2013 GROW Conference links design thinking and entrepreneurship

Saskatoon native Debbie Landa is the founder of GROW, a three day technology conference in Vancouver. GROW aims to help build the next billion-dollar company by connecting successful entrepreneurs, investors and influencers with big ideas. This year, the conference is taking place on August 14 – 16 at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building. The conference encourages attendees to step out of their comfort zone, think big, and learn from the best tech companies in the world.

Over Skype a conversation from her San Francisco office, Landa shares her thoughts on design thinking, marketing, and what to expect in this year’s conference. 

Who is GROW for?

The minute I use the word technology, people think startups. I always have to correct them and say, "You know that newspaper you read and it's online now. That's actually called a web company. The media is built on the web and it has web products—that’s all tech." If you have a retail shop and you have an online store, that's tech. Anything you do on the web falls under this “technology hood,” if you will. We're talking to people whose businesses function online. Anyone who is thinking of building a business, runs a business, and is constantly putting out new products that are built for mobile phones or data driven or e-commerce driven would absolutely love this conference.

The conference theme for this year is focused on the intersection of design and entrepreneurial thinking. Can you tell us more about what inspired this theme and why this is the future of business?

So one of my theses is if you actually understand what design thinking is and you understand the process behind design thinking, and then you combine that with what entrepreneurs do to build companies, I think you'll build a better business. If you can stand back and observe how people use something, and watch their actual behaviours as opposed to asking them any questions, you'll learn something very different than from talking to them. When it comes to building products from an entrepreneur perspective, they tend to have a bit more ego placed in it. They tend to build things that they want or that their friends want and they don't go to a wider group of people to observe and understand the larger problem in the market to see if it's a widespread problem or if it's just for you and your friends. But if you can take the two pieces and bring them together and find that intersection, I think you will build way better products and have way better companies.

It's taking that time in the beginning when you're trying to build something—which is really, really hard for new entrepreneurs—to sit back and look at the market and really understand and test ideas and validate products in a non-egocentric way.

This is GROW’s 4th year. What can attendees look forward to the most?

I think it all depends on what you're attracted to. There are so many fun things. There's the house party thing, which I think is going to be super fun. A lot of the Vancouver folks like Vancouver Pixel Crafters have helped put together this house party at GROW, which is very much the Olympics for entrepreneurs. Various regions across the country are taking over bars (in Gastown) and will be showcasing the companies from those regions and celebrating some of the best companies from each of the regions. And then you just kind of run around from bar to bar in Gastown, meeting everybody. There's going to be little wristbands so people know who you are and you're going to have a little passport so you can get them stamped. Lots of fun.

You once mentioned that in the 1st GROW conference, you realized that “everyone in the Valley is very interested in Canadian entrepreneurs.” Why do you think that is? What piques the Valley’s interest in Canadian startups?

Is that what I said? Who did I say that to?

It was an interview with profitguide.com 

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