Manitoba entrepreneurs set for Banff

The success of last month’s Manitoba Venture Challenge helps continue the drive for venture capital funding for local businesses.

The challenge, supported by the province and several private-sector organizations, offers a mentoring opportunities to local entrepreneurs, teaching them how to attract funding for further business development.

According to Robert Warren, executive director of the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship at University of Manitoba’s Asper school of business, the challenge provides important real-life business experience.

“There aren’t many outlets that entrepreneurs can go through in this province,” said Warren, “so what we want to do is provide ways to get them in front of investors and build up the experience they need to understand what an investor looks for in a particular venture.”

“We need fresh businesses starting all the time in order to further the development of the Manitoba economy,” he said.

The challenge is divided into three streams based on what stage the business is in. This includes the stages of seeking concept validation, securing forgivable loans and obtaining additional funding in order to grow a venture.

The three streams allow participants to learn business tactics according to the current stage of their venture.

This year approximately 35 Manitoba-based businesses participated in the Venture Challenge, which included a three-day boot camp working with business mentors who provided the entrepreneurs with methods for making a big-time investment pitch.

“Their experience and expertise was beyond question. They were very humble in the way they delivered the material and were just happy to help,” said Todd Habicht, president of HD Petroleum. “It’s such a rare commodity to find people that are willing to roll up their sleeves and actually dig into something you’re working on and pick up the pieces and help.”

A Dragons’ Den-style challenge in front of a panel of potential investors allowed contestants to get a taste for giving investment pitches.

Larren Xiao, director of general operations for Hi-5 Fish Cuisine, said the challenge has given her a fresh insight into Canadian business.

“I feel, as a new business immigrant in Canada, this Venture Challenge really gives me encouragement and more insight to help me to localize and to sharpen my business knowledge,” said Xiao.

According to Warren, the top four businesses were chosen following the boot camp and challenge pitch.

Three of the four businesses selected, HD Petroleum, Ticketorium and Tradeslive, will travel to Banff in October to participate in the Banff Venture Forum, a national company financing event.

The forum is designed to showcase hi-tech businesses from across the country. Companies are given insight into the industry, given the opportunity for networking and learn from professionals in the investment community.

HD Petroleum will also give a presentation at the Banff Venture Forum.
Habicht said that it is “a great honour” to be given the chance to present.
The Venture Challenge helped prepare the business for investment pitches they will give in Banff later this year, he said.

“Certainly we’ve received a good foundation and the basic tools to make a representation on an international level.”