Two of Canada’s brightest tech stars have stepped up to serve as head coaches of HYPERDRIVE, Communitech’s new $30-million-plus startup incubator based in Waterloo Region.
Ted Hastings, a serial entrepreneur who closed Canada’s largest-ever private equity round for a tech company in 2007, and Steven Woods, who founded two Silicon Valley startups before returning to lead Google’s Canadian development team in 2008, will lead HYPERDRIVE’s network of more than 100 world-class mentors.
Their guidance and expertise will augment more than $30 million in investment and in-kind support already committed by top venture capital firms, angel investors, technology companies and the Communitech team, which supports Canada’s hottest technology cluster, comprising more than 800 companies including 400-plus active startups.
The involvement of Hastings and Woods in HYPERDRIVE “speaks volumes to the calibre of the program that has been assembled,” said Iain Klugman, Communitech’s CEO.
“Ted is a master deal-maker who knows how to raise money and make money; Steve is a renowned technical dude as well as being a serial entrepreneur,” Klugman said, adding that the two are a “perfect balance” for each other.
As the June 4 application deadline nears for HYPERDRIVE’s inaugural cohort of 10 companies, Hastings and Woods are preparing to draw on a deep and diverse well of experience in helping to cook up Communitech’s next batch of world-beating startups.
Applications are open to all comers, anywhere in the world. Those selected will undergo an initial three-month sprint to validation at the Communitech Hub in Waterloo Region, and if successful, be Series-A ready after 24 months.
Hastings, named to the Globe and Mail’s Top 40 under 40 for 2009, is well-known for his high-risk, high-reward approach to building companies.
In 2000 at age 25, he joined Endgame Systems, an underperforming Waterloo software company later known as Global Beverage Group, and rose from VP Finance to CEO within six months. Over the next five years, he led nine strategic acquisitions using minimal cash, grew revenue tenfold and facilitated the company’s sale to HighJump Software, a division of 3M, a Fortune 100 company.
Hastings then joined Geosign, a Guelph, Ont. internet company, where in nine months as president he raised $160 million in private equity from American Capital, the largest such round the Canadian tech landscape had ever seen.
Two months after securing the investment, a sudden change in search-engine ad-click policies rendered Geosign’s business inoperable, forcing Hastings to engineer a dramatic but ultimately successful retooling of the company into an online media firm.
Hastings joined Tsavo Media as president and CEO in late 2007, led its sale to Cyberplex in 2010, and recently took part in buying back the Waterloo-based company, which he continues to build.
Woods, a technical whiz whose name appears on 12 patents, made his name as an early internet wunderkind after he earned a Ph.D. in computer science from UW in 1996.
In 1998 he moved to Mountain View, Calif. and co-founded Quack.com, which AOL acquired two years later for $200 million US. Woods then co-founded NeoEdge Networks in 2002, where he remained until 2008, when he joined Google to head up its Canadian development operations in Waterloo Region.
His team, based in Kitchener’s Lang Tannery along with the Communitech Hub, has grown from 22 employees to several hundred, and made Google Kitchener-Waterloo one of the company’s most important international sites. In that time, Google has acquired several Canadian startups.
Michael Litt, a 2011 alumnus of California’s prestigious Y Combinator accelerator program who returned to Waterloo Region to build his company,VidYard, applauded the choice of Hastings and Woods as lead mentors for HYPERDRIVE.
“Guys coming out of school know how to write code and develop technology, but they don’t know how to operate businesses. That’s where Ted’s expertise lies,” said Litt, who, at 25, is also a serial entrepreneur.
Woods, meanwhile, has commanded the respect of many a young entrepreneur he has mentored, Litt said.
“The two together are a really good team, because Ted will have an in-depth financial knowledge and operational knowledge, and Steve will have the product and technology knowledge,” said Litt, who will also serve as a HYPERDRIVE mentor.
Steve Currie, Communitech’s VP, Venture Services, said Hastings and Woods bring the breadth and depth of international experience to HYPERDRIVE, a must for tech entrepreneurs vying for space on a global stage.
“They’ve got the industry experience, they’ve built many companies and have the international business savvy to be able to advise and coach the companies in a number of areas,” Currie said. “They can absolutely relate to what all the companies in HYPERDRIVE are going through, and bring real-time examples to the table.”
With lifecycle support and richer funding than leading North American accelerators, HYPERDRIVE aims to graduate 90 companies over the next three years, in groups of 10 at a time, three times per year.