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  • Writer's pictureNiv Lobo Gajiwala

Immigrants of Tech - Amrita Mathur

Meet Marketing expert Amrita Mathur! Amrita is the VP Marketing at Click Up. Here she talks about her journey into the tech marketing scene, advice for newcomers and her predictions for the future of Canadian tech.

What's your story?

Pretty straight-forward. I showed up in Canada when I was 20 years old, a little bit on a whim. No family, nothing. Just me. And I figured it out. I have a great life here now. 

I can be pretty bohemian and vagabond-like, which I’ve learned to embrace. There is so much joy and serendipity in not having to figure out every little step in your life. It just sucks the fun out of it if you're constantly planning. That said, obviously one should have a vision and general direction for themselves. For example, I knew that I wanted to be in marketing for tech companies. I had gotten a taste in India through a co-op, and I was hooked. 

The reason I bring this up is because there seems to be a prevailing attitude in the west that all the major decisions and steps in your life need to be thought through and planned for in a conscious, highly intentional manner. We ask little kids what they want to do when they grow up, as if they’re supposed to know.

I once interviewed with a prominent Toronto startup and got to the final round of interviews, which was a hardcore 3 hour panel interview, only to be rejected in the end. And it was mainly because the panelists didn’t believe I had planned my career path to a tee since high school. At one point they had asked if I knew what I wanted to take in University, and I laughingly said that I had a mild sense but that competition is so fierce in India that most of us need to hedge our bets. I was like a multi-arm bandit. I took the entrance exams for architecture, medicine, and engineering because as an Indian kid in a big city, you just don’t know where you’ll get in. And that’s the reality of a country with a billion people.  

I suppose the panelists felt that my trajectory was “unintentional” and not very thoughtful. They preferred someone who had planned their life meticulously. I thought, "Good luck with that," and moved on, even though I was disappointed for a couple of days. 

The irony in all of this is that, in my daily work I am always trying to map the inputs to the outputs and trying to build predictable revenue machines, watching the payback period etc.!

How has the tech scene evolved in your opinion? 

An incredible amount over the last two decades. Toronto has turned into a world-class city in front of my eyes, which has been great to watch. 

The startup scene here has grown in ways I didn’t think was possible. We have world-class companies in our backyard, from Shopify and Wealthsimple to Top Hat and Wave accounting. 

When I first arrived, there wasn’t much going on. Plus our smaller tech companies that had moderate success often got gobbled up by bigger companies. The likes of RIM, Nortel, IBM, Google and OpenText dominated. One of my first jobs was at a company called Xenos, $15-$20M in revenue. They got acquired by another American company which in turn got acquired by OpenText. And all this happened over 5 years. It’s like the whale eating the tuna eating the sardine. Very commonplace back then.

If you actually “made it” as a Canadian tech company and managed to raise capital etc, you almost always ended up moving to the U.S. in some capacity because of the talent and other incentives. Canada was a sad sad place for tech… unless you wanted to work at one of the giants.

The one silver lining in all of this was because the tech scene was relatively small, you could get to know people in the ecosystem fairly quickly. And there were a lot of good, smart people! 

What did it feel like when the startup scene started picking up and you were able to break into it? What was that journey like?

I was not deliberate and persistent enough TBH, I was still trying to make friends and generally figure out life in Canada, but even with my loose wanderings I made a lot of good connections. 

Pre-COVID, Toronto used to have a ton of events, demo days, and industry conferences. TechTO is in fact still going strong. There was so much opportunity for in-person connection. If you're willing to take advantage of that, you should. I’m not great at working a room, but I’ve seen and admired people who can. 

My strategy was more about showing up to smaller events and meeting early-stage founders. For example, I remember meeting the founder of HiMama at a TechTO demo day when he had maybe ten employees. I went up, introduced myself, and gave him kudos. 

Another key strategy is simply being helpful. I once helped someone with a marketing problem. He asked a few questions and I sent him back a simple voice note. Just recently, he introduced me to the CEO of his company for a role they might make for me. It might not be a good fit in the end, but I still appreciate the gesture. Little acts of kindness can pay dividends down the line, not in a transactional way, but naturally.

You mentioned following your heart and letting things take their path. What advice do you have for newcomers looking to break into the Canadian tech scene?

The game has changed a lot, so I don't have a perfect answer, but I'd say:

1. Know your superpower and map it to companies or stages of companies. If you can figure anything out,and are non-technical, you might fit into biz dev or partnerships. 

2. Instead of applying traditionally, cultivate relationships with smart people. The rest will happen automatically. A lot of mistakes come from only applying to posted roles instead of building relationships before roles are even posted.

3. Try to skate where the puck is going from a skills perspective. For example: Canada has a huge dearth of people in GTM roles for example. There are sales people and marketing people, but not a lot of people that can marry product strategy-PLG-SLG etc. and pioneer new business models. That’s a skill that is highly marketable. 

Do you have any predictions for the future of the Canadian startup scene? Is there anything you're particularly excited about?

There's a recognition of the brain-drain that’s happening. Many talented people, including myself, have worked for American companies instead of Canadian ones. There's a push to incentivize Canadian companies to stay and hire talent here. 

Canadian companies must pay better, raise rounds locally, and avoid the growth-at-all-costs mentality. Sustainable growth is the future. 

To keep top talent in the country, I hope Canadian companies start paying on par with their American counterparts, especially considering the cost of living in Toronto and Vancouver is comparable to the Valley or New York. And hopefully the Provincial governments can play a role in that.

With these changes, we'll see more founders getting funded, companies growing sustainably, and talent staying and contributing in Canada.

And generally it seems like Canada is a really good place to build companies. We have talent, infrastructure, funding, foreign visa options, payment rails… and so much more. And I can see a lot more people trying their hand at entrepreneurship. Passion, grit and deep domain interest is all one needs!  

What's the most Canadian experience you've ever had or a memorable moment here?

It's hard to pinpoint a classically Canadian experience, but I'll share a moment that stuck with me. 

I was interviewing for a Director/Head of Marketing role at a small FinTech company. They were small, only around 100 people, with maybe $15 million in revenue at the time. This would be their first head of marketing hire, and they were incredibly sales-led prior to that. 

After a few rounds of interviews, I met the CEO, who was this tall, stern-looking, overbearing guy. After grilling me for an hour, he asked me straight up, "What would you like to make?" I suggested I had already talked to the Hiring Manager and HR about this, but he insisted on hearing my ideal number. I threw out a slightly higher number than what I had given HR, and he just shook my hand and said, "Done." I received the offer later that day.

That experience set the tone for the rest of my career. It wasn't just about the number; it was about what that founder did for my confidence. I was so incredibly motivated to “crush it” from day one. And I did! We doubled our growth and got acquired by McKinsey years later, partly due to the brand and customer loyalty we had built. 

Founders and managers that are reading: this is a great playbook for hiring employees who are deeply invested in the company's success, giving them confidence, and the leeway to do the things they think will be impactful. 


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