A Startup Canada podcast hosted by Dr. Sean Wise
As the managing partner and co-founder of Two Small Fish Ventures, Eva Lau is passionate about her job and hopes to nurture Canadian companies to scale and become next generation tech giants.
“Canada needs more tech giants and it needs more aspiring entrepreneurs who are not afraid to transform the world.”
Based in Toronto, Eva was an entrepreneur until she turned angel investor in 2014. Working alongside her husband Allan Lau, CEO and Co-Founder of Wattpad, Eva is actively contributing to the angel ecosystem in Canada.
In this week’s #FinancePodcast, host Dr. Sean Wise talks to Eva about her first angel investment and why she’s so passionate about bringing up future generation leaders in Canada.
Why do some companies succeed and others do not? What makes one idea come to life over another? Eva Lau has spent years in the investing world and has seen many companies grow and scale. Over the years, Eva has realized one very important quality in entrepreneurs.
Eva believes in the power of taking action on big ideas and using grit and tenacity to never give up, and never stop believing in the ideas that entrepreneurs have for the companies they want to create. As the managing partner and co-founder of Two Small Fish Ventures, Eva hopes to nurture Canadian companies to scale and become the next generation of tech giants.
Tell us how you got involved in working with early-stage companies and entrepreneurs.
EL: In the late 90s and early days of the 2000’s, I joined the Brightspark Ventures team as a product manager. At this time, they were certainly a pioneer in the VC space, helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable products. Through these experiences, I saw many companies go through blood, sweat, and tears to build their products. Some would be transformative and others, did not work.
With your experience, why do you think one company succeeds, and another company may not succeed?
EL: A lot of people might answer this question by saying it is about luck, and I did not dismiss that, I think a little bit of it is luck, but what I really think it is is tenacity and timing. For example, Wattpad began as a company with only two dollars of revenue a month, which is not viable. It was not until the iPhone was introduced, that Wattpad was able to grow to where it is today. And, some may call this luck, but we capture that technology inflection point as a time that allowed Wattpad to truly take off and see success. Every startup could have the potential to be successful but at the same time, many factors can come into play to make it not a success story. It comes down to not killing the idea, it is about the execution and the value that you, as an entrepreneur create, when solving a specific problem.
Today, companies that get closer to their customers prior to product development, do better than companies who product develop and then go searching for their customers. As an investor, what do you think companies should do more of, and also do less of, so they can reach their full potential?
EL: I think this is one of the things that I am preaching every day, the most important thing for any entrepreneur who is building their company is to fully know the value that they are trying to create with their idea. A common characteristic of the companies that I have invested in, is that they all exhibit a network effect as part of their business model. This allows them to attract more users, and more customers, allowing these companies to grow from being a small niche to something much larger.
Can you tell us about the entrepreneurs themselves? What are the common characteristics that the people behind these companies are doing?
EL: Certainly they all have grit and tenacity, but the most important thing to me, is a big dream! Not all entrepreneurs have big dreams, and not all of them should because it depends on the product they are building and the problem they are trying to solve, but for me, I am looking for opportunities to build more Canadian tech giants, and with that I know that entrepreneurs who have big dreams are a must for me!
It is much easier to test markets or get started today than it used to be. When is a good time to approach investors with your idea, and your business as an entrepreneur?
EL: If you only have an idea and try to connect with an idea, I think it is way too early. The reason is, when you have an idea to solve a problem, I can guarantee that there are at least 50 people thinking about the same thing. If you only have an idea but did not put your idea into action, it is too early. An idea is cheap, but execution is key. You have to put it into action because that is more meaningful and much more fruitful for anybody’s time.