Entrepreneur

Debbie Landa, founder of GrowLab, on fashion, tech, conferences, and investing

Debbie Landa is the founder and chief executive of Dealmaker Media, which produces tech conferences such as Under the Radar and GROW. She’s also the founder of GrowLab, an accelerator with offices in both in San Francisco and Vancouver, Canada.

After spending the first ten years of her working life in the fashion industry, Landa moved from fashion to technology. She’s become one of the most influential connectors in Silicon Valley, and has helped, invested in, or worked with over a thousand startups.

We caught up with her at the recent Grow Conference in Vancouver.

VentureBeat: You moved from fashion to technology. Why?

Landa: Fashion’s boring (laughing). Ok, it’s not boring, it’s just … it became monotonous, I did for ten years, and, when you’re in the fashion industry, it’s all about trends and seeing around corners and knowing what’s coming in the next year to two to three years, and it just became repetitive after a while, and the internet came around, and I started seeing that and thinking, OMG, my mind was just blown.

And it was moving so fast, and that was the next cool thing.

VentureBeat: Best funding decision you ever made?

Landa: I think it — DAHHH — putting money into my own company (laughing).

VentureBeat: Best thing about producing conferences?

Landa: The result at the end of the conference: how happy people are, and how you’ve changed their lives.

VentureBeat: Company you helped that you were most proud of?

Landa: Oh, whoa, there’s no way, I’ve helped over a thousand companies … there’s too many to choose from.

VentureBeat: Worst thing about producing a conference?

Landa: It’s like your birthday party that you threw … as many friends as you have you’re never positive they’re all going to come to your party!

VentureBeat: Most regretted funding decision?

Landa: That’s NOT going to happen (laughing).

VentureBeat: GrowLab is in Vancouver. What’s good about Vancouver?

Landa: Let’s be clear. GrowLab is also in San Francisco, and to me what’s most important is the bridge that’s being created between those two cities because I don’t think an accelerator should exist in only one city.

You have to have a bridge to the valley.

VentureBeat: The latest grads from GrowLab: Better than last year?

Landa: Older, more sophisticated, and further along …

VentureBeat: One that’s most likely to go huge?

Landa: It’s between two. I’m going to say Mover.io.

VentureBeat: Investing preference: consumer or enterprise?

Landa: Actually it’s more in the middle zone of SaaS applications. Infrastructure is how I see enterprise, and I want to lean more toward business applications as opposed to straight consumer … I like business applications or developer tools.

VentureBeat: Biggest challenge for first-time entrepreneurs?

Landa: They don’t know what they don’t know.

VentureBeat: One thing you wish every startup CEO would know.

Landa: How to sell.

Photo credit: Debbie Landa


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