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The eternal struggle of start-ups: do we have money for that?

Sales conferences might seem like a splurge in comparison to your usual spending. But during the early stages of scaling, these events are the opposite. They help accelerate your growth by: 

  • Connecting you with potential investors
  • Giving you an opportunity to practice and refine your pitch
  • Providing you with the chance for face-to-face interaction with your ICP
  • Exposing you to regional, national and international markets

We’ve experienced the benefits of these conferences first-hand. In 2018, we attended StartupFest with a plan for SalesRight, some t-shirts and a lot of radical belief that being surrounded by the start-up community would help us get off the ground. We were right — attending our first conference helped us define our plan, connect with investors, hear directly from our ICP and gain confidence in scaling. 

Flash forward 1 year, we came back to StartupFest after 5 months of operation. In that time we’ve helped our clients close over half a million dollars in deals, while expanding our team in both skills (developers, marketing, customer experience and more) and location (hailing from Vancouver, Toronto, London and Halifax). 

I know that attending our first conference was critical for our growth, which is why I want to encourage you to take the plunge and find a conference that can help you grow. Here are our top recommendations for Canadian SaaS conferences that every founder should attend in 2019-2020:

Startupfest 

“Small enough to meet who you need to meet, big enough that everybody’s there”

The Details:

  • 4 day festival in Montreal, QC in July
  • Up to $1,000,000 in prizes and investment available
  • Featuring globally-renowned speakers, pitching and investment opportunities, one-on-one sessions, and lots of fun
  • Check out their website here

The Best Part: The Grandmother’s Choice Award. 

Looking for honest feedback? Look no further than the Grandmothers of Startupfest. This feisty group of grandmothers with business backgrounds regularly have some of the longest queues at the festival, and for good reason. They’ll tell you exactly what they think and leave you with tons of food for thought.

Fact: The 2012 winner of the Grandmother’s Choice Award, Onavo, sold to Facebook for $150 million

The Underrated Benefit: Inclusion Initiative

Startupfest’s Inclusion Initiative is a program “dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs from underserved, and underrepresented communities to the opportunities they need and deserve.” They offer a 90% ticket discount for Canadian women working in tech, exclusive investment opportunity and major prizes, and break-out boot camps and workshops.

Collision Conference

“North America’s fastest-growing tech conference”

The Details:

  • 4 day conference in Toronto, ON in June
  • 25,000+ attendees from over 125 countries
  • Features a dedicated startup program that allows you to exhibit to attendees and media, pitch to investors and attend workshops and master classes
  • Check out their website here

The Best Part: SaaS Monster

SaaS Monster is a subsidy of Collision, which means your Collision ticket gets you in to these SaaS-specific events. The event delivers four curated content streams exploring the pillars and challenges of today’s business: cloud computing, big data, enterprise technology and security. In the midst of a huge event like Collision, SaaS Monster is a great way to ensure face-time with your SaaS peers and time exploring topics closely aligned to your needs. You’re likely to connect with peers that attend other SaaS events, so it’s a great opportunity to build connections that will carry over conference season. 

The Underrated Benefit: Sensory Overload

The bad news: you will never be able to experience all that Collision has to offer because there is so much you can do. 

The good news: this isn’t your typical “follow the crowd” conference — you can make the conference your own by doing what you want, not what’s prescribed. The trick to mastering Collision is mapping out the speakers and events you’re interested in attending ahead of time  — but you may have to fight for chairs at the most popular events. 2019 saw engaging presentations from celebrities like Seth Rogan, Joseph Gordan Levitt and Timbaland and keynotes from industry leaders including Ev Williams (Founder and CEO, Medium), David Eun (Chief Innovation Officer & President of Samsung NEXT at Samsung Electronics) and Peggy Johnson (Executive Vice President, Business Development at Microsoft). 

SAAS NORTH

“SAAS NORTH brings the entire Canadian SaaS ecosystem under one roof.”

The Details:

  • 2 day conference in Ottawa, ON in November
  • 1750+ attendees 
  • Networking with 600+ Canadian companies, industry leaders, investors in one-on-one, group and conference-wide forums
  • Check out their website here

The Best Part: Scale Up

If your priority is growth, this is where you need to be. Every aspect of this conference is designed to give you tools to grow. Keynotes from industry leaders break down the top trends in the industry, while workshops provide strategies for growth measurement, strategic hiring, marketing and more. 

The Underrated Benefit: Work Hard, Play Hard

SAAS NORTH keeps everyone’s priorities straight with scheduled time for serious business and serious fun. You’ll take part in mingling and happy hours, and an event so iconic it is simply called “The Party”.

Traction Conference

“Traction Conf brings you actionable strategies and tactics for supercharging your growth, straight from founders and leaders of some of the fastest growing companies.”

The Details:

  • 2 day conference in Vancouver, BC in August
  • Connect with Fortune 500 leaders, founders, investors, and media
  • Workshop sessions led by executives and thought leaders in top SaaS companies, who can teach you all their secrets of scaling 
  • Check out their website here

The Best Part: So. Much. Knowledge

What makes Traction Conf unique is most of the session time slots aren’t double-booked — which means you can attend almost every session Traction offers — especially if you bring a team. The timeslots that do have competing sessions tend to have topics with opposite focuses, which makes it easy to pick the sessions you need. 

The Underrated Benefit: Supporting Local Tech Growth

Your ticket to Traction Conf supports local growth in tech. Vancouver-based Launch Academy, the non-profit behind Traction Conf. is the leading tech incubator in Western Canada. BC Tech Association reports “Since 2012, Launch Academy has helped over 400 companies and they’ve collectively raised over $80 million dollars and created over 750 jobs.”

Whether you pick an event because of its location, speaker list, investment opportunities or price, you will need to strategically plan your trip to make the most of what the conference has to offer. 

Here’s what we’ve learned about making the most of these events:

Break out the swag. No, not the attitude — we’re talking apparel! Eye-catching shirts and hats are a great conversation starter. We know from experience — our shirts caught the eye of stand-up comedian and sales expert Jon Selig this year at Startupfest. In his words, “When I saw t-shirts with the word “sales” in it, I felt like I was in my element (ie at a sales conference). I HAD to introduce myself to the gang from #Halifax’s SalesRight.”

Expect to be overwhelmed. Your weak points will become prevalent quickly, especially as you become surrounded by comparable companies with different levels of success. Recording your observation and having honest conversations with your team are great ways to combat feeling overwhelmed in the moment, and offer great points of reflection once it’s all said and done.

Know your pitch inside and out. Your pitch is more than a presentation you give on stage. It is the key messaging of your company that you want people to remember. It affects every conversation you have with founders, investors, peers and media. Having your whole team on the same page about your pitch, and working diligently to practice it, will help you have effective conversations that can build relationships outside of the conference.

Listen as much as you talk. These events are more than an opportunity to pitch and push your company. Everyone is attending to better themselves and their companies. You never know what conversation will lead to an idea breakthrough, partnership, or investment opportunity. As much as you want to push your own agenda, make sure to genuinely listen and learn from every conversation you have.

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CONTACT

 

SalesRight ℅ Volta Labs

Unit 100, 1505 Barrington Street

Halifax, Nova Scotia

B3J 3K5

Canada

 

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