Canada 3.0 Success Story: Ottawa’s Openera on becoming ‘Canada’s hottest early stage startup’
When Peter Lalonde went to the Canadian Digital Media Network’s Canada 3.0 conference last April, he planned to be just another attendee, there to network with fellow startup entrepreneurs.
Instead, he wound up making an impromptu appearance at the conference’s Road to Banff Venture Forum Pitch-Off – and winning.
Lalonde has been on a whirlwind journey since his win, with stops in Silicon Valley and Montreal, promoting Openera, an app that lets users find any file or attachment in two taps and automatically saves email attachments to cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and Salesforce.
Lalonde, who founded Openera after a 19-year career in software, thought about pitching at Road to Banff, but figured it was a “contest for the kids” and that he wouldn’t find it to be of value. That all changed when he was asked to pitch last minute thanks to a no-show startup and a push from BDC investor Matt Roberts.
Diving straight into the competition, Lalonde quickly realized this was no child’s play. The competing startups were mature, gutsy and driven. However, Openera surprised the audience and Lalonde himself when they won first place and a plane ticket to Banff.
Since winning top honours at Canada 3.0, Lalonde hasn’t seen his home base of Ottawa very frequently. The validation that the startup community gave Openera from the Road to Banff win has led him to other world-renowned pitch competitions. He spent two days in Silicon Valley as part of C100’s 48 Hours in the Valley. The Openera team won top honours at 48 Hours, which led them to the International Startup Festival in Montreal, Quebec. In Montreal the team won two prizes: the Startup Stage Pitch and the Founderfuel prize, and was a finalist for the 50K Investment prize. The consistent wins has earned Openera the label as “Canada’s hottest early stage startup” and the wins started at Canada 3.0.
Lalonde, who worked for OpenText, Corel, Gridiron and a Boston-based startup acquired by IBM before he started his own, has been encouraged by the strong networks and connections he’s made from Canada 3.0: Investors now call him, he has been invited to travel and pitch, and the win has helped put Openera “on the map” he says. The decision to attend 3.0, and the investment in time and money, was well worth it
Lalonde says the wins are “great for team building” and are crucial in preparing for investment rounds. Openera is in the midst of the FounderFuel accelerator program and is opening a Series A round of investing this fall, partially encouraged from the support and interest they’ve gained with investors since Canada 3.0.
As for the upcoming Banff pitch? While Lalonde isn’t ready to discuss the funding round in detail, he says that he has confidently told his team to expect to go for the gold. “The team really gets behind the wins.”