Getting Started

How to ask anyone for advice

If you want to ask someone for advice, come prepared with context and a topic. Simply asking to "pick someone's brain" will get you low-quality advice at best, frustrating both parties at worst

Kerry Liu originally hails from BC but is “much fonder” of Toronto than Vancouver. He’s now the founder of Rubikloud, a retail business intelligence software, headquartered in Toronto. Read on to see his global idea for tech and innovation.

How did you get involved in tech?

I was taking business at UBC, and I learned about a business pitch competition called Enterprise; the winner got $10,000 for their startup idea. It was cool, but you weren’t going to quit your degree with only ten thousand in the bank.

I took over Enterprise the following year as chair, and built a program where the winner got $500,000 in seed funding for their startup. We had to talk to VCs, startup lawyers, and founders in the Vancouver ecosystem. That’s how I ‘caught the bug’ of tech.

From that competition, I met a VC by the name of Frank Pho, who gave me my first internship at the BDC. I’d never been exposed to startups or VCs in that capacity before, and I knew immediately that I was going to get into tech and be an entrepreneur. However, the reality is that I didn’t have courage or context to do it properly right after graduating.

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Instead, I joined the tech practice at PwC, where I stayed for three years. Then I joined Strange Loop Networks, a Vancouver startup, and grew with them to 65 employees before they were acquired.

Now, I’m working on Rubikloud.

If someone wanted to get coffee with you to ask for advice, what would they need to come prepared with?

Context and a topic.

Conversations should be to your benefit as well, and you get more of what you want if you have context, because I can help you more. I can make introductions or offer advice and perspectives relevant to what you need. If you don’t know what you want, our conversation will likely not be as beneficial for either of us.

How can entrepreneurs build for long-term growth?

Thinking from a Rubikloud context, my global idea to go to all major cities in the world where you could be doing business – London, Hong Kong, NYC, SF – and learn everything you can about investors there, customers there, and business ecosystems.

Then come back home and build your company with that in mind.

If you only focus on your town or even only your country, you’ll miss out – the reality is you’ll have to be in these markets sooner or later. This is especially relevant for enterprise startups; founders should be thinking about what it means to grow a global company with investors, customers, and partners in Hong Kong, Silicon Valley, New York, Toronto, and other cities.

What should the world know about the Toronto tech community?

The world needs to know three things.

“If you only focus on your town or even only your country, you’ll miss out”

Kerry Liu

First of all, our education ecosystem produces world class engineers. We have multiple global universities in the broader Toronto area (including Kingston, KW, etc.), each with world leading engineering programs.

Second, Toronto is not a temporary tech outpost. People build their lives here, it is the business and financial epicentre of Canada, and the bar to leave Toronto is significantly higher than it is for some other cities currently trying to build a tech industry.

Finally, we cannot forget about our own tech history and the huge companies that have come out of this region – OpenText, D2L, RIM, Nortel, Eloqua, Shopify, and others. There are 10-15 multi billion dollar companies either created or exited in the very small pocket of Toronto-KW corridor. People sometimes forget this, but we are not at the very beginnings anymore.

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This post originally appeared on Elevate Tech Fest blog and has been edited for focus on PulseBlueprint

Photo by Jose Silva from Burst

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