I spent last Thursday up in Vancouver BC at GrowConf (thanks again to Boris Wertz and Debbie Landa for the kick in the pants) and was incredibly impressed both by the quality of folks who showed up, and by the overall energy of the scene up there.
Andy and I created Founders Co-op to help build early stage companies located in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to our many Seattle-area portfolio companies we have two great investments in Portland (Urban Airship and AppFog), and have been working with Renny Gleeson and Rick Turoczy to create a Portland-based accelerator program (PIE) that will hopefully lead to more.
From the beginning, we thought of Vancouver as “in bounds” for our investment activity, but after three years and more than 25 investments we still haven’t placed a bet north of the border.
Shame on us.
Thanks to a warm welcome from folks like Boris and Deb, Ian Bell of AppSocial, Jason Bailey at GrowLab, Brent Holliday of Capital West Partners, Kenshi Arasaki and Wilkins Chung at A Thinking Ape and may others, I met more great entrepreneurs in one beautiful Vancouver day than I had in my last five trips to the Bay Area.
I came away from GrowConf with a clear sense that “Cascadia” – from Portland in the south, through Seattle and on up to Vancouver – is quietly becoming one of the world’s best regions for software innovation and entrepreneurial success.
Vancouver has been even more starved for early-stage capital and media attention than the Seattle or Portland markets, but that hasn’t stopped it from building fast-growing, disruptive and (best of all) highly profitable companies like Plenty of Fish, A Thinking Ape and HootSuite.
In many ways, the lack of resources and attention has made the scene in Vancouver tougher, grittier and more self-sufficient than the bubbly markets to the south. As in Seattle, some locals lament the lack of attention, but my bet is that it’s built deeper, stronger roots that will serve the community well over the long haul.
We still haven’t made an investment north of the border, but based on my recent experience there that market has my full attention now, and I’ve never been more excited about the opportunities for Founders Co-op as an on-ramp for Cascadia’s best young entrepreneurs.