This year marks New Ventures BC’s 20th anniversary of supporting tech innovation in BC! We are celebrating our 20 years of impact by interviewing those who made the past two decades so special.

Since our inception in 2000, Tom Mitchell has been a mentor at New Ventures BC and a Competition judge for over a decade. A director and mentor of several startup and early stage companies, Tom is on the inside track of up-and-coming tech and knows what it takes to develop a successful venture.

We checked in with Tom to hear all about his NVBC  highlights and how the competition has evolved over the years.

Can you describe the Competition judging experience?

Entertaining. There’s a wide range of ventures presented in the Competition, from early ideas to very advanced well thought-out submissions. You can really see how mentoring comes in and helps these early startups succeed.

How have you seen the Competition change?

I have seen trends change over the years. What was in vogue 10-12 years ago…today is quite a bit different. You see a trend from the early days of building physical solutions like hardware and systems to now where the dominant Competition presentations are software and cloud based.

There is a lot more emphasis on computers and cell phone applications, and in my own student groups I always joke, “do NOT present another cell phone app!”. The cell phone app is being pitched as the magic solution. There is so much out there, you have to have more substance to succeed.

What do you look for in the first Competition stages? What tells you a company is the one to watch?

Generally, what is written, and the concept is important. I look for knowledge about the industry and if they have thought it through and if they can show there is a real need for it in the market.

The biggest weakness I see is that most have not done their market homework. To quote Steve Blank, “no business plan survives first contact with a customer.” The company has to understand in considerable depth what the customers want and plan to do more for them.

If you are in technology you are trained to look for problems, but if you are in business you look for opportunities. What drives opportunities are problems. If you are in tech and want to go into business, you often see many problems which may be business opportunities… All you need is a bright mind and a bright team to look at these things.

What’s it like to be on the inside track of up and coming startups?

I love technology. I enjoy seeing new projects and get very enthusiastic about what I see. Companies need better managers and getting the management teams, including mentors, in place early and getting them oriented to growing a company and having it take off is a big driver for me to help them.

I want to see where’s the new opportunities, who’s going to create the new jobs that no one has heard about. Many of the jobs today didn’t exist 5-8 years ago. Brand new jobs come out of innovation and …this is what drives me to keep coming back and judging the competition.

Share your #2020nvbcimpact story!

This year marks our 20th anniversary of supporting tech innovation in BC! We are inviting NVBC Competition alumni, mentors, volunteers, accelerator participants, and ISI grant recipients to share your impact story by completing a short form on how you feel NVBC supported you and sparked innovation in the tech sector!

Submit your story

Mentoring with an Open Heart and an Open Mind – Caroline Lewko