The Grow Conference and Importance of an Ecosystem

ng Connect attended the 2011 Grow Conference weeks ago in Vancouver, BC. This unique three-day conference brings together the top minds in business, entrepreneurship, technology, and capital to inspire and engage the next generation of disruptive entrepreneurs. This year was no exception – Silicon Valley and Canadian leaders and big thinkers were there sharing lessons learned and inspiring action. You could feel the entrepreneurial spirit in the room; no matter what direction you turned you’d see Facebook and Google executives among many innovative startups. Many of the topics were life lessons from seasoned innovators on how to overcome external forces while managing your internal resources.

Some speakers that stood out included Brian Wong, founder of Kiip, one of the youngest entrepreneurs ever to be funded by a venture capital firm (when Brian was just 19 years old). His current mission is to bridge the gap between the worlds of gaming and mobile networks. As founder of, he is finding new ways to create revenue streams for the gaming industry. Another standout was Munjal Shah, founder of which was recently acquired by Google. He now is the General Manager of Google Boutiques, where he runs the soft goods team (which recently launched He is passionate about creating the best fashion and luxury shopping experience in the world.

The trends we’ve seen through ng Connect were aligned with the presentations and panel discussions, which centered on the fact that technology is no longer a barrier for us to develop services. Today, the sky’s the limit. And it’s no longer the barrier for users consuming services with mobile handset devices becoming more and more powerful. The emerging trends now are not connecting to the network, but “connecting you to your network" and “experience ubiquity,” a personalized way of connecting consumers with their social networks through devices and technology.

Below are some highlights from the conference courtesy of Victoria Lennox.

  • The millennial generation entrepreneurs who grew up with technology will create lean businesses that are in the cloud, transparent, social and authentic (Debbie Landa, DealMaker Media).
  • In the past businesses where focused on location and now they’ve shifted to focusing on attention (Debbie Landa, DealMaker Media).
  • The leverage needed to accelerate business has shifted from financial leverage to social leverage (Howard Lindszon, StockTwits).
  • An innovative startup’s failure should be embraced (failure is worn like a badge of honor in Silicon Valley), when pursuing a business opportunity chose something you are passionate about. If you fail you’ll develop domain expertise. (Howard Lindszon, StockTwits).
  • We need to build a strong ecosystem for entrepreneurs in Canada, foster a culture of entrepreneurship and create a strong unified Canadian corporate brand (Senia Rapisarda VP, BDC).

Recommendations for Next Gen entrepreneurs:

  • Grow wings while you fall. You don’t go with the flow when you want to start a revolution, stand up for your ideas. Think big and build relationships” (Brian Wong, Kiip).
  • “Keep your revenue models simple and be conscious of asymmetric versus symmetric business models. Understanding your revenue model is important and focus on revenue immediately” (Munjal Shah, Google Boutiques).
  • “Think big, build and inspire great teams and celebrate failure. The mobile marketplace is happening right now, help close the gap between digital advertising and the physical stores” (Chris O’Neill, Google Canada).
  •  “Mobile is driving the global entrepreneur and most of the growth is happening in emerging markets with youth” (Rick Witham, Nokia)
  • “Technology is useful, but it really is about ecosystems and how well you are connected with them” (Derek McMullen, PayPal)

Some of my takeaways for ng Connect were that we are positioned to achieve great success through our multi-industry ecosystem that gives us visibility into all parts of the digital value chain.

The overall consensus at the conference was that a new measurement of success has emerged which is directly correlated to social commerce and experience ubiquity. If companies can demonstrate demand generation while supporting simple and pragmatic symmetric/asymmetric revenue models, they will reap the rewards of top line growth. Ecosystems have become increasingly important in order to grow your network and understand how your business impacts others within the value chain and vice versa.

Adam Stratas

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