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Insights and reflections from Startupfest 2019

Insights and reflections from Startupfest 2019

Crowned as the “music festival for startups” by Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian, Startupfest is Canada’s largest startup event, with over 7,000 attendees every year. Across 4 days, entrepreneurs, founders, investors, and mentors from 20+ countries gather in Montreal for keynotes, interactive how-to sessions, networking opportunities, and prizes and investments worth up to $1,000,000. 

The biggest advantage of Startupfest is the countless doors it could open for attendees. You may deliver the perfect pitch to investors and leave with $100K for your startup. You may have a conversation with fellow startup community members and get industry insights you couldn’t have gotten elsewhere. You may even bump into people you haven’t seen in years and catch up on how far your businesses have come. 

The collaborative spirit is the backbone of Startupfest. From sharing contacts and leads to tips and advice, people come to the event with the “giving mentality”, ready to share their networks and knowledge.   

BDG at Startupfest

For the third year in a row, we have had the pleasure of attending Startupfest. Only, this year’s was even more special: We had a booth in the Service Provider Tent! 

In the days leading up to the event, we found ourselves asking the question: “How can BDG add value to Startupfest attendees?” As a marketing consultancy that works with startups, we saw Startupfest as an opportunity to get insights from various other startups—what’s keeping them up at night, and how BDG can leverage our marketing expertise to solve their problems. At the same time, we saw the event as a way to give back to the startup community, whether that be in the form of marketing tips and advice, or connecting people with other networks. 

This year, we were able to meet startups and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and learn about their growth challenges. Although we were expecting in-depth conversations from our previous experience, we were surprised to see just how much curiosity and concern startup teams had about marketing. From “We need CRM help, but we have no idea which tool to use” to “We’re looking to hire our first marketing person, but we’re unsure of the seniority level”, there was a wide range of marketing challenges for startups. We were more than happy to address these questions and concerns and share our marketing tips and recipes. What’s even more exciting is that we kept those conversations going and we are currently engaging with these companies to help them solve their marketing challenges.

The booth was just one part of our Startupfest activities. Our co-founders Ben and Caren spent the week meeting people on Braindates. From “How to create a great workplace” to “Why marketing matters for your startup”, Ben and Caren partook in conversations and shared valuable insights. The Braindates were an opportunity for them to provide advice as experienced marketers to startup founders starting their marketing journey. One of the main discussions from the Braindates revolved around  channeling growth through marketing. 

Here are some tips they shared on their Braindates: 

  1. Think about how your marketing will lead to sales: If you have a marketing plan, always connect the dots to sales and make sure that your plan features a clear path to a sale. For example, spending time figuring out what type of branding you want to have on your Instagram may not be your priority right now because it doesn’t pave your way to sales.
  2. Be as scrappy as you can be: There are tons of marketing tactics you can implement with little to no investment, like being interviewed on podcasts.
  3. ‘Done’ is better than ‘perfect’: Speed is everything, especially in the startup world. It’s better to get a campaign out and test its performance than to delay it endlessly in order to make it perfect.

Our Takeaway from Startupfest 

More than a stack of business cards, for sure. 

First, we realized just how much gap there is in the startup community when it comes to marketing. With limited budgets and personnel, many startups struggle to tackle marketing. Even when they do launch campaigns, it’s often difficult for them to know which channels to prioritize and which strategies to implement. In just two days, we were able to connect with startups from around the globe, each with their own set of marketing questions and challenges.

Second, Startupfest offers a unique experience for people from all backgrounds. From marketers like ourselves to angel investors from Silicon Valley to startup founders from STEM backgrounds, the diverse attendee list creates a common platform conducive to creative ideas.

Third, every day of Startupfest was a reminder of how strong Canada’s startup ecosystem is. From Kitchener-Waterloo to Calgary to Saskatchewan, community players from all over Canada made the event all the more valuable. These players have been the glue that holds the Canadian startup community together and the very reason it continues to flourish. So, a huge shoutout to all the Startupfest staff, BDC, Real Ventures, Luge Capital, Montreal NewTech, Centech, Tourisme Montréal, Startup Canada, the DMZ, and so many more! See you next year. 

Thinking of attending Startupfest next year or want to know more about how we help startups grow with marketing? Contact our Senior Partner Caren Carrasco at caren@benjamin-david.com 



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