One of the more difficult barriers for an entrepreneur to overcome, especially in the early stages of their business, is the limited access to resources and information. Whether you need to sit down with an accountant, lawyer, IT specialist, marketing professional, financial advisor, insurance agent, another experienced entrepreneur or any other organization, it will cost you an abundance of time, and money. That’s why the VK Venture Advisor program offers all of these resources, all in one place, free of charge. The program allows the entrepreneur to present their business to a wide range of experienced professionals, gain feedback in different areas of their business, and set up one-on-one, pro bono meetings with each of the advisors afterwards.
VK Venture Advisors has been one of Venture Kamloops’ longest standing, featured programs, and continues to generate an abundance of value for the candidates who are chosen to go through the process. 2018 saw 8 different businesses go through the VK Advisors program, all with different ideas, and all receiving different, valuable advice from our panel of professionals. One of the VK Venture Advisor candidates was CanShield Data Center, a Kamloops facility that provides secure and reliable colocation, dedicated servers, private cloud and disaster recovery services to their clients. CanShield’s team, lead by CEO George Emery, took on the program with the hopes of strengthening their company, and making valuable connections on the way.
– George Emery, CEO of CanShield
Cole Weber - Economic Development Specialist: Venture Kamloops
George Emery – CEO: CanShield Data Center
Cole: So, George, now that it has been a bit of time since your VK Venture Advisors presentation, tell me a bit about your overall impression of the program.
George: It was great to present to a room of professionals who may not know the ins and outs of our product, or the data centre industry. We talk about data centres all day long, we know the acronyms, buzzwords and jargon, so having people question it and challenge us is always a great experience. Presenting our solutions in that context helped us with marketing, as well as our ability to communicate the different product offerings. Past that, just being able to connect with all these industry experts from a wide range of backgrounds is a lot of fun. Validating that we’re not crazy and we can build a successful company also helps.
Cole: Let’s take it back a bit to before the VK Advisor Program. How did the idea of CanShield participating in the program come about?
George: I had reached out to Venture Kamloops to tap into the organization and learn a bit more about what the organization has to offer. I then met with Nicole Bruce, we discussed our business and our vision, as well as the different programs and business support VK has available. The idea of presenting in the VK Venture Advisor program was raised and it seemed like a great fit. I love presenting on our business and the possibility of getting unvetted and unbiased feedback. The timing initially didn’t work well, we were getting CanShield off the ground in early 2018, so we didn’t present until later that year. Going through the program in late 2018 was great though, since it gave us a good amount of time to build the company, set the tone of what the questions would be and what we were hoping to get out of the process.
Cole: I guess after that comes the preparation for the presentation itself. Tell me about that experience leading up to the presentation. Of course, every business has a different approach in the questions they ask, the amount of support they receive from VK etc., but what was that like for you?
George: The experience leading up to the presentation opened up some excellent feedback between Venture Kamloops and CanShield. After our first draft was completed, it wasn’t where it needed to be. We then refined the overall message and layout of what we wanted to present, worked with Nicole and Clark to make adjustments and created a final slide deck. Overall, it wasn’t a massive amount of work, and there was great dialogue back and forth to get the presentation going in the right direction. We made sure that the final product was something that the VK Advisors could sink their teeth into and understand. We really got the most benefit from getting the structure right, after all, its 100% about story telling.
Cole: That’s excellent to hear. I guess that leads into the presentation itself. Can you tell me a bit about that experience, and what it was like to present your business to that room full of advisors?
George: I really enjoy presenting about our company, and highlighting what we’re doing. I think the role of a CEO strongly lends itself to presenting and talking about your company as much as possible. The actual presentation was good, no issues with the setup itself, and the facilities at the BDO offices were great.
Cole: Awesome. Going into it myself, I knew what data centres were at a very basic level, but definitely wasn’t an expert. Was it challenging presenting a kind of complex, technical business to people that may not know all the technical aspects?
George: I mean it is complex, but it isn’t, you know? In simple terms data centres are a real estate play, but it’s always interesting presenting about our company, because many people don’t understand how relevant our industry is. Literally everything electronically you do from text messages, emails, conference calls, transactions you make at a convenience store, the Cloud, all runs through a data centre at some point. That in itself is a great experience explaining how the industry works to individuals who may not have a tech background.
Cole: Earlier you mentioned that it was great having different industries validate some of the ideas you were having. Was that your biggest takeaway, or was there another area of your business that it helped in particular?
George: The validation of some of our ideas was great, but the biggest benefit is the people you meet as part of the VK Advisory board. It could be one week, or it could be five years, but with these connections, you never know what’s going to come out of it. I think generally as a business person, if you are reclusive with what you’re doing and who you are, you miss out on a lot of opportunities. Presenting and being part of this program really gets your name out there, while you get some excellent advice. The beauty of this kind of forum is you have access to so many professionals from so many different industries and backgrounds, and if you are open to talking about your business and ideas, you can get so much out of the it.
Cole: Home stretch here! Past the VK Venture Advisor program, what is your impression of Venture Kamloops and your experience working with them as an organization. Don’t be afraid to be critical!
George: I think the concept of Venture Kamloops is excellent, in that helps the business community in so many ways. I would love to see Kamloops get more press on a provincial and national scale, and hopefully we are working a bit more towards that. Overall, communities like Kamloops have so much to offer in terms of lifestyle, proximity to nature, affordable living and the institutions in place. I think there can be issues with the business community being siloed, so having organizations like Venture Kamloops that acts as a resource to connect people and give them business support is something Kamloops needs. Hopefully we can get to a point where every Kamloops business has a shared and clear vision of where we want to be in 5-10 years, this would likely give Kamloops a real edge over other cities.
Last question. If you were able to give advice to someone who may be interested in the VK Venture Advisors program, what would you tell them?
As a company, if you stick your head in the sand, aren’t willing to take advice, aren’t willing to talk to people, it’s going to be a short path to finding your next job. Something like VK Advisors just opens up doorways, allows you to talk to people and make those connections. For some business owners, it may take them out of their comfort zone to present their business and get feedback, but if you’re going to run a company, you must do it. VK Advisors is the perfect channel to do that.
If you're interested in the VK Venture Advisor program, feel free to reach out via our Start Here portal below, come have a chat, and see if it’s the right program for you!Contact Us
The number of people employed in Kamloops is estimated at nearly 49,000 and is projected to increase to nearly 51,000 by 2022.