Skip to Main Content
The Review

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

Founders

Category Archives: Founders

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.

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!

Hear from the DMZ’s first-ever unicorn founder for his advice on building a billion-dollar company

Event recap: The DMZ’s Founder Dinner

Co-founder and CEO of brand interaction platform Ada, Mike Murchison, spilled the entrepreneurial tea at the DMZ’s Founder Dinner earlier this month, sharing lessons learned from scaling the first-ever DMZ unicorn company the ground up.

Empowering brands to automate customer interactions, Ada brings a VIP experience to every customer and employee through its platform. Since 2018, Ada has increased its revenue by 764% and in 2021, raised its Series C at a valuation of $1.2B, officially achieving unicorn status.

The first in-person DMZ Founder Dinner since 2019, the events are designed to bring the larger DMZ founder community together for an evening of food, drinks and connections.

We thought we’d share some of Mike’s insights and how he built the first-ever DMZ unicorn company for other founders looking to build the next big thing. Watch his full founder talk below to learn more about Ada and Mike’s journey, or keep reading for a recap of the tips and learnings Mike shared with the audience during his talk.

Entrepreneurship is a deeply personal experience

“We in this room are all united by this shared dream of building something important, big and world-changing. The journey that we’re all on is a very, very unique one, but we’re all unified in that shared ambition.”

The value of improving your rate of learning

“I think the single most important thing I’ve learned over the course of this journey has been a deep inward focus on improving my own rate of learning.

I think that’s one of the things I so admire about the community here at the DMZ, is that we’re all committed to learning. We’re all highly curious people who are eager to learn new things.

I encourage you to ask yourself, ‘What is piquing my curiosity? What problem am I facing that may seem insurmountable that I may be able to learn something new from?'”

Founders have a responsibility to support one another

“We all have a responsibility as founders to support one another in our own growth. I encourage everyone making progress themselves to share it with others.

We’re not competing against one another, we’re supporting one another. We all win when a startup in our ecosystem succeeds.”

Mike Murchison talking with another guest. - DMZ Founder Dinner recap

Sometimes the easiest path IS the right path

“I was dealing with a hard problem and someone asked me, ‘What if it wasn’t hard? What if it was easy?’

I’ve grown up and trained myself into thinking I need to do the hardest things, and what I’ve learned in the course of building Ada is that sometimes the easiest path, where you’re feeling the pull, is actually the right path.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously

“Looking back, something I would’ve done differently is not taking myself so seriously.

I wasted a lot of energy thinking about what the ideal path was meant to look like. I wish – earlier on – I would’ve let go of my perception of the right path and been more excited about the path that was unfolding before me.”

DMZ card that says "Changing entrepreneurs' lives." - DMZ Founder Dinner recap

Want to have a front row seat at the next DMZ Founder Dinner to hear from other founders who have made it? Apply to our upcoming Incubator cohort kicking off this fall at dmz.to/incubator.

Meet 13 up-and-coming tech startups in the DMZ’s Bootcamp

Introducing a new cohort of Bootcamp companies who are hitting above their weight across a diverse range of industries

Our newest Bootcamp cohort is in full swing, and we are thrilled to present the 13 tech companies that we have hand-selected to take their businesses to the next level. For the next six weeks, the DMZ will help these founders validate their business idea, establish a minimum viable product and build a roadmap for implementation to launch their startup.

Our Bootcamp founders get the chance to participate in peer-to-peer sessions, founder roundtables and expert-led workshops, receive 80+ membership benefits valued at $470,000+, have one-on-one support from our DMZ Program Leads and much more. Post-graduation, they will be on track to launch their startup within three months and generate revenue within six, allowing them to kick-start their entrepreneurial journey!

We are delighted to share that our new cohort of startups have a global reach, with startups across Canada, the United States, Brazil, Estonia and Africa.

So, without further ado, please welcome our incoming cohort of cutting-edge companies:

Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups
BestAuction

Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups: bestauction

BestAuction is a digital platform designed for individuals and SMBs to manage the procurement process and initiate digital cross-collaboration.

Troop Impact

Woman Founders stream
Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups: troopTroop Impact is a social impact tech platform for SMBs that allows businesses to meet the social responsibility demands of employees and customers by voting monthly on where their company’s social impact dollars will be allocated.

TechFusion

Black Innovation Program stream
TechFusion is an accessible digital banking platform for credit unions, cooperatives and savings groups, targeted toward the unbanked and underserved in Africa.

SensaioTech

Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups: SensaiotechSensaioTech is an end-to-end fire risk assessment solution that is able to monitor and predict when and where a wildfire will occur using artificial intelligence.

Paysync

Black Innovations Programs stream
PaySync is a financial technology services company developing financial solutions for employee wellbeing and productivity.

Gander

Black Innovation Program stream
Gander is a B2B, subscription-based, AR and 3D modelling API plug-in service designed to allow customers to virtually interact with products on e-commerce sites.

ZewalletZewallet

Zewallet allows customers to scan a QR code to tip, split and pay a bill at the end of their meals, benefitting both customer experiences and merchants in cost and time efficiency and in increased revenue.

ZaNiheza

Woman Founders stream and Black Innovation Programs stream
Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups: Za NihezaZaNiheza is a dual booking software and travel marketplace that empowers verified operators to list and sell quality experiences online to travellers.

Sleekscore

Black Innovation Program stream
Sleekscore is a financial technology company that seeks to assist those who are either unfamiliar with credit or inadequately served by traditional financial products to build and improve their credit scores while getting into the habit of saving money.

Scooli

Black Innovation Program stream
Scooli is a one-stop-shop digital solution for educators that minimizes the time teachers and administrators spend on redundant administrative tasks.

Frenzy Brands

Frenzy Brands

Woman Founders stream
Frenzy Brands extends a child’s understanding of the stock market, business and investing with a focus on learning through play.

LeaderTree

Black Innovation Program stream
LeaderTree is a single integrated platform that enables effective leaders,

teams, collaboration and results through assessments, training, coaching and tools to understand strengths, needs, tendencies and preferences.

DataCalculus

Woman Founders stream
Data CalculusDataCalculus is an automated software that acts like a personal computer but for the purpose of advanced data analytics and machine learning for the mass market.

 

If you are an early-stage tech founder and are interested in joining the DMZ Bootcamp alongside amazing peers like these, check out more about the program and its selection criteria here. Our next cohort kicks off September 2022!

Revolutionizing insurtech: How Baoba is providing customized insurance products with efficient returns across the globe

On Wednesdays, we startup.

To celebrate our women-identifying founders, we’ve put together ‘On Wednesdays, we startup’, a blog series dedicated to putting 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 with Kata Ludvig, the Founder of Baoba, to learn more about her startup and how she’s modernizing the insurance industry to keep up with expectations of the 21st  century customer.

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

I spent my early career working across various Fortune 500 companies, including Mercedes, Red Bull and Walt Disney. I was first exposed to the world of startups when I co-founded BankZee, a family banking solution for Generation Zers and their parents. I then led Flight Refund as CEO, a legal aid solution for travelers and also consulted for location intelligence and deeptech company Datapolis where I spearheaded business development in Singapore. It was only last December I finally decided to take the plunge and found my current startup Baoba.

It was actually during my time at Flight Refund, where we dealt with delay-related airline compensation cases, that I saw the need for flexible travel protection as an aftermath of the pandemic. Three weeks after I had joined the company as CEO, over 90% of planes were grounded due to the pandemic. This is when the significance of financial protection and the need for flexible insurance really hit me and it inspired me to radically rethink insurance products beyond airline delays. Users today don’t have access to personalized insurance coverages – it’s still a one-size-fits-all product. In a world where we customize almost every aspect of our lives, insurance coverage was falling behind.

Airplanes on tarmac - How Baoba is revolutionizing insurtech

What exactly is Baoba’s mission?

Baoba is on a mission to change the way insurance is sold – we believe that the insurance industry needs to catch up to the expectations of the 21st century customer.

Baoba is offering what today’s customers need – a personalized and automated on-demand service that can insure. By providing personalized insurance that can adapt to our customers’ habits and lifestyles, we hope to become the global ecosystem orchestrator for intermediaries and resellers for on-demand insurance needs.

Despite Baoba being an early stage startup, you’ve already set up shop in Canada, the United States and Hungary. How has your experience been working across global markets? How important was it for you to have a global presence?

The decision to break into new markets was not only a conscious decision made by the company, but a necessity due to the nature of the industry. Our distributors and insurance partners operate internationally, so we had to make our products available globally and adopt a multi-market mindset from the get-go. We have an international team scattered across the world spanning Hungary, Italy, Turkey, France, Costa Rica and the United States.

While working globally has its benefits it also has its difficulties as well, including administering payroll and working across timezones. Public facing efforts also need to be managed more carefully, like public relations in different countries and multilingual customer support.

Our global presence is also extremely important from an investment perspective. Being a CEE (Central and Eastern Europe) Founder, it’s tough to break into the North American market. However, we’ve been able to attract talent, partners and angel investors from all over the world. I have no doubt that the DMZ will play a huge role in supporting us as we break into new markets and finesse our North-American go-to-market strategy.

The insurtech market has skyrocketed globally, projected to reach nearly $190 billion CAD by 2030. Could you tell us a little about the momentum the industry is facing?

It’s easy for millennials and Gen Zers to take personalized products and services for granted, as this has become the norm. Today, almost every aspect of our lives is customizable, and the financial and banking industries have been cashing in on this movement.

Insurance at its core is a hassle for most of us, as a result of inconveniences such as manual claims processing, lengthy documents, confusing language, unclear conditions, and long payout processes.

Insurtechs have not only recognized that there is an issue to solve, but have also identified opportunities to improve the insurance value chain. This ranges from improving claims processes, to AI and machine learning-driven solutions, to data-driven fraud detection and customizable insurance products.

Girl working at computer - How Baoba is revolutionizing insurtech

Baoba recently announced a partnership with Blink Parametrics to roll-out a flight-delay solution. What exactly does this new partnership mean for Baoba?

Our partnerships with Blink Parametric enables us to further expand our client portfolios with valuable, automated and on-demand travel insurances that are supported by claim processing and real-time pay-out solutions. This is our sweet spot – where world-class insurtech and customer experience collides.

Now our partners can connect to our platform with a single API to embed parametric products or sell standalone products.

What advice would you give founders looking to break into the insurtech space?

  • Think fresh – A background in insurance isn’t necessary, having a novel idea and asking the right questions are your way in. Someone who has worked in the industry for say, 20 years might be too comfortable to shine light on a new perspective that reflects the needs of the current market.
  • Know your purpose – Narrow down a clear value proposition and strategy, and focus on building that. As you grow, you will be presented with many opportunities and emerging innovations in various areas of the industry. It can be very tempting to differentiate and try to tackle several areas, but you don’t want to take away from your core offerings, values and promises.
  • It’s a small world – Despite being a global industry, insurance industry insiders are well-connected through incumbents, insurtechs, challengers and investors. It’s crucial to network and build strong relationships, as well as have a solid unique selling proposition.

What’s next in store for Baoba?

Baoba’s next steps include closing an upcoming seed round of $1.5M USD and expanding into North America. We are also looking for niche talent working at the cusp of data science and insurance to help us flesh out an intricate product strategy and bridge our minimum viable product with our five year vision.

Head over to Baoba’s website to learn more about how Kata is revolutionizing the insurance industry.

 

Want to learn more about how you can help Baoba on their journey? Reach out to their team at hello@gobaoba.com.

Meet the DMZ’s Spring ‘22 startup cohort

Introducing the DMZ’s newest cohort: 11 tech startups that are disrupting the Canadian tech ecosystem 


The DMZ Incubator is a market validation and traction program that helps venture-backable pre-seed and seed-stage startups execute their go-to market strategy, acquire lighthouse customers, gain media exposure, explore global expansion, preparing for the next round of funding, and much, much more.

Out of hundreds of the high-calibre startup founders that applied from Canada and around the world, the DMZ hand-picked 11 tech companies to join a new 18-month cohort in the Incubator. 

This cohort has startups joining from Vancouver, Canada to Budapest, Hungary, across diverse industries like logistics, insurtech, fintech, proptech, and more.

Introducing our Spring ‘22 Incubator cohort:

 

AssetFlo is building the next generation of location products to help the supply chain increase visibility with a single device that works everywhere and eliminates costly infrastructure.

Baoba is creating street-smart insurances by combining location intelligence with technologies to create geo-triggered coverages. Baoba’s vision is to become the #1 global ecosystem orchestrator for on-demand insurance needs and the platform for connecting a fragmented market.

Carmodity partners with car dealerships to provide lease-financing to customers in a debt-free and interest-free model.


Cozii Technologies provides sustainable residential and commercial properties management services. Their flagship product Cozii Proptech allows residential landlords to manage their rental properties from anywhere in the world. 

Lightster is a mobile platform that enables tech startups to build instant user communities for input and co-creation, and rewards users for their time with exclusive access and cash.

Monosens helps industrial machine builders and maintenance providers predict which machines need maintenance or aftermarket services using IoT technology and AI.

Businesses, governments, and individuals share many important documents every day. myLaminin uses Blockchain to deliver security, convenience, and control to the document issuer, document holder, and third-party document verifiers.

Reyts is a marketplace that allows individuals to swap currencies seamlessly and securely.

SizeWize offers an AI-backed fit recommendations eCommerce app that ensures online shoppers can buy the right size online, providing reduced returns, increased conversion, increased AOV, targeted marketing and optimal supply chains. 



Getting a car is time-consuming and difficult. Related services like insurance and maintenance make it even worse.
ShiftRide offers flexible car subscriptions on their users’ own terms.

VRapeutic is an Ontario-based UNICEF Innovation Fund portfolio software house specializing in developing therapeutic and rehabilitation solutions, with a focus on virtual reality (VR) for learning and developmental challenges.

 

If you are an early-stage tech founder interested in joining the DMZ Incubator, check out more about the program details and selection criteria here.

« Older Entries