Search for "next big thing" coming to Ottawa

The first 60 seconds are the key to a successful pitch, says an author and longtime tech investor who rolls through the capital Wednesday on a five-city book tour and pitch competition.

“The entrepreneur needs to say what they’re doing and why I care and if they get those two points across in the first minute, they’re off to a good start,” Brad Feld says from a hotel room in Winnipeg, where the tour begins Monday night.

Mr. Feld, co-founder of venture capital firm Foundry Group and startup accelerator Techstars, both based in Boulder, Colo., has written a book with famed business mentor Sean Wise called Startup Opportunities: Know When to Quit Your Day Job.

“I think when you’re so obsessed with this thing that you’re thinking about that you can’t not do it anymore,” Mr. Feld says, answering the obvious question that comes with the book’s title.

Mr. Feld says the idea for the book came from a question he says he gets asked all the time as an investor.

“I’d send them away to read other books about starting a company and ramping up your startup, and they’d come back and often say, ‘Yeah, that was great, but is this a good idea?’” he said.

The five-city tour will also include stops in Waterloo, Toronto and Montreal. The Canadian tour was prompted by the fact that Mr. Wise, a professor at Ryerson University, is Canadian, and Mr. Feld’s 2012 book Startup Communities did well in Canada.

The authors are doing more than plugging their latest book. According to a press release, they are also looking for “the next big thing,” and Mr. Feld says he has no idea what that is.

“The joy of the notion of creating companies is that often times the next big thing is completely unexpected,” he says.

The Ottawa event Wednesday will be held at noon at the Robert C. Gillett Student Commons Theatre and will feature student entrepreneurs. One, Dmitry Klishch, is studying at Algonquin.

“You can’t even imagine how big it is,” the 20-year-old says when asked about the opportunity that lies ahead.

Mr. Klishch is co-founder and chief technical officer of Active Bionics, which is developing next-generation assistive and rehabilitative exoskeletons to help people walk.

“You don’t get this chance every day,” he says, adding this will be the 10th pitch he has made and will be the best one thanks to the mentoring he has received from Andrew Jackson at L-Spark. The Kanata-based incubator and accelerator is one of the hosts of the event. It also preselected the student entrepreneurs.

Mr. Klishch, who was inspired to build his exoskeleton after watching the movie Iron Man as a 12-year-old, has worked eight years to get to this point.

Queen’s University student Chris Labelle will also be there to pitch the firm he co-founded, Mosaic Manufacturing.

Mosaic’s product allows colour 3D printing on a single colour printer. Mr. Labelle says Mr. Feld, who was an early investor in 3D printing with Makerbot, has been on his radar for a while.

“It’s not very common that we get to pitch to an investor that has experience in the desktop 3D printing space, let alone experience with arguably the most successful company in the space,” says Mr. Labelle from Montreal, where his nine-month-old company is currently enrolled in the Founders Fuel accelerator.

Mr. Feld and Mr. Wise will hear 20 pitches across the country. One will end up with a $25,000 investment from Ryerson Ventures.

But both Mr. Klishch and Mr. Labelle know Mr. Feld and Mr. Wise won’t be the only ones listening to their pitches. They could attract attention from other investors in the audience, and Mr. Feld says he could very well end up interested in more than just the one pitch that inevitably wins the competition.

“There is always the chance for bonus points,” he says.