Bouncing back from startup setbacks


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Bouncing back from startup setbacks

Marie Chevrier spent years building DropGift, a startup that allowed users to send gift cards through Facebook, pouring her heart and soul into the project.

Soon after (and rather suddenly) a leading competitor to DropGift was acquired by tech giant Facebook. Chevrier and her team were left with no real future opportunities in the space. Startup setbacks, like what happened with DropGift, can happen at any time. An essential skill for entrepreneurs, then, is being able to bounce right back.

“For me, that first business was kind of like my MBA” said Chevrier, now CEO of Sampler, which helps brands distribute physical product samples to digitally targeted customers.

DropGift may have failed, but, as Chevrier now understands, the experience gave her the core skills necessary to launch Sampler. Understanding that failures are part of the entrepreneurial process is essential to keep in mind when building up a startup. Sampler, for instance, faced more than a few setbacks early on.

In its infancy, Sampler used Facebook as its sole platform to connect audiences with brands. But, as the Sampler team soon found out, being beholden to Facebook caused some problems.

“Every time Facebook changed their policies, we would have to jump through 20 hoops” said Kelly Stewart, head of marketing at Sampler.

Eventually, after growing increasingly frustrated, Stewart, Chevrier, and the Sampler team decided to change their operation entirely. To remove the obstacle of Facebook entirely, Sampler created their own platform to connect with audiences.

An ongoing issue became an opportunity for growth.

“Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board, no matter what stage you’re at… It can be a huge payoff if you’re willing to take that risk.”

Setbacks in a startup setting can, of course, come in many forms. Problems can be tangible, like a software glitch, or a valued employee may suddenly leave the team. The latter situation is something Chevrier dealt with recently at Sampler, when a key operations employee decided to start their own entrepreneurial venture.

“Instead of looking at it as an ‘oh crap we’re screwed’ situation… I decided to make it into an opportunity and go deeper into their role.”

So, before the team member departed, Chevier spent time working alongside them, gaining a newfound understanding of the business, especially aspects she hadn’t paid attention to in a while. The lessons learned were also invaluable when rewriting the position’s job description, which had evolved drastically since the initial hire, something other startup executives should consider doing, says Chevrier.

Finding the silver lining isn’t always an easy task, especially when your business is on the line.

When facing a serious problem, one that you don’t think can be remedied, Chevrier has a strategy for that, too: get some rest.

“Everything is better after a good night’s sleep… Give yourself the trust that you’ll figure it out once you’re well rested.”

Five startups that will help you reach your 2017 resolutions

Know where you stand financially

Do you know your credit score? If not, making large financial goals like saving for your first home or a shiny new car can be challenging if you don’t know how banks or financial lenders view you. The good news is you no longer have to pay $40 or more just to find out what could be an eye opening three digit number. Since June 2016, DMZ alum, Borrowell, has partnered with Equifax to bless Canadians with free credit scores. So take a deep breath, head over to Borrowell’s website and see how likely potential lenders will want to take the risk of giving you a loan. If your credit score is a less than a flattering number, don’t fret! Borrowell provides free tips on how you can reach your credit score goal.

Already know your score? Take things a step further by opening a Registered Retired Savings Plan (RRSP). In your 20s, covering your basic needs often takes priority over longer term goals such as saving for retirement. Investing in RRSPs will reduce your taxes – your future self will thank you. Borrowell and Wealthsimple have partnered to help people make their RRSP’s contributions if they don’t have the cash on hand to do it. So take the leap of faith because Borrowell and Wealthsimple will have your back.

Moving? Don’t forget a thing!

Moving is one of the few things in life you just can’t turn into a fun task. And to be honest… it’s dreadful and there’s really no way around that. But it can be a lot more tolerable and a lot less stressful when you use MoveSnap. If you’re planning to change addresses in 2017, this Toronto-based startup allows you to complete all your moving-related tasks on one easy-to-use platform. What does this include exactly?

  • Transfer utilities: MoveSnap identifies your current and future providers and quickly guides you through transferring or disconnecting utilities
  • Change your address: easily notify businesses, governments (driver’s license, health card, you name it!) and even your favourite magazine about your upcoming move
  • Stay in control: always know what needs to be done next with MoveSnap’s clean and intuitive layout so you never miss a thing.
Got 2017 summer body goals? Don’t we all…

Remember- this year you won’t abandon your health goals by April. Thanks to Optimity, you’ll increase your chances for long-term success in achieving your fitness goals. The platform provides productive 30-second to two-minute micro-breaks that help you rejuvenate and refocus your health efforts. The app helps you cover all bases by managing and centralizing your healthy initiatives from work to home.

Need the daily push and accountability of a trainer? Get on Trainer+. Their new program provides a fitness plan tailored to your needs and delivered by a personal trainer through your phone. Trainer+ allows anyone to receive the support from a fitness professional without breaking their post-holiday bank account. Something those pricey gym packages know how to do a little too well.

Battle your urges with Urbery

Okay, so you’re walking through the aisles of your local grocery store and you’re doing great so far. You’ve got some fresh produce, whole-wheat grains, grass-fed meats and even a couple of those new protein bars everyone at your office is raving about. Then, you find yourself in what feels like the never ending salty snack or bakery aisle and you’re fighting urges that are making your palms sweat. We’ve all been there before, but you no longer have to. Save yourself the battle of possibly losing to the sight of a big bag of Doritos or a six pack of red velvet cupcakes and just get on Urbery. This grocery delivery platform uses a fleet of crowd sourced personal shoppers so you can go online, click the food items you need (not crave) and never have to see those sweet or salty aisles again.

If you use these five startups, you’ll never understand why you thought it would be so hard to stick to your new year resolutions. But if you don’t, you’ve been warned.

Swift health care is at the heart of this Toronto company’s plans

Traditionally, doctors, nurses and health-care professionals working in wound care management have been forced to manually study and describe patients’ wounds. This process is complicated by the fact that the wound itself can change rapidly and quick response and treatment is crucial to effective healing. As such, it is difficult for patients to get the care they can both trust and understand.

Fortunately, one innovative company has found a way to simplify and improve wound care management. Founded in 2015, Swift Medical aims to bring automation and standardization to visual health-care assessments on a global basis. Their latest product, Swift Wound, allows doctors, nurses and patients to easily measure and assess chronic wounds using their smartphone.

Using a phone’s camera, users can scan a wound and the Swift Wound app will detect and capture an image of the wound as well as measure the wound and provide details on its size, dimensions and shape. With additional assessments, users can visually and numerically examine exactly how the wound is changing over time. This information can then be viewed by a single user or team of users working within a medical facility.

“People could have these wounds for years and they would never go away,” said Swift Medical’s Founder, Carlo Perez. “It’s a problem that just shouldn’t be happening, and we’re passionate about making a change.”

But just how can technology, especially from within an app, actually improve wound care management – something that, until now, has been primarily a manual process?

“Ultimately, it means better care, faster care and more connected care,” said Perez. “For the patient, the most important benefit is that the clinicians that you’re interacting with actually know if you’re healing or not. It’s really scary to think that leading up until now they didn’t know, or rather they didn’t know in such a precise fashion.”

Perez and his team come from both medical and non-medical backgrounds.

“I think where we came into the medical space, we actually came at it with engineering first and foremost,” he explained. “We have clinical members on the team and we also have team members who have deep backgrounds inside of visioning and computer vision, and what we decided to do was apply that in as many ways as we could to various different challenges.”

It started with dermatology and quickly transitioned into wound care, something they realized was a much bigger problem. In fact, Perez says that when they looked into the statistics “it was 40 per cent error from one measurement to the next on average.”

With this knowledge and unsolved challenge in front of them, Perez says, “We had the skills and background to be able to solve it, and we had a clinical team that was absolutely insanely passionate about it and had been working on this for years.” The rest was history.

Now, Swift operates within a software as a service (SaaS) model – per-bed or per-practitioner, per-day, depending on whether it is being used in an in- or outpatient setting.

Current projections have Swift being used in thousands of facilities by the end of the year. Evidently, doctors, nurses, health-care professionals and their patients have recognized the benefits of Swift.

Looking forward, Swift Medical is in talks to enter into several exciting partnerships – including a recently announced relationship with leading North American electronic health record (EHR) provider, PointClickCare, powering their Skin and Wound app – and will also be introducing new technology to the Swift platform. In other words, this is just the beginning.

“We recently did a stage demo and had 1,500 nurses standing and clapping for what they were seeing on stage,” Perez said. “I think by and large Swift’s been received incredibly well and I think ultimately it comes down to the fact that this has been hard for them to do forever and now they can do it with not a $25,000 device but the smartphone in their pocket.”

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How two DMZ startups are bringing tech to the food industry

Pass The Table connects diners with unique, memorable and meaningful out-of-house dining encounters. Launched in September 2014, the startup gives exclusive access to curated and tailored restaurant menus in Toronto, such as 10-courses of Japanese tapas at Hapa Izakaya or a pig’s head dinner at Farmhouse Tavern. You may even find a chef who wants to have you over to their own home for a personalized dinner.

The idea for Pass The Table came very naturally to founder Jason Finestone, an established professional food writer.

“I had a lot of amazing experiences, and I wanted to give that type of experience to the general public and connect people more deeply with the restaurants that host them, the chefs that are cooking for them, the producers of their beverages and the growers of their ingredients,” said Finestone. “With us, you’re always getting a VIP treatment.”

Pass The Table also organizes large-scale events and dinners at exciting and innovative venues, such as the Toronto Island and the Dock Ellis brewery, and custom curation events, like anniversary dinners or wedding parties. Whether you’re a single diner or part of a big group, there’s a culinary adventure waiting for you.

Pass The Table offers experiences ranging from $35 a person up to $160 a person for more premium, one-off events. Most bookings are paid partially in advance, and the remainder is due in house. The startup’s revenue comes from the booking fee built into the price of the experience.

To the diners’ benefit, Pass The Table offers incredible experiences that can’t be replicated but are exclusively accessible through the platform. “It’s something that nobody else in the restaurant is having, so people walk by and say, ‘Oh my gosh, how did you get that?’ It’s like, ‘Ah, man, you have to go to Pass The Table.’

In the immediate future, Finestone’s eyes are set on Vancouver and Chicago for expansion. But ultimately, he intends to reach even further afield.

More in the mood for dining in? Urbery has you covered: they’ll bring you all the grocery and alcohol items you need to fire up an awesome meal at home, all within as little as two hours.

Since the spring of 2015, Urbery has catered to everyone looking to find ways to save time with grocery shopping and preparing food – young millennials, busy parents, working professionals and persons with a disability. Customers can contact Urbery’s Grocery Guru in real time via a simple messaging system that allows them to track or make changes to their order.

The Urbery team, including founder and CEO Mudit Rawat, comes from a strong retail background. This has enabled them to integrate a rewarding loyalty program based on points that can be converted to order discounts or charitable donations (coming soon) and a freshness guarantee policy that further ensures full customer satisfaction.

Urbery’s revenue model is two-fold. For one, any order under $65 is charged a delivery fee that ranges from $5.99 to $9.99, while orders over $65 are given free shipping as an incentive. If alcohol is ordered, there is an additional $10 fee to cover legal delivery restrictions. Secondly, Urbery’s price markups range from 15 to 20 per cent, depending on such factors as market demand and whether the product is in season. A third aspect of the model, which is still in the planning stage, is a brand partnership strategy that would see targeted advertisements to customers and, eventually, product promotions funded by the brands.

Using targeted data analytics, Rawat says Urbery is also about to launch recipe integration. As Rawat explains,

“What if you were buying certain products and the platform understood that and automatically sent you recipes saying, here’s what you have and here’s what you can make and here’s how to do it?” he asked, adding that the customer experience is Urbery’s biggest priority. This mindset has gotten them far to date, with their average user rating being a 4.8 out of 5.

Unlike their competitor Grocery Gateway, which operates their own warehouse, Urbery cuts costs by using an Uber-like, crowd source model.

“There’s a reason why grocery delivery hasn’t picked up [in Canada] even though e-commerce has exploded all across the world. It’s just because financially it’s very hard to operate,” said Rawat. “We don’t hold inventory, we don’t have warehouses, and we use existing infrastructure with amazing grocery stores and liquor suppliers like Loblaws, Sobeys, Whole Foods and LCBO. People are buying from other people and doing it at their time and it becomes a complete variable cost of business.”

Right now, Urbery typically defaults to Loblaws to fulfill orders as their stores are best placed within the Toronto delivery zone, but if a customer requests their groceries from another store, the Grocery Gurus are able to accommodate. Rawat says that the door is open for partnership opportunities with any GTA grocers.

Also on Urbery’s agenda is expansion across the province and throughout Canada.

“Six months back, we were learning how to crawl. I think we’ve learned how to crawl and now we’re walking. Next steps, we’ll be running,” said Rawat about the company’s growth.

So, whether you’re looking for a special dining extravaganza, or added accessibility and convenience in making a delicious dish at home, Pass The Table and Urbery are ready to help.