November marks the one year anniversary of that desperate moment that proceeds success. Only hindsight makes this statement true as failure is also proceeded by the same desperate moment. It was a time where hope was challenged, success was no longer on the horizon, yet, we kept holding on. We didn’t quit.
People ask me how we did it. How did we hold on when others started to give up on us? I found it fascinating that some people appeared to get a perverse sense of comfort from watching us struggle. I also found eternal gratefulness to those who guided us and stood beside us during those challenging days.
But when it came down to it, it was really about every relentless inch. We had no idea if the things we tried would move us closer to success or perhaps take us backwards. We just knew one thing – we had to wake up every day and do something. The small things added up and were manageable to action. Those inches demonstrated to ourselves, and the people we needed to reach, that we were relentless. We weren’t going away.
My co-founder would always tell me that we could do 10 more push ups. And we did. He would always have these crazy ass creative ideas that would immediately send me into exhaustion but I knew he was brilliant and, if I executed on his ideas, we would get one more inch closer.
One of our favourite rituals that I enjoy sharing is that we would toast our week’s accomplishments every Friday late in the afternoon over chicken wings and beer at our neighbourhood pub. Some weeks we had awesome things to celebrate while other times we simply celebrated the fact that we cycled our butts into the office through rain and snow. Reminding ourselves of every little inch and ending the week on a positive note was nothing short of powerful. It was a recipe for success.
We believed, never gave up and hustled for every inch. So here we are today…one year on and life is pretty okay.
Author: Whitney Rockley
This is the necklace I wore every day from June '13 to Dec '14. My daughter, who was 10 at the time, gave it to me when things got tough.
Long Awaited Cash Infusion for Canada's Entrepreneurial Growth Engine - Major Investment from Private Sector and Government
Montreal, Quebec --- (Oct 30, 2014) - Two years after Canada's Minister of Finance launched consultations to increase domestic venture capital dollars in Canada, and 19 months since Prime Minister Harper released details of both the key findings and the Government's $400 million Venture Capital Action Plan (VCAP), the second fund-of-funds manager has finally been announced. Montreal-based Teralys Capital has held a significant $279 million first close of Teralys Capital Innovation Fund LP. Teralys is Canada's largest venture capital fund-of-funds manager.
The new pool of capital will finance private venture capital funds, that in turn, invest in information technology, life sciences, and cleantech companies across Canada. "Teralys is, once again, well positioned to help lead the Canadian Venture capital industry towards a strong future", said Scott MacDonald, Co-founder of McRock Capital. "Access to venture capital is critical for Canadian entrepreneurs building world-class technology companies. A healthy and successful venture capital industry is absolutely necessary if Canada is to keep pace in the global innovation race."
Teralys Capital Innovation Fund is an investment partnership between the Federal Government's VCAP program, the Government of Quebec and the private sector. Teralys is pegging its final close of the fund in 2015 with maximum commitments from the Governments of Canada and Quebec of $62.5 million each. As part of the VCAP mandate, Teralys was required to attract private sector investors to leverage the Government's investment.
In a page out of Silicon Valley's history, a successful Canadian technology entrepreneur, Jonathan Ross Goodman, through his new company, Knight Therapeutics (TSX:GUD), is using the proceeds from a successful exit to invest back into the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem. On October 28th, Knight Therapeutics announced it had invested $30 million into the new Teralys fund. Goodman's previous company, Paladin Labs, was recently acquired for over $3 billion by Endo Health Solutions. Knight Therapeutics is providing the much needed capital at the top of the venture capital food chain and is giving Canada a chance to spawn and accelerate new startups across the country.
This much needed funding comes at a critical time for Canada's domestic venture capital industry which has struggled for the past decade with a some some rare exceptions. According to the CVCA, the amount of capital raised by VC funds declined in the second quarter of 2014 by a whopping 71% to a paltry $112 million versus the same quarter last year. By comparison, the NVCA reported that the US venture capital industry raised $7.4 billion in the second quarter of 2014. It is anticipated that capital flows from the VCAP program will stimulate long-term venture capital investment in Canada.
Other investors in the new Teralys fund include:
In January of this year, the first of the four new federally funded private sector-led fund-of-funds, Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund, was launched with $217.5 million of funding. There was no mention in today's announcement by Finance Mister Joe Oliver of the anticipated two remaining VCAP fund managers. "We are thrilled by today's announcement from the Federal Government and Teralys", said Whitney Rockley, Co-founder of McRock Capital. "If Canada is to foster entrepreneurial high-growth companies and corporate Canada is to remain globally competitive, a strong and vibrant domestic venture capital industry is of paramount importance."
McRock Capital is an investment firm co-founded by venture capital veterans Scott MacDonald and Whitney Rockley and invests exclusively in Industrial Internet of Things companies across Canada and the US. The Industrial Internet of Things is about the intersection of machines, sensors & deep analytic software in large industrial markets. Follow McRock Capital on Twitter @McRockCapital
Tel (647) 478-9337
Last summer when I wrote the blog “No, This Is Not My Boyfriend’s Computer”, I embarked on a mission to understand resiliency. When I think of resiliency, I am not talking about how people overcome everyday challenges but rather how people overcome life altering challenges. When facing adversity, why is it that some people stand back up and thrive while others don’t? Why do some people fall victim to circumstances while others push forward, stay positive and figure things out?
My quest to understand resiliency started because of three reasons. One, I met Ping Fu, the founder of Geomagic, at a GE Leading & Learning Event in NY. Her story of persistence in the face of adversity is simply incredible. Two, I judged a First Robotics competition and saw underprivileged kids triumph against kids that were given every luxury to succeed. Third, I started my own company, McRock Capital, my dream and passion and in order to be successful, I needed to be resilient.
My first revelation is that the topic of resiliency is a fairly new area of investigation. Researchers have been trying to figure out why some people are more resilient than others and whether we can learn to be more resilient.
Here is what I found. Resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly and thrive in constant change. They are inherently positive, empathetic and have confidence they will bounce back even though they may feel totally overwhelmed at first. They take responsibility for their actions, think through consequences and have a certain level of self-control and discipline. They allow themselves to feel grief, anger, loss and confusion but they don’t let it become a permanent state. When we fall, which we all do, resilient people don’t automatically say “here we go again…I am failing” or “that idiot, his actions have ruined my life and made me miserable”. The resilient person says “what can I learn from this experience so I can do it better next time.”
Researchers know that resilient people are less likely to become ill during difficult times. They heal and bounce back stronger than before. They give their families a better chance of bouncing back from tough situations and even help their communities get through hard times. But one of the most interesting findings I read was that researchers believe that experience trumps genetics. The key is to find your passion and purpose in life.
When I think of the entrepreneurs I have known that have demonstrated incredible resiliency and achieved outstanding success, they had, without a shadow of a doubt, an incredible passion and purpose in life. Many of them also stared adversity in the face at a young age and bulldozed through it. They did not give up because they couldn't out of necessity. They didn’t have a safety net. They didn’t have parents running to their side to rescue them. They had to figure things out for themselves. Self-managed learning is one of the cornerstones required to being resilient.
As I was doing this research I realized that I loved the underdog. The person who defies all odds and wins (like Ping Fu) or the robotics team from Runnymede Collegiate, the inner city school that kicked the butts of the private schools. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I prefer to work with resilient underdogs and, on the other end of the spectrum, I want to tornado kick the parents who call in a favours to get their kids jobs.
I do know one thing for sure. Resilient people don’t give up. They are unstoppable, relentless and possess all the great attributes characterized by researchers. The resilient underdog is the royal flush.
Author: Whitney Rockley
 Dr. Al Siebert, The Resiliency Advantage
 Dr. Robert Brooks, The Power of Resiliency
It's that exhilarating moment when you have mastered a skill to the point where you take it to the next level...and you want people to see it. As a venture capitalist I have an appreciation and respect for business operators that crank their businesses to not only achieving revenue growth but also profitability.
When it comes to the creation of shareholder wealth, there is much debate over growth metrics vs revenue (let alone profitability). I have no desire to tackle this argument here but I can tell you I like revenue and profitability. Too often companies that have developed great products and have paying customers still have an addiction to continuous equity injections to sustain operations.
If your company is experiencing any of the following symptoms, beware:
1) Yet another new CEO;
2) Not enough board room chairs for investors; and
3) Any round of financing beyond the letter "C".
We live in a world where a select group of technology companies can create significant value by simply leveraging their viral coefficient. For all the rest, revenues must grow and eventually lead to profitability or wealth creation never materializes. I recently experienced an exhilarating moment in a company's evolution from start-up. I have been a Director of Pure Technologies (TSX:PUR) for a number of years and on March 13th, the company announced its first ever dividend. The company's news release states, "We are generating strong free cash flow from our operations in addition to growing recurring revenues...we are pleased to be in a position where we can begin to return a portion of our free cash flow to our shareholders on a regular basis.This significant announcement reflects our confidence in our ability to enhance shareholder return while continuing with investments important to our growth."
What can one say about any company that delivers growth AND Yield. Wait for it..."Look Ma, No Hands!"
Author: Scott MacDonald
I have been investing in the Oil & Gas industry throughout my career and for the past decade have periodically come across reports on The Digital Oilfield. Surprisingly, there aren’t as many digital oilfield studies out there as you might think given the mainstream technological advancements in other industries.
The digital oilfield is a broad term with a big, and some could say, endless vision. Critics say the idea is old yet still a concept. Supporters say a lot of innovation has occurred but we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. It's important to highlight what has changed over the past few years and why O&G is at a technology tipping point.
First let’s level set. The O&G industry is digitally quite advanced. Technicians use remote sensors to log well conditions. They access wireless communication systems that link subsurface and above ground networks to make production decisions remotely. It all sounds pretty high-tech but there is a step-change of innovation about to happen. Mainstream technology is now moving into all aspects of heavy industry – O&G included.
Let me use Royal Dutch Shell, as a single example of how three disruptive mainstream technology trends are changing the industry.
Cloud Computing: Cloud computing allows us to gather and analyze much larger amounts of data at a lower cost than was ever possible. It adds IT capabilities quickly without the need to invest in expensive infrastructure. To perform software analytics on these massive datasets, Shell turned to Hadoop, an open-sourced software for distributed computing, and the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud. Using Amazon, Shell was able to provision a private, isolated section of the Amazon cloud where it could launch resources in a virtual network. Hadoop and the Amazon cloud allow Shell to effectively access the necessary infrastructure to compute and store the big data collected.
Growth in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): BYOD is making significant inroads in the business world with about 44% of employees in developed markets already using their own technology at work. Shell is undertaking a significant BYOD project which will see it supporting around 135,000 devices chosen by users rather than dictated by Shell’s IT department. Shell’s shift to become a BYOD outfit is aimed at attracting young talent and this trend will enable the emergence of industrial apps.
In my opinion, the industry has already embraced the digital oilfield. However there is an acceleration in capabilities that will have a profound impact on a company's ability to remain globally competitive. Let's drill for software.
Author: Whitney Rockley
reputation on the line for a new cause. Financial risk means you are willing to put your family’s savings and equity on the line to build something from scratch. For those of you who have never taken both personal and financial risk, you are not an entrepreneur. For those of you that have, FAN-FRIGGIN-TASTIC!
Entrepreneurs have such an unhealthy level of commitment because they are fully responsible for success or failure. Failure is ugly and failure hurts – it is not something to celebrate but rather something to learn from.
So ask yourself a few simple questions:
Put another way, if you negotiated a base salary before your first day of work, you are not an entrepreneur. If you work within a larger organization and have responsibility for a business within that organization, you are not an entrepreneur. If you have steadily increased your net worth through hard work but never sold or mortgaged those assets for your business, you are not an entrepreneur but you are likely an excellent operator. Being an operator is a good thing but call a spade a spade.
The BS radar goes off when an entrepreneur encounters a poser. Unless you have lived it, you can’t claim it. So if you invest in entrepreneurs and are not one yourself, surround yourself with a few that have a clue. Having half a clue is better than just being a pathetic poser.
Author: Whitney Rockley
Have you ever had one of those days that you can’t shake out of your head? A day where you hear someone tell a story and it moves you in a really big way? I had one of those days. And the woman that moved me was Ping Fu.
She came on stage with hot pink wedged shoes that she had made on her 3D printer. Her demeanor was soft yet focused. Her story remarkable. She was taken away from her family at the age of 8 to live in a labour campus during the Cultural Revolution in China while caring for her younger sister. She started to work in a factory at the age of 9, was raped at 10 and labelled a broken shoe. She persevered for ten long years. In 1983 the police asked Ping to leave the country and in 1984 she scraped enough money to buy a one-way ticket to the US and eventually studied computer science. She worked day and night as a programmer for Resource Systems Group and Bell Labs. Later she founded a 3D software company, Geomagic, secured venture funding and sold the company to 3D Systems. She is the definition of iconic.
Listening to her, I wondered why some of us go on and do great things while others don’t. Why is it that some people can persevere against adversity while others completely crack? And even if we break, why is it that some of us can dust ourselves off and stand back up while others stay down?
I think people who persevere against adversity have a “whatever the F**k it takes” attitude. They are beyond stubborn and have a relentless level of curiosity. They are passionate – they love what they do and follow their instincts because not following it is not an option. Ping Fu said, “When I first saw a 3D printer, I felt like I fell in love for the first time”. Passion makes people unstoppable even when life tries to break them.
That day I also met Brenda Barnes, Kegan Schouwenburg, Angela Ahrendts and Sheryl Sandberg – all of which have amazing stories and unstoppable passion. These women, and many others, have supernatural resiliency and courage. And I realized in many cases there is a common theme. People who are incredibly successful have faced adversity, usually at a young age, and have somehow figured out how to overcome it. They dig deep inside of themselves. They then apply this perseverance to other parts of their lives, whether it be their careers, themselves or their family.
So then I started to think about this question in the context of women in business. Why don’t we see more C-level and board level women in business and, specifically, in tech? Why are there not more Ping Fu’s?
Women hold more degrees than men and make-up 58% of the professional workforce yet only 15% hold C-level and board positions in the corporate sector. So is it really a numbers game? There are many women in the work place but the odds are against them as they rise in the ranks.
Interestingly in tech we know, on average, only 1 in 5 computer scientists are women. We know that teenage girls use computers and the Internet as much as boys but are 5x’s less likely to consider a tech-related career. So how can we get more girls passionate about technology and business? Tech needs to be “girl-cool”. My daughter downloads completely different apps than my son yet boys are developing most of the apps, not girls. How do I get her to start thinking about developing those apps that Wow her? How do I introduce tech to her in an exciting way? When Ping Fu was asked this question, she said that every school needs a 3D printer for children to play with. I believe girls, including my daughter, could find it fun creating mobile apps and designing jewellery and other fashion accessories on 3D printers.
There are now clubs and resources emerging to entice girls and women that want exposure to coding: Girl Geeks Toronto, Stemettes, Femgineer, Women & Tech, Ladies Learning to Code, Entrepreneur First: Code First Girls, Lady Geek and more. The only thing is that my daughter doesn’t like the word “Geek” and she would raise an eyebrow if I said I signed her up to go to a Geek Club, even though I know these groups are amazingly cool. She’d probably consider going to a Cool-Girl Coding Club instead.
I end with a story that Ping Fu’s father shared with her. Ping Fu’s Shanghai Papa taught her about how their garden had plants for each season and there was a story behind each plant. He walked over to the bamboo and explained that it was flexible, capable of bending but never breaking. It symbolizes resilience. Her father grabbed a stalk of bamboo, bent it towards her and tickled her nose. Let’s do that to our girls. Let’s tickle them with tech.
Author: Whitney Rockley
The term 'unicorn' has become replacement jargon for what old school venture capitalists called the 'home run'. Granted the level of success required to qualify as a home run has been amped and the term unicorn refers to the rare startup that grows to a $billion+ valuation. Think @Uber or @WhatsApp.
Recently there has been a growing swell of interest and concern around the lack of female partners in venture capital firms. Earlier this year, @danprimack wrote a great article for Fortune Magazine entitled Venture Capital's Stunning Lack of Female Decision-Makers. The article found that just 4% of senior voting partners at venture capital firms are women. According to the NVCA, even if you include non-investment female partners (marketing, CFO), that number only grows to 11%. A recent study on women in the Canadian VC landscape was equally dismal. For comparison, in other industries structured as partnerships, such as law or accounting firms, women represent between 16% - 21% of partners.
Then it hit me...like a large man dressed as a mystical animal wearing a pink fanny pack. I'm the unicorn in VC land. Despite the reports of female scarcity, I have lots of experience working with and for female decision-makers during my 15 year VC career. In my 20s, I had female peers at the Associate and VP level. In my 30s, I reported to a female VC Partner (and CEO). I also requested her over the male partner that I was initially to report to. The first VC firm that I was promoted to a voting partner had 2 women out of 5 partners. In my 40s, I co-founded my own venture capital firm, McRock Capital, with a woman who is hands-down one of the best and brightest VCs I had ever worked with.
Cisco and OpenText have both recently stepped up in a major way to fund innovation in Canada and, man, do we love them for it!
Canada is viewed globally as one of the greatest countries in the world to foster innovation. Just yesterday, Cisco Systems announced the Cisco Canada Innovation Program, a strategy to invest $150 million to make a combination of investments in venture capital funds, incubators and direct deals.
“We believe the Cisco Canada Innovation Program is a great opportunity to help fund and mentor start-up companies, foster innovation and help Canada be recognized as one of the most innovative countries in the world.” Nitin Kawale, President, Cisco Canada
It was with great pride that we listened to San Jose-based Hilton Romanski, Senior Vice President, Corporate Business Development of Cisco Systems, explain why his company sees Canada as ripe for innovation and worthy of this $150 million funding program. This is exactly the private capital vote of confidence the Canadian ecosystem needs. Cisco was approached by the Canadian Government to be part of the VCAP Program announced by Premier Harper back in January 2013 but decided it had the expertise and desire to contribute directly and at an accelerated pace.
We also salute OpenText for its continued innovation leadership. Waterloo-based OpenText is Canada's largest software company and continues to drive innovation in this country. With revenues approaching $2 billion annually, OpenText announced that it was the lead industry sponsor in the VCAP Program and a direct investor in a $100 million OpenText Enterprise Applications Venture Fund. Very cool for our Canadian app developer community.
Mark J. Barrenechea, OpenText's President & CEO, said it well...“OpenText is committed to supporting Canadian innovation by helping to level the playing field for global competition."
Cisco and OpenText - We salute you! You (Mc)ROCK!
Author: Scott MacDonald
Proud to be a Cisco Champion #CiscoChampion
Nitin Kawale, the CEO of Cisco Canada, has piled on two more major announcements since we first declared this tech giant as the most important tech company for Canada's future. Lending his strong commitment to Canada is Cisco's Corporate President, Rob Lloyd, who resides in California but is a Canadian and the former GM of Cisco Canada.
The most recent announcement was one that will have a profound impact on the entrepreneurial activity around a trend called the Internet of Things. Cisco will set up a $100 million “Internet of Everything” (IoE) innovation lab in Toronto where other companies and entrepreneurs can innovate technology aimed at connecting machines-to-machines when it moves into its new Canadian headquarters next year.
This is a major coup for Cisco's Canadian division, as Toronto will be the only North American IoE lab and joins Songdo, South Korea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and a yet-unnamed German city as one of only four global IoE innovation labs. Cisco Toronto was chosen in part because of the success of an intelligent building lab opened at its current headquarters in 2012.
“The Internet of Everything is a U.S. $19 trillion global opportunity over the next decade, including almost $500 billion available to Canadian private and public sector organizations,” said Cisco's Rob Lloyd. “Today much of that opportunity is left on the table. Cisco Innovation labs help to accelerate and catalyze IoE opportunities for our customers by developing partnerships and expertise in key verticals.”
"Cisco is moving aggressively to drive innovation in this country," said Nitin Kawale. "Less than one per cent of devices that can be connected to each other actually are...Toronto will be the place where we pioneer and look to build the 'Internet of Everything."
This announcement comes after Cisco promised to spend up to $4 billion to expand Cisco operations in Toronto and create up to 1,700 new jobs.
In addition to $4.1 billion, Cisco is helping Canada become a leader in the next Internet revolution. If you thought incredible things have happened by connecting 2 billion people to the Internet, wait to see what happens when 50 billion devices connect.
Author: Scott MacDonald
Founders of McRock Capital.