What You Missed at CEO Summit 2015

October 20, 2015, Silicon Valley: Familiar faces filled the halls of the iconic Rosewood Sand Hill Resort in Menlo Park as CEOs and executives of Canadian growth-stage startups descended upon Silicon Valley and mingled with the leaders of some of Canada’s most successful corporations during the annual CEO Summit conference. One of the most exclusive events hosted by the C100, this conference brings CEOs from across Canada to the Valley for two days alongside C100 Charter Members and partners for intimate and informative fireside chats, sharing their stories and experiences in hopes to answer, "How do we grow, scale and innovate in Canada?"

The central theme of the CEO Summit is that Canada has all of the resources it needs to be a global powerhouse of innovation and that it’s extremely important to become a part of and fully understand the expectations, culture and mindset of Silicon Valley. The C100 is dedicated to helping Canadian corporate executives and growth-stage CEOs make the connections in the Valley that amplify traction, aid in scaling and provide support along the way.

All conversations during the conference centered around 5 main topics:

·              Acquiring and maintaining talent

·              Raising capital at different stages and if/when/why/how to go public

·              The importance of a culture of innovation

·              Growth and globalization strategies

·              The need to understand, visit and build a robust network in Silicon Valley

The first evening began with a private dinner reception in the Rosewood courtyard where C100 members and partners welcomed speakers, growth-stage founders, and corporate CEOs. The following day opened with a fireside chat between Shawn Price, SVP of Oracle Cloud and Todd Bradley, President of TIBCO, discussing talent acquisition, globalization and growth strategies. Shawn Price noted that Oracle has over 137,000 employees worldwide and went on to offer advice on hiring by focusing on skill sets that will withstand economic tribulation. "We have to be willing to disrupt ourselves," he says. "The skill sets that made [Oracle] successful have to be transferable to the new world." His message to growth-stage CEOs included an emphasis on listening to employees, particularly millennials. Their input on your company's culture and practices is imperative to scaling in our current economic climate. Many millennials are leaving companies within 6 months for a number of reasons including their desire to affect change, learn continuously, remain engaged, work in an autonomous environment, collaborate within a team and clearly observe room for growth and advancement. Retaining great talent is difficult but it starts with listening to employees, hiring people who have the soft skills necessary to scale, along with the ability to apply their knowledge and experience in order to fill in the gaps. "The winners and losers in our respective markets will be defined in the next 18 to 24 months," he added. "You'll either have a business that will be around in a decade or you'll be irrelevant."  

Todd Bradley elaborated upon the differences in hiring in Silicon Valley as opposed to anywhere else. "When people come to the Valley, they work for the Valley. Not HP, not Workspace, but the Valley," he said. "When you know your business, you know intuitively if a person is a fit or not.... Someone that has done 'ok' in a hard situation is far more interesting to me than someone who has done well in an easy situation." He emphasized the importance of creating an environment that's collaborative, focused on growth, challenging and stimulating for employees who are passionate about the mission of their organization.  

In respect to globalization, Todd told founders, "Your consideration for going global is all around customers, having customer demand and in some ways, customer pull... you have to ask, 'when is that customer demand going to be strong enough to support the infrastructure?'" While many companies are enamored by the thought of globalization, he emphasizes the importance of understanding the complexity and diversity of the markets you're pursuing. The question is less, "how do we break into China", for example, and more, "how do we become a Chinese company?" 

Following their talk, Harley Finklestein (CPO) and Tobias Lutke (CEO), of Shopify took the stage with Pete Flint, Founder of Trulia, in a closed-door fireside chat entitled, the Journey to an IPO. 

C100 Charter Member and partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, Arif Janmohammed, joined Sanjay Beri, CEO of Netskope, and fellow Charter Member Michelle Zatlyn, Co-Founder of CloudFlare, to lead a discussion on "Scaling Capital and Traction Expectations when Raising Funding at Later Stages." With over $300 million raised between the two founders, the talk focused on best practices for raising funding, remaining relevant in the Valley, hiring and going public.  

For Michelle, timing and intuition are everything when scaling. While reflecting on CloudFlare's first round of funding, she noted, "The best time to start a company is in down economic environments." She added that there are times when a founder should turn away capital or take a lower valuation if the investor isn't the right fit. "Not all VCs are created equal," she said. "Your job is to find an investor that gets what you're doing and has a shared vision." 

According to Zatlyn, "There are two ways to raise money: based on a story or based on results." She mentioned that their last round of $110M was based on results: metrics, customers, etc. CloudFlare's list of prominent investors includes Venrock, NEA, Fidelity, Baidu (China), Microsoft, Google and Qualcomm. Their last round was the first round of funding that Google and Microsoft have done together. When asked about the future and the prospect of an eventual IPO, noting that there are currently no set plans, she said, "there's a bit of a divide: to go public or not to go public. At some point you have to grow up and if you're a real company, it may be inevitable." 

Sanjay Beri led the conversation on the importance of relying on and empowering people who fit the company's culture and operate in a way that supports it, especially when scaling geographically. He went on to talk about the importance of innovation, R&D and competing with Valley companies. "The movement to the cloud has made legacy vendors very vulnerable," he said. "It has made a lot of their technology irrelevant." Investing in R&D is extremely important to Netskope. "I must have the best product. I'm not going to spend the capital to get in front of a customer and lose because our product isn’t hands down delivering the better value to the customer.”

Adam Devine, Workfusion VP of Marketing, joined us from New York to discuss "The Automation of Work" during the first corporate breakout session of the day. He began with a statement of the problem that machine learning can solve: the $10 trillion dollars of human productivity spent on predictable information processes. Adam then provided cases of how machine learning is transforming knowledge within banking and drew a parallel between the training of machines to perform data categorization and extraction and how cars have learned to navigate not only streets but complex, unpredictable situations. His key point was that humans and machines working together provide a limitless knowledge processes capability to enterprise businesses in every data intensive industry. With regard to the concern that machines will ultimately replace knowledge workers, he reminded the audience that "machines have a long history of elevating human capability," liberating field workers into factory workers, and then factory workers into office workers. Adam looks forward to watching WorkFusion customers find new ways to deploy human cognition and creativity and believes AI will have a profoundly positive impact on the economy and the overall wellbeing of mankind.

The afternoon sessions began with Salim Ismail, Founding Executive Director of Singularity University discussing exponential growth and building companies applicable to worldwide problems. Perhaps the funniest of the sessions, Salim discussed driverless cars, glowing cats and drones that move medicine in Haiti. 

He mentioned Mohr's law of computation and its application to present-day technologies such as 3D printing, AI, neuroscience, biotech, etc., and notes that there's a chance that in our lifetime we could see an abundance of clean water, education, healthcare, energy, etc. driven by this pace of change. 

Salim went on to briefly discuss the mission of Singularity University, stating, "We live in a time when we can effectively apply cutting edge technologies to global challenges." Based in Silicon Valley, Singularity hosts some of the brightest entrepreneurs for programs lasting between one week and an entire summer, during which students are mentored and encouraged to ponder global innovation and their impact upon it. He added, "We challenge our students to form a team and come up with an idea that will impact a billion people positively within ten years."

David Ulevitch, former CEO of OpenDNS and presently VP at Cisco, led a closed-door discussion on "How Large Corporates are Responding to the Threat & Opportunity of Technology".

In a closed-door fireside chat, C100 Board Member Katherine Barr interviewed Chris O’Neill, the now 90-day CEO of popular Saas startup Evernote, discussing his recruiting strategies, the importance of being able to connect with individuals, how to measure success and why he joined the company.

Much of the conversation focused on how to build a really great team. “I often have young people ask for career advice and I really believe that you should start in retail or in a restaurant because you learn about customer service in a way that is really helpful for your career... It all comes down to being able to connect with people and being a servant leader," he stated. Chris went on to discuss the importance of narrowing in on what your organization does well, focusing on what makes it successful and consistently executing against it. “I don’t care what kind of company you are, if you’re trying to do too many things at once you’re not going to do them well,” he said. Chris also touched on the importance of being authentic in order to gain credibility with his team. “Culture starts with the leadership team," he added. There is a lot of value placed on the intersection between the culture, the brand, and the individual's connection to a mission. He continued the conversation specifically related to Evernote, adding, “We’re helping people be more productive in what they do and that’s certainly a mission people easily connect to.” 

Chris encouraged the audience to spend more time in the Valley, noting that the mindset and attitudes of the area is extremely unique. He mentioned, "One of the things that the C100 has done an amazing job of is inspiring leaders in corporate Canada to get down here and/or bring entrepreneurs to Canada to encourage a cross-pollination…Let’s not aim to just be the best in Canada but to be the best in the world. We have the talent, access to capital and certainly the ability to mentor one another to become great.”

Scott Bonham, Founder of GVV Capital and C100 Co-Chair interviewed Andreessen Horowitz General Partner, Lars Dalgaard in a closed-door fireside chat on Scaling to a Billion Dollars. In addition, they discussed the prevalence of unicorns in the Valley, investing internationally, education, characteristics Lars looks for in a founder, and building companies that have the potential to be transformational on a global scale. When asked how important it is to have roots in the Valley, he said, “If you want oranges, you go to Florida. If you want hockey, you go to Canada. If you want startups, you go to Silicon Valley.” Attendees were pleased and encouraged by the authenticity and authority in his message along with his sound, straight-forward advice to growth-stage founders. He emphasized the fact that Silicon Valley cannot be ignored if you're building a company here or abroad, stating, “The majority of the things that everybody uses in technology is made within 30 miles of where we are sitting right now and it continues to be so.”

With regard to culture and attitudes in the Valley, he noted, “Nobody here talks about anything else…. When everyone is talking about it all the time it’s like your blood… your energy… your air... there’s nothing else on anyone’s minds. Everyone you hire [here] is at a completely different competitive level.” This attitude is simply not as prevalent in the rest of the world. The area is made up of extremely intelligent individuals hyper-focused on innovating across all industries with the primary goal of changing the world. 

CEO Summit concluded with Idris Mootie, CEO of Idea Couture closed the Summit with a private presentation on "Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation", followed by closing comments by Harley Finkelstein and C100 Co-Chairs Scott Bonham and Angela Strange. Following their remarks, guests were shuttled to the nearby home of Charter Member Don Listwin, founder of the Canary Foundation and longtime friend of the C100 who graciously invited attendees to enjoy a reception under Canadian flags and iconic California redwoods. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us in making CEO Summit a truly unforgettable event. We look forward to seeing all of you again next year! 


~ Andee Gardiner, C100 Marketing Manager