A champion of entrepreneurship in Canada and stateside, Debbie Landa could be the most connected Canadian in Silicon Valley. Founder of San Francisco-based conference producer Dealmaker Media and co-founder of Vancouver-based Grow Lab, which helps startups with seed funding, Landa is playing a leading role in helping Canadian entrepreneurs launch and build companies.
"Nobody is supporting entrepreneurs—we're these weirdo alien people who everyone discourages constantly," says Saskatchewan-born Landa. "The message is that it's too risky, but entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy."
Canadian companies, says Landa, are more than worthy of Silicon Valley investors, but just don't get the chance to connect with them. That's why she launched a conference that brings the Valley to the Great White North, and has been met with more interest than she ever imagined.
"After our first event, I learned that everyone in the Valley is very interested in Canadian entrepreneurs," says Landa, who believes Canadian companies ought to be more vocal about their roots. "Canadians don't talk enough about being Canadian." What about the Canadian concern that we'll be perceived as small-time or not as sophisticated as U.S. firms? "That's a Canadian thing," says Landa. "Americans couldn't give a flying… you know."
Living in Silicon Valley, Landa has seen her share of launches and flops. Her best business advice? "Validate your idea—and I don't mean with your parents, friends, husband or wife," she says. "Take 100 coffee meetings and find out if anyone would actually pay for it. You should get that information before you ever lift a finger."
Read other entrepreneurial success stories in "The Fabulous 30."