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DMZ welcomes Incubator Cohort 7 companies

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DMZ welcomes Incubator Cohort 7 companies

Our latest cohort is composed of exceptional startups that stood out among hundreds of promising applicants from around the world.

Some highlights of this cohort: 

  • 10 startups representing diverse verticals: EdTech, Fintech, HRTech, Social Impact, and more
  • Over 50% of Cohort 7 are woman-founded
  • The majority of startups operate as B2B SaaS companies
  • Our startups’ home bases span across the U.K., U.S. and Canada

For the next 18 months, startup founders will benefit from extensive support as they scale their products, ramp up customer acquisition, explore global expansion, gain access to cutting-edge resources and much more. Startups also benefit from continuous guidance with access to a world-class network of mentors, industry leaders, professional services, investors and legal advisors.  

Keep reading to learn more about the visionary startups leading the future of tech.

 


Aravenda provides a cloud-based consignment software solution for small businesses or enterprise users. Aravenda seamlessly integrates with Shopify and Clover to simplify workflows, eliminate common system errors and streamline inventory management while expanding the reach of consignment businesses globally. 



Loba is innovating health and wellness by modernizing traditional pill and supplement management through technology and the psychology of building healthy habits. By connecting a Loba device to WiFi, users can easily manage their pill and supplement schedule, set reminders, add new medications, track habits, and more.


Omnia focuses on the digital optimization of business operations such as supply chain management and e-learning solutions. By assessing a company’s current tech utilization, Omnia designs a custom optimization strategy to enhance workflow management and streamline operations across various industries. This company ensures its implementations drive significant value and ongoing support by prioritizing the understanding of client needs.


Quantibly is an innovative impact analytics platform revolutionizing data-driven decision-making in the social sector. With advanced AI and automation tools for data collection, analysis, and visualization, Quantibly empowers organizations in 82 countries to gain actionable insights into their financial and non-financial impacts.



Rescounts is an innovative, cost-effective platform that offers all-in-one event management services. The platform helps customers connect with various events in their area, and purchase tickets from anywhere. Rescounts also helps users keep track of their purchased event tickets and maintain a schedule of their upcoming events.  



SmartConcil is a platform that simplifies financial decisions based on Reconciliation automation. It proves security and real-time traceability over financial data, allowing finance teams to focus on what really matters.



Snoooz AI is an AI-powered Out-of-Office (OOO) assistant that can send personalized OOO responses, automate OOO tasks, route messages to backups and create coverage plans. This comprehensive tool simplifies your OOO management, handling everything efficiently.

 

Soundspace connects people with creative workspaces through a network of membership-based music networking, rehearsal, producing, and recording facilities. Memberships to Soundspace locations are available monthly, and artists book their time on their chosen location’s communal calendar. 


SuperCode is an app where kids learn to code by creating and playing interactive worlds together in live online events. Their focus is on exposing kids to key coding and problem-solving concepts in a way that is deeply fun and engaging motivating them to dig deeper and start to develop confidence in their skills.

 

Talin is the definitive automation solution for the staffing industry, integrating every essential application with scalable generative A.I. technology. The startup’s technology executes the most tedious staffing and recruiting workflows in minutes, acting as a co-pilot for placing candidates and signing new clients, all from a single platform.

 

Get to know more about our Fall ‘25 cohort of startups by visiting DMZ’s Current Startups page. Are you an early-stage tech founder interested in growing your business? Discover how DMZ’s Incubator can help here

Introducing DMZ’s 14 new Experts-in-Residence

In the heart of every startup’s journey at DMZ lies a secret weapon: our Experts-in-Residence (EiRs).

EiRs are more than just advisors; they act as an extension to our startup teams, working shoulder-to-shoulder with our founders to guide them through the intricacies of scaling their businesses. As experts in their field, they are each handpicked for their comprehensive knowledge and extensive business backgrounds.

We’re thrilled to announce the addition of 14 new EiRs to our esteemed roster. Each brings with them deep industry insights and a rich entrepreneurial background, further enriching our ecosystem and enhancing the support available to our startups.


Meet DMZ’s newest EiRs:

Check out the full roster of DMZ EiRs here.

Introducing Mentors

Recognizing that our EiRs provide essential strategic and long-term advice, we’ve seen the need for additional hands-on, tactical guidance to address the multifaceted needs of our startups.

This led us to introduce Mentors, volunteer-based positions, aimed at filling the gaps in our advisory services with their practical, “how-to” expertise, thereby ensuring a broader and more dynamic support system for our founders. 

This addition not only enriches our advisory capacity but also provides a flexible pathway for engaging with a diverse array of industry experts eager to guide founders.


Meet DMZ’s newest Mentors:


Levelling up through leadership

As we evolve our mentorship program, we’re also evolving our leadership structure to further this vision. Alex Thibault has excitingly stepped into the position of Chief EiR, steering our strategic direction in mentorship and founder support.

“We need more tech companies that will grow and become the titans of tomorrow. I want to help entrepreneurs as they try to become those titans.”- Alex Thibault, Chief EiR


Alex brings a wealth of experience in tech, capital markets, mobility, and more, offering crucial insights and expertise in M&A, operations, and finance. His success as a tech entrepreneur and investor, with ventures in fast-growing tech companies, supports DMZ’s mission to build the next generation of leading tech startups.

In the Chief EiR role, Alex will focus on enhancing our advisory strategy, nurturing the growth of our EiRs and Mentors, and fostering a culture of collaboration among advisors to increase our impact.

With these new additions and enhancements to our support network, we’re excited about the potential our revamped startup advisory framework holds in providing unparalleled support to our startups. 

Ready to scale your startup at DMZ and connect with our industry-leading experts? Apply for our Incubator today.

 

Paving a new era for startup legal support: DMZ’s IP Clinic unveiled

Coming from a tech startup incubator, we get it — the entrepreneurial journey is a rollercoaster ride, and legal potholes can be deal-breakers. That’s why DMZ’s Startup Legal Support (SLS) team and Toronto Metropolitan University’s Lincoln Alexander School of Law have worked together to launch a new Intellectual Property (IP) Clinic, a game-changer in the dynamic world of startup legal support.

As a company grows, so do the legal challenges.

Despite the fact that 70% of businesses earn enough revenue to surpass eligibility for free legal aid, most still grapple with affording the substantial costs of hiring a lawyer. DMZ emerges as a pivotal solution for these startups, acting as their legal compass. In doing so, DMZ not only helps startups maintain their competitiveness but also contributes to making legal services more accessible.

Through the generous support of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), Lincoln Alexander School of Law and DMZ have collaborated to introduce the IP Clinic, a new initiative aimed at providing startups supported by Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) with comprehensive legal services. Nicholas Hill, Head of Startup Legal Support and Legal Advisor, spearheads these services with the support of three TMU law students, Ikra Saeed, Isabella Spiliakos and Shany Raitsin, who work under his supervision.

Intellectual Property isn’t a luxury, but a strategic necessity for startups.

As a strong proponent of the DMZ’s IP Clinic, Dr. Sari Graben, Associate Dean Research and Graduate Studies, notes that the Clinic plays a vital role in advancing the competitiveness of Canada’s startup ecosystem. “Our grant and innovative idea to launch IP legal services for startups aligns seamlessly with Lincoln Alexander Law’s vision to enable lawyers to tackle novel challenges in an increasingly innovation-based economy.”

The IP Clinic will enhance the accessibility of legal resources and knowledge to over 500 entrepreneurs within Toronto Metropolitan University’s Zone Learning Network. To date, the Clinic has been instrumental in servicing over 70+ startups, producing over 200 deliverables. “This IP Clinic marks a crucial step forward in our mission to empower startups with the legal knowledge they need to thrive,” says Nicholas Hill. “We’re excited about the positive impact this will have on our entrepreneurial community.”

As DMZ’s SLS opens up this new avenue of legal support, we have seen just how coveted IP services really are. Moreover, the IP Clinic’s value doesn’t just stop at startups.

We’re exposing law students to real-life case studies.

Beyond providing startups with essential legal assistance, we’re helping students navigate the legal ins and outs of the startup world. These students don’t stand on the sidelines, they’re gaining first-hand exposure to complex legal documentation and practical experience from Intellectual Property assignments to brand protection.

To sum it up, introducing IP legal services like those provided by DMZ sparks groundbreaking transformation, propelling the overall growth and success of these innovative ventures, and elevating their competitiveness to compete on the world stage. The collaboration of legal experts, aspiring law professionals and startups creates a recipe for entrepreneurial success in Canada’s startup ecosystem.

To learn more about DMZ’s legal support for startups, visit dmz.to/SLS.

Year in Review: DMZ Wrapped 2023

The stats are in! Let’s take a look at our feats this past year.

This year truly soared to unprecedented heights, from supporting more than a hundred dynamic startups here at our HQ to helping international founders making groundbreaking strides in innovation and global expansion.

Raise a glass with us as we toast to the incredible accomplishments and milestones that defined our community’s success in 2023.


We’ve always been at the forefront of supporting startups, and this year was no exception. Throughout 2023, we proudly supported an array of startups spanning diverse industries. From PropTech, Automation SaaS, Supply Chain and Logistics to FinTech and Cybersecurity, we’ve had the privilege of nurturing the growth of businesses driving impact across many unique verticals.


Among many exciting announcements in 2023, we were proud to become UBI Global’s official research and selection partner this year and revealed the top-ranking incubators and accelerators worldwide on stage at the World Incubation Summit in Belgium.

Our year in review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Collision 2023. Marking the start of Collision week, DMZ’s Insiders Event showcased top startup pitches and awarded $65,000 in funding to the winning founders.


The event included an esteemed audience of industry leaders and saw David Walmsley, Globe and Mail’s Editor-in-Chief, deliver a memorable keynote speech.

If you’ve been keeping up with us this year, you’ll know that DMZ marked 2023 as the year of the camel startup. DMZ’s prominent presence at Collision featured a 7-foot camel, a stage with partner and founder panels, global showcases, a “Shark Tank” style pitch competition and more, and prize giveaways over the three-day conference.


Our commitment to empowering international startups reached new horizons through global partnerships, such as DMZ’s collaboration with the Japan External Trade Organization’s (JETRO) Global Acceleration Hub, marking a significant milestone as its first Canadian partner.


This year fueled collaborations with both existing and new partners that packed a heavy punch for the startup innovation landscape. 2023 saw us join forces with 25 new partners and continue great work with existing partners, including Amex Canada, Scotiabank, Desjardins, and Groundbreak Ventures.


With over 860 student entrepreneurs supported and a whopping 1,294 individuals attending Masterclasses, we’ve unlocked a new level of potential for the next generation of tech pioneers.


Embracing diversity in our programs has always been a cornerstone of our efforts, and this year we’re proud to share that 20% of our Incubator companies were founded by Black entrepreneurs and 24% by women.


Hot off the press! DMZ and our startups were talked about… a lot.
Our startups shone brightly, garnering an astounding 35,400 media impressions over the year!


There was never a dull moment at DMZ’s bustling entrepreneurial hub. With 7,000+ visitors over the year, our team hosted 123 groups for tours and 127 events at our HQ in Toronto.

Coffees were flowing year-round, with 8,685 cups served this year, igniting our creative sparks while our startups and staff worked hard. But that’s not to say we didn’t also play hard – 1,926 ping pong matches were held in our games room.

Our staff also embarked on our own entrepreneurial endeavours this year, 3D printing a total of 1,129 camel structures.

What a year! 2023 was an opportunity for DMZ to recalibrate – to hone in on evolving our programs and operations – and we’ve made significant progress in this direction. Now, on the brink of our 14th birthday this upcoming year, there’s a whole lot more to look forward to. Stay tuned for another promising year ahead.

Want to play a role in contributing to DMZ’s 2024 stats and milestones? Discover DMZ and our programming here. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest tech news, updates, and special offers.

Introducing DMZ’s new cohort of Incubator startups

Out of hundreds of applications from around the world, we’ve hand-selected 13 tech startups to join us for the next 18 months.

Some highlights of this cohort include:

  • Representation from diverse verticals: FinTech, EnterpriseTech, GovTech, Smart Automation and more
  • More than 30% of companies are women-founded and over 30% Black-founded
  • AI-enabled technology comprises over half of this cohort
  • Startups from Peru, Nigeria, Iran, India, the United Kingdom, Italy and Canada
  • A new selection process called Deep Dive sessions – where subject-matter experts undergo rigorous assessments with startup founders to evaluate each company’s focal areas, ensuring top-tier selection.

Throughout the program, startups will receive comprehensive support to execute their go-to-market strategy, acquire lighthouse customers, gain media exposure, explore global expansion, prepare for the next round of funding and much more. DMZ will be with them every step of the way, giving them hands-on coaching, access to our world-class community, professional services, business savings and more.  

Just when we thought we had seen the best of the best, our newest cohort has seriously raised the bar, leaving us in awe of their track records and potential. 

Keep reading and join us in extending a big DMZ welcome to Cohort 6!

Cleanster logo
On a mission to make quality cleaning services more accessible, Cleanster connects property managers and homeowners with professional cleaners. Their solution matches users with locally vetted service providers to clean their spaces at an affordable price and integrates with leading property management software for users to manage their property care operations.

Flowjin logo
Flowjin is an AI-powered tool that empowers content creators and businesses with the tools to drive social media growth. With Flowjin, users can easily identify high-performing content and quickly create customizable clips for social media, ensuring users maximize content and save time.

Handy.ai logo
Handy.ai is an intelligent SaaS platform that provides AI-powered virtual specialists to drive customer and employee success. Offering tailored solutions to clients, Handy.ai can be leveraged for customer success, employee engagement and partner success.

Hilo logo
HILO is at the forefront of revolutionizing Customer Experience (CX) in buildings with a one-stop, user-configured, personalized, and AI-enabled platform to improve and simplify people’s lives where they work and live. HILO empowers building operators to retain current tenants, attract new ones and streamline operations.

Loopify logo
Loopify360 is an all-in-one marketing and sales hub for small and medium-sized enterprises, offering a range of solutions and tools designed to find and retain customers. Their AI-powered marketing platform provides tailored solutions, delivering optimal return on investment.

PoliTraq logo
PoliTraQ combines stakeholder profiles, meeting notes and briefing materials into a single, all-in-one advocacy management system. Their solution helps public affairs professionals implement and manage advocacy campaigns, monitor legislation and track advocacy impact.

ReInvest Wealth logo
ReInvestWealth offers a cost-effective solution for small business accounting needs. Their professionally trained AI accountant provides daily bookkeeping and expert financial advice, addressing common pain points like slow processing and overlooked tax refunds. 

ShipVista logo
ShipVista streamlines multi-channel order management and fulfillment for online retailers. By offering real-time carrier rates, automated label printing, and integration with multiple carriers, it saves time and money while enhancing sales.

Sugar security logo
Sugar Security makes advanced cybersecurity testing easy and affordable for small to mid-sized businesses. Through their cloud-based software, Sugar Security empowers businesses to identify security vulnerabilities in their organizations through enhanced vulnerability scanning.

Syzl logo
Syzl is revolutionizing the food industry by transforming idle commercial kitchens into bustling hubs for culinary entrepreneurs. Their platform enables food makers to find compliant, safe and flexible workspaces and empowers kitchen owners to leverage unused stations to earn extra revenue.

Vidboard.ai logo
VidBoard simplifies video production by creating AI-enabled avatar models. Their platform offers a cost-effective and scalable solution, eliminating the need for studio visits, multiple professionals, equipment and third-party costs.

Zagitas logo
Zagitas serves as a digital assistant in the office. Their solution automates manual business processes through the integration of AI, robotic process automation, chatbots and business intelligence technologies.


Want to join the next cohort of changemakers? DMZ is now accepting applications for its March 2024 cohort. Apply
here

 

 

 

Hear from Roadmunk’s Co-Founder & CEO, Latif Nanji, on his rollercoaster ride from emergence to exit

Latif Nanji, Co-Founder and CEO of SaaS platform Roadmunk, connects the dots of his entrepreneurial journey at the DMZ’s Founder Dinner, uncovering his rollercoaster ride from emergence to exit.

Founded in 2012, Roadmunk is product management software that solves how product innovators build and communicate their strategy. Roadmunk has an impressive track record, from being listed as one of Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 and their acquisition by Tempo in 2021 to serving over 3,000+ customers, including Amazon, Visa, Nike, Adobe and Morgan Stanley, to name a few.

Latif’s history is also not one to miss. Before Roadmunk, he co-founded several companies, including Pokerspace, an online social network for poker players, and Pragmatic CEO, a Toronto meet-up group for tech entrepreneurs. He also spent five years as a Product Manager at Miovision, working on intelligent traffic infrastructure, where he developed his passion for helping product managers build the right things for customers. Latif enjoys biohacking, rock climbing, scuba diving and angel investing in his spare time.

Looking for inspiration to build the next big thing? Check out Latif’s insights on his rollercoaster ride from emergence to exit from our latest DMZ Founder Dinner – an event series designed to bring DMZ’s community together for an evening of food, drinks and connections. ​​Watch Latif’s full founder talk below, or keep reading, to discover his top tips for being a successful entrepreneur and building an acquirable business.  

Go team!

“One of the early things I instantiated in the business was a core value called ‘Start with empathy.’ It was a family-like core value, and I thought it was a great idea.

Eventually, I realized that the mentality I had was one of protectionism — a high empathy and high loyalty culture. There’s nothing wrong with these values, but as an investor, I want to know if you are going to make the hard decisions.

Sometimes the teams need to change their structure or formation, just like they do in a sports team, to get to the outcome. If you want to level up through the divisions in soccer, you are going to different players as you progress. It’s not that you can’t thank the players before, but the new ones have to come in.”

The secret to reliable hiring: homework

“There were a few key things we did to fix our ongoing issue of short-lived new hires:

  • Anyone who walked through our doors looking to be hired was assigned homework on neutral ground that had nothing to do with our company or product.
  • This homework was assigned in an open-ended exercise that allowed us to have a dialogue and observe how responsive a potential hire is, how they write emails and how they ask questions.
  • We invited team members from other departments to sit in on meetings and presentations to get a chance to spar with candidates and provide feedback. This was the single most important thing we did when hiring in the early stages of the business.“ 

Students don’t interview the teacher

“We had to hire a software architect in 2020. I interviewed him, and I thought he was great, but I didn’t think he was that impressive from a cultural perspective.

I had my two top senior engineers interview him, and they came back to me and said, ‘We don’t think he’s the right fit.’

My COO walks in, and he asks us what we were doing. I said, ‘We’re interviewing.’ He said, ‘No, you’re not; students don’t interview the teacher.’

It was a simple concept, but it felt like a hammer hitting me in the head. So, we brought in the VP of Platform at Ritual and two external CTOs, who gave him a test on how to scale Google Drive. They came back with a report and said, ‘If you don’t hire him, we will.’ 

This was a great lesson in making sure not just other people that feel like they’re more senior, but people that have experience in the domain that understand your business and your business needs, are part of that process.” 

The key to winning the valuation game is pacing

“The problem isn’t with raising a little bit more money; it’s when you get further down the valuation trap.

If you raise five, six, seven million bucks when you only need  $1m, your post-money is maybe between $30 to $35 million instead of $5-10m. That means in the next 24 to 36 months or less, you’re going to grow >$30 million in valuation. That’s where things get really complicated. Going incrementally at a reasonable pace is how I think the best startups function before they see some version of a breakout growth path.”

Hear from Roadmunk’s Co-Founder & CEO, Latif Nanji, on his rollercoaster ride from emergence to exit

Want a front-row seat at the next DMZ Founder Dinner to hear from other inspiring founders? Apply now to join our next Incubator cohort at dmz.to/incubator.

 

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4 ways you can take your website copy from good to great

DMZ guest blog by: Karina Barker, DMZ EiR


As one of the DMZ’s tactical EiRs, I get the incredible job of working with founders to help them amp up their copywriting. Not only do I offer strategic advice around brand positioning, voice, content, etc., I also get to roll up my sleeves and
do the writing alongside the founders.

Over my time in this capacity, I’ve noticed several common questions emerge as startups work to articulate their value proposition. While their vision might be clear in their minds, crafting website copy that has customers sitting up and taking action can be more of a challenge.

With more than 16 years under my belt as a copywriter and communications specialist, I’ve written for every kind of organization, from government, to startups, to Fortune 500 companies. I’ve seen firsthand how small mistakes can limit your copy’s impact—and how some simple tweaks can make all the difference. Seriously!

Here are 4 tips you can use to take your website from good to great:

 

1. Nail your homepage headline and sub-headline

According to the Nielsen-Norman Group, users leave websites on average after about 10-20 seconds. That means you’ve got less than 10 seconds to make your value proposition clear and convince visitors to stay. 

Your homepage headline and sub-headline are the first things visitors will see when they land on your page. That means these are your best shot to convince a visitor to stay (and hopefully convert). 

One of the most common mistakes I see companies make is focusing their website on them

A common format you’ll see is: We offer [this service] by doing [this thing]. Or, similarly: At [company], we help [this type of person] do [this thing].

But the goal of your website isn’t to share information about you. The goal of your website is to attract and convert customers. And that means you need to turn the spotlight on your customer —and talk about them.

Take a look at this homepage headline from Wealthsimple. 


Image: Wealthsimple

They don’t say “We help you do money right.” 

Instead the headline is direct and it implies “I’m going to do money right (with Wealthsimple’s help).” That subtle shift makes the reader see themselves in the headline.

The subheading then goes on to clearly articulate the actual “thing” that Wealthsimple offers (“powerful financial tools”) and the action-packed benefits that the customer can expect to derive (“grow and manage your money”).

While Wealthsimple makes it look easy, this kind of copy can take time and work (not to mention testing). If you don’t know where to start, a great first step is “voice of customer” research. Interview your customers, survey your product testers, read your online for views and search for the words your target audience uses to talk about benefits. This gives you a foundation to begin crafting and testing your headlines.

 

2. Don’t underestimate the power of social proof

Social proof is a powerful form of persuasion. When you include social proof in your webcopy, you tap into one of humanity’s deepest desires: to belong. 

We all put a lot of value on what we see people we trust doing and supporting. When we’re trying to decide between all the different options out there, we look to see what other people are doing. In fact, 91% of consumers read reviews before making a purchasing decision.  

If you’ve ever wondered why brands are willing to pay influencers big bucks for endorsements, this is it.

Here are some ideas for how to include social proof for businesses, even if you’re just getting started:

  • List any awards or prizes that your business has received
  • Share press/media/interviews covering your company
  • Run a social media campaign (and offer incentives) to encourage users to rate or review your product 
  • Request reviews or testimonials from existing customers
  • Create case studies based on real-life clients—or if you haven’t worked with any clients yet, craft use case studies that use a character that customers will identify with. (Note: always be clear if a study is based on a hypothetical rather than real world client.)
  • Share logos of high-profile clients that you’ve worked with
  • Share the number of users you’ve reached or clients you’ve served

Certain types of social proof will be worth more to certain audiences. Think about what can do to move the needle the most, and work towards collecting and presenting that type of social proof.

 

3. Keep your calls-to-action consistent

A call-to-action (CTA) is the moment when all of the work you’ve put into the rest of your copy gets put to the test. The CTA is where you encourage visitors to take your desired action. 

In order to craft a successful CTA you need to: 

  • Know what you want a visitor to do. Sign up for a free trial? Subscribe to your newsletter? Book a call with your sales team? 
  • Make it stand out. Pick the right spot, colour, visuals to draw visitor’s eyes to your CTA.
  • Be direct. CTAs are usually imperatives that begin with an action word. “Sign Up Now,” “Learn More,” “Start Your Free Trial.” Your CTA is not the place to get too wordy. 
  • Offer incentives. Make it easy for visitors to say yes by adding a line or two below your CTA: reassure visitors (e.g. cancel any time) or offer a desirable incentive (e.g. 10% of your first order)
  • Create urgency. Make visitors take action while they’re on your site. Use time words (e.g. sign up now, grab your instant download) to create a sense of urgency or signal time constraints (e.g. limited time offer)

But one of the most common mistakes I see is a lack of consistency in your CTA copy. If you want visitors to follow through, your CTA must be crystal clear–and repeated over and over. 

You can’t possibly miss Hubspot’s CTA. Not only is it in bright orange, it’s repeated word-for-word in their header and navigation bar. Even though their CTA is a little on the longer side, you know exactly what you’re supposed to do next (“Start free or get a demo”):


Image: Hubspot

In essence, when crafting your CTA, ask: What should the user do, and why? Your CTA should work in tandem with the rest of your webcopy to drive that message home. Inconsistent messaging (or multiple, competing CTAs in close proximity) can confuse your target audience or, worse, make them lose trust in your business. 


4. Boost interest with a unique brand voice

Once you’ve nailed the technical copywriting pieces, you can take your website (and your brand) to the next level by honing your brand voice. 

While it can seem daunting, developing your brand voice doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Reflect your audience. Go back to customer profiles and reflect on the voice used by your ideal clients. Is your target audience young and sassy or mature and sophisticated? 
  • Name three characteristics of your ideal brand voice. Authoritative? Trustworthy? Quirky? Cool? Passionate? Informative? Pick three attributes that capture the essence of your business. 
  • Define the dos and don’ts of your brand voice. Once you have your three characteristics, you can get more detailed on how this translates to your copy. For example, if you pick “trustworthy” as one of your attributes, your dos and don’ts may include: 
    • Do: use honesty, direct language, be transparent, share mistakes, follow-through
    • Don’t: push the hard sell, use jargon, over promise, trash talk competitors

As you grow, you can build out your brand voice into a document to share with anyone who is handling communications for your business. And remember, as you grow and change, your brand voice may develop too. 

If you need help with your copywriting, I’d love to chat! Learn more about how DMZ’s EiRs can support your business here

Demystifying menopause: How Womaneze is helping women navigate menopause and regain control

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 center 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 Salma El-Yassir and Marijana Novakovic, the Co-Founders of Womaneze, to learn more about their startup, how they’re helping women navigate menopause, and their hopes for the future of the femtech industry. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, and how you founded Womaneze?

We are two women who have crossed the threshold of 60! We both went through menopause and had difficulties with it, but at the time, there was very little information and support available for women. 

As a result of hormonal changes, we had both been battling the extra pounds that come with menopause. We met for the first time through an online forum for managing weight. Eventually, we became good friends, travelling to visit each other with our families in our respective home countries!

We had hundreds of conversations about our experiences battling the physical, psychological and social onslaught of menopause without any tangible support – all while holding down jobs and raising our families. 

Despite being well-informed on health matters, we both felt blind-sided by menopause – the topic of menopause isn’t openly spoken about, making it a taboo topic in women’s health. It is only referred to with a witty smirk or an embarrassing silence, even though it affects every single woman alive.

That’s when we decided to team up and found Womaneze, a platform that we would have only dreamed of when going through menopause. 

Marijana is a lawyer and an ex-banker, and Salma worked in both healthcare and development. We decided to leave our respective jobs to work for ourselves and create a company that reflected what we stood for.

Supporting women through menopause was something that we both cared deeply about, and we knew it was time to take the leap and make a positive change. 

As our next step, we both pursued postgraduate education. Salma has a Master of Public Health and a Master’s of Public Administration, the latter from Harvard, and Marijana has a Master of Laws specializing in EU Law, and HR. We each held senior management positions in our respective fields, and are trained and certified coaches, which is very helpful in creating safe spaces for women to interact and share their own experiences of menopause. Our skills are complementary, which allows us to focus on our strengths and be supportive of one another. 

What exactly is the Womaneze platform, and what is it trying to accomplish?

Womaneze helps women navigate menopause and regain control naturally. It’s a platform that aims to normalize the experience of menopause by bringing the subject out into the open, so women do not have to suffer in silence and feel alone. 

We’re proud to say our community has over 44,000 women who engage with us and with each other on a daily basis. 

Womaneze takes a scientific, but non-medical approach, to menopause. We focus on how a woman can help herself, and others around her, to better understand menopause by using holistic strategies that have been proven by science. 

Of course, there are women who require medical assistance during menopause, but for the majority, it is a natural (yet challenging) transition. We help women understand what is going on in their bodies, what to expect, and how to reduce the negative effects of hormonal changes.

We are creating a space where women can speak openly about their own experiences, and find information and support. We support women through normalization, information and communication. We do this by: 

  • Shedding light on the 47+ symptoms of menopause. Most women are surprised to learn that their symptoms are menopause-related, or that perimenopause can begin in your early 40’s.
  • Allowing them to express their doubts, fears, and worries. Often overlooked compared to the physical effects, there are psychological effects caused by changing hormones. When women are surrounded by others in the same boat, they feel empowered to share stories and strategies that help them cope. 
  • Making research accessible. We highlight natural ways for women to help themselves by curating research.  
  • Helping with hot flashes through tech. We have developed an app that focuses on helping women find natural ways of dealing with hot flashes. 70-80% of women going through menopause will experience hot flashes and in some cases, they can be debilitating.

We help women understand what is going on in their bodies, what to expect, and how to reduce the negative effects of hormonal changes.

What have been your top lessons learned since starting Womaneze? 

  1. The importance of clear communication between founders. A good working relationship among founders is the basic building block of a successful startup. Learning to manage differences of opinion (often strong ones) in a productive manner is very important.
  2. Finding a co-founder with complementary skills. No one can be the best at everything. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is key, as is leveraging the strengths of others. Knowing when it’s best to get out of the way and letting others do what they do best is essential.  
  3. Don’t be wedded to a single idea. Continuously collect data and adjust as you go along. Data and metrics help illuminate the way and avoid costly mistakes.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Being an entrepreneur is about taking risks and learning from them!
  5. Being an entrepreneur can be very tough. There is so much to learn and juggle. Make sure to manage your own doubts and fears and keep your head above water!

The femtech space has certainly been growing, as there has been a boom of new products and services developed to support women’s health. However, only 5% of femtech startups address menopause. Why do you think this is the case?

One of the main reasons is the lack of funding and investment, as women-founded startups receive far less funding than male-founded ones. In 2020, women-founded startups received 2.3% of all VC funding.

The ecosystem has an age bias that tends to favour younger founders, who are often less likely to be interested in menopause. People often have an image of what a founder looks like — a 20-something male and who only survives on ramen and works 24/7. 

Women entrepreneurs who are more likely to be interested in the menopause space are less likely to fit the false pretences of what founders ‘should’ look like. 

The consumer technology revolution has only really taken off in the past couple of decades, with the use of smartphones becoming almost ubiquitous. The generation of women used to managing their health and tracking their data is only now beginning to enter perimenopause and explore solutions to help manage their health. 

Today, there are a plethora of period and fertility tracking apps in comparison to menopause apps. This trend is beginning to shift as more tech-savvy women begin to enter the menopause transition. 

There is also the undeniable — the taboo nature of the subject. Like fertility issues (another taboo subject until recently), menopause is an aspect of being a woman. Historically, society has placed a large emphasis on the fertility of women. Menopause announces the end of fertility and this can be difficult, leaving many women feeling invisible.

For all the progress that society has made in the gender equality arena, this remains an issue that needs to be addressed, and many startups are beginning to do so. Menopause is not sexy; men often cringe when it comes up, and younger women often feel that it is irrelevant to them, as it is a ways away.

People often have an image of what a founder looks like — a 20-something male and who only survives on ramen and works 24/7.  Women entrepreneurs who are more likely to be interested in the menopause space are less likely to fit the false pretences of what founders ‘should’ look like.

Menopause support has been identified as the next game-changer in the global femtech industry. As new startups look to enter the space, what do you hope for the industry to achieve at large?

We hope that the voices of the 1 billion women in menopause are heard. 

We hope new startups in the space call out the organizations and industries that need to step up and pay more attention to older women. 

The needs of women in menopause change — their skin changes, their hair changes, even the way perfume smells on their skin changes. The beauty and clothing industries need to pay more attention to this demographic, and cater their services and products to better suit their needs. 

More importantly, the workplace needs to accommodate women who are in the different stages of menopause. Women often have to leave their jobs because of the overwhelming nature of certain symptoms. There is a huge opportunity for HR policies to adapt and support their women staff, similarly to providing maternity and paternity leave. 

A supported employee is a happier and more productive one.

We’d like to see more women in menopausal transition come out from the shadows and demand better products and services that cater to their particular needs. The way menopause is discussed and managed needs to change completely. 

Femtech founders have faced challenges in fundraising, as a majority of VC investors are men. Apart from market opportunity, why should more investors look into supporting femtech, and products and solutions that support women going through menopause?

Market opportunity and return on investment (ROI) are the primary reasons that investors decide to invest. However, there are more and more investors who are beginning to define ROI by more than just profit, but social good.

Every investor, regardless of gender, has a vested interest in bettering the lives and health of women. They have daughters, sisters, friends and mothers. Women account for half of the population, and addressing women’s health improves the diversification of investor portfolios.  

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

We think it is very important for founders to really understand the niche that they are addressing. Listening to what women want and are really looking for is essential. 

Younger women have a different attitude towards their health and what they expect. They are more vocal about what they need and are beginning to reject societal norms that have been created by advertisers and society. 

They are demanding a different approach, which incorporates a less prescriptive attitude, and validates their unedited experiences with their own bodies.  

Femtech should be less about the tech and more about the needs of women. Although tech is ‘sexy’ we must remember that it’s an enabler to solve an issue, not the solution itself. It’s important for people on the tech side to be fully immersed in understanding the problem. We found that having a female CTO was crucial, as the work was also relevant to her and she genuinely cared about it.

Founders looking to break into femtech should make sure their team is reflective of the women they are looking to support. At the very least, the startup should have women as close advisors. Experiencing the issue firsthand leads to a deeper understanding and, therefore, a better product.

Femtech should be less about the tech and more about the needs of women. Although tech is ‘sexy’ we must remember that it’s an enabler to solve an issue, not the solution itself.

Are there any women founders that you both look up to for inspiration? 

We admire courageous and forward-thinking entrepreneurs such as:

  • Sarah Blakely, the Founder and CEO of Spanx, for her tenacity and unwillingness to listen to the nay-sayers, and for making Spanx a huge success.
  • Nadia Boujarwah, the Co-Founder and CEO of Dia&Co, for her tenacity and belief in her vision that led her to create a successful company with over 145 employees. She saw a need for fashionable and fun oversized clothing, and she went out and created it. She had to speak to around 100 investors before she could get investors to see her vision. 
  • Rochelle Weitzner, the CEO of Pause, a well-aging company creating skincare products for women in menopause. We love her concept of well-aging rather than anti-aging. 
  • Sonsoles Gonzalez, the CEO and Founder of Better Not Younger, a company creating hair care products for menopausal women.

What’s in store for Womeneze? 

Womaneze is in the process of launching its first premium features for the Hot Flash Help app as well as launching a space for women to find products that help with menopause.We have a list of premium features that we will be introducing in the next few months. Women will be able to specify what issues they want to track, and export data in a format that helps them address their hot flashes with their health provider. 

We will also be including a feature where women are matched with other women to create support groups based on issues they are experiencing in menopause, interests, or geographical location.

Womaneze will be offering a 60% discount for premium features until mid-September 2021. Head over to their website to learn more. 


Make sure to follow the DMZ on
Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram to follow our ‘On Wednesdays we startup’ women founder series. 


To learn more about the Women Founders Programs, visit
dmz.to/womenfounders.

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! 

The DMZ has transformed to offer a brand new startup experience

We’re taking a personalized approach to startup support and delivering a more hands-on, tailored experience for startups  

Many startup incubators that exist today still take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when providing support to startups, meaning founders receive the same programming and services across the board.

At the DMZ, we know how important specialized support is when creating a business; strong foundations are key to building pathways to success. Each startup has a unique set of challenges, and our new model takes a personal approach to support, focusing on one-on-one mentorship to help overcome them. 

With a rising demand for early-stage startup support at the onset of the pandemic and a lack of resources and programming available, the DMZ knew it was time to refocus efforts and fill a pivotal gap for founders in the ecosystem.

The DMZ’s new Incubator model has evolved to take a more customized, hands-on approach in an 18-month program to help founders obtain market validation and gain traction.

So what exactly is different about the DMZ’s new Incubator model? Let’s dive into it, shall we?

The DMZ’s Incubator now offers startups:

  • Smaller and more intimate cohorts of no more than 15 startups
  • 18 months of hands-on support, segmented into three, six-month phases to help founders achieve product-market fit, maximize early sales, and attract investment opportunities
  • A customized approach to addressing a founder’s startup challenges: executing a go-to market strategy, acquiring lighthouse customers, gaining media exposure, exploring global expansion, preparing for the next round of funding, and more
  • 60+ hours of one-on-one time with Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, in-house subject matter experts and additional time with DMZ staff
  • Exclusive perks and discounts from 100+ partners including AWS, Google, Hubspot, and more worth over $600K in business savings
  • More curated workshops and peer-to-peer sessions to share insights, lessons learned, and best practices on a wide range of topics
  • More support with fundraising strategies, pitch coaching, and getting introductions to investors in the DMZ’s VC and angel investor networks within Canada and beyond

Beyond the Incubator program revamp, the DMZ has also launched other programs over the last year, including its Pre-Incubator, to support founders who aren’t eligible for the Incubator yet.

The DMZ’s vision is to support the full entrepreneurial journey of an early-stage founder: from personal founder development, to business ideation, product development, sales growth, and scaling.

Giving a hand to those who need it most.

The DMZ recognizes that underrepresented founders face various barriers when it comes to starting and growing a business, including being subject to systemic racism and inequities that have only been heightened by the pandemic. 

To help create a more equitable and inclusive startup ecosystem, the DMZ has also expanded its programming for Black and women founders, equipping them with an additional stream of tailored resources they can tap into.

Startups with at least one founder who self-identifies as either Black or a woman will have additional peer-to-peer support, intros to funders dedicated to Black and women-led ventures, partnership and pilot opportunities, marketing and PR opportunities, special resources, events and more.

Don’t just take it from us – check out what founders from our inaugural cohort had to say about our revamped model.


“We have seen tremendous growth in our company and in our ability as a team to execute and strategize — the support has been fantastic. The Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) that we have worked with are literally extensions to our team. The other companies in the cohort have been supportive and transparent in sharing their experiences with us, sharing great resources that can benefit everyone.” – Ayodele Pompey, CTO and Co-Founder of SmartTerm 

“Many of the same problems exist for all startups, and by working alongside experienced mentors who have walked the same path, you can accelerate and understand the challenges at hand with greater clarity. The DMZ is truly a fast track to growing your startup.” – Sarah Rennick, Founder of Alli

 

“The DMZ is truly a fast track to growing your startup.” – Sarah Rennick, Founder of Alli 

“Being in DMZ’s Incubator program is like having a GPS for your startup journey, and the Black Innovation Program is the ‘Iron Man’ to DMZ’s ‘Avengers.

By itself, the BIP program is a fantastic offering. When you combine it with DMZ’s Incubator program, it extends the level of support available to someone like myself as a founder of colour. The last 12 months have brought renewed acknowledgement of social issues facing the Black community, which the tech industry is guilty of as well. But rather than looking back, the DMZ is building a tech ecosystem where Black founders are well represented and can access the resources they need to build great products and companies.” – Baba Ajayi, Founder of Andie

“Being in DMZ’s Incubator program is like having a GPS for your startup journey.” – Baba Ajayi, Founder of Andie

“As a part of the Incubator, we have a customized plan that was created for us to grow and dedicated mentors to work with. DMZ’s focus since day one has been on practicality, providing us with real tangible support to grow and succeed.” – Zach Sheng, Co-Founder of Charmy Pet

 

 

 

While our model has evolved significantly, all DMZ programming remains to be driven by the same four founding pillars:

Community: The DMZ allows founders to tap into an unmatched local and global community.  Founders will build relationships, grow their professional network and connect with like-minded peers. 

Coaching: Startups have access to years of experience in the industry with more than 20 of the DMZ’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, specializing in sales, marketing, product, leadership, technology, operations and more.

Customers: The DMZ helps founders power their sales engine, connect with the right customers and fast-track growth. Startups will learn how to drive customer acquisitions.

Capital: Founders will learn how to create fundraising strategies, develop data rooms, get pitching practice and receive valuable introductions to investors.

Think you have what it takes to scale your business?

The DMZ is looking for promising and high-impact tech entrepreneurs who are ready to take their startups to new heights. 

Do you have:

  • A business dedicated to solving a compelling problem using innovative technology
  • At least one full-time founder dedicated to the program
  • A driven, coachable, and collaborative leadership team
  • An in-house technical lead
  • A functional MVP
  • The ability to become a venture backable business in a growing market

Head over to dmz.to/incubatornews to apply for our next Incubator cohort, kicking off this September. Applications are open until July 31, 2021. 

Not quite ready for our Incubator yet? Check out our pre-Incubator program, Pre-Incubator.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @RyersonDMZ to catch our alumni success stories all summer long.  

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