The VC PitchFest event, which was co-hosted by OCRI and National Research Council Canada IRAP officials, allowed 14 Ottawa businesses to try to capture the interest of a VC in six minutes or less.
However, the day started with the tables being turned on the VCs, who were asked to make their own "pitch" to the local companies in attendance and explain what they're looking for in an investment.
Several common themes emerged, namely the desire to work with proven entrepreneurs who are experts in their field and backed by experienced management teams.
Companies should have real traction in a large, addressable market. Many VCs also mentioned they are looking for firms that are disrupting or defining a new sector, as opposed to being the fourth or fifth entrant into their field.
"We're looking for rock-star founders," said Gabriel Sundaram of Real Ventures. The Montreal-based VC fund has $50 million to invest in web, mobile, gaming and media businesses.
Other investors, including GrowthWorks, BDC, MaRS and OMERS, mentioned a desire for opportunities in markets that aren't overcrowded, businesses with global vision shooting for an international stage, advanced technology and a strong tech team.
Most VCs were looking for seed-stage businesses in the mobile, wireless and telecom industries.
One VC commented that her fund takes pride in its ability to exit investments, which later prompted a pointed question from an audience member.
What happens if an entrepreneur isn't interested in selling out in a few years? What happens if they're in it for the long haul?
"If you're not ever planning to exit, if you're comfortable with having only six employees, that's fine. But you're in the wrong room," responded OCRI's Mr. Lazenby. "You need to have growth."
Among the local entrepreneurs pitching was Mark Edwards, CEO of CrowdWave.
His interactive entertainment platform is installed in major arenas and stadiums, and Mr. Edwards hopes to get his system into the top 100 facilities in North America.
Currently, the Washington Capitals use CrowdWave technology for audience interaction, including a Zamboni race where the ice-surfacing vehicles are powered by the hooting and hollering generated by various sections of the stadium.
VCs don't typically show their hand at events like the PitchFest held in Ottawa, Mr. Edwards said, so he hopes to receive phone calls over the next few weeks from interested investors.
Impakt Protective's CEO Danny Crossman also pitched at the event, trying to garner some funding for his wireless impact sensor for helmets, which measures the G-force of a hit to the head.
Most of the VCs mentioned interest in "flavour-of-the-month" industries such as mobile and telecom products, but Mr. Crossman's technology is more of a real-world application, he said.
Regardless, Mr. Crossman said he thinks Impakt Protective is capable of gaining VC funding.
"Everybody gets it," he said of the technology. "Unless you've been hiding under a rock, everyone knows about concussions."
Any funds acquired will go towards the production of the product, since the technology is fully developed, he added.
PitchFest presenting companies:
Develops energy-efficient LED innovations to ease transition from fluorescent and HID light bulbs.
AddIn Social (owned by Arkli)
The first product offered by Arkli, AddIn Social is a cloud-based social platform that provides social media publishing, measuring and monitoring.
CogniLore Information Solutions
Provides information management services and content commercialization software systems. Offering the first eReading system designed for the needs of the professional publishing industry.
Specializes in image cognition processors and software algorithms for cameras used in cars and consumer devices.
Offers a motion-controlled, interactive entertainment platform for mass audiences at sponsored events such as concerts and sporting matches.
Analyzes real-time pricing data to find the best deals on computers and electronics from stores including Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart.
Its product, Shockbox, is a wireless impact sensor for helmets, sending signals to computers or smartphones indicating the G-force of a hit to the helmet and likelihood of concussion.
A mobile app platform that maximizes social activity, metrics and location, and offers a loyalty program to earn points from usage.
Conducts real-time consumer analytics for web, mobile and server applications.
A ride-sharing system that helps companies reduce parking costs, improve employee satisfaction and reduce emissions.
Helps companies create personalized content online without having to create an IT team or do any coding.
A user-friendly online bridal registry allowing guests to make gift purchases online and "chip in" on more expensive items.
Provides identity verification and fraud reduction technology through mobile devices.
YOU i Labs
Provides a Natural User Interface platform to device manufacturers, enabling intuitive and interactive user experiences.
PitchFest versus the Ontario Venture Summit
The Ontario Venture Summit took a bow in 2010, after 13 years of providing money and mentoring to local tech companies.
The annual event was cancelled to make way for smaller, more specialized events hosted by OCRI.
"We'd like to connect (the investment community) with growing and emerging companies in ways that are a bit more fluid, and it'll be less about a big summit," said Michelle Scarborough, the former vice-president of OCRI's investment and commercialization group, in a previous interview with OBJ after news of the OVS's cancellation.
Larger venture events are time-consuming to plan and presenting companies may have already landed investments by the time the event transpires, said Bruce Raganold, director of business development for Welch LLP and an attendee at the PitchFest event. VCs may have already invested their money, he added.
Previously, VCs were asked to attend an event that might span three days, sit through a large number of presentations, and then perhaps not even make an investment.
Smaller, nimble events such as the recent PitchFest can be more timely and focused on industry sectors or business stages, Mr. Raganold added, and VCs are more likely to plan a trip where they can see more specialized deals they would actually consider.