About Katherine Korakakis

Katherine has spent most of her life working alongside start-ups in various verticals. For 10 years, she was responsible for the development of entrepreneurial initiatives and projects under the auspices of the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, a Youth Secretariat program of the government of Quebec. She has authored and co-authored guidebooks on entrepreneurship education. Katherine first developed her passion for building businesses when she co-founded Glambiton. She was instrumental in the development of the first National Entrepreneurship Day for the province of Quebec. Katherine has served on the Boards of numerous non-profit organizations and currently sits on PMEMTL Centre-Ouest and EPCA. She sits on the investment committees of PME MTL Centre and PME MTL Centre-Ouest. These entities are the decision making bodies with regards to business financing with the city of Montreal. She currently is Manager of Entrepreneurship for ProMontreal Entrepreneurs (PME), an early stage VC fund and entrepreneurship program that invests in multiple verticals. The fund has a social business model and has been around for 20 yrs.Katherine has spent most of her life working alongside start-ups in various verticals. For 10 years, she was responsible for the development of entrepreneurial initiatives and projects under the auspices of the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, a Youth Secretariat program of the government of Quebec. She has authored and co-authored guidebooks on entrepreneurship education. Katherine first developed her passion for building businesses when she co-founded an entrepreneurial training event for girls called Glambition. She was instrumental in the development of the first National Entrepreneurship Day for the province of Quebec. Katherine has served on the Boards of numerous corporations and currently is the vice-president of PMEMTL Centre-Ouest and president of EPCA. She sits on the investment committees of PME MTL Centre and PME MTL Centre-Ouest. These entities are the decision making bodies with regards to business financing with the city of Montreal. Katherine is the Manager of Entrepreneurship at Ometz an early stage VC fund and entrepreneurship program that invests in multiple verticals. The fund has a social business model and has been around for 20 yrs.

Financial Mistakes to Avoid for Every Startup

mistakes

Financial management is a challenge for many small business owners. As a business founder, it is your duty to ensure that your company grows and thrives in the most efficient manner possible. However, if you’re not cautious, you may wind up making expensive errors. A recent study shows that in the first year 4% of Canadian businesses fail and that percentage rises to 30% in the fifth year. In Canada, 7000 businesses go bankrupt every year. A lot of different factors lead to this failure but poor financial planning is one of the main causes.

A lot may go wrong, from capitalization problems to budgeting to incorrect accounting procedures. Whether the company is just getting started or has already made it through the first few years, sound financial management is essential.

To avoid financial catastrophe, stay away from the following frequent blunders:

1. Separating personal and business accounts

Many entrepreneurs will fail to open separate business accounts and use their personal accounts. When first starting it out, it may seem easier to just work from your personal accounts, however this will become difficult to maintain your business budget and expenses. It’s important to create separate accounts so you can effectively monitor your businesses finances.

2. Poor tracking expenses

At the early stages of a startup, there may not be that much capital to invest for growth, however it’s important to keep track of every expense. You need to have a control of debt to avoid digging yourself into a debt hole that’ll sink your business.

3. Sticking to a Budget

This is the most crucial part of financial management. It will allow you to not spend more than what’s coming in. Sticking to a budget will protect your businesses sustainability and it’s a good way at addressing resources.

4. Business Credit

In todays world, credit score means everything. Having a bad credit score will impact your financial management tremendously. For a business, a bad credit score will cause a lot of difficulties to obtain loans which is imperative for a business growth. Not only is maintaining a good business credit important, but personal credit will also still have an impact on your business. For startups, since the business is still small creditors will look at personal credit scores of the shareholders and determine if they will grant the credit. A bad credit score ruins your credibility in terms of your financial management which is not a good look for a startups founder.

Different types of business credit:
  • Business credit card
  • Seasonal commercial loans
  • Term loans
  • Installment Loans
  • Business Line of Credit
  • Business Taxes

A lot of founders tend to be confused about business taxes. When first starting out, you should seek professional help in order to avoid any mistakes. A small mistake can end up becoming costly to your company and you don’t want that at the early stages of your business. Make sure to file your taxes on time, monitor due dates and regulations.

These small mistakes can easily slip under the radar but will end up costing you big time. So be sure to stay away from these common mistakes to keep your small business a float for a long time!

4 Steps to Starting a Referral Program

referral

Whenever we need a product or service, we’ll turn to our family or friends for recommendations. For instance, studies shows that a buyer is 50 times more likely to purchase a product that is recommended by family or friends. Referral programs take advantage of this word of mouth marketing by using your already loyal customers to act as brand advocates. This is done by providing a referral code to your customers to share with their networks. When a friend uses the code to make their first purchase the referrer is compensated. This may be in the form of a discount, a freebie, or a monetary reward.

Referrals are a good way to get new clients because people are more likely to trust their friends and family. This is why one of the most effective communication strategies for organically scaling a company is word of mouth. Via in-person encounters or online social networking messages, we exchange positive user interactions. In a nutshell, referrals are more important and reliable than paid advertisements and other media platforms. Look no further ,this guide will teach you the fundamentals of referral marketing as well as how to run your own referral program.

Why Start a Referral Program?

If done properly, this marketing strategy can acquire a lot of new customers for your business at very low costs. By taking advantage of your current customers to spread the word, customer acquisition cost (CAC) is very low. The customers that you gain will also become of high value and are more likely to refer more people.

Referral programs have been proven to help business generate higher revenue. For example, Paypal is famous for using a referral program and helped the company achieve 7-10% daily growth and a user base of over 100 million people.

With the right software, referral programs are easy to track in sales and provide a business analytical tool to use.

How to Build a Referral Program?

1. Have Amazing Products

Before even considering starting a referral program, make sure you have exceptional products and services ready. If you don’t have any great products, nobody will want to refer your business to their network.

2. Designing your Perfect referral Program

Key things to remember when designing your referral program:

  • Choose the right software
  • Catchy headline
  • Referral messaging
  • Easy to refer

Many different software’s already exists that help you to create your referral program very easily, choose the right one for you and your business goals.

Next, you need to craft the program to  get your customers attention if you want to get them to refer your business. Use catchy headliners that describe what the program is and what are the benefits in one sentence. For example, a good headliner would be “Refer a friend for 15$” or “Give 30$ get 30$”.

On top of sharing referral codes, you should consider crafting automated messages to make it easier for your customers to share with friends. The message should be kept straight and to the point but in a friendly manner. Make sure that sharing the referral code is as easy as a click of a share button either to social medias or emails. If your customer has to take extra steps, chances are they won’t refer. Most referral program software’s already give this option to link to social medias and other platforms.

3. Choose an Incentive

  • Two sided incentive
  • Type of reward

Based on your marketing goals, choose an incentive that will respond well with your customers. First, figure out who will benefit from the reward, either your customer, the referred or both parties. Rewarding both parties is the most effective method, customers will be more likely to refer people from their network.

Next, determine what kind of reward you want to give. Since every business is different, every reward will be different. Its important to know your customers and offer rewards that align with your brand. Don’t offer incentives that wont interest your customers. It can be in form of discounts, cash, coupons, points, company merchandise etc. Also choose something that wont cost you your profits.

4. Promote the Program

Promote the program through your website, social media & emails. Let your customers know! For instance, you can implement automated messages to appear as soon as customers enter your website to get their attention!

5. Track your Progress

It’s critical to set up an analytics and analysis framework for your referral service if you want to see results. Choose a referral program software that has built-in analytics like referral relation delivery, A/B checking, and referral monitoring. Use these analytics to help you determine what content is more efficient.

What to Post on Instagram

instagram

Instagram is now just as popular as Facebook is in terms of social media platforms. Just when you thought you finally mastered creating content for Facebook, there’s now Instagram to take into consideration. Different strategies are used when marketing through Instagram since there’s different features and tools available. If you’re completely lost on how to create content for your brand on Instagram or running out of creative ideas to post don’t worry we got you covered! We’ll give you some inspiration for content you can post to keep your audience engaged and active to raise your brand awareness.

Tutorial posts or videos

Post videos on how your product works. This can be in any form depending on the company, it can be a tutorial or it can simply demonstrate how the product is used to really get the full benefits of it!

Motivate audience with quotes

Posting quotes is highly engaging as its something everyone can relate to. Everybody can use a bit of motivation or inspiration, can’t ever get enough of these. What’s great about quotes is that you can quote just about anyone. This can be famous/notable people, or it can be people in your team, testimonials, customers etc. Pick quotes that are relevant to your brand and to your followers. You can create graphics that match your brands theme. Quote images are also more likely to go viral. If you create nice graphics, your followers might share them and this can reach out to a larger audience!

Promote blog posts

If your company has a blog page on their website, use the content to post on your Instagram! You can create visuals for them by using quotes or captions from the blogs. This is an easy way to create content to match your brand, and generate traffic on your website!

Repost Content/Brand collaborations

Its important to keep your Instagram active and to keep your audience engaged. Sometimes it becomes too time consuming to constantly create graphics or content to post. Reposting content is the easiest thing you can do. All you need to do is share it to your story! Find content that is relevant to your brand and relates to your audience values.

If you collaborate with other brands, this is another great way to generate content to repost on your story. This is also an easy way to reach out to a larger audience and you can share each others content. Choose brands that can relate to your brand and to your audience, otherwise you might lose some of your followers if you repost content they’re not interested in.

Poll the audience/ Questions

Another way to keep your Instagram active is by creating polls and asking questions through your stories. This is a great way to get advice from your users/audience. It engages them and you can get peoples opinions on how to improve your products. You can create polls on developing ideas for new products or maybe to get ideas for events the audience might like. However, it doesn’t have to be related to your products it can be just about anything to start a conversation and engage your followers. People love to share their ideas and this allows them to easily interact with the brand and stay connected. You can also answer questions and share the answers on your story. This can be used as a real time FAQ.

Show behind the scenes

Show snippets of some behind the scene work that goes into making your product. People love seeing how much work goes into creating products. Be fun/creative with this! You can show off your team and the people involved at making your awesome products. This not only interests them, but will engage your followers to see your company as more than just a brand or business, it’ll humanize it. Like we said before, people love to stay connected!

Instagram is a great tool to create brand awareness and promote your product. Its becoming increasingly popular, especially with influencer marketing on the rise.  It’s rally easy to get started and if you use it right, it can be great for your company! Remember people love to stay connected, that is why everyone is obsessed with social media. Create content that will allow your followers to connect with your brand and engage them.

Which Social Media is right for you?

Social media runs our world, there are so many different types of platforms available each with its advantageous and disadvantageous. Choose the right platform for you and your business based on your goals. Develop a plan on what you want to get out of from using social media whether its to create brand awareness, sell product, marketing  etc.

Facebook

Pros: Marketing, brand awareness, feedback, communication with target market, advertisements for your business

What is now great about Instagram is that it is now connected with Facebook. You can post simultaneously on your Facebook and Instagram all through their publishing tools. Its easy to use and you can share content all from one platform. What puts Instagram ahead of the others is its ability to use user generated content marketing. This is a type of marketing that is created and shared by your consumer. There’s an ever growing popularity with influencer marketing and it is a very easy and cheap  way to market your business. Instagram is your best place to leverage this.  It can also easily be used as a sales platform.

Instagram

Pros: UGC/influencer marketing, young target audience, sales platform

Instagram can connect with your Facebook accounts, making your lives 10 times easier. You can post simultaneously on your Facebook and Instagram all through their publishing tools. Its easy to use and you can share content all from one platform. What puts Instagram ahead of the others is its ability to use user generated content marketing. This is a type of marketing that is created and shared by your consumer. There’s an ever growing popularity with influencer marketing and it is a very easy and cheap  way to market your business. Instagram is your best place to leverage this.  It can also easily be used as a sales platform.

Instagram does have limited capabilities compared to Facebook in terms of content to post. You also need to put in a lot of time in creating content that matches your brand and overall create content that will appeal to the audience.

Linkedin

Pros: Networking, business information, advice, opportunities, contacts

This is the place to go when you want to find new opportunities and create new contacts. You can easily grow your network through this and prompt direct business relationships. You can share knowledge and expertise and get advice. LinkedIn focuses on building business relationships and not for marketing to your consumer but rather to create business opportunities. You should create a page to share information about your business and provide updates on its performance.

Twitter

Pros: Ideas, discussions, information, Discoverable on Google

You can generate content on Twitter through tweets and messages. It is a good place to share ideas, thoughts and to share information. Tweets can also appear in google results, which is unique to the other platforms since Facebook and Instagram do not do this. You can promote content through hashtags and find tweets with a Google search.

The variety of content you can post is limited. If you have visual content created for marketing, leave those for Instagram or Facebook.

Using social media has become the primary method for marketing for many companies. Marketing strategies are consonantly evolving to leverage each social media platform. Keeping an active social media presence for your business is extremely important these days in order to reach your audience and raise brand awareness.

How to Tell your Startup Story

Pitch

The key elements to include are:

  1. Problem
  2. Solution
  3. Product
  4. Traction
  5. Team
  6. Vision

It is always difficult piecing together your start-up story in a deck at the very early stages of your business venture. The early stages are crucial in the growth of a business and acquiring investors are quite tricky. Creating the perfect pitch deck will allow you to smoothly deliver your start-up story to investors to secure that funding. It requires a lot of time and detail and how you piece this together will be the foundation in delivering the perfect pitch to investors. The key elements that are essential in the deck are as followed: problem, solution, product, traction, team and vision.

Tag line

At the very beginning of the deck, the slides should start with a one-liner description of the business. This slide is literally one line or tag line that gives some insight on what the business is at the start. Its short and sweet, be creative!

Problem

The first key element you want to jump into is the problem. This is a great start to the pitch deck as it will allow for the smooth transitioning of the rest of your story. Identify the problem in a clear bold manner. This will intrigue the investor to continue onto investigating what solution you bring to the table and in finding out how big and real is this problem. Its important to keep this slide short, you can go into further detail in person or in a document. For the purpose of the pitch deck, it should remain short and straight to the point

Solution/Product

You pointed out a problem now provide your solution! A good format is description of the solution followed by a few points as to why your way is the best way. Following that, you can proceed two ways either: go into how it works with a few screenshots/demonstrations or go right into your vision. Since all stories are different and depending on what your business is, choose as you see fit based on your start-up. If your startup does not requires much explaining, go right into the vision of where you see your simple concept growing into something massive in the future. If the vision slide is not included in this section it can be included in the end as well.

Traction

Convince your investors your solution is scalable! Its time to give your start-up some credibility with some data. This slide can be “where were at today” showing the kind of attention and momentum your start-up has gained. For early stage companies, this momentum can be the amount of users on a wait-list for when the product is ready or some early users your product has gained. Investors care about the last 3-6 months and the next month. Having a weak 3-6 months prior will lose many investors, if your next month is weak then you’ll lose your momentum. If you can, time your raise according to that.

A great additional add to this section would be to add testimonials from some of the users or clients. This shows that your product is already in use by real people and is already creating a buzz. This is the section that will excite investors.

Market Opportunity

You’ve sold the investor on your ability to execute your solution, so now you should tell them how big the market is. Using graphs and charts from credible sources that can easily present that there’s a huge market opportunity is and that this company is venture scalable.

Vision

What is in store for your company in the next 10 years? If you did not already include this slide now would be a good time. This will show how you plans to take this simple solution to a massive company and what great things it will accomplish.

Team

Introduce the dream team who is going to build this. Include the main team members with titles and summaries of past roles. This will indicate why they’re fit for to build this start-up. This can be done in one slide without going too in depth about each member.

The ask & funds slide

How much funding will it take for you to drive this business? The ask slide should be left for the end of the pitch deck. Include how much funding you will need to bring this company where it needs to be and what does that money get you. How will the funds be allocated and what will you be doing with it. What does that mean for your company?

Thank you/information

A thank you slide with your contact information is appropriate for the very last slide. For example, add an email, LinkedIn, company website or social media.

These are the key elements that every deck needs in order to successfully get across an investor. The order in which you present the key elements should follow the order listed here. However all start-up stories are different and may take a different flow. Some other elements that are optional to add could be competitors, revenue model and financials. Since this is a deck, you don’t need to give away all your information at the very beginning it might be better to include this is a business plan instead, however this is also your business so build a deck that feels right to you!

First impressions make or break you when meeting with investors

first impressions

Securing early funding is critical to a company’s long-term success. As a result, there is a lot of pressure when seeking investors and participating in fundraising rounds. Company leaders must ensure they are completely prepared. For this reason, first impressions are crucial to the success of your business. Creating a good first impression all comes down to one thing: PREPARATION. Founders who think they can bluff their way past anything and can always “wing it”, are setting themselves up for a loss and a missed opportunity. Every opportunity that comes your way is crucial because you might not get an opportunity like it again. You need to give 150% in everything you do.

Be Prepared

No matter how amazing your start-up is or how incredibly faring it is financially-speaking, the fundraising pitch has to be: polished, rehearsed and factually on point. Investors will quickly lose interest if they feel they are dealing with a leadership team that doesn’t understand the market or the most critical business metrics. You need to show up prepared and have practiced your pitch to the point where you can recite it in your sleep.

Not only should you prepare for your pitch but you need to prepare for your audience and anticipate any questions that is going to be thrown your way. This comes down to knowing every detail that matters about your business. Being unable to answer even just one question will give the impression you are not prepared. So be ready for anything. Bluffing your way through it takes a lot of preparation, it is something you will not be able to do. Investors will see right through your bluff. Of course, making the pitch too over the top, especially if the numbers are not quite there will likely make it clear that you are trying to substitute flare for substance. To establish a long lasting investment relationship, being transparent, realistic, and concise will go a long way.

TIP: Send Preview Information Beforehand
It is a good idea that you send a sneak preview of your pitch before your meeting. Any teaser information should be sent just a few days before the big presentation. It is best to keep this preview short, including just a few snippets about some of the key data. Do not reveal too much, but you want to ensure that the information sent proves promising so that it piques the investors interest.

 Differentiate From What’s out there

In general, investors want to be involved with companies that are innovative. This uniqueness can be product-related, clientele-related, or perhaps related to the way the company handles its operations. In order to do that you need to show how your business differentiates from anything else out there. You need to highlight your uniqueness, your unfair advantage that will have investors interested in your business. The key is to demonstrate your company’s singularity and how that translates to handsome returns down the road. This is where companies can get really creative with the pitch, and hopefully share their story in a way that entices those listening.

TIP: Cover all the key points:

● The problem that you’re solving
● Describe your customer
● Market Size (Problem? How big is it? )
● Why are you best suited to address this?
● Be passionate about the problem you are addressing
● Your solution, why is it 10x better than the state-of-the-art?
● Distribution strategy?
● Monetization strategy
● Current stage
● Competition
● How will you get to the next stage?
● What will it take to get to 10x from that point on?

This may sound like a LONG list, but it is all the important points to articulate in a short presentation and when you are clear in your flow, it can happen in under 10 minutes.

You might have an amazing product but it is how you communicate it and execute it that will sell your product. Just because you have a great product does not mean it will get you anywhere. It’s all about the first impressions you make. It all comes down to how prepared you are and how you differentiate from everyone else. Being prepared will give you the confidence you need to surmount any presentation you give. Exuding confidence is crucial because it will completely change how your audience perceives you. Your body language will change as will the way you deliver the presentation.

The image you first present usually lasts longer and has more impact than any document you will prepare. Many of these are common sense  but I’ve rarely met an entrepreneur who does this well . The fact of the matter is, you only get one chance to make a first impression  so do it right!

Serial Entrepreneur: Dr.Earl Azimov

entrepreneurDr. Earl Azimov, a man with many talents: ranking tennis player, optometrist, serial entrepreneur, investor and the list goes on. Since 2003, we are lucky to have him as an advisor and board member on the PME committee. He has successfully started multiple companies one of them being Mamma.com. One of the very first search engines made available even before Google. Currently he is the co-founder of Global Clean Energy, where they transform waste into energy with hopes of obtaining a sustainable future. Earl has 20 years of experience in private equity, focusing on seed spatial investments in early stage companies. We had the opportunity to have a chat with Earl where he gave us some insight on what he’s learned over the years as a successful entrepreneur but also what he’s noticed about the Montreal entrepreneurial eco-system.

 
Q: You’ve had a very long relationship with PME. What are some of the changes you’ve noticed in the program then and now?

My answer to that is that the criteria for the access of capital from the PME fund has evolved over the years.  As the fund matured and new fund managers were selected, the quality of the start-up companies have improved as a result of the deep vetting from the fund managers. The understanding of what areas are best suited for PME have better developed. This has allowed for overall better structure and has boosted the quality of the services we provide to start-ups.

Q: How has PME contributed to the Montreal start-up eco-system then and now?

PME has been able to give young entrepreneurs access to capital that they would not so easily be able to get elsewhere. Not only do we give start-ups the early financing, we offer  mentoring throughout their entire process. In today’s entrepreneurial eco-system, it’s hard to find a place where they will give you this kind of financing and advice all at once. We really invest in the people that come because we really want to see them succeed. We give them the early seed capital they need and it’s not based on how much revenue they have. PME is the difference between success and failure. In addition, I myself am a mentor at PME and sometimes I’m given a business model where I help them pivot it entirely. I really like to invest in the person rather than the business. It allows me to see their skills and try to work with their model. However, if they don’t fit I help them pivot it and I’ve been successful in doing that almost every time.

Q: you are an accomplished serial entrepreneur.  What surprised you most about Quebec’s entrepreneurial environment?

As an entrepreneur starting out in Quebec, I found it very difficult. Many people will disagree but this is based off my own personal experience in trying to gain capital when starting my businesses. I’ve started many businesses here, and each time I’ve had to raise capital elsewhere in the world. This is most likely due to the lack of capital resources that Quebec has but also they are very shy in taking risks. I own one of the biggest search engines in the world and I could not even get a cent out of Quebec’s capital. I eventually looked elsewhere and was able raise about $25 Million out of Monaco.

 Q: As a board member and investor, you have seen many entrepreneurs pitch their ideas. What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when pitching?

Over the years, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that entrepreneurs tend to exaggerate their financials projections and tend to under deliver. I understand that financial projections are just an assumption however, they need to be somewhat realistic and you need to be able to deliver. The dream is sometimes bigger than the reality. Business plans that are not realistic do not go well with the board. I understand you need to pitch the dream but we like to hear what the earliest revenue is and they need to be realistic.

Q: How do you recommend people prepare for a pitch? Any advice?

My advice is, the best way to prepare is to research who your competition is and what differentiates your company from theirs. Show the investors why your company is better than the rest and show them why. Also demonstrate strategic execution of how you’re going to accomplish this through your business plan. Having a good, thought out business plan is key in demonstrating how serious your business is.

 

Q: Looking back, you’ve seen many entrepreneurs succeed and others not so well. If you can give one piece of advice or a golden rule for an entrepreneur starting out what would it be?

If there is one thing I’ve realized over the years, the difference between success and failure of an entrepreneur is the passion they have. You need to have real passion for the business as this will keep you fighting through any obstacles that you will encounter. You need to believe in the business, yourself and believe that you will succeed. Having this faith in yourself is crucial at times when people might put you down and turn your ideas away. As long as you believe in yourself then you will be able to make it through anything. I’ve seen this a lot when people try to pivot their business. They don’t really believe they can do it or believe in what they’re doing which causes them to fail. What keeps you in the game is the pure passion. Passion and skill are the two key variables for success and the rest will follow.

 

I do not come from a wealthy family, I worked hard for everything that I have. Believe me when I say, I have had a lot of failures but I never gave up and that’s key as an entrepreneur. No matter what has thrown your way, you keep pushing through until you make it and you will eventually.  I’m used to fighting and I like to win, and that’s what it’s all about.

Tips to attracting an investor

angel investorAt each stage of its life cycle, a startup needs funding. No matter how great the idea is, its implementation requires certain resources, both financial and material. Thus, each startup gets to thinking how and where they can attract such resources. So, let’s see what startups need and what they can do to get it.

 

Angel Investors and Venture capitalists are often mentioned together when talking about gaining capital for your company however, they are very different. An angel investor is a individual who uses their own funds to invest in a business. Usually they are successful business people. Venture capitalists funds a business with a pool of money from a professionally managed fund. Angel investors are  individuals who contribute their personal money to support startups they find promising. Their primary interest is not only in receiving the return on their investments but also in wanting to keep the pace with the current trends and to share their expertise with younger entrepreneurs.

 

Venture capitalists, on the contrary, are companies and funds whose financial assets belong to other corporations or funds. In other words, they are responsible to their partners for the money they are prepared to invest into an idea, and this fact influences the approach they take to startup financing.

 

  1. Finding connections

The best way to get the attention of an investor is through a mutual connection. Investors don’t want to meet you, they want to be introduced to you. They come by many start-ups just like yours bombarding their emails and voicemails. In order to get ahead of everyone else, the best way to attract an investor is by finding a mutual connection between the two of you and use that as your in. Being introduced to an investor through this mutual connection will give you a much better chance at getting a meeting with them or even to have them answer your email. Out of the many start-ups that come their way, the one that will peak their interests is the one that was referred to by someone they know and trust

 

  1. Use your Network

Surrounding yourself with the right people will become useful to you and your start-up. Creating a network filled with credible people and other entrepreneurs will be advantageous because you can turn to them for help, or they can point you in the right direction. This will serve as an extremely beneficial tool. You can create a network of people by attending workshops, start-up events (ie Startupfest), accelerators or really any networking events. There are so many different events you can attend to that are made specifically for networking. So get out there and make as many connections as you can because you will not regret it.

 

3.      Find an investor that is also a partner, not just a check

It’s important to do research on the investors you want. You don’t want to reach out to an investor who has no experience in the industry your start-up is in. Firstly, you will be wasting your time reaching out to these investors because chances are they are going to turn you down. Second, it will become of more value to your start-up if you chose an investor who has a background that correlates with your start-ups industry. An investor who can help make your business stronger whether through advice or industry connections and knowledge will ultimately serve you better than an investor who has money to offer and nothing more. Look into each investor and research what other start ups they have invested in.

 

  1. Have co-founders

When you approach investors, you’re not just selling them on your product or service; you’re selling them on your team. Having a good team in place will increase the chances at gaining the attention of an angel investor. It gives your company a bit more credibility knowing that it isn’t backed by just you. Not to mention, having a good team is more attractive as each member brings a different background that can contribute to the success of the company. An investor will be ore inclined to invest in a company that is able to deliver in every aspect.

 

  1. Email

Once you’ve found your connectors, reaching out to them needs to be a sprint not a marathon. You need to set up the email in a way where you can get a quick yes or no response. Follow up within 4-7 days and if you get no response then you move on to the next person. Every email you send needs to be very clear and straight to the point. Everyone gets hundreds of emails a day so you need to be efficient with it. You need to have a clear killer subject line, make it short, forwardable. Give them an easy out therefore you get a quick yes or no response.

 

 

 

 

Failing; a Checkmark to Success

Ben Syne was the founder of Dog Sync, a
task management app for dogs with multiple owners.

Most every entrepreneur can provide a laundry list of errors and miscalculations. Failing is part of the course, but the most successful entrepreneurs actually benefit from their failures. It is their ability to learn from their mistakes and move forwards that significantly contributes to their professional and financial accomplishments. A little over 50% of start-ups fail in the first 5 years, it is a common occurrence yet nobody ever talks about it.

For many entrepreneurs, setbacks, which are for the most part, unavoidable, can become debilitating. But that need not be the case.

Ben Syne was the founder of Dog Sync, a task management app for dogs with multiple owners. It allowed owners to keep track of when the dog was fed, walked etc. DogSync was part of the statistics of start-ups that failed, despite this Syne looks back at this as a learning opportunity and shares with us how he overcame this. He shares with us what he learned and how he has evolved, which is something a lot of entrepreneur’s are unable to achieve.

  1. What motivated you to start DogSync?

At the time, my family and I faced this problem. We all had six different schedules and it was difficult to know who did what. It especially became an issue when our dog started taking medication because sometimes it would be given to him twice in a day.  I saw this problem and wanted to create a solution for it.

  1. When did you first start seeing warning signs in DogSync?

The initial warning sign was that our drop off rate started to increase.Our users were not taking to our app and we were not keeping our customers. We realized that there was not that many groups of people who cared for one dog and even for family members; there was always one person who would be designated to ensuring the maintenance of the dog.

Once we realized we were not getting enough traction, we decided to pivot into sometime entirely different which was called BarkMiles. With BarkMiles you earn points while walking your dog that got you discounts on your favorite dog products. That was doing well too except we had one major issue, cash flow. We took too long to bring our first idea to market. When we realized we needed to pivot, we started to run out of cash. We did not have enough cash to take it all the way and that’s the major thing that shut us down.

  1. Why do you think dog sync didn’t turn out to be successful/ what mistakes did you make?

The main thing that shut us down was that we did not have enough cash flow to take it as far as we could have. This was due to our poor management of capital over time. I think it would have also been useful to have check in every few weeks to look and reassess where our financial figures stood. Therefore, a big issue for DogSync would be use of finances and capital.

  1. Starting a business and failing at it can be very hard, how did you deal with it?

I have to admit it hurts a lot. I put a lot of my time into this and it was something I was very passionate about. Learning to meditate and achieving a calm state of mind was super important for me because it allowed me to look back at everything objectively. When things like this happen, it’s important to absorb and understand what’s happening because these are the best learning moments. When I start a business again, I do not want to trip over the same rocks I did the first time. Let the dust settle,  go back and look at the situation with fresh eyes. Failure is learning, and I try to take as much as I can from that experience because it was a very expensive one.

  1. What advice could you give to other founders who have been in the same position as you?

Don’t take your failure personally. Associating yourself to this failure will only make you think of yourself as a failure and it will not allow you to try again. It important to remember that the way you frame any bad situation will have a big effect on the outcomes of this event. If you read about successful entrepreneurs in the media, most of them have had 80-90% of failures in their careers and just a bit of success that took them very far. The thing that differentiates a successful entrepreneur is their ability to look back and grow from their failures, which allows them to come out better and stronger than everyone else.

  1. Do you regret starting dog sync

Absolutely not. It is almost as if it’s a checkmark on my path to success and I’m ahead of the game now. I look at this as an opportunity because I am only coming out better and smarter from this whole experience. Take for example, Ray Dalio founder of Bridgewater and one of the world’s top hedge fund managers. Early on in his career, he failed at the same thing three times in a row. He tried starting a fund and went bankrupt two or three times. It was because of those failures that he overcame and persevered through that made him as successful as he is today.

I do not look at dog sync like a failure because even during the process of it, I still learned an enormous amount. It has allowed me to evolve and come out smarter than before. Being thrown into these kind of situations allows you to learn eight times faster than if it were in any structured environment. I also had great people to work with and I would not have given up that opportunity up for anything.

  1. Do you think you will ever start another business in the future and or what are you currently working on
I have started another business; unfortunately, we are not at the stage of releasing any information. However, post dog sync; I spent some time working on the skills I thought were important to improve on before I started up another business. I was also waiting for some inspiration until an idea sparked and I began researching for 2 years. This is was a subject I had no previous knowledge on. I had to spend a lot of time researching and learning about it.  I got interested  in a completely different field, it was something I saw randomly on the web and it got me excited on an idea. This is something I will be launching this year.

 

  1. What lessons learned from dog sync will you be incorporating into your new venture

I realized having a coach or someone to check in with every week is something that is super valuable. I wish I did this for dog sync, but now I have a coach that I have weekly check ins with. It allows me to reflect on decisions, ideas and map out where business is at and where it should be. Having someone who can objectively give you feedback that is not emotionally invested in what your doing can help shape ideas and decisions. Being an entrepreneur, there are a lot of up and downs. It’s useful to have someone to talk to just to be able to see the whole picture. All top athletes have coaches and I think an entrepreneur having a coach brings the same value in order to be the best you can possibly be. I found my coach by putting an ad online and I received quite a few responses.

Management and planning are extremely crucial and is something that is worth sitting down and investing your time. Having a good management structuring goes a long way especially when you have a team under you.

Effective planning of resources, like I said a company dies when you run out of money so every decision should start with your team budget and what you’re going to be doing over time to achieve these metrics.

Every entrepreneur should take note on Syne’s ability to transform his failure into something positive. Being able to fall and get back up is one of the hardest things to do but once you do, you come out better and stronger. Don’t be afraid of failing because it’s only part of your journey to success.

Make It Montreal

PME co-founder Stephen Bronfman, CEO of Claridge, weighs in on what we’re learning from this pandemic, and the mindset needed to get us through:

We’re gonna have to bounce back, like a lot of people have. I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy; I believe in people. I believe in resiliency and strength. I know we’re gonna get through this, and we’re all gonna have learned a lot. A lot about the basics of life, about ourselves, about our environment, about health, about family, about unity, about teamwork. And about pride. And I think we Canadians, Quebecers, Montrealers, deep down have a lot of pride.