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From a family roofing business to $10M CAD in seed funding

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From a family roofing business to $10M CAD in seed funding

How a 3rd generation roofer is disrupting the roofing market

For years, roofing has been seen as a traditional industry, relying on skills passed on from one generation to another. After working in the space for nearly 12 years, Richard Nelson, Founder and CEO of RoofR, saw an opportunity to introduce an innovative solution to modernize and digitize the field.

RoofR’s software allows roofers to measure any roof from anywhere with near pinpoint accuracy through aerial imagery and creates polished proposals that help seal the deal. Their tools help roofers streamline their workflow, helping both homeowners and contractors.

We caught up with Richard to learn more about how their company has evolved over the years, their recent raise, and what they have in store for the future.  

For years, roofing has been seen as a great trade in the construction industry, but not necessarily an industry that adopts new tech solutions. As a third-generation roofer by trade, could you tell us a bit about what led you to found RoofR?

Richard Nelson working as a roofer at the beginning of his career.

“The first time I was on a roof, I was 12 years old. Roofing was our family business: my grandfather was a roofer, my uncle was a roofer, and my dad was a roofer. I was a part of the family business for nearly 12 years and then took a job with one of the largest roofing contractors in Toronto. I soon realized how broken and archaic the roofing industry was, and knew I needed to do something to fix it. 

So I decided to quit my job, sell my house, and put everything I had into RoofR. Together, with my partner and CTO Kevin Redman, we decided it was time to disrupt the industry. 

What I realized as a roofing contractor and salesman was just how many inefficiencies existed. Consumers did not have a way to find good roofers, and there was a lack of tools available for roofers to streamline their workflow digitally.

This sparked the vision of creating an end to end roofing platform that helps both homeowners and roofing contractors — a software as a service (SaaS) for roofers.”


“This sparked the vision of creating an end to end roofing platform that helps both homeowners and roofing contractors — a software as a service (SaaS) for roofers.”

How would you describe the experience of introducing a new tech platform to a market that may be hesitant to change? How did you break into the industry?

“I come from a family of roofers, and even some of my family members were a bit skeptical of the idea. Traditionally, the construction industry was not tech-enabled, but ultimately I understood the pain points that these roofers were going through, living it myself.”

Richard knew that if he could build a really powerful, but simple software for roofers to utilize, he could make a big difference in the industry. 

“As we began to roll out SaaS features, specifically the measurement tool that allows roofers to measure through satellite, there was certainly some push back from roofers who typically use a tape measure.”

Rather than driving to a client’s house to take measurements, go back to the office, and then return with a final quote, roofers can enter an address in their system and have a complete roof measurement within minutes that auto-calculates material quantities and creates a professional proposal a customer can e-sign. 

“Once we explained to roofers the benefits and the value that we add, that skepticism was pushed aside and they were willing to adopt.”

When the pandemic hit, going digital was inevitable for roofers. This presented an opportunity for RoofR to really solidify its position in the space. Roofers needed to be able to provide quotes and proposals to homeowners digitally, so they had no other choice than to look for reliable solutions they could trust in order to keep their clients safe. Roofr was the solution.

Could you explain to us exactly how the RoofR platform works?

“We enable roofers to measure any roof, from their desk, or in the field, in under two minutes with near pinpoint accuracy through our aerial imagery software. Roofers can then take those measurements and auto populate proposals that can be sent to their customers for e-signature.”

From measurement, to proposal, to a signed contract, RoofR has created a sales toolbox for roofers — automating the entire process under one platform. 

It was recently announced that RoofR secured $4.25 million USD in funding, bringing your new total amount raised to $8.25 million. What does this new round of funding mean for the company, and do you have any specific plans?

Kevin Redman CTO, and Richard Nelson CEO of RoofR.

“We are obsessed with providing a world class customer experience. We go above and beyond with every single customer, even if it doesn’t necessarily scale. With this investment, we plan to build out our sales, customer success, support, and engineering teams to help drive this world-class experience.

What impact did the DMZ have on RoofR’s trajectory?

I was not able to get a meeting with a venture capitalist (VC) before my time at the DMZ. Within two weeks of being part of the program, I had a handful of meetings with VCs that were able to help me refine my pitch. 

Our time at the DMZ helped set us up for our Y Combinator interview. I was able to connect to other founders that had also gone through the YC interview process, and had mock interviews to get hands-on investor practice. I credit a lot of us getting into Y Combinator to the DMZ.”

Moreover, the DMZ was able to help RoofR expand its network and gave the startup a sense of community. “Whenever I needed help, I could walk into the DMZ’s common space and find someone knowledgeable to ask questions, or reach out via email. It was a sense of community that I really loved. And I needed it at that time, because being a solo entrepreneur can be wildly lonely.”


“Whenever I needed help, I could walk into the DMZ’s common space and find someone knowledgeable to ask questions, or reach out via email. It was a sense of community that I really loved. And I needed it at that time, because being a solo entrepreneur can be wildly lonely.”

As an Alumni-in-Residence at the DMZ, what has been your favourite part about mentoring other startups?

“I get a lot of joy out of being an Alumni-in-Residence. I love giving back and helping founders with advice and insights to help them avoid the same mistakes that I’ve made. Being exposed to all the other innovative startups and business models that are being leveraged is also very captivating.”

Richard played a part in helping DMZ alumni company Turing Labs get into the Y-Combinator as well, which he described as “an incredible moment that allowed him to give back to the community.” 

What advice would you give to a fellow founder who is looking to raise funds for their startup?

“When you do get a chance to meet with an investor, make sure you know your numbers. This is a mistake that will affect your credibility. Investors will likely ask you about your growth rates, unit economics and number of active users…etc, so make sure you are prepared.

Focus on telling a story. Rather than just reading off of slides, paint the bigger picture. Remember that as a seed stage company they are often investing in you rather than the company. Sell yourself – why are you the best person to build this multibillion dollar company? Can you pivot if need be? Make sure to really craft the narrative around the size of the opportunity, why now is the time, and why you’re the best person to do this.”

“Remember that as a seed stage company they are often investing in you rather than the company. Sell yourself – why are you the best person to build this multibillion dollar company? Can you pivot if need be? Make sure to really craft the narrative around the size of the opportunity, why now is the time, and why you’re the best person to do this.”

Are you also obsessed with providing world-class customer experiences? RoofR is growing rapidly and has a wide-range of positions available including, sales, product, engineering, finance, and customer success. Head over to jobs.lever.co/Roof to learn more! 

How to raise capital for your startup

Get advice from tech founders who have closed multi-million dollar investment deals for their startups.


DMZ’s startups and alumni have raised over $1 billion CAD in funding. Curious to learn more about the investment trends, and the startups that helped break $1 billion?
Click here

Let’s face it. If you’re a startup founder, you’ll need to learn how to raise capital at one point or another.

At the DMZ, we appreciate how overwhelming the wild ride of funding a startup can be. Raising capital is, without question, one of the most challenging aspects of growing and scaling a business.  

Luckily, many DMZ alumni founders have been successful in attracting investors and securing funding – but, at one time, they were also in your shoes. In light of DMZ startups and alumni breaking $1 billion in funding, we asked founders for their best advice and lessons learned when it comes to startup fundraising. 

Here’s what they had to say. 

“Create a job description for your ideal lead investor/board member. Evaluate everyone you meet through that lens. Helps flip the power dynamic. Are they the right investor for you?” Bryan Gold, Co-Founder and CEO, and Adam Rivietz, Co-Founder and CSO, of #paid

paid

What’s new with #paid?

Co-Founders Bryan Gold and Adam Rivetz were recognized as part of Forbes 30 under 30 marketing and advertising list. Read more about their feature here

“There is plenty of capital out in the market, especially as markets are looking to bounce back from Covid. Founders need to focus on their business and the pain points they are looking to solve first. Get some early adopters and initial traction to prove the product market fit and the capital will follow. Founders often make the mistake of going after capital first to bring the idea to fruition, but with tools and resources these days, getting an MVP out by bootstrapping has become a lot easier.” – Kumar Erramilli, CTO and Co-Founder of ACTO 

What’s new with ACTO?acto

ACTO’s growth was accelerated following an $11.5 million USD funding round last August. Since then, ACTO has made two strategic acquisitions to bolster its mobile learning and patient-facing education capabilities, building on its promise to deliver true omnichannel education for learners within the care industry!

“Many tech founders look to raise capital to fund the development of a product or service, but bootstrapping and getting small loans from friends or family not only serves as a good vetting for your idea, but also can carry you through early development and allow for closing of the first couple of sales. This can go a long way to getting a better evaluation for your capital raise and minimizes costly early dilution.” – Adrian Bulzacki, Founder of ARB Labs

What’s new with ARB Labs? arb labs

ARB Labs launched ChipVue, a new optical based bet recognition™ system that provides real-time slot-like analytics for blackjack, baccarat and other carnival style table games. Learn more about ChipVue here

“Be very mindful of the investors you bring on board and really understand their motivations, expectations and their ability to support and partner with you over the years. Bringing on an investor is analogous to being in a marriage and so focus on building those relationships.” – Nishaant Sanghavi, CEO and Co-Founder of EnergyX 

What’s new with EnergyX?energy x

EnergyX was 1 of 6 tech firms in Toronto chosen by the federal government to receive funding to help support their long term growth. EnergyX is receiving $500,000 to expand its customer base and increase automation!

“Don’t build everything in-house! Many tools out there can create the “Wizard of Oz” effect of your product.” – Karen Lau, Co-Founder and CTO, and Michael Van, Co-Founder and CEO, of Furnishr

What’s new with Furnishr?furnish

Furnishr is growing! They are expanding their operations, sales and development teams. For more information on how to apply click here.

“When looking for investors, don’t be afraid to branch outside of Canadian borders.”– Eropa Stein, CEO and Founder of Hyre

What’s new with Hyre?

hyre

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hyre pivoted and now offers an employee scheduling platform for the healthcare industry, in addition to the hospitality and restaurant industry.

“The right fit with your investor is worth waiting for if you can afford it.” – Karim Ali, CEO of Invision AI

What’s new with Invision AI?invision

Invision AI has joined forces with Thales and Metrolinx to develop advanced autonomous technologies for rail systems with support from the Ontario government through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN). Plus, they recently announced they have successfully completed high performance portable roadside vehicle occupancy detection field tests with over 97.5% precision! 

“Invest time in building your network. Create connections with people in the industry well in advance of needing the funding. When you are ready to start raising money, it will come much easier if you have developed the right connections.” – Erifili Morfidis, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, and Charlotte Gummesson, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, of iRestify 

What’s new with iRestify?

With the onset of the global pandemic, iRestify had to make some tough decisions and pivot as most of their clients, which were commercial office tenants, no longer had use for their space. As a result, they shifted their efforts and focused on the multi-residential property management sector. Learn more about their story of determination and growth here

“Fundraising is 70-80% preparation.” – Casey Binkley, Founder and CEO of Movia

What’s new with Movia?

Movia recently partnered with Corus entertainment to help launch two new tv shows, The Equalizer and Clarice. Movia’s truck advertisements offered the chance to bring the big screen feeling to the ads themselves, along with the ability to reach target audiences. Check out the full case study here

“Think long and hard about what you want to accomplish with your business, and what’s most important in your life before you raise a dollar.” – Corey Gross, CEO and Founder of Sensibill

What’s new with Sensibill?

Sensibill announced their new Sensibill Platform, which includes two new solutions, Spend Manager and Spend Insights, which aims to give financial institutions deeper data and insights needed to better serve and nurture financially resilient, loyal customers. They were also awarded with FinTech Breakthrough’s personal finance innovation award!

“Having access to required capital is a critically important aspect of growing a new venture. For new tech founders, surround yourself with trusted advisors who can guide you through the process of the structuring for and raising of capital. Having good advisors to be sounding boards for investor materials and your pitch is important. Treat raising capital like sales: create the right messages ahead of time, build a good funnel of prospects, get active and communicate often, don’t be afraid to hear the word no, listen to the feedback, but be selective on what you choose to refine, celebrate your wins and keep going. Treat your investors well as they can be extremely helpful in finding other investors. Most importantly, be yourself and speak confidently about your venture.” – Brian Deck, CEO of Smooth Commerce

What’s new with Smooth Commerce?

Smooth Commerce has launched great brands including Mary Brown’s, Fresh, Denny’s, Chop Steakhouse, Maker Pizza, Pizzeria Libretto and many more. Plus, Invest in Ontario named Smooth Commerce as one of the top 12 fintechs to watch in 2021 as they continue to elevate ordering and delivery and they were listed as one of Canada’s 2021 Best Workplaces™. 

“The most important part is having product market fit. Have a product that customers want regardless of how ‘beta’ it is. With that comes growth in your key metrics and makes everything a lot easier!’ – Hussein Fazal, CEO and Co-Founder, and Henry Shi, Co-Founder, of Snapcommerce

What’s new with Snapcommerce?

Snapcommerce recently secured $107 million CAD in growth funding, signalling confidence from investors in the company’s mission to expand beyond the travel industry! With the new round of funding Snapcommerce is looking to expand in different verticals, hoping to transform the way people shop on their phones. 

“It’s sales. You’re not raising funds. You’re selling shares. So run it as a sales process with a deadline. If you think you can generate anything close to the same amount of cash by spending that energy and effort on customers you’d be much wiser to sell products for cash than equity.” – Brennan McEachran, CEO and Co-Founder of Soapbox

What’s new with Soapbox?

Soapbox released a new Zapier integration, enabling teams to instantly connect Soapbox with over 2,000 apps to automate their work and become more productive. Users can now unlock powerful integrations like Asana, Trello and Microsoft To Do.  

“Take your time to identify VCs with investment portfolios that are aligned with your specific business sector. “ – Laura Bryson, COO and Co-Founder of SWTCH

What’s new with SWTCH?

Earlier this month, the federal government announced a $235,000 investment for SWTCH to install 61 electric vehicle chargers across Ontario and Quebec. By leveraging SWTCH’s solution, the government hopes to encourage the adoption of zero-emission vehicles and provide consumers with more green options to charge and drive their vehicles! 

“Raise money only when it’s absolutely necessary. You want to raise money when you feel like you will get favourable terms. To get favourable terms, you need to show traction and that takes time. So instead of coming up with an idea and thinking “I need to raise money”, try to do as much work to prove out the value of that idea (create a non-functional wireframe, get feedback from potential customers, etc).” – Swish Goswami, CEO and Co-Founder of Trufan 

What’s new with Trufan?

Trufan announced the completion of its $2.3 million CAD seed round this past March, bringing their total funding to $4.1 million CAD. They plan to launch a consolidated platform later this year that will allow any brand to generate, segment, and activate first party data.

“My advice to founders raising for the first time: spend a few weeks preparing all your materials and test out your messaging on a variety of audiences. Once you go out to raise, run a rigorous process and focus on finding the best partner that will support your vision for your business.” – Monika Jaroszonek, CEO and Co-Founder of Ratio.City

What’s new with Ratio.City?

Ratio.City is hiring! Their team is looking for a Lead Product Designer to help them translate user stories into effective and intuitive interfaces. Learn more about the position and apply here

“Every founder should find one or more capital partners as a growth partner in all aspects of business and life, because the two are inseparable. An ideal investor will be a good companion when say, a global pandemic hits and supply chains are just as disrupted as childcare plans, or when a parent gets ill just as you land a major customer. Together you’ll make difficult decisions and find new opportunities.” – Manu Kabahizi, CTO and Co-Founder of Ulula

What’s new with Ulula?

Ulula recently was awarded the 2021 #StopSlaveryAward by the Thomson Reuters Foundation for their innovative Kufatilia mobile-based impact monitoring project, that reports mine accidents, theft, corruption, fraud, child labor, environmental issues, and more in the mining sector.

It took 11 years for DMZ startups and alumni to break $1 billion in funding, but with our current momentum, made possible by our dedicated founders, we are confident we will be able to reach the next billion in a fraction of the time. 

Looking for even more expert advice on how to raise? Be a part of the next billion. Learn more about DMZ programming here.

How PocketHealth is fueling healthcare innovation, attracting investment and scaling company growth despite COVID-19

PocketHealth’s patient-centric product introduces a new way of thinking in healthcare and has been instrumental in keeping hospital departments afloat during the current COVID-19 crisis.


The company recently announced a $9.2M raise in funding – while it seems hard to believe a startup could be pursuing growth and attracting investment in this environment, PocketHealth isn’t at all surprised that demand has skyrocketed.

Healthcare institutions have traditionally been slow to embrace innovation. However, Rishi Nayyar, Co-Founder & CEO of PocketHealth, explains that many have had no choice but to adopt new technology in hopes of relieving burdens on resources.

PocketHeath has completely modernized how sensitive medical imaging is shared between hospitals, imaging clinics, doctors and patients. The platform has stopped patients from making unnecessary hospital trips and being exposed to potential risk, and given institutions more resources to deal with COVID-19 screening and other related activities.

We caught up with Rishi to pass along our congratulations on the company’s raise and to learn what’s next in store for the company given the news – which includes big plans to scale.

Check out our Q&A with Rishi below.

Tell us about how you and your brother co-founded this business together.

The idea for PocketHealth began with a simple experience that my brother, Harsh, had while he was working in the Bay Area in Silicon Valley. He was playing tennis and sprained his ankle quite badly. He was required to get an MRI and an X-ray, and when he was done with that MRI, he was handed two CD-ROMs.

The thought of receiving CDs back then, which was in the mid-2010s, was quite absurd – especially considering the work he was doing in the Valley. At that time, he was an early engineer at a startup that eventually got acquired by Google. He was working on app virtualization: streaming large quantities of data to mobile devices all around the world, gigabytes of data. Meanwhile, in healthcare, hospitals and imaging centres had these small image files being placed on a CD-ROM to give to a patient. This patient was, by definition, sick. They’d have to come to the hospital, pick up the CD-ROM and then drop it off at their doctor’s office to continue their care. Harsh thought, why is this a primary way that imaging records are released? That’s something that stuck with him. He called me and said, “Look, this is a problem and we can build the tech to solve it.”

Time passed. The startup he was working at got acquired by Google. He eventually left Google and I left my job where I was working in banking. We saw an opportunity to create a cloud platform that would completely change the healthcare industry, and that’s when we started PocketHealth.

Can you tell us more about PocketHealth’s product?

PocketHealth is a cloud platform that allows hospitals and imaging clinics to share imaging records virtually with patients, physicians, and other hospitals and clinics. From the patient’s perspective, PocketHealth allows them to access and control their medical imaging records in the palm of their hand, in full diagnostic quality, and then share it with any physician in the world – instantly.

What has PocketHealth’s journey looked like since graduating in 2018?

The DMZ helped us ensure we had the systems in place to grow responsibly. We were surrounded by companies at the same stage of growth, and we were able to learn from these companies and the mentors. When we hit hyper-growth upon graduating, we were prepared.

We grew our product scope, significantly enabling hospitals to not just share with patients, but to also receive imaging inwards. Those products made a great impact in the market. It allowed us to grow our client base significantly – to the scale we’re at today.

In the early days of this pandemic, did you have any worry that it could negatively affect your company?

No, we knew from the beginning, especially working in health care, that COVID-19 would dramatically increase demand for PocketHealth. Burning CDs was no longer an option. COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the need for hospitals and clinics to modernize the way they share medical imaging. There are still patients who need imaging, who need to undergo diagnosis, who need treatment, and they require a copy of their exam to further their care. However, requiring patients to come on-site to pick up a CD is just not possible anymore.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic increased the demand for a product like PocketHealth?

We’re having Directors of medical imaging and CEOs of hospitals calling us saying, “We needed this yesterday”. We’ve increased the number of sites deploying on our platform by over 300 percent monthly as imaging clinics and hospitals across North America grapple with this problem.

We’ve been advantaged: one, we have a product that is extremely strong in the market and is patient-centric, and two, we’re built for rapid deployment. We’ve been able to go live at a hospital in days or even hours. From an I.T. perspective, it’s unheard of – to completely switch how you perform a job function or a data-release function in such a short amount of time.

It was recently announced that PocketHealth secured $6.5 million USD ($9.2 million CAD) in funding. What does this first round of funding mean for the company?

This capital will allow us to scale our team significantly. We are hiring across all teams: customer success, sales, marketing and engineering. We’re hiring a mission-driven team to achieve our expansion goals. We want to reach out to the millions of patients that we haven’t touched yet, as well as thousands of hospitals and clinics where we aren’t deployed yet.

What does the future look like for PocketHealth? What are the company’s next milestones?

We’re trying to attract top talent in all of our roles who care about the problem that we’re trying to solve. We know that we have a platform that is unique in the market, that has this amazing ability to resonate with patients and with the providers. We’re driven to expand PocketHealth beyond the scope where it already is. We’ve been able to get this far as a mission-driven, but bootstrapped, company. We’re excited to see what the next phase brings. We think it will bring more patient centricity, more patients who are empowered and involved in their care, and hospital departments that aren’t burdened with the inefficiencies of slow and outdated imaging release systems.

We have some exciting deployments outside of our traditional geographic markets that will be announced soon. This is definitely a global issue. We know that patients’ desires to be in touch with what’s going on in their bodies are universal. It transcends geographic and political boundaries. The product and infrastructure we’ve built it on is designed to scale globally very quickly.

What advice would you have for founders who are riding out the current pandemic?

Focus on the fundamentals. If you’re around right now, there is some value to your product. In bull markets, there can be a tendency to run a lot of experiments and expand your scope beyond your typical value proposition, but I would advise you to get to the basics. Think about why people purchase your product. How does it make them feel? How does it change their lives? Double down on that. That’s where you’re going to get the highest return. Look inwardly and create a focal point for your team to work towards. That will give you the best shot of weathering this storm ahead.

If you have the skillset to help PocketHealth advance their mission, they want to hear from you! Take a look at PocketHealth’s website to learn about the benefits of working for this high-growth company and the current job openings available.

Questions? Let us know at dmz@ryerson.ca