Dyne dynamic in pitch competition. Plus, a serial Seattle entrepreneur looks north up the Cascadia Corridor—and likes what he sees.

Vancouver software company Dyne won $65,000 at the Valhalla Summit after a keynote from Rahul Sood who shared his views on Canadian entrepreneurship.

Four weeks culminated in five minutes for Vancouver startup Dyne whose five-minute pitch won Thursday’s virtual Valhalla Summit.

The Summit, co-hosted by investment firms Volition and Valhalla Angels, is the crescendo of a four-week investment program that sees a roster of investors widdle down a shortlist of startups to a top five. The startups receive training, make connections and gain exposure all while trying to win investment.

Dyne, a software company whose app connects diners—hungry for both food and human connection—with others and restaurants who have empty seats, was crowned the winner. The startup bested a quartet of other BC-based firms:

  • Htu0 BioSciences, a Vancouver-based company that is investigating molecular interactions to develop “drugs for ‘undruggable’ targets”

  • Victoria-based Let-Hub, an AI platform that automates the work of rental property managers

  • Swiss Vault, a Victoria-based data management company 

  • Victoria’s VoxCell BioInnovation that is developing means to 3D bioprint tissue  

As champions, Dyne wins the main investment of $65,000 and a chance to pitch at the Valhalla Angels Monthly Forum on November 9.

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“I find the quality of entrepreneurs in Canada is really quite high.”

Seattle-based entrepreneur Rahul Sood joined the virtual event to deliver his keynote wearing a Seattle Kraken jersey. My screen would come into view a few minutes later as Sood and I were scheduled for a fireside chat after his keynote. This meant I had enough time to return serve by putting on my Canucks jersey. The interaction had me thinking about the relationship not only between the cities’ hockey teams but their relationship as tech sectors. 

To say Sood has been around the entrepreneurship block is an understatement. He is a 30-year veteran, starting his first company in 1991. After that company was acquired by computing powerhouse HP, Sood moved to Silicon Valley. Not long after, he moved to Seattle to join Microsoft. He started the company’s seed funding and startup investment program in Microsoft Ventures (now known as M12). 

The entrepreneurial bug was too strong for Sood and he was pulled back into this world through investing—he was the first investor of ZED RUN, digital racing horses purchased as NFTs—and his own companies, including Esports gambling platform Unikrn (some nominative determinism at play here, surely) and a new venture that will be announced later this month.

Given his track record and geographical proximity—Sood is a Calgarian by birth but a Seattlite by Zipcode—what were his thoughts on BC tech? 

“I find the quality of entrepreneurs in Canada is really quite high. It's usually because they have to grind it out. They can't get local funding as easily as you can in the US. Vancouver, obviously, is very strong for software and things like that. I'm always looking for interesting companies to invest in. It's really, for me, big problems that need to be solved, but in areas that I care about. Generally speaking, though, as far as being in VC, looking to Canada to invest is actually a great way to diversify your investment portfolio,” Sood shared.

To exemplify his bullishness on Canadian entrepreneurs, Sood told the story of Vrvana, a Montreal-based VR/AR company of which he was an early investor. 

“These guys were building a VR headset with cameras on the outside. So, VR with AR. And it had zero latency. It was amazing. You could test it by throwing a football across the room while the person was wearing the mask and they would catch it. I brought them out to visit Microsoft, amazing meetings. They met with Amazon, amazing meetings. But, nothing happened. Then, by chance, they visited Apple. Apple filtered through about 30 people into this meeting over a five-hour period. The last person to walk in was Jony Ive. Apple bought the company. Apple never does that, they don't buy Canadian companies and move a bunch of Canadians over to Palo Alto. But that's what happened,” Sood remarked. 

Then, an audience member asked him if there's a trait or belief that is typical for Canadian or BC entrepreneurs that could be seen as a weakness.

“Their self-doubt. They immediately discount the ecosystem,” he answered unequivocally.  “They say, ‘There's no money here.’ They give up on the fact that they can't find investments, thinking they have to go to the Valley or somewhere else. It's all crap. You shouldn't have any self-doubt whatsoever. Because everybody's accessible. The world is small. We all work from home. We're all on LinkedIn. You can call anybody from anywhere and share what you're doing. If what you're doing is really good, and you're targeting the right person, you're going to be able to get investment. So yeah, it's just self-doubt. It shouldn't be like that, because the talent in Canada is high calibre,” Sood said. 

Sood then shared one last insight from his vantage point on investing. 

[Some VCs] want it handed to them on a silver platter before they'll invest. I say, ‘Screw that.’ You don't need to do that. You need to, first of all, have a really great team. That's a key. If you're building a tech company, you need a tech team. And you need to have three disciplines: really strong business discipline with the marketing vertical, really strong creative discipline with the design and experience verticals and then a really strong engineering discipline, where you're actually coding and building backends. If you have a great idea, solving a big problem, you can easily build that team,” he noted. 

It was a treat to hear a Seattle-based entrepreneur promote the ecosystem found North of the border, even if he was wearing the wrong hockey jersey.

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