Brice Scheschuk: Investing in People

As a champion of Canadian technology and an active venture investor, Brice Scheschuk looks for three key traits in any startup: Talent, Team, and Culture. Only when he’s sure a company has what it takes to succeed does he shift focus to the organization’s product and its path to commercialization. Without the right people, he says, even the best product or service will fall flat.

Scheschuk comes by these instincts naturally. As CEO of Globalive Capital, he’s been part of a tight team that redefined business communications, and then launched Canada’s fourth national wireless carrier, Wind Mobile. Tony Lacavera, Globalive’s highly visible and visionary leader, admits he couldn’t have succeeded without Scheschuk’s finance and strategy skills, and the regulatory savvy of chief legal officer Simon Lockie, now chief corporate officer of the company’s new spinoff, Globalive Technology Partners.

The team built Wind Mobile to 940,000 customers before accepting a $1.6 -billion acquisition bid from Shaw Communications in 2016. While many teams break up after a successful exit, Globalive’s leaders stayed put. Redeploying a chunk of the proceeds (Scheschuk will only say it’s north of $100 million), they repositioned Globalive as a diversified investment firm with a commitment to accelerate early-stage businesses in sectors as diverse as media, healthcare, e-commerce, and AI. Its 100 or so investments include Flexiti Financial, TimePlay, and TouchBistro.

After 15 years together, what makes Globalive’s team work? “We have figured out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Scheschuk. “Tony is the big thinker. He loves risk, and he’s a master of networking. Simon does legal, and I’m a finance/operations, people and culture guy. We defer to each other’s strengths. We know better than to step on each other’s shoes.”

Scheschuk currently splits his time between Globalive Capital and Globalive Technology Partners, which will take a more hands-on, operational role with promising tech firms, helping them build new software based on machine learning and blockchain.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for investor attention, get thee to an accelerator. The days of Globalive finding its investments through random networking and coffee meetings are over. Scheschuk says Globalive’s relationships with programs such as Toronto’s DMZ, Creative Destruction Lab, and Next Canada lead to the best deals: “These are great harvesting grounds for guys like us.” He says the best accelerators put entrepreneurs “through a rigorous program with super-smart mentors around the table. You get to see these entrepreneurs in action, and then you see who [among the mentors] writes cheques for them.”

Scheschuk pauses thoughtfully when asked for his best advice to startups. “The best entrepreneurs are strategic thinkers about their capital stack,” he says at last. Whether you’re working on a seed round or series B raise, he says, “you have to be thinking two or three levels ahead.” Growth is a journey, not an event: “The people who are the most successful are the ones who understand this early.”

When asked to cite the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs make, Scheschuk offered three:

  • Raising too little capital or too much. You don’t want to give up too much of your company to early-stage investors, but you never want to run out of money before you’ve hit your milestones.
  • Not creating the right team culture. Scheschuk looks for real rigour in your team-formation decisions. Not only do you need all the right skills around the table, but everyone must have similar values and keep their egos in check.
  • Placing too much emphasis on your product. “I value marketing over product,” he says. In today’s Cloud era, with the latest development tools, it’s easier than ever to create a product. “But the ability to get traction and differentiate yourself is much, much harder.”

Above all, Scheschuk says, when assessing founders to invest in, “I do my best to suss out character.” He looks for humility, self-awareness, willingness to lead from the front – and ability to learn. “Pre-learn as much as humanly possible about what you’re likely to go through,” he warns. “You have to know where the pitfalls are.”

For Amar Varma, the Relationship is Job One

On March 27th, Amar Varma, Co-founder & COO of Autonomic, was Guest of Honour at the Espresso’s Founders’ Dinner. Our community enjoyed hearing about his view on long-term relationships in business. Here’s what you should know about our successful honouree.

Image result for amar varma autonomic

Amar Varma has done it all. In a career spanning two decades he’s been a chip fabricator, software developer, marketer, entrepreneur, angel investor, venture capitalist – and now, auto executive. But in any journey, it’s not the mileage that counts: it’s the people you meet along the way.

In January, the mobility startup he co-founded in late 2016,, was acquired by his longtime client Ford – making Varma and his partners true players in shaping the future of transportation. Their cloud-based platform connects and empowers the fleets of tomorrow: autonomous, electrically powered, and on-demand. While Ford was Autonomic’s first client, Varma’s vision extends much further. “We want this to be the platform of the entire transportation industry.”

VC’s typically urge entrepreneurs to earn revenue as fast as possible. True to its founders’ roots, Autonomic began collecting customer revenues three months after its October 2016 start. “If you’ve been building a platform for more than a quarter, and there’s nobody on it, you don’t know what you have,” says Varma. “You have to be able to test it.”

But it’s not just cutting-edge sensors, lasers and robotics that power Varma’s world; personal relationships fueled his success. Varma has nurtured them since he studied electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo (and he’s still in touch with most of his classmates). He worked for all-star employers such as ATI, Newbridge Networks and Silicon Valley-based Cypress Semiconductor before joining VenGrowth, a prominent Toronto-based private-equity firm. 

In 2008 he founded Extreme Ventures Partners, which provided early-stage capital to Canadian startups – and scored with successful exits such as Bumptop, Rypple, and If it was not enough to run an investment firm, Varma and his Extreme co-founder, former Cisco engineer Sundeep Madra, also launched Xtreme Labs, a mobile-app development firm that attracted blue-chip clients such as Facebook, Twitter, J.P. Morgan Chase, and the NFL. Xtreme grew to employ 300+ people by 2013, when it was acquired by San Francisco cloud-software company Pivotal Software. The two founders stayed on for another three years, working closely with Ford on its FordPass “connected car” initiative, before leaving Pivotal along with a small group of Xtreme colleagues to build Autonomic.

Demonstrating the power of relationships, Varma says several clients have followed him and Madra from Xtreme to Pivotal to Autonomic. Only by connecting with clients and identifying with their problems can you build a relationship, he says. “If you just view your customers as customers, people see through that. If you see it as a genuine partnership, people will come back to you again because they trust you. You can end up with a life-long series of opportunities.”

In fact, Varma sees this as a golden age for collaboration between startups and corporations. Given the changes overtaking all industries, he says, “You’re going to see more and more entrepreneurs becoming influential at Fortune 500 companies. Their mindset is changing; it’s all about disruption. The only way to get on top of that is to have an agile platform for making fast decisions – and that’s what entrepreneurs do.”

But building better relationships doesn’t just apply to clients. Varma would like to see more Canadian founders building peer relationships the Valley way, meeting regularly one-on-one to tell stories, compare notes and share support and advice. “If we want to be a big player in tech, we have to get better at collaborating,” he says. “We have a solid tech community, but we fall short in terms of getting together as individuals to move our thought processes forward. We can’t build great technology by playing our cards close to our chests. It’s all about putting your cards on the table and talking to people.”

About the Author 

Rick Spence is a Canadian journalist, speaker, and consultant on business growth, entrepreneurship, and opportunity. He is currently a director at Startup Canada and President of CanEntrepreneur Communications.

About Espresso Capital

Espresso provides founder friendly venture debt to technology companies across Canada. Espresso is funded by founders, high network families, and retail investors. Espresso funds are available for purchase through approved investment dealers. Contact us for more details.


Espresso Capital Recognized as Canada’s Most Active Venture Debt Firm in 2017

TORONTO, ONTARIO — (March 23, 2018)  — Espresso Capital is pleased to announce that it has been named the most active Canadian venture debt firm for 2017 by the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA).

With 84 loan advances totalling $51 million during the year, Espresso grew its portfolio 110% year-over-year.

According to the CVCA report, venture capital activity increased by 11% during the year. With 592 deals worth a total of $3.5 billion transacted during 2017, the Canadian venture capital landscape has doubled in the last five years alone.

“It was a banner year for Canadian venture all around,” said Espresso Capital CEO Alkarim Jivraj. “We’re proud to be playing a role in helping great Canadian founders build great companies and expand Canada’s economic footprint.”

Espresso Capital’s growth can be attributed to the strength of the SaaS market, which accounted for 73% of the firm’s activities in 2017. Espresso was active across Canada, with Ontario representing 60% of loan volume, followed by British Columbia at 23% and Quebec at 10%.


About Espresso Capital

Since 2009, Espresso Capital has provided over 230 early and growth stage technology companies with founder friendly capital. We offer lines of credit and term loans to enable entrepreneurs to grow their businesses without dilution, board seats, or personal guarantees. Our mission is to enable founders to control their destiny with fast, fair, and flexible capital.

For more information, please visit


Contact Information

For media inquiries:

Katie Paterson
Director of Marketing
+1 416.583.2667

Female Entrepreneurs Optimistic At #StartUpWomen IWD 2018 Event

Last Thursday, women and men throughout the business community pressed for progress and advocated for equality as part of International Women’s Day. To celebrate the occasion, Startup Canada hosted #StartupWomen, an event full of great discussions and inspiring talks with some of Canada’s noteworthy female entrepreneurs and executives.

During the event, Startup Canada CEO Victoria Lennox led a panel of female entrepreneurs and experts in STEM — a field often regarded as one of the least diverse — to share success stories, discuss strategies to drive change, and offer advice to the girls of the future.

Panelist Eva Lau, co-founder of Two Small Fish Ventures, was encouraged by the change she’s seen over her career. “I remember when I was in engineering school; back then, my class was only 12% women,” Lau recalled. “Talking to someone from U of T engineering, this year we’re seeing 40% (female) enrollment.”

While the improvement is encouraging, Lau still urges companies to create programs that inspire and excite women to participate in STEM. She highlighted Toronto’s recently launched Associate Product Manager (APM) program as an example of one such initiative that has the potential to create opportunities for women in tech.

The rapid pace of technological change had Head of Microsoft Canada’s Partner Organization Charlotte Burke feeling likewise optimistic. “By 2020, 80% of the jobs that exist today will materially change or not exist at all,” said Burke. “I think that’s fabulous for women. When change happens fast, you can get in and redefine yourself.”

In closing the discussion, each of the panelists offered actionable advice for fellow females looking to break into STEM. Startup Canada’s Janice MacDonald, Imbritech President Cathy Imbriglio, and Ingenium Strategic Director Sandra Corbeil offered a clear takeaway to the panel’s audience of women and supporters: “Don’t wait for permission. Don’t give up. And don’t let others define you.”

The entire event can now be viewed online, and more resources are available for female founders on Startup Canada’s website.

Osama Arafat: The View From 30,000 Feet

On Feb. 28, Osama Arafat, former CEO of Q9 Networks, was Guest of Honour at Espresso’s Founders’ Dinner. Our community enjoyed hearing about his pioneering adventures in the Internet space. Here’s what you should know about our unique, and very successful, honouree.

After his incredible success building and selling data-security company Q9 Networks, Toronto entrepreneur Osama Arafat is flying high these days. But not in the way you might think.

The electrical engineer turned serial entrepreneur has a new part-time job: flying executive jets for a charter service. It’s not that he needs the work: he loves it. “It’s my passion,” he says. “It’s a way to fly private jets for free.”

Arafat’s aircraft of choice is Embraer’s Phenom 300, a nine-passenger jet that features a best-in-class combination of speed, range and comfort. He flies several times a week, often to U.S. or Caribbean destinations, earning a basic per-diem. Then he waits to be called again.

A fierce innovator, Arafat fully intends to return to business, and he’s always scanning for opportunities. “I’m keeping my options open,” he says. “Flying is just something I needed to get out of my system.”

The Story

Arafat was working in engineering controls at CAE Industries in Montréal – ironically, a company that makes flight simulators – when he realized he was bored in operations. In 1994 he joined Stuart Lombard, to start InfoRamp, Toronto’s first Internet service provider (ISP). After InfoRamp merged with a competitor, he and Lombard headed venture-backed Isolation Systems, which developed virtual private networking (VPN) equipment to encrypt data on the web. When that company sold two years later, Arafat joined his former backer, JLA Ventures (now Relay).

That didn’t last long. Arafat soon saw an opportunity to help a fledgling ISP pivot to become a nationwide outsourced-data centre for companies with critical security needs. He wrote the business plan, then joined the company as CEO – promising Relay he’d make more money for them as an entrepreneur than as a partner. That firm became Q9. It grew from $1 million in sales in 2000 to $66 million in 2008, when it was bought by a U.S. private-equity group for $366 million.

Arafat headed Q9 until 2014, two years after the firm changed hands again, in a $1.1-billion deal led by Bell Canada. Since then, Arafat has spent quality time with family and earned his commercial pilot’s license. He also served as a director of Waterloo-based networking company Sandvine Inc., helping oversee its sale last year for $562 million.

“It’s going to be harder than you think.”

This kind of summary makes success sound simple, but Arafat insists nothing comes easy in business. Selling a vision, building systems, and keeping pace with your market are challenges that never end. “It’s going to be harder than you think, it’s going to take longer, and it’s going to cost more,” he says. “And when you’re successful, that will be more than you think, too. And that’s not always a good thing.”

In 2008, as the financial crisis took hold, companies everywhere abandoned their capital-spending plans. Suddenly they wanted to trust their data to Q9 rather than build data centres of their own. But Q9 didn’t have the capacity, and data centres took 18 months to build. “We had struggled for eight years. Then all of a sudden the floodgates opened, and we had to shoo customers away,” Arafat recalls.

“It was our darkest moment. These were big, big deals that could have doubled the revenue of the company, and we had to say no to them.”

How do you keep going through dark times? Arafat’s lesson: “You’ve got to have tenacity. You’ve got to get punched and kicked, thrown to the floor, and then dust yourself off and get up.”

It Can Be Lonely at the Top

Arafat offers one more key lesson: After working with Stuart Lombard as a co-CEO at both InfoRamp and Isolation Systems, he believes entrepreneurs perform best when they have peers in their organization. “It really is lonely at the top,” says Arafat. “When you’re the sole person at the top, making decisions is very difficult. There are no checks and balances to ensure you make the right decision. Subordinates are always afraid to disagree with you.”

“With a peer, decision-making is so much easier. You sit there, argue it out, consider different points of view, and then come out with a decision. Peers are not afraid to upset you, or tell you-you’re out to lunch.”

Asked what cool new technologies he’s attracted to now – AI, machine learning, fintech? – Arafat sounds almost bored. “Nothing really earth-shattering,” he says. “My whole career was built around the Internet. There are still opportunities there. There is so much in the world that still needs to be connected, still needs to get smart. I think we’re still at the beginning of exploring the possibilities of the Internet.”


About the Author 

Rick Spence is a Canadian journalist, speaker, and consultant on business growth, entrepreneurship, and opportunity. He is currently a director at Startup Canada and President of CanEntrepreneur Communications.

L-Spark “Support For Your StartUp” Event Stars Financial Tools For Savvy Founders

With $16.4M in funding across 35 startups in the last three years, The L-Spark Accelerator is no stranger to helping Canadian founders find success. Among the team’s many trade secrets is its advocacy for the growth assistance programs offered by the Government of Canada and its partner NGOs.

To help raise awareness of these programs, L-Spark teamed up with Welch LLP to host “Support For Your StartUp” last Wednesday. The event’s massive panel was led by well-versed government program officials and NGO startup advocates, including…

The discussion centered around founder Terri Storey and her company SnapClarity, which allows Canadians to find and access mental health professionals from a smartphone. Thanks in part to the programs available, SnapClarity is now making great strides towards its goal of tapping into the $50B market opportunity in mental health and wellness.

The panel highlighted dozens of programs for non-repayable funding, recruiting assistance, and market research designed to accelerate the growth of Canadian startups.

It was a valuable event, and a full recording of the discussion is now available online. You can also check out more upcoming events and useful content on L-Spark’s website.

Founder Stories: Pressly – It’s a Marathon, not a sprint.

Our Director of Marketing, Katie Paterson, sat down with Jeff Brenner, Co-Founder and CEO of Pressly to discuss his journey as a founder and CEO, and what starting a company in Canada is like.

KP: How did Pressly come about?

JB: I founded Pressly with Peter Koteka. He and I met in university, and actually started our first company together in our last year of university and have been working together ever since. We started Pressly as a side project in an agency Peter and I co-founded, and then when we saw the impact that mobile was going to have, we decided to make Pressly its own company and own focus.

KP: What problem does Pressly solve?

JB: The real problem we are tackling is what we call the “content graveyard” in the enterprise today, which is the 65% of enterprise content that never gets used. We have a platform which acts as a content router to get the right content to the right people at the right time.

KP: So what makes Pressly different from other marketing technology companies?

JB: Pressly is certainly more of a communications platform, and what really differentiates us, is we are bidirectional. What I mean by that is we help our customers avoid the one-directional broadcasting. We make it bidirectional where the employees are partners or advocates within and around the business. They have the ability to build their own personal thought leadership presence online, but in a way that benefits the organization as a whole. No one wants another company to market to them. How do you elevate the experts, the individuals, and the people behind that company to really have a human and authentic communication?

KP: What is it like working at Pressly?

JB: When we began Pressly, one of the key areas of focus when it comes to culture was the mentality of craftsmanship of quality and taking time to build a great product and company. We try to enable people to feel ownership over what they are doing, trying to set goals that will work as a team. We try to keep it fun, whether it’s the ping pong table, dart board, or beer machine. It’s important that you enjoy building the team that is around you, and tackling and solving a problem together. Every Friday we come together to share successes, failures, or challenges as a group in a casual setting to make sure we’re on the same page as an organization.

KP: What was it like building a company in Canada?

JB: We are very proud to be Canadian. I think it is an amazing country. There are certain advantages, such as tax credits and less competition for tech talent compared to other markets such as the Bay Area. In Canada, it is a massive benefit for startups to be able to claim some of the outlay on R&D as a tax credit to receive cash back from the government. I think it’s a very good balance of opportunity for quality of life and ability to find talented people to join the team.

KP: Tell me what your funding journey has looked like.

JB: We funded Pressly initially by incubating it within the agency we owned at the time. When we decided to make Pressly our entire focus, we raised a round of seed financing. From there we focused on executing on building up revenue and, most recently, decided to bring on some debt financing with Espresso Capital. Having Espresso as a funding partner made it a win for the whole team. A win which the whole team can participate in is very important to us.

KP: What attribute do you think is important as an entrepreneur and founder?

JB: When it comes to being an entrepreneur, the ability to persevere would be right at the top of skill-sets. It’s definitely a long haul; we like to say “It’s more of a marathon than it is a sprint.” I think the other key thing is the ability to make a decision. It is difficult to take that leap of faith, to go and start a company. It is hard and always takes longer than you want it to, so the ability to keep working towards that vision and goal is essential.

KP: Is there any advice you would give your 19-year-old self?

JB: It’s not about getting to an outcome or getting to a destination. It’s a journey and making sure you are taking time to enjoy it and reflect on the success you are having as it progresses. It is also important to make sure you are taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Personally, I am staying active and fit because it is the type of job that requires a lot of energy and produces lots of stress. Making sure you are at that peak performance level certainly carries through to the job.

Pressly was acquired by Vision Critical in September of 2017.

Keep a lookout for our next edition of the Founder Stories Series. If you know a great founder who should be featured, contact Katie Paterson at

Founder Stories: Homestars – The Founder Journey

Our Director of Marketing, Katie Paterson, sat down with Nancy Peterson, Founder and CEO of HomeStars, to see what motivated her to leave a career in large corporations and start her own company.

KP: What inspired you to start Homestars?

NP: I was on maternity leave and was doing renovations on our 50-year old house. Throughout the process which turned into months, I stepped back and realized how hard it was for homeowners to find reputable trades. I started the company in 2006. At the time, there was nothing for homeowners to find contractors, so I started this journey as an exciting opportunity to really help homeowners connect with the best contractors in Canada.

KP: So what does HomeStars do?

NP: The problem that HomeStars is solving is really, who do you hire? HomeStars fills a void by helping homeowners hire the best home professional through our rich depth of homeowner reviews.

KP: As the founder, what obstacles do you face?

NP: When you look back on your journey of starting a company, there’s always a million things that pop into your head of the various obstacles that arise. I think the biggest obstacles are really building a team and evolving that team over time. The hardest thing as you grow a business is really building and motivating the best leaders of the organization and developing their skills and creating that environment. The second thing and also highly important is having the right resources, particularly financing.

KP: Tell me what your funding journey has looked like.

NP: The funding journey has been an interesting one, and I’m sure anybody that’s working on their business right now can appreciate. I was quite fortunate to have a venture capitalist give us a term sheet and also required that a second venture capitalist go in with them and co-invest. That round didn’t close, but I was able to leverage that term sheet and close an angel round at a nice valuation. We reached a nice inflection point where we did a loan with Espresso Capital. That allowed us to raise money without diluting ourselves. That was a nice turning point for us as a company.

KP: How did you come across Espresso Capital?

NP: I was introduced to Alkarim, who recommended an experienced CFO. That was a pivotal hire for us. I am still working with my CFO today that Espresso had recommended.

Working with Espresso has been the best experience I’ve had in working with any group, whether they be angels or banks. They really want to help not just in providing the financial support, but also with problems that you have.

KP: What are you excited about moving forward?

NP: We’ve had a major milestone in our growth cycle. We’ve been growing rapidly, double-digits over the last few years. What’s really exciting and a validation of our growth and success is that we’ve been acquired by HomeAdvisor, the number one source in the United States for connecting homeowners with the best contractors.

KP: What has been a major takeaway for you building HomeStars?

NP: When you start a business, you have it in your mind where the end goal is. It’s never exactly the way you plan it. I think one of the biggest realizations for me is it is a journey, and try to remember that there’s going to be so many changes to what you think is going to happen and it doesn’t happen. Just try to enjoy that journey and try to remember the difficult times; try to remember all the wins and successes you’ve had.

KP: So do you have any advice to incoming founders?

NP: I would say if you’re really thinking about starting a business, it’s scary. I was scared out of my mind jumping into that deep end. Just do it. You’ll never regret starting a business ever. Even if it doesn’t go as planned and you decide that it’s not for you, it’ll open more doors, so, go for it!

Keep a look out for our next edition of the Founder Stories Series. If you know a great founder who should be featured, contact Katie Paterson at

Study Finds Gender Disparity in Canadian Tech

A recent study examined the current position of women in Canadian tech and innovation, aiming to draw attention to the disparity between men and women in the industry. Research has found companies who have women represented on executive teams perform better. Despite this, only 13 percent of tech companies’ executive teams comprise of women.

“Where’s the Dial Now”, co-authored by #movethedial, MaRS, and PwC Canada, analyzed 933 Canadian tech companies, highlighting the gender gaps found.

“[T]his report will serve as a catalyst for self-reflection and help us all commit to creating a diverse, inclusive and unstoppable tech community.” – Jodi Kovitz, founder of #movethedial.


Women With STEM Degrees

In 2010, women comprised approximately 56% of Canadian university graduates. However, there are significantly less women graduating from STEM degrees, making up only 30% of degrees. The lack of interest in tech for girls is a concern for many countries, including the US and the UK. A survey by PwC UK found 20% of girls were uninterested in the industry for it’s male-dominated culture.


Women in the Workforce

A 2016 Catalyst report found 53% of women working in tech leave the industry. The representation of women in executive positions are at significantly low numbers, with only 5% of tech companies in Canada with a female co-founder.

A MaRS survey found we are slowly moving in the right direction, with a growing number of female executives in startups. However, women only account for 15.8% of C-suite positions and 14.3% of founders or co-founders.

“At the end of the day, we’re all equal. We all deserve similar opportunities, and it’s a matter of getting to a place where we have the diversity of skills, diversity of culture and diversity of gender at the table. This will allow us to make good decisions to grow our business, grow our economy and grow ourselves. That’s the bottom line.” – Michelle Scarborough, BDC.

Only 14% of companies with female executives also have a founder who is a woman. Female CEO’s represent 12% of companies who have women on the executive team, but companies without any female representation at the executive level had a female CEO. A staggering 53% of Canadian tech companies have no female executives at all, and 73% have none on the board. Having women on the executive team has a trickle-down effect on the company, increasing the overall percentage of women in the company.

Promoting Women in Tech

There are many organizations who are making an active effort to get girls involved in tech at an early age, including Ladies Learning Code and its youth branch, Girls Learning Code. Ladies Learning Code is a program for women interested in computer programming and gaining technical skills. “It’s also about educating young women and girls on various jobs they could have in tech, and talking to them about the investment side of tech,” explains Whitney Rockley, a sponsor of Ladies Learning Code.

Through greater education, a network of support, and strong role models, more girls will gain interest in STEM-related degrees. A great way to get involved is in the form of mentorship and support, providing a “road map for other women to follow in their footsteps.” We need to encourage and support women to feel comfortable enough to succeed. Janet Bannister, General Partner at Real Ventures, shares how VC’s are actively seeking women entrepreneurs to fund. “[F]or women who want to build their own tech business or pursue a career in tech, they should absolutely go for it; they should pursue their dreams and they can definitely be successful.”

Women and men are equally qualified, and should be given the same opportunities. The tech industry is growing rapidly, and we cannot keep half of the population on the sidelines. We must support and encourage the women in our networks, advancing women in the tech community.






If you’re in SaaS, you’ll want to be in Ottawa November 29-30 for SAAS NORTH. Now in its second year,  the event — featuring 70 speakers and 400 companies — is an epic undertaking to connect and scale up the Canadian SaaS ecosystem.

“SaaS is playing a big role  in the Canadian tech ecosystem, and SAAS NORTH aims to connect the Canadian SaaS ecosystem, including investors, companies, founders, service providers, marketing and sales, C-suite and senior leadership,” says Meena Sandhu, SAAS NORTH Conference Director.

“We look forward to getting everyone under one roof and working together to scale up SaaS in Canada and around the world. We want our attendees to walk away with actionable content and stronger, better networks.”

Attendees from Shopify, Microsoft, Zapier, HubSpot, Price Intelligently, Influitive, 500 Startups, MaRS, OMERS, Unbounce, Buffer, PageCloud,  and Klipfolio have already signed up for this year’s event.

“I was impressed by the quality of the event and the pedigree of the attendees in 2016,” said Bruce Croxon, Former Dragon, now with Round 13 Capital. “I am very much looking forward to round 2.”

“Espresso is excited to continue our sponsorship of SAAS NORTH for a second year. This year we are looking forward to participating in the conversation on how we can build an ecosystem in Canada that supports the growth of SaaS companies and continue to see larger exits north of the US” said Katie Paterson, Director of Marketing, Espresso Capital.

“If you are a founder, investor or interested in SaaS, SAAS NORTH is the conference for you,” said Tobi Lütke, CEO and founder of Shopify and a lead sponsor for this year’s event. “I look forward to seeing what’s in store for 2017.”

There’s no question SAAS NORTH is shaping up to be the place to be for Canada’s SaaS community. Espresso is excited to provide a discounted rate to this year’s event – click here for a 30% discount on tickets.  

We’ve also pulled together this definitive guide to help you get the most out of SAAS NORTH. See you there!

November 29th

SAAS NORTH Day 1 features an invite-only investor breakfast, kickoff keynotes from Microsoft, The Boardlist, and Round 13 Capital, and 30-minute breakout sessions on the following topics:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer success
  • Product
  • Pricing
  • Metrics
  • Investing and fundraising
  • HR and culture

The day’s program also includes curated talks, AMAs, roundtables, and networking, followed by a party at The National Gallery.

In addition, SAAS North’s roster of speakers demonstrates a commitment to showcase more women in tech. Here are just a few names to get excited about: Sukhinder Singh Cassidy of The Boardlist; April Dunford, startup advisor, entrepreneur and angel investor; Becky Finley of Facebook; Jessica Galang of BetaKit; Meghan Herman from Shopify; Lily Jamali of Bloomberg Markets Canada; Krista Jones, MaRS; Jennifer Li, Musefind; Leen Li, Wealthsimple; Ria Lupton, SheWorks; and media personality Amber Mac.



What:  A fully loaded marketing stack: must-have tools and resources and the roles you need on your marketing team.
When: 10:15-10:45am

Featuring: Arati Shah, Director of Marketing, Shopify; Jennifer Li, CEO/Founder, Musefind; Ali Tajsekandar, Founder & CEO, Wishpond. Moderated by Kristy Sadler, CMO, Eventmobi.

(more info)



What:  Money talks: from seed through to series A,B,C.  Hear from angels, micro VCs, VCs, and alternative lenders.
When: 11:05am-11:35am

Everybody, well nearly everybody, is looking for funding. Understand all the options available for funding for a SaaS company, from VCs to alternative lenders. Which situations are for which type of funding? Is there a general rule book? Learn about what you need to know to make the right funding decisions for your business. Featuring: Alkarim Jivraj, President and CEO, Espresso Capital; Lauren Robinson, COO, Highline BETA; and Michelle Scarborough, Managing Director, Strategic Investments, and Women in Tech, BDC. Moderated by Mike Woollatt, CEO, CVCA.
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What:  The API economy: platform ecosystems build better businesses
When: 2:20-2:50pm

Featuring: Zapier. In 2017, more CIOs/ CTOs will be measured on how many business models and platforms they create than ever before. APIs are fuelling this change.

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November 30th

SAAS NORTH returns to talk metrics, growth, valuation, bootstrapping, retention, and what it takes to build strong SaaS brands. The program will cover the ins and outs of pricing and product value, along with everything you need to know about bots in SaaS on Facebook and Slack. Day 2 will also feature a keynote from Oli Gardner, Co-Founder at Unbounce, who has likely seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet.



What: Mastering the sales trifecta: inbound, outbound, and customer success. You can’t have one without the others.
When: 10:10-10:40am

Featuring: Hubspot. Are your teams all talking to each other? Are strategies aligned? Are they supporting one another or competing? Understand the fine balance of inbound, outbound, and customer success. This trio can work wonders when it’s synchronized or wreak havoc when it’s not.

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What: SaaSenomics 2: Cash flow, understanding the time and process you need to go through to start making a return on your investment
When: 11:45am-12:15pm

Featuring: Craig Fitzpatrick, CEO, PageCloud Allan Wille, President and CEO, Klipfolio. Moderated by Anastasia Valentine, Chief Marketing Officer, Versature.

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What: SAAS NORTH Welcome Reception
When: November 28, 2017, 6-9pm
Where: Sidedoor, 18 York Street b, Ottawa

Grab a drink and meet 400 of your SaaS friends at this popular opening party. Last year’s event sold out!
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What: Invite-only Investor Breakfast
When: November 29, 2017, 7:30-9am
Where: Secret location

This year, SAAS NORTH opens with an invite-only Investor Breakfast, billed as a more intimate networking opportunity for tech-focused VCs, angel investors, and entrepreneurs. Think you should be there? Want an invite? State your case:

What: SaaS Party of the Year
When: November 29, 2017, 6:30-10pm
Where: The National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa

Get your SaaS swank on at The National Gallery. This is the 2nd annual SAAS NORTH party.

A Final Note: As SAAS NORTH enters its second year, it is paramount for the tech community to show up. Collectively we can generate Canada’s playbook for scaling a SaaS company.  Claim your spot: use the special Espresso Capital 30% off discount and get your tickets.