want to see are they real people, what do they really have to say and you know if we were to ask them for five recommendations tomorrow would they actually give it or would they be hesitating and why. And why not.

Jeffery:
No, I like that. And I think in any business you need to have some sort of support. And getting testimonials or feedback from your customers is going to be a good way to build on your product but also testimonies to allow other people to explore and want to buy your product.

Sydney:
yeah

Jeffery:
I haven’t seen it and I think today’s world on SAAS models and e-commerce everything is about reviews. Finding out what the last 10 people said and deciding if they’re going to stay in your Airbnb or they’re going to buy your widget or enjoy your services. So i think that’s a great way to analyze an early company to say hey you know what take this serious and look at these things first and they’ll help benefit you in the long term. But it’s also from an investor standpoint, it benefits them because they’re researching on you and the first thing that they’re going to pull up is are there any great reviews on google or anywhere else about you and your service or your product and if there isn’t then I’m going to lose interest quite quickly.

Sydney:
Mm-hmm absolutely, yeah. That and that is something that I think not enough people take into consideration early enough

Jeffery:
For sure. When we run our events, our skip the line event, one of the things that we do is we book a call probably two weeks i think. It is two and a half or three weeks before and then just prior and we push the startups to actually tell everybody that they’re running in this event. And when we first started this, it fell on deaf ears and we were like look as much as this benefits us this is really about you. When an investor looks you up, If they find nothing on you, they believe you’ve got nothing yeah you have some traction somewhere even if it’s you pitched at an event or your logo is stuck on a wall share it, promote the hell out of yourself. It’s hard to do but really at the end of the day it brings some value back at the end for an investor but also for a customer to see that you were at an event, or you did go here, you did do this. It makes a big impact especially as myself and as an investor looking if I don’t see anything about you, I feel you’re not doing your job, so how great of a startup can you be if nobody can find anything about you.

Sydney:
That’s true. We actually wrote an article for how startups instead of marketing towards customers how they should be marketing towards investors. So we wrote it on our blog page on our website. And it’s titled “I should have heard about you 10 times already”. So it was based on this investor who when i was first starting out taught me before you walk in the room to pitch me i should have heard about you 10 times already. I’m like how are they going to do that and so there were all of these tactics that we wrote and found out and researched on. And it was true. It was you know if nobody is talking about you they don’t believe you’ve done anything. And if you have done something that’s so great and only like one person hears it, it’s kind of like that whole tree in the woods making sound analogy all over again except it’s about your business.

Jeffery:
No that’s great. And it takes time too right. I think people expect that they’re all going to be the next Tesla or something and they’re going to skyrocket through the markets but it all takes a little bit of help and a little bit of sharing and pushing yourself out there for people to eventually get who you are and the best advice i was given when I started my company, this was 15 years ago i was at — a friend of mine was getting married and one of the patrons that was attending he said he was a startup business and well he had been in business for 10 years but he said you won’t know you’re a business until you’ve been a business in business for five years. And I never thought much of that but I always kept this in the back of my mind and what i realized that in my first five years i didn’t want to tell anybody that i was in business because i wanted to actually make sure that i had something before i told anybody. And i probably didn’t tell anybody i was the CEO of my own company until probably year six or seven for the same reason. Just like being in the background kind of thing but what i did learn is that when i finally got to that, i kept hustling to get to year five and even though i learned this five years earlier it never left my mind and i kept pushing and pushing and then when i got to year five that’s when I realized that i was closing bigger contracts. That we were doing a lot more things and that’s when i actually felt i was a real company. So you can hustle and grow through many things but if you don’t put a voice, and you don’t share, and you don’t get out there then that five years can take a long time to get there. So it’s really important to share and get other people to share in your success as well which is sharing information about what you did for them and why it was successful.

Sydney:
Yeah exactly. And hopefully there are people that are very relevant to your business and not just like your cousin who’s like for you you know —

Jeffery:
Isn’t that what google maps is that’s for your family to come in here to get you going but i think it’s all a starting point right, it’s all a starting point. Maybe you can chat a little bit more too about when you’re working with these companies what you find is the best outcome that matches their needs. So everybody has this value exchange that they’re looking for what’s the best way that you find working with them is it face-to-face? Is it skype calls or zoom calls? Or what is the best way that you action with them are you acting as an accelerator so they’re all in your office every week? What do you guys do that gets those startups that you’re willing to jump into or invest in to work tighter stronger faster with you guys?

Sydney:
Yeah so that’s a really good question. So usually they they would sign on to our platform and then we’d be able to actually see you know what their metrics are. Where they’re heading, aren’t they growing or are they just plateauing right. So we’re able to actually see and track them over a certain period of time everyone always wishes that they have more time to get to know the founders, the team, the person, the business before they invest and not everybody always has that luxury. And so being able to see more information and data in the back end is key for us to be able to invest in any of the startups that that we want. And and so how we work with them if we see that any of them are kind of rising but not to the level that they expected or they’re plateauing or anything like that we do have a monthly call with them but the important thing isn’t really just a monthly call, where we have call to actions we have actionable items for them to hit for the next call which is the next month or so on and so forth. It’s not as much about the regular calls as it is about being available and being there when they are running into a negotiation but they have you know they’re way in over their heads or they’re completely overwhelmed and those are the times that they really go like hey can i have a call with you sometime today before tomorrow morning or like you know sometime before the next hour sometimes. And those are the ones where you know hey this person really has a need. This is their actual need because or else they wouldn’t have been reaching out with like four or seven kind of words saying like this is really urgent.

Jeffery:
Nope that’s awesome. I like that yeah and you know what you got to be available. Startups tend to when they get connected and they like what you’re doing or what you provide, they want to move a little bit quicker and they sometimes need answers right away.

Sydney:
Yeah absolutely

Jeffery:
Okay so I guess in this as you’ve been moving forward, is there — it sounds like this is really shifted around coaching and mentoring, is that kind of where you’d feel this fits?

Sydney:
I feel like we all in the startup and investment industry end up just taking on all these different hats and and it just depends on what the person in front of you really needs. So if they do need more of that then great, if they need more of resources, introductions those kinds of things also great but I think that this is an evolving industry and um everyone will be a mentor and a mentee at some point during this entire journey.

Jeffery:
Well that’s awesome and and I appreciate that thank you. So maybe we’ve kind of gone on this nice little journey through our conversation through your experience the marketing side, how your product works, how your fund works and now kind of shifted through the coaching the mentoring, I think we’ve really learned a lot about how you work with and how you guys operate inside of the the ecosystem. Maybe what we can do is we can jump into our rapid fire questions if you will, I’ll ask the question and then basically as quickly as you can is to provide a response back. And you can always yell pass. I’m pretty easy going on all of them i won’t sit there and drill you on the question but feel free to share what you feel fits best. And then I’ve got like two last questions to kind of round it all out but uh if that works we’ll jump right into it.

Sydney:
Great, awesome.

Jeffery:
Okay well you’ve shared a lot about your why you got into investing and all that good stuff what’s your favorite part of investing of startup investing?

Sydney:
Learning about new technologies.

Jeffery:
Okay how many companies or dollars do you invest per year?

Sydney:
I don’t know yet because this is our first year, you have to ask me next year.

Jeffery:
Done. We’ll make sure we have a follow-up for that. all right Do you follow up invest and I guess you’ll know that —

Sydney:
I don’t know yet

Jeffery:
Next year. You’re working on that. okay

Sydney:
Yeah, we’re working on it.

Jeffery:
Okay. Is there any notable companies that you would like to talk about or share in the portfolio at this point?

Sydney:
Yes. Brew ninja. They are a CRM for breweries out in Saskatchewan and I will send you an intro.

Jeffery:
Done, very cool. Is there any verticals that you like to focus on in your investments? i know you’re kind of agnostic but is there any areas that you really feel that fit maybe with yourself that you like to go after?

Sydney:
So the partner that we have, our main partner, his philosophy is how do we make human lives better for the future. So that is a great philosophy anything that fits in that is perfect.

Jeffery:
It sounds very VC-like…

Sydney:
It does. Doesn’t it?

Jeffery:
Yes all right that’s good. And that’s a good philosophy to work off of too. Okay do you have any preferred terms that you guys like to look at when you are making an investment?

Sydney:
As much as possible no. I’m kidding. No. This time i would probably have to see more to see what I would prefer and not prefer.

Jeffery:
Okay so you’ll kind of learn as you go. It could be convertible notes, it could be whatever safes, if whatever you choose to work inside that startup stream that comes in exactly. Okay so on the due diligence side is there anything that you guys look for to make sure? I know you’re getting through on your first investment was there something that you were focusing on that you really thought stood out that you really want to see going forward with all of the startups that you decide to make an investment in? Paperwork —

Sydney:
Yeah I think in general I would like to see, i mean which is also why we are building
platforms to aid this process, to make the process more concise, easier, more painless for both sides. That is what i would like to see in this industry.

Jeffery:
Okay. But is there thing that you guys want from a legal perspective or PNLs or anything that you want to see that you would like? It would fit better in making your choice.

Sydney:
Oh. Nothing in particular comes to mind.

Jeffery:
Okay. What is your timeline for investment? how long does it take you to make an investment? Is it three days and you’re in? Or is it three months?

Sydney:
So it depends. If they have a lead investor, so if they do have a lead investor, it’s much shorter – could be three days. If they have a no lead investor and they’re kind of doing it back and forth then we still have to wait for the lead to have signed.

Jeffery:
Okay which my next question what you kind of answered. Do you lead rounds?

Sydney:
No.

Jeffery:
Okay. Do you take board seats?

Sydney:
At this time we don’t.

Jeffery:
Okay. What other ways do you help startups outside of just money?

Sydney:
Hopefully marketing, advisement, referrals, things that they would need to succeed.

Jeffery:
Okay. Do you recommend mentorship or coaching to your founders?

Sydney:
Both depending on what they are doing.

Jeffery:
Okay. So, one of the things that always fascinates me about investors is that as they’ve when working with companies they come across a great startup or a company that has really popped up out of nowhere and done some great things and they have a cool story. So do you have any heartfelt or warm felt stories of a startup that you’ve met, engaged with or worked with over the years that you thought really just pulled the cat out of the bag and it was pretty fascinating were they where. They fell off the map or when they came through or a sales call that was just amazing, is there anything you can share along those lines that would really entice the environment to be excited?

Sydney:
yeah yeah. So every startup of course works day and night they always feel like they worked 80 hours a week and they’re giving their all and everything. And so there’s one story that uh when we were beta testing VentureX platform, they were one of our startups out in Vancouver and his story resonated with me in a way that i would never forget. So he was a young father, he was closing his first investment on the computer, on a laptop, at the hospital while his daughter was being born. And that was so surprising the way that he was explaining this crazy story of how it happened he was like “I was running back and forth in the hospital because i wasn’t allowed to like be in here and i had to do this and then there was this call…” And
just like having that memory that scene burned into my brain, it just made me always feel so humbled every time you know when I or somebody else is going through something that is difficult or tricky or you’re tired but at least you probably weren’t trying to close an investment while your first child was being born.

Jeffery:
That’s awesome. That’s a startup making sure that they’re taking business down and making sure that at the same time they’re supporting their family and their new family. Yeah that’s pretty amazing, so startups have to wear many hats and i guess in that uh side of things they’re working pretty strongly so that’s pretty cool. No i love that always a good story about how an entrepreneur has to persevere.

Sydney:
Absolutely.

Jeffery:
All right okay so we’re kind of getting down to the last question that i have and i guess based on the way the markets are today do you have an outlook that you would think that right now based on 2020 where we’re sitting, where do you think the next three months are going to look like and then where do you see it going in the next three years? And is there a specific vertical that you think is really going to pop in the next three years that investors or startups should look getting into?

Sydney:
Yeah. Absolutely. So great question. So firstly yes i do think that in the next three months there will be the big long lasting kinds of startups that really popped up. So why i say that is i had a great interview on our show spotlight where we were talking to impact investors. They were explaining how in the last several recessions every time there was a recession big incredible startups have come out of that with you know raging power and like this huge flare. Airbnb came out of recession and so did Uber right and those are ones that will last for a really long time. So it’s not that it’s always going to be insane for everybody or all the industries are suffering. So people are going in a direction of up and down, and that’s kind of how we have to see it just like the markets are going up and down just like a game that it keeps reminding me of this game called yahtzee. I don’t know we only played it when we were little so it was like you roll a bunch of dice and then you throw it out and if you don’t like what you bet you kind of go back into the barrel you roll a bunch of dice again and then you get a whole bunch of different results. so basically coming out of 2020 as we are ending the year out of the pandemic, out of everything else has happened. I believe that you will come out with a new set of winners and losers. Not that every industry and every single person is you know in a spiraling down. No I don’t think that’s really what’s happening. I think that we will all be surprised who the new winners are going to be and in the back of our heads we’re like oh yeah that makes sense. We should have thought of that. That’s the way it should have been right. So i think that’s definitely going to to happen it will take longer to recover these days, you’ll probably have to ask not for funding for 12 to 18 months but more of a two-year mark because you’re going to need that extra buffer. If it’s your first round of financing because you really don’t know if you’re gonna get a follow-on round, if it’s gonna come in on time and how badly the recession is affecting your other team members or your future team members. So that’s how i think it will affect startup funding and you had a last question last what was the last part of your question?

Jeffery:
I if oh my…

Sydney:
I had a good answer to it too..

Jeffery:
Oh let me let me take one second to think of it so what industries do you think we’re really going to take off?

Sydney:
Oh yes..

Jeffery:
… and the other ones you answered so that would be yeah…

Sydney:
So there are two things that that came to mind about what industries i think will take off. So there was a great prediction in the past year that mental health would be the new thing and there was a funny joke that i think my favorite, one of my favorite, marketers Garyvee said was people are gonna pay an absorbent amount of money to go into a room and sit. And that is very true that’s exactly what a meditation class sounds like. But coming out of especially this isolation stage i think that there will be more and more trends towards things like mental health addiction, those kinds of things that were once being seen as hey this is really hard to measure how do you measure the impact or the return on investment or those kinds of things until this is now a necessity. This should be part of your insurance, this is important for people of all ages not just this subset group of people. So that’s one of the industries i think will definitely be um trending. Another one they’ll be trending i think downwards will be malls because we’re not shopping in the same ways as we were in the past 10 years or even the past year, right. You didn’t buy things six months ago the same way you did 12 months ago probably for all of the same things because they were not accessible to you but they were available to you. And so there was a funny podcast from this great entrepreneur James Ultratur who was having a funny discussion. You got to listen to this podcast it was great about the trends that were happening but the best part of it was how we predicted that malls would become new retirement homes. Because retirement homes were too crowded, there were too many people, they needed more space and they’re like hey you know where there’s a lot of space empty malls and they’re already accessible by wheelchair because there are elevators everywhere! And um so i thought that was really really funny i do hope something like that does happen. And it’s gonna happen i don’t know — but i think that malls definitely need a new revamp regardless of whatever they turn into just because people aren’t going to automatically go back to that kind of behavior and new trends are coming and it’s the kind of thing that you know it’s hard to fight like Goliath.

Jeffery:
Nope I like that those are two great points and mental mental health is certainly making a big leap. We we did a panel on it maybe three four months ago just at the peak of Covid and we brought four startups and a phd and mental health into the panel and it was very well received and Cherry Rose was our keynote and she’s uh launched a podcast just around mental
health. So sharing stories. So it’s it certainly is a big touch point. And shopping centers i do agree i think there’s one in ajax that’s converting into that now. It was the i think it’s the whitby or ajax shopping mall i think they’re turning it into a retirement home or something but it’s being revamped they took out half of it and it’s now being shut down so there is going to be something happen with them before this happened they already had reduced numbers like outside of the majors. The other ones were having a tough go but maybe uh maybe those ones will change into — they were doing them as entertainment centers so they were trying to find ways to get people to come there like going to the movies, to go there for entertainment at the malls because of the space so who knows now where they’re gonna go because people aren’t congregating right. I drove by a band playing the other day with 30 cars in the parking lot honking. So that was very weird. That concert going it’s going to be very tough to have that type of growing up culture where i hung out in a parking lot in my car honking my horn to a band but things like

Sydney:
The whole grease culture is going to come back with the drive through movie theaters
and everything it’s all going to come back yeah

Jeffrey:
Yeah it’s going to be pretty crazy. Well Sydney i want to thank you very much for your time today. It was brilliant. Got to learn a lot as always i take lots of notes so i can share this out as we go but i want to thank you again for all the insights and the way we always operate is i want to give you the last word, so anything you want to share with investors or with the startups i give you the floor to do that and thank you again for your time today.

Sydney:
Thank you so much for having me. Yes, so if you are looking for a startup funding please go to www.venturx.ca that’s venturx.ca. And you can sign up, you have a two-week free trial so please try it out and happy to meet you.

Jeffery:
Awesome. Well thank you very much for that and have a fantastic day and again appreciate all the insights. Awesome thank you. Well that was awesome so Sydney amazing came to us from from Victoria BC she shared a lot of great insights on how they’re approaching startups and working with them and she popped in there some a couple of things that they look for, how their products doing with customers product feedback, is there a product market fit and really coming from a marketer perspective. Awesome and it is 100 something that’s needed I totally can see that i think everybody kind of has to get around. How do I make sure that my product goes to market, has a fit and I can start to get high growth not just standard steady growth as as we eventually were talking to and I think I loved what she was saying about the future. Mental health is really important these days and of course what’s going to happen with these big properties and how are they going to cope with the changes, with the shopping habit changes so something to keep in mind was if you’re trying to figure out where you want to be as an investor or where you want to be as a startup but thank you everybody for joining us and have a fantastic week.

Contact us

Are you interested in meeting Sydney, we will be happy to make an introduction!

Are you an angel investor and would like to participate in an upcoming show?