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It’s time to elevate your social (impact) game

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It’s time to elevate your social (impact) game

On Wednesdays, we startup.

To celebrate our women-identifying founders, we’ve put together ‘On Wednesdays, we startup’, a blog series dedicated to positioning women founders centre stage to acknowledge their work, complexities and wins!

We hope to push women-founder stories forward and share lessons learned and insights for other aspiring women entrepreneurs.

For this week’s feature, we handed the reins to Kelly Emery, the Founder of Troop and expert in startup development, to speak to social impact and what startups can do to not only add it to their business models but also elevate their social impact game.

Guest blog: By Kelly Emery, Founder of Troop

When a company helps the community they work in, people take notice. From clients to customers and current employees to prospective talent, social impact initiatives make people feel good about being a part of an organization that does good.

It gives people that warm and fuzzy feeling.

I’m not going to BS you — when times are good, it’s easy to give back and when times are difficult, it’s not. However, when times are tough social impact initiatives are needed most and your employees and customers take notice of how your organization responds to pressing needs in society.

Turn towards social impact initiatives, not away

No doubt, you’ve heard the saying, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ During uncertain times, companies that choose to step up to help are the ones that are set apart. Businesses that engage in social impact initiatives are the type of purpose-driven organizations employees and customers want to align with, especially as we live in a post-pandemic world.

Oodles of research has been done on the topic and I’ve highlighted some in the Troop Guide to Social Impact. For example, studies have shown: 

  • Purpose-driven companies have 40% higher levels of talent retention than their competitors.
  • 88% of employees say their job is more fulfilling when they can make a positive impact on social and environmental issues.
  • 66% of consumers would switch from a product they normally buy to a similar one by a purpose-driven company.

All this is to say — now is the time to ignite a social impact program, if your company doesn’t already have one, or double down on any current ones.

Make a greater impact with social impact

Amp up your organization’s impact by engaging your employees in new and interactive ways. Did you know that:

  •  78% of employees would work for a business if it sought their input into the charitable causes it supports
  • 80% of employees are likely to provide input into the organizations a business donates to if given the opportunity

Employees want to do good at work, and for SMBs looking to make this happen, it’s not always easy to know where to start. Enter Troop.

Troop is a technology-based solution that brings together businesses and their staff with local charities and non-profits. It gives your team a voice in how your company can best help your community with a plug-and-play solution that’s easy to implement and requires minimal ongoing management. 

So how does it work?

Each month your employees receive a curated list of vetted needs in the community and will pick the one that resonates with them most. Based on votes, Troop fulfills the selected need and provides a follow-up so they can see and feel the difference being made in the lives of the people they’ve helped.

Ready to elevate your social impact and do good with Troop? Download our Ultimate Guide to Social Impact, visit the Troop website, or connect with me via LinkedIn for more information.

Basecamp 2022: Presenting this year’s winners

8 weeks, 20 students, 57 workshops, 4800+ combined hours working on startups, and $35K in grant prizes

It’s been yet another successful summer for students in the Basecamp program. With so many incredible business ideas being conceptualized and brought to life by student entrepreneurs, it’s clear there’s no shortage of talent in this up-and-coming generation of startup founders. 

Open to the top high school and university students each summer, Basecamp is an intensive, 8-week tech incubation program helping youth develop, market and accelerate innovative solutions to growing social or economic gaps in society.

At the end of the 2022 program, participating teams had the opportunity to pitch their startup ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to take home one of seven grants of $5,000 to help startups launch into the next phase of their growth.

So, who are the winning teams of this year’s Basecamp program? 

Resource ASK – Khalil Bruce

Winner of the Black Founder Award – $5,000

Resource ASK is an organization that decentralizes Black entrepreneurs’ access to business resources. Through our interactive platform, Black entrepreneurs are able to receive curated business resources such as funding, capital, loans and networking opportunities that are relevant to them. 

seaSub – Kelley Liang, Edison Han, Sydney Choe
Winners of the High School Award & the Supply Ai Award – $10,000

seaSub is a free online Chrome extension which acts as an enhanced search engine for online shopping, helping users find the perfect product based on their personal preferences, stock/availability, and shipping times.

Docere – Luka Lamaj 

Winner of the Peer Choice Award & the University Team Award – $10,000

Docere is a video-call communication platform that eases interaction between doctors and patients via simple and accessible features such as 3D Body Graphs, maps of nearby doctors, scheduling calendars, and more.

Pinion – Arezoo Najafi

Winner of the Women Founder Award – $5,000

Pinion is a platform that provides coaching services to international students. The best coaches for students are those who have gone through the same path, and Pinion helps international students not feel lonely in their path.

 

NoTreble – Kiana Karimi
Winner of the Women Founder Award – $5,000

NoTreble is a sound recognition and machine-enabled software that helps instrument learners practice more efficiently, decreasing their tendency to practice mistakes over and over again. It can listen and analyze student playing and give instantaneous instructions on how to avoid practicing mistakes. It also gives practice updates and results to the student’s teacher. This way, students can improve faster with fewer costs and greater ease of mind!

 

If you’re a student and ready to do big things in the world of entrepreneurship, join the DMZ community by getting started with Launchpad, a free online platform jam-packed with expert-curated content helping you gain the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the world of entrepreneurship. Visit dmz.to/launchpad to get started.

 

The DMZ’s top ten tech Twitter accounts to follow

Ready to give your Twitter feed a transformation? Want to stay in the loop on events, news, and insider tips and tricks?

The DMZ has created a curated list of people and organizations to keep tabs on, whether you’re looking for bite-sized updates or advice on which market to break into next. After all, success is often about who you know – or in this case, who you follow.

1. Tech Crunch | @TechCrunch

You’ve probably heard of it before, and for good reason. Tech Crunch is one of the leading platforms for technology-related updates catered to founders and startups. Here you can find real-time breaking news and insightful analysis from the best in Silicon Valley and around the world.

Disney strikes a big adtech deal with The Trade Desk as Disney+ expands into ads https://t.co/VmkYeLdqnM by @laurenforristal

— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) July 12, 2022

2. BetaKit | @BetaKit

The only independent tech innovation publication in Canada, BetaKit aims to report on the people involved in building the next generation of Canadian tech companies. Through their account, you can be the first to read new stories and get job opportunities delivered right to your Twitter feed, or email inbox if you’re subscribed to their weekly newsletter.

Small and medium-sized businesses may not have deep pockets but they might be surprised to know that a few basic tools and protocols can successfully mitigate 99 percent of cyber attacks. https://t.co/NhCylQRqFE

— BetaKit (@BetaKit) July 11, 2022

3. Emily Chang | @emilychangtv

Emily Chang is a prominent face in tech journalism. As the anchor and executive producer of Bloomberg Technology, you can find some of the biggest news stories in the tech world on her account, along with snippets of interviews she holds with leading executives, entrepreneurs and investors.

If you watch one thing about the Google/AI/feelings debate, watch this 10 mins with @mmitchell_ai re: Blake Lemoine aka @cajundiscordian

Full convo: https://t.co/wMArRzf16O https://t.co/D8PMsnBT5t

— Emily Chang (@emilychangtv) June 18, 2022

4. Business Insider Tech | @BITech

Popular news outlet Insider has a specific account dedicated just to their articles related to tech. Their slogan “What you wanna know” speaks for itself – with updates on major events and relevant and unique industry trends and analyses that you probably won’t find on other tech media giants.

Bill Gates’ VC fund and Intidex just led a $30 million round into Circ, a startup that slashes emissions from fast fashion. Check out the 11-slide pitch deck it used to raise the funds. https://t.co/ZAPEA8x34P

— Business Insider Tech (@BITech) July 12, 2022

5. The Next Web | @thenextweb

Based in Amsterdam, The Next Web is a tech Twitter staple that has been updating its followers on a variety of sub-sectors within the industry, with news from North America, the EU and so much more. Their occasional job postings and TECH TIP OF THE DAY guarantee that you can use their resources and put them to use.

It’s the ultimate fight between hackers and mathematicians, and the future is at stake https://t.co/SP4BqnbPMD

— TNW (@thenextweb) July 12, 2022

6. Anil Dash | @anildash

Anil Dash is the founder of Glitch, a coder community platform that promotes co-collaboration. Outside his day job, however, is when he adds the top tech stories – and sometimes pop culture – from various outlets to your timeline. You can expect some light-hearted personal anecdotes and interactions with others in the community.

The fundamental flaw of most social platforms is a tech mindset that thinks the hard part is managing content, when the hard part is actually managing discontent.

— Anil (@anildash) July 15, 2022

7. WIRED | @WIRED

Tech veteran WIRED is many people’s go-to for up-and-coming technologies affecting any sector, whether it be culture, politics, or the economy. Get immediate delivery of their newest articles to your feed and read up on your daily commutes or breaks. Chances are someone else in the room is doing the same.

Daylight provides debit cards with your chosen name, no matter what your ID says. (From 2021) https://t.co/bU6xuBQ7J8

— WIRED (@WIRED) July 12, 2022

8. The Verge | @verge

The Verge is a multimedia platform that treats technology as the centrepiece of culture as they report on technologies changing future life in media, transportation, and science. Add The Verge to your daily news check-ups and get interesting updates that you can be the first to know about among friends and co-workers.

What if we could look into the future and see how technology will change everything — from raising pets and houseplants to how we dress, eat, date, and even how we die. Our new docuseries The Future Of is premiering on @Netflix on June 21st pic.twitter.com/h3cAgqo7Tp

— The Verge (@verge) June 13, 2022

9. Arati Sharma | @aratisharma

If you’re looking for first-hand opinions and anecdotes from someone who knows what they’re talking about, give Arati Sharma – ex-Shopify executive’s – account a quick follow. Not only are you signing up for updates from a professional and a founder (Backbone Angels), but you also get some engaging and thought-provoking tweets about BIPOC and women-founded businesses.

“More than half of South Asian women in Canada are planning to leave their jobs, study reveals”… well that’s an alarming stat. https://t.co/TVpdeYTYOp

— Arati Sharma (@aratisharma) April 20, 2022

10. The DMZ | @TheDMZ

Forgive the shameless plug, but our own DMZ Twitter account can help you stay connected to a community of entrepreneurs and stay up to date with new events, programs and news on Toronto’s and the rest of the world’s startup ecosystems. This is where you can start implementing your ideas and connect with experts.

.@FredVanVleet is helping us spread the word that Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses is back! Powered by @theDMZ, the mentorship & grant program designed to support the advancement of BIPOC businesses. Applications close on July 26, 2022. Eligibility criteria & terms apply.

— Amex Canada (@AmexCanada) June 14, 2022

Looking to turn your newfound knowledge into action? Check out our programming and take your first steps to success.

Lemons to lemonade: Turning a setback into a comeback

We’ve all heard the famous saying, but when’s the last time we put it into practice?

Turning life’s lemons into lemonade is obviously easier said than done, but it’s impossible to cash in on business milestones without laying down the right foundation.

We asked our founders to share their recipes for taking the sour setbacks thrown at them and how they bounced back to create sweet, tangy successes.

Make sure to keep your ingredients handy and follow along with our tried and true recipe!

  • A bowlful of lemons
  • A juicer
  • Ice
  • Sugar, zest instead of spice, and everything nice
  • Glasses, straws, mini umbrellas

Lemons to lemonade blog - Step 1: Gather your lemons

What setbacks have you faced as a founder? How did you overcome them?

“Too many setbacks to count but I think the biggest ones have always been knowing when we’re ready to move to the next level (hire a development team, work with a larger client, release a product, etc) and missing out on the opportunity to do so.” – Evan Sitler-Bates, XpertVR

“The business nearly went bankrupt and I lost half of my team during the pandemic. It felt very lonely and I’d say I was missing opportunities because of that. However, daring to dream despite everything allowed me to connect with friends, family and even customers. My hope ignited theirs. I may be sad and feel defeated but I’ll never lose hope.” – Hudhaifah Zahid, econommi

“[During the pandemic] we used our newfound time for something that often falls to the wayside when a business starts gaining traction. Something vital to product-market fit for any startup: customer conversations.

We picked up the phone and we dialled our customers. 100 to be exact. We took our time during our conversations, speaking to our customers for up to 90 minutes each and asked them to walk us through their unique parenthood journey. We listened intently to understand the challenges they faced. 80% of the customers we spoke to opened up about their mental health in some way, shape or form. A topic that is traditionally “taboo” was bubbling to the surface — we took note. If we hadn’t conducted these calls, we never would have founded Alli Therapy.” – Sarah Rennick, Alli Therapy

Lemons to lemonade blog - Step 2: Juice 'em, add sugar and ice.

What did you learn in your journey of transforming lemons into lemonade?

“What I’ve learned is that the universe offers unlimited opportunities to those who are putting in the work. So if you miss one opportunity, be patient and the next one will swing around soon enough. And by the time it does, you’ll be even more prepared and have more to tackle it than before!” – Evan Sitler-Bates, XpertVR

“Cash is king, people are forgetful, and always have a backup plan.” – Hudhaifah Zahid, econommi

Lemons to lemonade blog - Step 3: Stir and serve

What advice would you give to an early-stage entrepreneur who’s trying to overcome an obstacle?

“Patience. You always have to keep up with the work but when things aren’t going your way or aren’t moving as fast as you’d like, remember that greatness takes time.” – Evan Sitler-Bates, XpertVR

“The obstacle is the way. What is meant to happen, will happen – it’s a matter of perspective and intention. Leave yourself room and time to grieve, then carry on! Therapy does wonders for connecting and driving people through hardship.” – Hudhaifah Zahid, econommi

“Learn to embrace the pain that comes before success and that there is no one solution to any obstacle. Look around, there is always a way out. Network and seek advice, there are people who have faced similar issues in the past.

The harder the obstacle, the sweeter the lemonade.” – Abiodun Adekunle, SleekScore Inc.

Ready to quench your entrepreneurial thirst? Check out the DMZ’s startup programs here.

What was your first lemonade stand?

Hear from DMZ founders about their early beginnings running a business, and what fuelled their thirst for entrepreneurship

All entrepreneurs can remember their very first business endeavour – typically a humble beginning that starts with passion and determination and ends with lessons learned. The venture where founders can dip their toes into the pool of possibilities of entrepreneurship and get a bittersweet taste of what could be.

Many of these beginnings can be as simple as selling cookies for school fundraisers, but just taking the first step can be the gain the fuel one needs to rev up their entrepreneurial engine. One of the most common first steps many entrepreneurs can give credit to is childhood lemonade stands.

The OG driver of entrepreneurship, lemonade stands ignite a flame for aspiring business owners and opens their eyes to the possibilities of what a career as an entrepreneur might look like.

That’s why the DMZ is giving an ode to the lemonade stand and paying tribute to the founders who dared to be bold, making the squeeze without knowing what their futures would hold.

We asked some of our founders to share what their lemonade stand was and what humble beginning triggered their thirst for entrepreneurship.

What was your lemonade stand (first entrepreneurial endeavour)?

“My first lemonade stand was an actual lemonade stand with chocolate chip cookies. I also walked dogs, pet sat, ran group garage sales to buy a go-kart and more. But, I think the most interesting entrepreneurial endeavour was spray painting street numbers on curbs. When I was about fourteen I heard about an eleven-year-old in California who was making good money painting street numbers on curbs to make it easier for friends and emergency services to find houses in the dark. I thought it was a great idea and wanted to earn some cash over the summer so I recruited 2 friends and got to work. Most days that summer we would load up my red and black childhood wagon with reflective spray paint, street number stencils, sign-up sheets and change. Then we would go door to door in every neighbourhood we could walk to or sometimes get a drive to the more affluent neighbourhoods to sell our services. To be honest, it wasn’t super successful but we made some cash and it definitely trained us to handle rejection.” – Evan Sitler-Bates, XpertVR

“I sold maple syrup to international students going back home for the winter. Previous to that, I flipped items on the Runescape Grand Exchange.” – Hudhaifah Zahid, econommi

“I realized that I was an entrepreneur when I was 10 years old. My mom had cancer while I was growing up and I wanted to find a way to help her. She had taught me how to hand sew little pillows. I was so excited about this new skill that I decided to teach all the neighbourhood kids how to sew them too.⁣ A few days later I had an idea. With piles of hand-sewn pillows in hand, I instructed the other kids to stand at the side of the road with me. ⁣We sold the pillows to every car and person who passed by our street.⁣

At the end of the day, we had made the local paper and $1000 to which we proudly donated to Cancer Research. That day I realized anyone at any age in any circumstance can make an impact. Everyone has the ability to become an entrepreneur and a changemaker. Even you.” – Sarah Rennick, Alli Therapy

Do you think you were born with the entrepreneurship bug? Who or what has fuelled your love for entrepreneurship?

“I like to think I was born with some sort of entrepreneurial bug. But I think three people/organizations really fueled it. Firstly, my parents. Growing up, my dad would tell me stories of running a wedding photography business or managing an apartment with my mom. And all throughout my childhood, I would help my mom and stepdad renovate the newest house they were flipping or watch as they started businesses ranging from interior design and deck building to RV rentals. Secondly and thirdly, throughout high school, I was a part of Junior Achievement and DECA. Both of these organizations have me a wealth of knowledge in business and how to work with large groups of people in a business sense.” – Evan Sitler-Bates, XpertVR

“I was born mischievous and always wanted to stand out but the entrepreneurship bug hit me on my first internship at peer-to-peer dog walking marketplace startup gofetch.ca.” – Hudhaifah Zahid, econommi

“Yes, I think it has always been there for me – though I didn’t recognize it until later in life. I didn’t understand why I was always the one coming up with the big ideas and organizing others during play as a child. My first business came to me at 18. I was on my first summer home from University. I had developed a passion for fitness. After picking up some personal training clients at a local gym I knew I could do it better. So, I went for it and opened my own studio. Within a few months I had a packed studio every day with patrons double my age. I realized from that experience that anything is possible.” – Sarah Rennick, Alli Therapy

Are there any lessons you learned when starting out on your entrepreneurial endeavour that have stuck with you?

“I feel like you learn new lessons every day you run a business but the main one that has stuck with me from the spray paint days is how to handle rejection. Doing door-to-door sales is gruelling so it engrained the idea that for every 100 no’s, you’ll get 1 yes. Then once you have that yes, understand what you did right so you can up your close rates.” – Evan Sitler-Bates, XpertVR

“You’re out there to measure the results, you have no control over them. Better measurements allow for a smoother journey, not the journey you planned.” – Hudhaifah Zahid, econommi

“Do something meaningful to you. You have to be able to see the bigger picture, it will be the driving force for you on the days that feel hard.” – Sarah Rennick, Alli Therapy

How would you describe your journey from your first entrepreneurial venture to today?

“A rollercoaster. It’s fun and scary at the same time but if you’re lucky have some awesome people riding alongside you!” – Evan Sitler-Bates, XpertVR

“I’ve learned that the journey is never linear. It is full of ups, downs and unknowns. I’ve learned to stay open-minded and to be willing to pivot. At the start of my journey I made most decisions on positive results but now, I make most decisions on data. I try not to become biased and to constantly challenge the results at hand. I’ve learned it’s really easy to miss things that aren’t working and data is the only factor that will give you that true result.” – Sarah Rennick, Alli Therapy

“Challenging and exciting. I derive joy and satisfaction with every milestone achieved.” – Abiodun Adekunle, SleekScore Inc.

Lemonade stand blog - Cooler full of ice, fruit and lemonade

What is or will be your first lemonade stand? Dare to take the jump, and who knows what you’ll end up with, whether it be a high-growth tech platform or a Grammy award-winning album!

Ready to quench your entrepreneurial thirst? Check out the DMZ’s startup programs here.

International founders dish their first impressions of Toronto’s tech ecosystem

A group of Lithuanian startup founders get real about their preconceived ideas and first impressions of Canada and Toronto’s startup ecosystem during their week-long visit to the DMZ

Last month, 4 rising tech startups from Lithuania embarked on a one-week soft landing program to Toronto called the Canadian Connection Program. In partnership with Pace Global Advantage and the DMZ, the program supported entrepreneurs and business leaders interested in exploring the North American market and gave participants the opportunity to tap into a wider network of investors, customers, corporates, founders and talent.

The Lithuanian visit to the DMZ’s headquarters was productive for the startups – participants took advantage of various workshops and curated one-on-ones with the DMZ’s Program Leads, Experts-in-Residence (EiRs) and Alumni-in-Residence (AiRs). The Lithuanian entrepreneurs walked out of the experience with a greater understanding of the North American ecosystem and its players.

Lithuania blog - DMZ team and visitors mingling

On their final day of the program, we had a chance to sit down with the founders and ask them about their thoughts on the program and first impressions of Toronto’s startup ecosystem. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Toronto is very well-positioned in the North American market.

“I have learned a lot about the close connections between the EU and this city’s ecosystem, especially for medical startups. Toronto is well-positioned in the North American market, which is important because we need to reach the largest user base possible. There’s a great support system here for startups and there are great connections to cities like Boston and New York, which are just a short hop away.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“The ecosystem here is booming and attracts people from all around the world to relocate their businesses from other continents.” – Simonas Stankus, Unbalanced

“We are considering North America as our primary market. Through the program, we have realized how little we actually knew about Canada. By being here, we see the ecosystem in Toronto is really vibrant, and a lot of professionals and potential employers are living here. The access to the talent, capital and markets is much higher than you’d expect. It changed my concerns about Canada being the same as the U.S. in terms of work-life balance. It’s much more convenient for entrepreneurs considering relocation here compared to the United States. Being in Toronto was a perception-changing experience because we were too trusting of the assumptions we had developed.” – Vytenis Pakènas, IsLucid

2. There is value in the city’s multiculturalism

“I am very impressed with the diversity and openness that I see in Toronto. I’ve only been here for one week, but I feel like you’re at home almost everywhere you go. The diversity is very inspiring and all-encompassing.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“I was especially taken aback by the fact that I have met other medical doctors like myself who have made successful startups here in Toronto. I’ve met other professionals as well who turned to entrepreneurship. That’s not something you see often. My favourite thing about Canada is that everyone is from everywhere. There’s this feeling of being away from home but also at home at the same time. A real melting pot of people and cultures, which is something that contributes to its unique atmosphere.” – Justinas Balčiūnas

3. The DMZ community provides startups with everything they need to grow.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time here at the DMZ. I got in touch with healthcare providers, venture capital funds, and angel investors, and got to know the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Toronto which is booming, energetic and inspiring. Not only am I leaving this program with an excellent portfolio of contacts, but I also leave enriched by hearing other success stories of startups that have entered this environment and have done well. I feel like I’ve learned a lot.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“My experience in this program has been great! I partook in incredibly useful workshops and met such great people. Now, I have a much better understanding of what Canada is and what ecosystem it has.” – Simonas Stankus, Unbalanced

“When you enter a new market, it’s important to have the right support system of people who can tell you the truth. We received the right recommendations and connections within the context we needed to make the experience meaningful and actionable. I was touched because the team wasn’t too focused on revenue and speed, but more on care and guidance/growth. When you’re coming in from overseas, you’re being brought into a desert with people you don’t know. But the DMZ is helping turn that desert into a sweet forest with the right connections and resources needed to succeed.” – Vytenis Pakènas, IsLucid

Lithuania Blog - Founder Simonas Stankus pitching

The cohort of participating companies included:

Lithuania blog - isLucid logo
IsLucid
is a productivity hack that specializes in machine learning through transcription. The service transcribes verbal communication in meetings and automatically assigns tasks to employees, eliminating the need to take meeting minutes and ultimately saving time.

Lithuania blog - Feetsee logo
Feetsee
is a FDA-registered product that uses its advanced algorithmic technology, with 95% accuracy, to monitor and measure changes in diabetes patients’ feet. It stores this information in its mobile and desktop software that relays messages to the patient’s care team and physician via alerts.

Lithuania blog - InBalance logo
InBalance
produces electric vehicle charging stations. Their product focuses on energy efficiency and helps fulfill the increased demand for electric vehicle charging without requiring any changes to the current power grid infrastructure, ensuring the sustainable growth of a community-based public charging network.

Lithuania blog - Ligence logo
Ligence
employs machine learning algorithms and deep-learning technology to determine functional and structural aspects of a person’s heart through ultrasound images. Their current focus is reducing human error in detection and diagnosis and improving their measurement accuracy.

Want to act on the Toronto FOMO and get involved? Founders looking for international expansion support can learn more about the DMZ’s global offices at dmz.to/global, and partners interested in developing a soft-landing program in Toronto at the DMZ can reach out at dmz@ryerson.ca.

Big picture thinking: How Worksimply was able to double down on a new market to serve more customers

The secret to business growth? Think 10 steps ahead – always.

Thinking about what the future of work looks like? The founder of Worksimply, Jaime Aoyagi, is your guy.

It goes without saying that the future has changed forever and remote work is here to stay. But what most employers may not realize is that the workplace of tomorrow isn’t just confined to an at-home office or central downtown location.

Aoyagi predicts that the future of work will take place in three main spaces: an at-home office, a central headquarters that’s typically located in a downtown core and an on-demand workspace that’s less than a 10-minute commute from the employee’s home.

Catching a new wave of opportunity and recognizing the transformational shift taking place in office settings, Aoyagi decided to grow Worksimply – a workplace platform – by doubling down in a new market to serve more customers.

We sat down with Aoyagi to learn more about Worksimply, and how he was able to shift markets by thinking bigger.

First, can you tell us more about what exactly is Worksimply?

“Worksimply’s solution is two-fold. For hybrid companies, we offer a workplace platform that makes office space more affordable and increases employees’ freedom. For co-working space operators, we offer software to manage end-to-end guest bookings for co-working spaces.

To put it into perspective, we help small businesses manage their own hybrid workforce by allowing their employees to book desks at their HQ and at co-working spaces all across North America,” said Aoyagi.

A cycle of various workspaces - How Worksimply was able to double down on a new market

What do you think is unique about Worksimply’s value proposition?

“Fostering an engaging work culture is crucial to creating a well-oiled, productive and happy team. At Worksimply, we understand how challenging this has been for remote and hybrid teams and are working to help them better manage their remote culture.

While a lot of companies today are working in a predominantly remote environment, we know that face-to-face interaction is still important. We know that it’s not about a desk, it’s about collaborating with your teammates.

This is exactly why we’ve rolled out features that allow teams to encourage their staff to meet in-person by allowing them to see who is working from where and when. But we didn’t stop there, we also offer services that help employers go above and beyond when it comes to maintaining a great office culture for remote employees – like providing snacks, drinks and workshops.”

This pandemic had a major impact on how Canadians work and use office space. How does Worksimply help companies in today’s current climate of needing flexible hybrid office space?

“The pandemic completely changed the way the world works. Pre-pandemic, the standard was for companies to have one designated desk per employee. Fast forward to today, a lot of companies have gone fully remote while others have embraced a hybrid model.

Now this presents a unique situation. A hybrid model can look very different from company to company, but nonetheless, the office will still play a huge role in how people work.

Moving forward, I think work will take place in three main areas: the home, the central office and finally flexible office spaces close to home,” explained Aoyagi.

This is exactly where Worksimply comes in. Worksimply is helping SMEs not only manage but also support their hybrid workforce by allowing their employees to book office space close to their home or their central office.

Jaime, you saw a new opportunity in the market and decided to double down on it to grow your business. What led you in making this decision?

“The pandemic obviously played a large role in why we decided to double down in a new market. We knew that companies would need on-demand workspace to accommodate their staff with flexible options,” Aoyagi explained.

Thinking 10 steps ahead, Jaime realized that there was a perfect opportunity for him to extend his customer base. “Since we already had space operators and co-working spaces on the Worksimply platform, we quickly recognized we’d be able to serve a new market – SMEs – that would need access to the space operators we were already serving flexible on-demand bookings.

“We sell software-as-a-service to space operators, and today our demand is twofold – on one hand, it’s businesses looking to book space for their employees, and on the other, it’s workspace operators looking for easy-to-use software they can integrate into their operations.”

Groundbreaking ideas are hardly ever lightbulb moments, but rather the result of developing and improving over time. After you made the decision to build in a new direction, what did the process look like?

“Once we realized the toll the pandemic was beginning to take on the world’s workforce and the new wave of opportunity it was creating, we started developing the software for space operators to implement.

As more and more space operators began to use our services, we were simultaneously creating a supply for hybrid-working organizations to choose flexible office space,” explained Aoyagi.

How did the DMZ support you throughout the process?

“Throughout the process, I was able to lean on the DMZ for mentorship and guidance.

As questions came up, I was able to turn to my Program Lead, Mohi Sanisel, who was able to help me navigate through the different challenges that presented themselves.

The DMZ was also able to introduce Worksimply to our first customer leveraging their new model.”

What would you say to other startup founders who are looking to iterate on their core strategy?

“Put your product out there as soon as possible and put your assumptions to test.”

Curious to learn more about what Jaime Aoyagi thinks about the future of work? Check out his recent LinkedIn article here. Looking to provide flexible office space for your time? Head over to Worksimply’s website to learn more.

The future of forecasting: How Granularity uses AI and big data to bridge the industry’s supply and demand gap

On Wednesdays, we startup.

To celebrate our women-identifying founders, we’ve put together ‘On Wednesdays, we startup,’ a blog series dedicated to positioning women founders centre stage to acknowledge their work, complexities and wins!

We hope to push women-founder stories forward and share lessons learned and insights for other aspiring women entrepreneurs.

This week, we had the pleasure of chatting Tali Remennik, the Founder of Granularity, to learn more about her startup and how she’s infusing demand forecasting with AI and big data to bridge the supply and demand gap in the sector.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you founded Granularity?

“As a data scientist and ex-management consultant, I’ve witnessed first-hand how helpful data science and machine learning can be in solving large-scale problems. I have personally used these methods to help major retailers combat fraud, help governments reduce the risk of traffic accidents and help uncover the underlying barriers to women gaining leadership positions.

Demand forecasting is an issue that consistently resurfaces due to its challenges – and being the engine of every retail business – it can affect a company’s ability to compete in the market. The sector is too often overlooked and issues are starting to trickle out, making consumers take notice. Last year when TikTok had the feta cheese pasta craze we saw a nationwide shortage in feta cheese. The need for demand forecasting is increasing while the sector remains stagnant in producing any new solutions.

This is exactly why Granularity was founded and we are excited to be able to drive progress and remedy this critical issue.”

Laptop screen with forecasting metrics - Granularity blog

What exactly is Granularity’s mission?

“In five years, I can’t imagine a world where retailers aren’t using near real-time consumer data to make decisions about what inventory to order. Consumers are actively communicating their excitement for products on social media and expect their favourite retailers to stock them. Retailers want to listen, and business leaders in the planning sector are eager to bring this data to the forefront of their decision making.

That being said, I know that it’s not easy to decipher the thousands of signals that are being sent daily – from TikTok to Instagram.

And that’s what we’re here to do – help retailers understand how trends can impact their sales. We provide their teams with the actionable consumer insight they need to make decisions.”

Tali, you’ve spent a majority of your career working in AI consulting. What made you decide to make the leap to leave the corporate world and found your own startup?

“When I was younger, I used to imagine being a positive leader – inspiring people to live their passion and purpose. The vision of being a leader has stuck with me and is something that I continue to aspire to do daily. Having my dad, who runs a franchise, only added to this vision and gave me an entrepreneur to look up to. Once that entrepreneurial seed was planted in my brain, I knew I needed to dive in head first.

My time at Accenture is what really gave me the building blocks I needed to start my business. The clients I worked with and the network I was able to create through my experience working in consulting were the key to unlocking curated resources that I could use to position myself as an entrepreneur. This is what allowed me to build a strong foundation and be comfortable embarking on my own entrepreneurial venture. Now that I have been working on growing the company, I am realizing there is truly no other experience that can substitute building a business from the ground up.”

The supply chain industry has been largely dominated by giants for decades. However, over the last 5 years, there has been a significant spike of supply chain management and logistics related startups entering the market. What do you think is the biggest misconception of the space and the influx of new startups?

“Everyone outside of the industry assumes that there is already technology for demand planning and that the market’s problems have been solved. It’s only the parties in the space that understand the lack thereof.

Through working with a few seasoned executives, it was expressed to us that retail and point of sale technologies were largely ignored until the mid-90s, where there was a huge spur of new technology. That was over 20 years ago. It has been almost three decades since the last wave of innovation in supply chain – and more specifically, demand planning. The market was in need of this technology years ago, companies could’ve gotten ahead of the curve.

This is exactly what Granularity is doing for our partners – helping them get ahead of their competitors by predicting and acting on early signs of demand in the market.”

Shipping containers - Granularity blog

The amount of women in the supply chain workforce jumped to 41% in 2021 up from 39% in 2020. However, every leadership level saw an increase in representation except the executive level where there has been a slight decline. Have you had a chance to work with leading women in the space?

“There is always a need to encourage more women to enter the space – there is so much to do and having diverse perspectives will undoubtedly get us there faster.

Granularity is honoured to be partnering with incredible female leaders in the industry. They have a vision of what needs to get done and understand that they need a unique take of the external market to get there. Ultimately, although we are the ones building the solution, I feel like a lot of the visionary ideas come from them.”

What’s next in store for Granularity?

“We are building partnerships with retailers across Canada and the United States to test our minimum viable product. These partnerships are an exciting opportunity for companies to receive actionable consumer insights for their product lines.”

If you work for a retailer, either as a demand planner or merchandise buyer, and want to contribute your ideas to the future of forecasting; please sign-up to provide feedback on Granularity’s product here.

 

If you are a leader at a retail organization and have been continuously talking about improving your demand forecasting, Granularity is actively seeking partnerships. Please reach out here!

Startups, here’s how you can prepare to combat an economic downturn

A blueprint to super-proof your startup and protect against economic instability.

With record-high inflation, wars overseas and rising interest rates, experts are telling Canadians to brace for an economic downturn and warning signs are starting to trickle to the startup and innovation economy, which can affect in a multitude of ways.

Over the last year, Canada’s tech ecosystem showed explosive growth – in fact – a recent BDC VC report showed that Canada had a record year for venture capital, breaking records by almost every metric.

While some in the startup ecosystem are sounding their warning bells, like Silicon Valley-based Y-Combinator, the industry is still positioned to continue its growth. Is it always going to be clear sailing? No. But what we’re seeing is not a halt to our momentum but rather a course correction.

It’s second nature for startups to pivot and change their mindsets to focus on the opportunities at hand. Just look at Uber, Pinterest and Whatsapp, all household names that came out of the 2008-2009 recession!

We’re here to make sure that founders stay resilient, agile and are prepared to bear the punches that may come their way.

iPad screen with stock market metrics - Economic downturn blog

So what can you do to start planning ahead and super-proof your business? We’re glad you asked.

1. Leverage liquidity.

Finding the right liquidity balance for your business can not only help you gain insight into if you have enough cash to pay off your short-term liabilities. but also allows you to set yourself up for strategic growth. Having enough cash on hand is important to meet financial obligations, but holding onto too much cash might leave important investment and growth opportunities on the table. Finding the right balance will ensure long-term stability and provides a good first impression when looking to secure a loan or other funding.

2. Budgeting, budgeting, budgeting.

This goes without saying, but take a moment to sit down and understand exactly where your money is going and where your main sources of revenue are coming from. Getting a thorough understanding of finances will help make tough decisions – if need be – quickly and effectively.

3. Lock in longer commitments.

Focusing on closing longer commitments such as subscriptions or multi-year agreements with customer, partnerships and client can ensure financial security in uncertain circumstances. Recession or not, this is a great tip for any startup that is looking to extend its runway and demonstrate loyalty to customers and partners.

4. Cut costs.

It’s only natural to turn to cost-cutting measures but it’s important to remember one thing – cutting costs does not mean you need to let go of talent. Cutting costs means reevaluating your spending to axe unnecessary costs. Create plans for different levels of financial scarcity to work for different scenarios the ecosystem throws at you.

5. Back-up business plans are your best bet.

This is similar to the last point, but apply it to your entire business plan. Your best bet in preparing for the unknown is to create multiple overarching plans that fit a range of realistic possibilities. These plans should include securing funding as planned, securing a smaller amount and not being able to secure funding at all. Look at other forms of funding as alternatives, whether it be grants, crowdfunding, bank loans or support from family and friends.

Workers having a meeting - Economic downturn blog

Want to learn more about how you can solidify your contingency plans? Apply to a DMZ program here.

The DMZ’s News Roundup: What went down in May

Canada’s venture deal woes, the country’s latest unicorn company and the DMZ’s incoming Bootcamp cohort – this is your monthly DMZ news roundup.

Power up with the DMZ’s News Roundup: a blog series dedicated to providing you with a quick look back on what went down in the Canadian startup and innovation ecosystem this past month.

We’ve got you covered with the most relevant news and notable wins from the ecosystem, DMZ updates and more.

Here’s a rundown of what went down.

INDUSTRY NEWS

New BDC report reveals a record-breaking 2021 for venture capital and private equity deals, while 2022 is expected to experience turbulence

A new BDC report revealed that 2021 was a shattering year for VC, with Canada breaking records by almost every metric. Canada saw a jump in domestic and international VC investing, with 752 deals made, representing $14.7 billion CAD. However, this past quarter, VC deal counts and the money behind private equity deals took a fall. Despite the forecasted challenges, BDC suspects that the startup economy and Canadian entrepreneurs are well-positioned to take them on.

Check out the full report here.

Neo Financial secures $185 million CAD in Series C funding, becomes the country’s newest Unicorn status company

Calgary-based Neo Financial closed their Theil-led Series C funding round, in which they raised $185 million CAD. This additional funding launched the company’s valuation to more than $1 billion CAD, making them the newest tech company to earn official unicorn status in the country. Neo Financial is an online bank bringing a low-fee alternative to the Canadian financial market, helping users save costs on spending and earn high interest on savings.

Learn more here.

Neo Financial becomes Calgary's latest $1 billion tech 'unicorn' | The Star

STARTUP NEWS

SPM solution provider, Forma.AI, is expanding platform development with $45 million CAD secured in Series B funding

DMZ alumni Forma.AI (Incubator ’18), a sales performance management solution provider, recently closed its Series B funding round. With the $45 million CAD secured in funding, they plan on expanding the marketing and development of their fintech platform.

Read more here.

Fable secured $10 million USD to make online accessibility a reality for disabled users

Fable (Incubator ’20), a Toronto-based startup that helps companies make digital products more usable by people with accessibility challenges, announced a $10.5 million USD round in venture capital funding to support the company’s growth. Alwar Pillai, CEO and Co-Founder of Fable, says the company is focusing on unlocking access to more clients by targeting large corporations’ digital teams to target their users.

Check it out here.

WBI-affiliated technology firm CyborgTech to acquire DMZ FinTech alumni Fortuna.AI

DMZ alumni Fortuna.AI (Incubator ’18) announced its acquisition from WBI-affiliated technology firm CyborgTech, home to robo advisory platform Cy, for an undisclosed amount. Fortuna.AI is an AI-powered platform helping financial services scale digital tools to get new clients in the marketing and advertising sector. Fortuna.AI was the winner of the DMZ-Bank of Montreal Fintech accelerator program.

Learn more here.

DMZ NEWS

Introducing the DMZ’s Bootcamp Fall 2022 cohort of cutting-edge tech companies

In a new DMZ blog, we welcome 13 up-and-coming tech companies into our new Bootcamp cohort. Hailing from across Canada, the United States, Brazil, Estonia and Africa, this new cohort is already hitting above their own weight in a diverse range of industries. Check out all the companies in our new Bootcamp cohort here.

Looking for more startup ecosystem news and DMZ updates? Subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter to stay in the know here.

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