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The not-so-secret key to success: Communicating

If there was a common theme prevalent at last week’s Canadian Venture Capital Association annual summit in Montreal, it was the collective understanding that, to get an idea heard, understood, funded and off the ground, you need to communicate it – simply and clearly.

Indeed, among the 800-plus venture capital and private equity focused attendees at the near three-day event, one of the predominant points of discussion was getting in front of the right audience, engaging them and keeping them engaged - without inundating them with banter and jargon and concepts that you get, but that they don't.

For others including the many venture capital representatives in attendance, it was truly about making clear what the end game is – and how they expect to get there.

The same theme collectively extended to communicating both the scope and vibrancy of Canada’s venture capital and private equity industries – and their economic and intellectual contributions not only within Canada but around the world.

“It’s not just about finding 10 of the next Facebooks or Googles, putting them into a portfolio and hoping one of them strikes gold,” said one venture capital attendee. “It’s about giving people and companies an opportunity to really explore and develop an idea, and see where it goes – and fostering and supporting that in Canada.”

For allocators as well, including some of the larger and typically more private ones such as Fonds de Solidarite FTQ, whose mandate among other funds based in the province excludes them from making allocations to companies and ventures outside of the province of Quebec.

“One of the things that is misunderstood about us is the bigger mark we potentially make – from an economic perspective but also from an intellectual capital standpoint,” noted one such allocator. “Yes, our mandate is specific to Quebec, but if that Quebec-based firm succeeds, then so too does the rest of the country and the industry. It is a domino effect.”

Having the opportunity to explore ideas – and the stamina and perseverance to get back on the bike when you hit setbacks and fall off – was another key theme at the conference, summed up in an enlightening and eloquent way by Canadian Astronaut, Engineer and Pilot Chris Hadfield.

“It takes a billion little pieces of human ingenuity to create a rocket ship that lands on the moon,” Hadfield told a packed audience during his keynote address, The Flight Path of Innovation. “It’s one thing to stand up and promise to put a man on the moon. It’s something completely different to put a seemingly impossible idea into motion – and to achieve success.”

Of course, executing on a proverbial pipe dream and turning it into a reality is what continues to drive innovation – another common theme among attendees.

“Sure, we all want to be involved in the next big thing and make money doing so, but I think it’s much more than that,” said another private capital allocator focused on venture capital. “It’s easy to look for and bet on the safe ideas; it’s a way more difficult to find and support the crazy ideas that may not make it the first, second, third or even fourth time, but will change the world on the fifth.”

All of which brings it back to communication and keeping it simple, agreed attendees.

“It is way too easy to get snared by the language and lingo the industry is more comfortable hearing and communicating in,” said one entrepreneur. “It is a lot more difficult to stick to your message and vision and articulate it consistently. But it’s critical – otherwise, and I’ve experienced this, you need to go back to the drawing board. Everyone can and should get it.”

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