Co-authored by Megan Bacigalupi (C100’s Program Manager) & Joshua Goodfield (C100’s Partnerships Manager)
Over the past ten years, C100’s flagship by-nomination program, 48Hrs in the Valley, has introduced the founders of Canada’s most promising early-stage startups to Silicon Valley through intensive mentorship, high-calibre networking, venture guidance, and unparalleled access to C100’s extensive network.
This year, however, the program looks very different, as will our culminating “48-hour” event. What the community will lose in “serendipitous” run-ins, it will gain in intentional impact and access. For example, this 48Hrs features participation from more geographies than ever before at a C100 event — we have Canucks joining from St. John’s, Los Angeles, Whitehorse, Hong Kong, London, Victoria, New York, San Francisco, just to name a few! And we’ll all be under one “roof” to engage, connect, and support Canadian entrepreneurship.
So, who are these 26 founders C100 is proud to support in 2020? And how do they highlight their unique perspectives, their roles as leaders and problems they are hoping to solve.
The founders built their businesses out of a sense of frustration with the status quo
Nearly our entire cohort felt they were uniquely positioned to solve an age-old industry problem first-hand that inspired their initial business idea — whether a lapse in technology availability, fragmented or poor solutions, or an inefficiency they felt compelled to fix. Several of the founders have years of experience in the traditional industry their company is disrupting. The one commonality in our cohort is a passion (or perhaps obsession) with wanting to solve big problems, fast.
“We got started because my co-founder and I visited some multi-billion dollar skyscraper offices and were blown away by the lack of technology in them. We knew right away it was a big opportunity in a very green field.” — Clint Robinson of Lane who is building a communication platform for landlords and tenants
“GoFor was founded to solve my biggest problem as an owner of a construction company, that is how do I get materials to a job site in a quick and efficient manner. No matter how you look at the problem there was no solution that was either quick or cost effective.” — Brad Rollo of GoFor who is making the construction customer experience fast, friendly, and predictable
“I opened a multi-disciplinary health clinic in 2011 and was looking for online booking and electronic charting that would suit a variety of disciplines. A year later, I joined up with my co-founder to build out this original concept into a complete practice management system which we could license to other clinics.” — Ali Taylor of Jane Software who is building an online platform for health and wellness
“I met my co-founder 10 years ago while we were both working in financial services IT, we started Cinchy after realizing that the only way to have a material impact in simplifying how enterprise tech is developed was to change the dynamic between applications and their data. We left our careers in banking tech and now count several of our former employers as valued customers!” — Dan DeMers of Cinchy who is building an Autonomous Data Fabric to eliminate integration and double a user’s IT capacity
The best aspect of leading a company are the rewards that come from leading fast- scaling teams on a unified mission to change the world
In the case of many of this year’s cohort, when their business succeeds it drives real-world positive change which leaves the founders and their team motivated to keep pushing the limits of what is possible.
“A conversation at the right time with a patient or healthcare professional has the power to impact treatment and healthcare outcomes. As a quickly growing digital health company, I appreciate the impact of being part of a solution to empower patients to stay on track of their medications and provide physicians critical medical information 24/7.” — Lexi Kaplin of conversationHEALTH who is empowering healthcare companies and brands to quickly and efficiently bring their business into the conversational age
The entrepreneurs in our cohort took so much pride in their team’s commitment to the company and the various missions they so strongly champion.
“The thing I love most about my job is that I get to zoom out on big company goals and zoom in with purpose, and with a team that is not only talented but thoughtful, supportive and ambitious at every level. Especially through this period of working from home, I am reminded of how important it is to work with people who inspire me every single day.” — Nadia Tatlow of Shift who is building the new browser for efficient users
Another common response amongst founders was engaging with their customers and obtaining feedback. These moments were cited as so fundamental to the growth of the business as the team jointly recognizes that they are on the cusp of something great in a burgeoning market.
“I love hearing from customers and seeing the real-world applications of our digital tools: an example use case is our platform being used to identify the potential land to bring more affordable housing to market.” — Monika Jaroszonek of RATIO.CITY who is building a tool to transform cities
Entrepreneurs carry lots of burden, especially throughout this challenging moment in history, and yet they persevere and remain resilient
“I was born in Iran, where my family is Baha’i, a religious minority banned from higher education in the country. Being an outcast in Iran did not mean that the rest of the world accepted you. Without the open door policies of Canadian immigration, I would have never been able to move to Canada, pursue my dream of higher education, and ultimately start Spocket.” — Saba Mohebpour of Spocket who is revolutionizing the dropshipping market to help online retailers
A big challenge, letting go and trusting their growing teams to take on more responsibility.
“The greatest challenge has been forgiving myself for the mistakes I’ve made and moving on. I started with a real business relatively early, around the age of 21, and have made a litany of mistakes that stemmed both from my inexperience and a significant amount of self-doubt. I’ve begun coming back from that and thankfully our business has continued to find success in the process.” — Robert Kirstiuk of Freshline who is paving new paths for local suppliers and consumers to connect
Many entrepreneurs spoke candidly about the recent challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. It became a forcing mechanism for many to create a more agile organization to continue growing and re-evaluate every pre-existing assumption they had about the business.
“After receiving multiple term sheets, we were about to close our Series A — we were weeks away from completion when the pandemic hit. My leadership team and I went into crisis-mode. We were seeing companies all around us lay-off huge portions of their staff, lose business, or even close completely. Although it has been an incredibly difficult time, I am so proud of how we navigated it and how we have come out as a stronger team and company. Throughout it all, we managed to close our round and sign new clients.” — Ian Jeffrey of Breathe Life who is building a solution for life insurance carriers pursuing a digital transformation strategy
Don’t forget to celebrate big milestones along the way!
Our cohort leaders spoke of major milestones that they take immense pride in. Many celebrated the workplace culture they worked feverishly hard to build and sustain through growth. A couple founders spoke on their steadfast approach to achieving a diverse and gender balanced team in industries that have historically felt very exclusionary to some. According to one entrepreneur in the cohort, the proudest moment continues to be proving doubters wrong!
“Our first and best customer is a top ten largest retailer. They want us to be in-flight across the entire organization in 2021, which was a great start!” — Tim Regnier of Smart Access who is pushing the bounds of workforce productivity
“There are three: 1. Closing our seed round (after which we realized we actually had to build a business; 2. Deploying our platform to our first enterprise client; 3. Announcing our collaboration with a respected F100 company.” — Sheldon Fernandez of DarwinAI who is accelerating deep learning development with explainable AI
“I am extremely proud of our ISO Laboratory where we process and store cell samples. We have made quality our biggest priority in every aspect of our process. This has allowed us to create a service that uniquely combines viability assessments, redundant samples, and security for our clients.” — Drew Taylor of Acorn Biolabs who is enabling users to freeze the clock on their cells to unlock the future of personalized healthcare tomorrow
48Hrs in the Valley is symbolic of a new chapter of growth as the entrepreneurs refocus their attention to the global stage
48Hrs is built knowing that founders learn so much from their peers, especially those a few steps ahead of them. The power of community in tandem with a well networked group can be game-changing for these entrepreneurs.
“I was motivated by the opportunity to connect and feed off founders in a similar place as me. The best advice I generally receive is from fellow founders.” — Jeremy Lermitte of RedCircle who is helping podcasters get paid through support advertising, subscriptions, and donation models
There are other reasons some of our founders expressed their enthusiasm to partake in the 48Hrs Class of 2020. Founders indicated they have their eyes on growing in the U.S. market and this program could be the stepping stone to such initiatives.
“We are from a practically unknown region in Canada, so 48Hrs in the Valley has really helped us raise our profile in other ecosystems.” — Wally Haas of Avalon Holographics who is building next-gen holographic displays
Additionally, some founders cited their direct hope to join our member network and accomplished list of alumni founders over the past ten years who want to mentor future generations of entrepreneurs.
“I’ve previously helped launch two Y-Combinator backed companies in the Valley with fellow Canadians and wanted to build this company in Canada so 48Hrs in the Valley seemed like a great way to reconnect with the Valley. Ultimately the network and community are invaluable.” — Ben Sanders of Proof who is helping governments to complete approvals faster
What is the best advice you’ve been given by a fellow founder? Leading through all the noise, the importance of finding key people or practices to keep founders focused.
“One piece of advice from a fellow founder that really resonated with me was the importance of surrounding yourself with people who can mentor you. The first 12 months after starting BOOQED was challenging. I was fortunate to have a few core mentors to act as a sounding board and get honest, experienced, feedback.” — David Wong of BOOQED who is building a platform for flexible business space
“One of the biggest pieces of advice that I was told early on was that everything can be seen as “just a setback”. If you move away from seeing things from a point of failure, and see them as a slight delay in what you want to achieve, you can never really fail.” — Braden Parker of Casca who is building a footwear brand focused on sustainability and longevity
Founders cited specific benefits to building in Canada. Why Canada? Much more than why not.
The bottom line here is the “Canadian spirit” — a willingness to help and connect with each other and support fellow founders through their wins and losses and . A culture of politeness and collective effort for the greater good of our societies. A a tight-knit ecosystem whose constituents root for each other.
“The diversity of talent, culture and experience makes Canada an incredible place to grow a company. We have a growing ecosystem of startups and support systems and there are good government programs available to help companies grow.” — Aly Dhalla of Finaeo who is redefining the future of insurance
Many founders praised the support of Canadian government programs and policies to grow the country’s innovation economy. Also cited as fundamental to founders were the high-calibre accelerator and incubator programs in Canada, such as the DMZ at Ryerson University and Velocity at Waterloo which helped validate their initial business and gain early traction until they “left the nest.”
“Canada has more non-dilutive funding and mentorship initiatives to help startups than any other market I’ve ever seen. Canada has tremendous technical talent, a driven workforce, funding initiatives, and tremendous tax credits which help Canadian companies thrive.” — Andrew Batey of Beatdapp who is tracking media streaming play counts in real time
Canada’s diversity is a boon to entrepreneurs. One founder said Canada’s multilingual, multicultural demographics inherently force her company to see issues with a “global lens.” One founder said that Canada is comprised of modest people willing to learn and offers a more equitable environment for exceptional individuals regardless of race, gender, or sexuality.
Canada’s proximity to the U.S. and other major markets in the world could just be its secret sauce.
“We are in Montréal, which is the middle point between California and the European Union, which means we are just a short plane ride away from both our American and E.U. customers.” — Marc-Andre Forget of Ossiaco who is delivering clean energy for people without compromise
This cohort is thinking big — they have a deep desire to improve life for people and the planet. And for many, 48Hrs in the Valley is the beginning of their expansion journey
“If we are wildly successful, we could see a huge shift from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles. With ultra-fast electric vehicle battery charging we can increase the adoption rate of electric vehicles by individuals; reduce the emissions caused by internal combustion engine vehicles used by businesses; and make electric fleets economically feasible sooner as opposed to over the life of the vehicle.” — Kostya Khomutov of G Batteries who is transforming the car buying process to be more digital and accessible
“Our mission is to take every painful experience in the homeownership journey, flip them around and make them great. We envision a future where everyone has access to a personalized home concierge who takes care of all the domestic tasks and who arranges and manages trusted home service providers so people can focus on doing more of what they love.” — Casey Kuchar of Virtuo who is making home buying and moving stress free