GGV’s Bonham takes on co-chair role at C100

The C100 is just four years old, but it has achieved an impressive track record in that short time.

The nonprofit—which aims to bring like-minded Canadian entrepreneurs and executives together in Silicon Valley through its programs, such as 48 Hours in the Valley—reported that startups connected to it have raised US$700 million in venture funding since the C100 launched in 2010.

That’s great news for Scott Bonham, a founding partner at GGV Capital, who has begun serving as co-chair of the organization. Bonham replaces Lars Leckie, managing director at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, and joins current co-chair Katherine Barr, a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures.

Bonham, who’s from Ontario and earned a bachelor’s degree from Queen’s University, said that his priorities as co-chair are to help promote the successes of Canadian technology innovation, whether they’re in Canada or elsewhere.

“Canadian-founded startups touch millions of people around the world, and we want to extend the brand awareness around our entrepreneurs so that when they’re building the next billion-dollar company, the ‘Made in Canada’ designation opens doors for them,” he said.

Bonham noted, as does everyone involved with the C100, that there are some 300,000 Canadians in Silicon Valley, many of whom are corporate executives, founders of tech startups and investors in the venture community.

“Outside of Canada, California has the largest population of Canadians,” Bonham said. “Many are in the entertainment industry in Southern California, but many more are here in the Silicon Valley tech community.”

Although there might be more Canadians working in the Valley than many folks realize, it’s hardly a secret that tech companies in Canada are worth taking a look at.

After languishing in relative obscurity for more than a decade, Canadian tech startups and their venture backers have gained plenty of notice in the last couple of years. And not just from other Canadians.

San Francisco-based Salesforce purchased at least three young Canadian companies a couple of years ago, Rypple, Radian6 and GoInstant. (By the way, the C100 executive charter members represent many large Bay Area-based companies, including Salesforce.)

And many brand-name VC firms—Accel Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Union Square Ventures and Sequoia Capital —have trekked up to the Great White North in search of opportunities in recent years.

One of the more notable deals came last August when HootSuite announced a US$165 million Series B round led by Insight Venture Partners and joined by Accel and OMERS Ventures. Early investor Blumberg Capital from San Francisco said it earned a 52x return after just four years from its investment in HootSuite.

Bonham talked recently with peHUB Canada about the C100 and the growth of Canadian tech startups.

Scott-Bonham.HeadshotQ: Is there any hot sector or startup trend you’re seeing take off in Canada or with Canadian entrepreneurs?

A: No, not really. It’s across the board. A big theme taking place is the Internet of things, which is transcending every company. Everything is connected, from cars to mobile devices. Every VC firm is looking at the theme of the Internet of things.

But for the C100, there’s plenty of innovation happening around the world in multiple sectors.

Q. In terms of geography, is there a place in Canada that’s hot on your radar?

A: There’s activity countrywide. But I believe we’re going to see a Diaspora from RIM [now called BlackBerry] in the Waterloo and Toronto areas. I suspect we’ll see more startup activity from people who were associated with RIM. We’re already seeing that with the Fueling Station at Liberty Village in Toronto. It’s a shared office space environment with a lot of entrepreneurial activity.

Also, with the reduced cost of launching companies these days, capital is no longer an impediment. That’s true in the U.S. and Canada. And I believe that more people formerly tied to RIM will be looking at launching their own startup.

Q: What’s your advice for Canadian entrepreneurs wanting to raise capital and launch their startups?

A: Think bigger. A lot of entrepreneurs I meet with in Canada want to be the biggest. In Canada. Yes, that’s a great goal, but it’s a big world out there. They should aim to build a billion-dollar global company. It’s been proven it can be done. So think big.

We have to expose more of them [entrepreneurs] to that idea.

It’s true that the VC scene in Canada is not as vibrant as it is here [in Silicon Valley]. But yes, there are plenty of U.S. firms looking at Canadian companies.

Take GGV Capital, for example. We’re based here, but we invest in many Chinese companies that are looking for international growth and a global perspective. It’s the same thing.

As the Canadian ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors grows, many people here [in Silicon Valley] will realize that the best ideas are not always in your own backyard.

Photo of Canadian flag on keyboard from Shutterstock

Photo of Scott Bonham courtesy of C100

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