Skip to Main Content
The Review

The Fintech revolution: How startups are changing the world of finance


Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

The Fintech revolution: How startups are changing the world of finance

A new generation of financial technology startups are changing the world of finance in ways that were once considered unimaginable. They’re making it easier for businesses to manage their investments using artificial intelligence, transfer funds across borders in less time and help clients raise funds using robo-advisors.

Follow the money

It’s not hard to see why financial technology startups are growing in popularity. This year, they’ve managed to raise $8 billion globally, close 469 deals and push six startups into “unicorn” status.

#Fintech startups won’t put banks out of business anytime soon, but they’re growing in influence.

In years past, most financial institutions focused on partnering with emerging startups in order to better leverage their expertise. Although, all that that may soon change.

As the industry continues to innovate, traditional firms are concentrating less on strategic partners and more on outright acquisitions. This allows them to better integrate new technology into their workforce. It also prevents competing companies from benefiting from that same technology.

The revolution behind the scenes

More institutions are seeing how beneficial acquiring startup technology can be for the bottom line.

A 2016 report by IDC and SAP found a quarter of global banks were interested in buying a fintech company. By 2017, Pricewaterhouse discovered that a whopping 50 per cent of surveyed companies planned on purchasing a startup.

Some of the more notable acquisitions made just this year include JP Morgan’s purchase of online payment service WePay for around $220 million and Moneyfarm’s purchase of online advice service Ernest for an undisclosed amount.

So, what’s driving this change? Money, of course.

The same report found that acquisitions increase adoption rates and make it easier to integrate necessary technology. “By adopting one of the many solutions brought by innovators, Financial Institutions can gain incremental returns and find a way to expand new products and services and reach new customers.”

To hear more from BusinessCast, hosted by Robert Gold, make sure to visit our official iTunes page.

How veterans are changing the startup landscape

Approximately 66,100 Canadian Armed Forces members and 21,700 part-time reservists are currently serving, according to a 2015 National Post article. Meanwhile, annually about 5,000 men and women retire or are “released” by the federal government.

This means every year a large number of military veterans who haven’t reached mandatory retirement age must find new careers in the private sector. It’s a difficult transition that can leave many unsure about how to compete for jobs in a tight economy that favours seasonal and part-time workers.

For veterans who entered the military without a college or university degree this transition can be even more challenging. On top of that, the skills honed and perfected in the field aren’t always compatible with private sector jobs.

However, it’s the unique traits veterans possess in spades — their natural leadership skills and ability to adapt — that make them natural entrepreneurs. Time spent working in stressful conditions and an innate ability to problem solve with colleagues are what can make or break an early-stage company and serve them well in the startup community.

Transitions are never easy

Kathleen Kilgour, the program manager for Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE), understands all too well the difficulties veterans face when leaving the military. That’s why she and her small team provide hands-on entrepreneurial training to veterans across the country.

“When veterans have strict discipline it gives them the desire to achieve any goal”

As one of the few groups in Canada that cater to ex-military entrepreneurs, she gets to see how important entrepreneurship can be for returning military members. It can be a lifeline she explains for individuals who have little support. Her team has taught dozens of veterans basic skills like startup accounting and finance basics.

“The goal is to help those in the military transition. When they leave the average age generally is 41. There’s a big opportunity for them to have a new second career and [we] help them do that.”

The veteran entrepreneur

One of the POE’s recent graduates is twentysomething Taylor McCubbin. The infantry sergeant spent the last 11 years working for the military. He currently serves as a firearms instructor in Trenton, Ontario, but will soon launch his own business, Chimera Firearms Training.

The company will open mid-December. It offers — among many other things — virtual shooting ranges to the public — the first of its kind in Toronto. His foray into entrepreneurship is recent, but the idea of being his own boss was never really foreign, he explains. He always wanted to launch a business but didn’t know how to. POE gave him the skills he, and probably many other veterans need, to turn an idea into a reality.

Looking to the future

“There’s definitely more particular technical knowledge that I had no experience with before POE. Like, for example, marketing, accounting or just developing a coherent business plan and projections,” McCubbin explains. “Those are things that I didn’t know how to do. When veterans are taught those skills, they have what they need to change the world. ”

Veterans are often overlooked but would make the best entrepreneurs, he says. They’re an untapped resource and already predisposed to thrive in a demanding environment.

“The number one thing is that the military teaches you a lot of discipline. That discipline is not a restraint, but a freedom. The more discipline you have in yourself the more you’re free to take on other opportunities, because you can manage your time efficiently,” he says. “When veterans have strict discipline it gives them the desire to achieve any goal they set their mind to [so they can] succeed or fail spectacularly and then learn from it.”

Canada’s tech entrepreneurs cashing in on cannabis

Alex Blumenstein, 28, never thought he’d one day end up working in the marijuana business. In his previous job, the entrepreneur worked as a consultant dealing with corporate clients like airline companies and land developers. It was a world he was familiar with and a job he was successful at.

“I was good at it, but it was very unrewarding work. Even when you did win [for your client] it was only incremental gains,” he explains.

But, all that changed in 2017.

Earlier this year he launched a new business inspired by consulting work he did for a local marijuana company. While there are ample opportunities for big firms, support for small-scale entrepreneurs was non-existent, he found. So, he decided to take a chance and build something that did.

Now the twentysomething is the co-founder of Leaf Forward the first cannabis business accelerator in Canada. It helps founders turn their their weed-related ideas into reality.

.@ONgov and Canada are preparing to legalize cannabis by summer 2018.

Since launching in January, Leaf Forward has mentored a handful of startups. It’s also hosted meetups with some of the industry’s’ biggest players and partnered with leading cannabis organizations across the province.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for startups in the marijuana industry outside of just cultivation. Currently the industry is driven by licensed producers [government sanctioned weed cultivators] but it’s the technology, ancillaries and value-added products that will drive real rewards,” he says.

The rise of the weedpreneur

Entrepreneurs aren’t waiting around to find new ways to invest in what is expected to be one of North America’s fastest-growing industries. Many are already cashing in right now.

Big deals south of the border include Casa Verde Capital (known for its partnership with Snoop Dog). Since launching it’s raised a whopping $10 million. High-profile investments include tracking platform Leaflink and point-of-sale company Greenbits. Another well-known Silicon Valley VC firm called Benchmark recently invested $8.1 million in Hound Labs. A startup that produces breathalyzers that trace THC (the component that produces a euphoric high) in users.

Legal cannabis sales in Canada are expected to grow to $22.6 billion by 2021 and surpass medical use. cc @BDSAnalytics

Meanwhile, in Canada, we’re starting to finally see that same momentum. Earlier this week, Constellation brands (the maker of Corona beer and other alcoholic drinks) purchased a 10 per cent stake in weed company Canopy Growth for $245 million. In the last year alone investors have dumped approximately $700 million into Canadian cannabis companies, according to wealth management firm Canacoord Genuity.

Homegrown talent

One of Canada’s most recognizable homegrown success stories is Ample Organics. The Toronto-based startup produces seed-to-sale software that manages plant cultivation, shipping, and purchases. Like most of today’s weedprepreneurs, the company’s founder,  John Prentice, earned his tech stripes outside of the weed business.

As Canada’s novice marijuana industry matures new opportunities will be born out of tech innovation created by forward-thinking entrepreneurs. Enter: Prentice who launched a successful business based on this ingenious thinking.

“The cannabis industry will be gigantic… because of the strict regulations and the unique ways in which the cannabis industry operates, adaptation and modification need to happen. When that’s impossible, new products need to be created,” he says. “It’s a brave new world out there, and we’re all looking for innovative technologies to help maximize the opportunity.”

The future of Canadian ‘cannabiz’

For techpreneurs looking to enter the space, the potential rewards are big. Everything from plant growing systems to weed patches and marijuana-infused edibles will require technical expertise.

Jordan Rodness, the marketing manager for Emblem, sees a new world open up for tech startups interested in creating ancillary products that help businesses like his. In fact, his company already works with a local tech startup called Strainprint that helps users track intake. The licensed producer cultivates marijuana out of its 24,000 square feet facility in Paris, Ontario.

“As a company, we’re very much trying to get ahead of the trends. We’re looking for anybody who’s an innovator and has a really great idea that they want to bring to the market or that’s going to be really useful in the industry.”

Michael Garbuz agrees. The lawyer — who works at CannaRoyalty in a corporate strategy role and mentors early-stage companies through Leaf Forward  — understands how competitive the industry is.

He sees innovation and technology playing an important role in the developing cannabis industry. Especially, since Canada’s product market is less developed than the U.S, which saw a handful of states legalize cannabis in some form as early as 1996. At home technology will be key to the country’s growing cannabis industry and maintaining its edge in the international market.

“A lot of individuals nowadays are working on really advanced technologies to improve and optimize the formulation and delivery of cannabis. We are seeing new technologies that control how quickly you feel the effects, the consistency of effects, and the entire consumer experience. Tech innovation and ongoing R&D are ingredients that the industry needs to continue to mature and grow.”

Entrepreneur Kelly Hoey on how to network (and negotiate) like a pro

Kelly Hoey — investor, entrepreneur and networking guru — is a household name right now, but that hasn’t always been the case.

Before she became a successful investor and author behind “Build Dream Your Own Network” she worked as a lawyer. While she never had a “burning desire” to practice law she enjoyed it. Her ambition to continue working up the corporate ladder all changed after she met Janet Hanson — founder of 85 Broads, a global business network for women. The “visionary leader” inspired her to trade law for entrepreneurship and launch a brand new career.

Below the acclaimed business consultant dishes on how she’s managed to transform her career and how others can throughout their careers.

[This interview has been edited for clarity]

You’ve successfully reinvented your career over the years multiple times. How can others emulate your success?

Stay curious and stay connected to your networks. I’m a former corporate lawyer who has networked her career into becoming a published author. A professional milestone I never imagined adding to my resume. From my initial jobs as an attorney to my numerous career-changes (law firm management, president of a global network for women, consultant, director and co-founder of a startup accelerator) my career is only explained by my ability to network and build relationships.

You mention in your book that part of your professional growth and achievements is down to “marketing” and self-promotion.  Why is this important?

Your career is your best investment. Be prepared to put the time and effort into that investment. Venture capitalist Jessica Peltz-Zatulove outlines how she “cold-emailed” her way into the Madison Avenue advertising industry in chapter three [of my book]. And, one of my favourite case studies is Joe Styler a manager in the aftermarket department at GoDaddy. He shares in the book how he networked from an entry-level position at the company to a recognized industry-expert in a coveted role.

Another career networking lesson: Don’t overlook the possibility you can pivot and advance your career within the same company!

What advice would you share with  entrepreneurs who want to take their careers to the next level?

No one ever goes it alone. Our careers or projects or initiatives are propelled forward with the help of other people. Find mentors around you. Having mentors as well as being a good mentor is critical for learning how to master a new skill or navigate the dynamics of the business community.

Mentoring comes in a variety of forms – it can be one piece of advice, a blog post or a podcast. It does not have to be a 1:1 coffee date. It does not have to be a lifelong commitment. In reality, just as you don’t have time, that dream mentor may not have the time either for regular 1:1 coffee dates with you. Most people do have the time to answer a well thought-through email. Mentors are there to guide you through thorny work or professional challenges. If someone can help you sort out a work challenge by answering a question (once), well, why isn’t that considered mentoring?

STEM has received a lot criticism for its lack of diversity. What can insiders do to help change those statistics?

Again, be a mentor. Hire interns. Volunteer at hackathons at local libraries or community centers. Make it a career priority to expand your network and to share your interest in STEM with a more have a diverse group of people. [That means] industry, geography, tenure, experience, gender, education and whatever else you can think of.

A broad, diverse network is going to allow you to provide others with more opportunities (and you’ll get more ideas and feedback too). Keep in mind: the power of networking is not just the person you’ve just mentored or tutored or trained. [Networking] is all the people that person is connected to, too.

What books, tools or technologies would you recommend for people in the early stages of networking?

I always recommend Katharine Graham’s “Personal History”. Katharine led her family’s newspaper through Watergate.

Whether you want to be a fiction writer or not you should also read Stephen King’s “On Writing”. It is as much about how to dedicate yourself to your chosen craft as it is on understanding how you come up with new ideas and communicate them.

Watch Ray Anderson’s Ted Talk “The Business Logic Of Sustainability”. There’s also Phil Hansen’s novel called “Embrace The Shake,” too. Also, join the CreativeMornings breakfast lecture series community.

To hear more of Kelly Hoey’s advice, personal guidance or to ask her questions in person attend this upcoming event at the DMZ for free.

Is Canada the next global leader in tech? Yes.

Some of today’s biggest game-changing startups call Canada home these days. This includes local high-growth companies  like Shopify, WattPad and Element A.I., which secured an eye-watering $135 million investment earlier this year.Even America’s top tech companies have pivoted north in recent years; lured by Canada’s thriving tech scene.Google, Uber and Microsoft have launched new satellite offices this year, while Amazon — the godfather of e-commerce — is considering Toronto for its new North American headquarters.

Canada on the world stage

These new developments may come as a surprise to some, but it really shouldn’t. Canada has one of the most liberal immigration policies in the world and some of the top tech incubators — which churn our new talent and companies every day — are located in the city. However, Toronto’s greatest strength lies in its talent base. Tech innovators attracted by our world-class institutions that include Google’s artificial intelligence lab and million-dollar Vector Institute bring with them investors and venture capitalists that help transform the city.

Of course, Canada’s quickly maturing tech landscape can be confusing. Enter: The DMZ. The startup incubator’s new podcast entitled BusinessCast powered by the DMZ tackles the latest in tech news and innovation.

The first episode in the series investigates Canada’s winning tech streak. Chartered accountant and host Robert Gold chats with DMZ Executive Director Abdullah Snobar about the state of tech entrepreneurship and, more importantly, why the world should care about Canadian startups.Make sure to check out our BusinessCast podcasts here. 

Fujitsu Canada: Corporate innovation through collaboration

For years, companies looking to boost their bottom line would all too often rely on buying out their competition. It became trendy for big-name firms to acquire emerging startups in an effort to grow their market share.

Today, all of that is changing. The days of blockbuster acquisitions are on the decline. In a world where established companies face competition not only from Fortune 500 rivals, but from early-stage startups, purchasing the newest innovation at every turn isn’t enough.

So, what should large corporations do to stay ahead? Focusing on collaboration is key. It allows both startups and established businesses to leverage their best assets to thrive in today’s cutthroat business landscape. Startups bring with them new technologies and ideas that more-resource heavy corporations can then use to accelerate innovation. A practice that Fujitsu Canada has perfected over the years.

Collaborate to innovate

The company is certainly no stranger when it comes to innovation. Fujitsu is one of the oldest IT companies in the world, having undergone numerous breakthrough transformations over the years.

These days, Fujitsu invests about $3 billion annually in research and development, but behind the scenes the company is also solidifying partnerships with top startups around the globe.

“We understand that no one company, including Fujitsu, exclusively owns innovation across this broad range of industries,” explains Craig Smith, vice president of Fujitsu Canada. “It makes great business sense for us to collaborate with startups where we can jointly explore new markets and grow in existing ones.”

These types of partnerships can be incredibly beneficial. A 2016 study by Boston-based nonprofit MassChallenge and software company Imaginatik found corporate-startup partnerships were important tools for finding new talent, among many other things. Working with “scrappy young firms” the report said was “mission critical” to a business’ success.

Tech opportunities in Canada

The Canadian startup landscape is ripe and ready for the type of big partnerships that are often found south of the border. Fujitsu Canada knows this and is taking an active approach when it comes to finding the best Canadian startups.

Fujitsu’s current list of collaborations extends from coast to coast and around the world, including the company’s worldwide network of innovation labs and its Canadian Student Innovation System program, where more than 600,000 students, educators, and administrators work together to improve learning outcomes. The company’s relationship with the DMZ’s Innovation Immersion program also allows it to meet dozens of high-potential tech companies eager to showcase how their market-ready technology can help Fujitsu’s products.

“We view engaging with the startup community in Canada as an exciting and complementary innovation channel,” Smith explains about the company’s startup relationships. “The Canadian tech startup community is burgeoning, with venture capital more than tripling in the last six years.”

The future of tech

At the end of the day, new technology is making it easier and cheaper to do things that were once thought impossible. Like the Wright brothers — who gave birth to modern-day flight — or Drs. Watson and Crick — who uncovered the structure of DNA — amazing things happen through collaboration. Partnerships between big companies and small startups will become increasingly important in the near future and change life as we know it today. For Smith, how companies accelerate innovation in their business and the entrepreneurs they co-create with will help influence the Canadian tech scene.

“The ability to innovate is crucial. Technology is transforming innovation – it isn’t necessarily making it better but it is making it quicker, cheaper and easier. In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in digital co-creation, as businesses continue to transform to stay competitive in this quickly changing industry,” Smith adds. “… Digital transformation is becoming increasingly a core element to societal and economic stability and in order to thrive, businesses will need to accelerate the pace at which they bring technology and new ideas together.”

The 4 best entrepreneurial comeback stories of all time

There’s nothing people love more than a redemption story and the tech world is full of ‘em.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the best business stories involve entrepreneurs who persevered against all odds. While not an easy thing to do, it can be done with the right product, timing or, most importantly, people by your side.  

If you’re looking for a little motivation after a hard day at work or inspiration to fuel your next big idea look no further. From an entrepreneur who spent a decade following his dreams to a founder who was unceremoniously ousted from the startup he co-founded, there’s something that everyone can relate to in our list.

Jame Dyson

The straight-talking British billionaire may have revolutionized how people clean their homes, but his success didn’t come easy. It took the entrepreneur 15 years to perfect his bagless vacuum cleaner and turn his idea into a reality.

During the time he spent working on his invention, he mostly relied on his wife’s income to make ends meet. He also made a whopping 5,126 prototypes before he was able to create his company’s trademark device, the DC40. While some of his peers mocked his early attempts, Dyson’s commitment never wavered and ultimately paid off.

After his vacuum became a hit in Japan he turned that momentum (and cash influx) into a worldwide success. Since then, his company, Dyson Ltd, has brought in annual revenues of $4.5 billion and now sells a wide range of home appliances around the world.

Lesson: There are no shortcuts when it comes to winning. Find dependable, trustworthy people who believe in you and can help support your vision.

Bill Gates

Journalists might now refer to Bill Gates as the ‘Father of the Internet’ but before he found fame, money and success he was just a regular, ol’ entrepreneur struggling to pay his bills.

Gates and his partner, Paul Allen, launched their first software company called Traf-O-Data in the 1970s. It analyzed traffic data and provided analytical reports to local governments for a fee.

The duo’s startup would become obsolete in 1989 when the state of Washington would provide the same service for free. It wasn’t a total loss, though. The entrepreneurs took all the business know-how they learned and software created and apply it to their next company, which they initially called ‘Micro-Soft’.

Lesson:  Take all the lessons learned from past failures to use to make future businesses better.

Arianna Huffington

The Huffington Post is one of the most-read online publications around the world and operates international editions in India, Greece, the U.K. and South Africa.

Before its creator, Arianna Huffington, turned the online magazine into the success it is now she faced off against critics who derided its unpaid blogging model and dismissed its editorial content.

After launching in 2005, it took years before it turned a profit and generated enough buzz to sustain itself. But Huffington didn’t let that deter her (or her team). All their hard work eventually paid off, because in 2011 AOL purchased the website (and its related verticals) for $315 million.

Lesson: Focus on your goals and ignore the competition. Success is dependent on finding an untapped resource or avenue and exploiting it.

Steve Jobs

There’s no greater comeback hero than Steve Jobs. The entrepreneurial genius is just as well known for his failures as he is for his successes.

Early in his career, he was ousted from Apple, the company he helped launch. Later he would return and transform it into one of America’s most influential tech companies. Instead of giving up after being dumped by his company in 1985, he launched a competing startup called NeXt, with a few fellow employees.

Not long afterward, a floundering Apple would go on to acquire his startup and reinstall the notoriously ill-tempered entrepreneur as CEO. Later Jobs would shake up the industry by introducing game-changing technologies like the Macintosh computer, iPod and iPhone.

The rest is, as they say, history.

Lesson: Don’t let professional or personal setbacks deter you from pursuing your entrepreneurial dream. Learn from your mistakes and use them to grow.

Five scientifically proven ways to be more productive

It’s all too easy to get distracted or lose focus, especially when you’re an entrepreneur and juggling day-to-day responsibilities, client requests and company obligations.

Here are some of the best tips for tech entrepreneurs, backed by science, to help you get more done with what little time you have.

Take a break every 90 minutes


Having a hard time staying focused? A few mid-day breaks sprinkled throughout the day might actually help. While it may seem counterintuitive to step away from your desk when you’re in the middle of a big project a 2011 study from the University of Illinois found it may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your coworkers. So called ‘mental interruptions’ throughout the day can not only help startup employees who spend most of their days at a desk avoid burnout and also boost long-term productivity. Next time you’re feeling exhausted instead of that extra shot of espresso just take a simple 15-minute break instead and you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll get done.

Divvy up large tasks into smaller tasks


You know that satisfying feeling you get when you finally cross something off your to-do list? Well, you’ll be able to do more of that and actually see better results if you make sure to follow this golden rule.In 2014 American psychologists from Pennsylvania University discovered that cutting up huge projects into bite-sized tasks helps large teams finish their work faster and as a result rewards our brain’s pleasure centre, which in return pushes employees to do better work throughout the day. An added bonus: Completing smaller tasks also provides an easy way for team members to feel like they’re making progress and achieving a notable goal.

Skip the multitasking


The ability to multitask is often viewed as a desirable trait that most entrepreneurs take great pride in. However, what most don’t know is that working on more than one task at a time actually lowers overall work quality since brains aren’t designed for “heavy-duty” multitasking over an extended amount of time.Noted psychologist Robert Rogers found that on average it took individuals twice as long to complete tasks to a satisfactory level when multitasking compared to when they focused on one task at a time.

For entrepreneurs living in today’s techy world where time often equates to cold, hard cash this can be the deciding factor between what makes or breaks a company. Rogers suggests entrepreneurs instead assign time limits for certain tasks so they can concentrate on completing projects to the best of their ability whenever possible.

Turn off pop-up notifications


There’s nothing more distracting than battling a series of non-stop notifications when at work. Whether it’s email pop ups, Slack messages or IM pings, these types of digital interruptions can easily disrupt and distract even the most dedicated workers.A study from Florida State University suggests that notification and text messages can be just as distracting than phone calls for workers and those around them. One of the easiest things to do is to simply turn on ‘Do Not Disturb’ features during working hours or assign a member of your team to handle these types of on-the-go requests.

Skip email and converse in person


The amount of time wasted on email threads can be infuriating. Sometimes it can take minutes (if not hours) for workers and colleagues to respond to simple questions, which wastes time and often impedes other important tasks.One practical way to avoid this is to prioritize conversing in person or over the phone about important issues. A story published in the Harvard Business Review found that emails often resulted in more wasted time than phone calls or emails. Next time you have an important question about a sale or client, try getting up and visiting your colleague at his or her desk or picking up the phone instead of emailing them.

Is your startup prepared for a PR crisis?

The startup world is no stranger to scandal.

Silicon Valley is riddled with the remains of startups and companies forced to close their doors after falling prey to scandal. This year a series of well-known companies have landed in hot water for everything ranging from sexual harassment allegations to discrimination claims.

So, why does this keep happening in tech? The answer is fairly simple: Fast-growing businesses are more likely to prioritize product over crisis communication plans since the former provides immediate returns. It’s kinda hard to showcase the benefits of a communication crisis plan when there’s no crisis on hand.

Fortunately, there are some easy things startups can do to get ahead of any potential problems. Here are three easy steps early-stage companies can follow courtesy of Erin Richards, a former public relations officer for CBC and founder of communications firm Hype PR.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

For startups on a shoestring budget, time is a valuable resource that’s always in short supply. It’s easy to see why some would rather spend time networking instead of creating an in-depth framework for future issues that, technically, may never arrive.

As much as it might make sense to avoid all things PR related Richards believes it’s a bad idea. To combat any possible negative publicity entrepreneurs should invest in creating a strong brand before missteps occur in order to develop a trove of goodwill that can be leveraged to diffuse bad situations and grow the business.

“Most people don’t understand that public perception is a huge part of a brand narrative and story, and if those elements aren’t figured out, the media relations strategy is likely to fall flat.”

Creating long-lasting buzz isn’t an easy task, but entrepreneurs hoping to generate a positive public perception must focus their efforts on giving back to their community on a regular basis. This includes having team members volunteer to speak at conferences or community events to build good will. Local nonprofits and community organizations are always looking for guests to help teach and knowledgable experts are always in demand

Constantly Monitor Your Brand

Keeping tabs on how your brand grows and changes over time isn’t easy. It requires a lot of hard work, tons of follow-up and a keen eye that can easily differentiate between spam and important data, which is likely why most companies hire outside firms to perform this task.

Finding problems before they mushroom into bigger ones is an effective way to manage communication tragedies.

Companies need to be proactive and constantly be diligent. If they can’t afford to hire an outside team to monitor their brand they should make sure an individual is tasked with doing basic searches all the time.  Simply enlist someone on their team to monitor social media and online channels for news.

“They should have someone on the team allocated to the role of social and traditional media monitoring to ensure they are on top of any potential brand related issues that may arise,” Richards adds. “They could also look into having an independent consultant develop a PR plan and strategy that they could attempt to execute internally.”

Here are a few social media companies that startups can use to help find out if they’re being discussed online:

Twitter: Companies can use Twitter’s advanced search buttons to look for specific sentences, names and dates.

Facebook: It can be a little trickier for startups to find mentions of their brand on Facebook since many users take advantage of the social media company’s privacy settings.

Google: Getting alerts about when and if your company is mentioned online can be as simple as setting up a Google account. This platform doesn’t include social media platforms but does extend to blogs, news and websites.

Teach Your Team How to Interact With the Brand

For good or bad, founders are the de facto representative for their company. A startup can rise and fall based on the actions of a founding team member or staff. Teaching startup teams how to interact with customers online is vital, even when their “off the clock” or on their down time.

They need to remain professional at all times since now-a-days one embarrassing moment is merely a screengrab or email forward away from becoming PR nightmare.

“Once you become an entrepreneur, you become synonymous with your brand. Entrepreneurs should seek out mentors in the industry to help them network, grow and evolve and also look into how public figures they admire conduct themselves in public and in the media. Of course, there are also the obvious ones such as, watching the alcohol intake at professional events and avoiding weighing in publicly on potentially contentious issues.”


How Knix Wear founder shipped a million undies around the world

When Joanna Griffiths decided to quit her job at the ripe, ol’ age of 28 she never thought her split decision would one day lead her to launch Knix Wear , a Toronto-based lingerie startup, let alone net her over $2 million in sales, she admits.

But that’s exactly what it did and four years after starting the company on the floor of her living room she’s now shipping her high-tech, leak-proof underwear to women across the globe—everywhere from South Africa, to the U.S. and Afghanistan.

While her garments have garnered powerful praise from influencers since its 2012 launch—Metro News Canada, the Wall Street Journal  and New York Times, to name a few—Griffiths’ entrepreneurial journey is far less sexy, she confesses. The now thirtysomething encountered her fair share of problems during the startup’s early years and worked non-stop to get the business off the ground.

“It was scary,” she explains. “Being an entrepreneur is like a series of trade-offs, you’re always evaluating resources versus reward. The more prepared you can be for that type of lifestyle, the more you can think it through and know what your life will look like. I worked 24 hours a day and never stopped.”

The entrepreneur’s startup story is groundbreaking simply because through it she managed to create an apparel category that had never existed: leak-proof garments. Knix Wear was one of the first to market underwear to women who suffer from incontinence (light leaks), with company offerings later growing to include activewear clothing and period-proof panties for teens and adults.

A look at the breakthrough product that pushed Knix Wear into the limelight:

Her secret to success lies partially in capitalizing on the needs of what she felt was an underserved community. “I remember talking to women, who had kids, that would pick up Depends underwear because it was the closest thing they could find at the store and that resonated with me.”

Although her crowdfunding skills haven’t hurt her company’s overall success either. Since the company’s launch Knix Wear’s team has launched three online campaigns that have exceeded their crowdfunding goals. Her most recent campaign featured the company’s eight-in-one bra and raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter; the largest amount for any fashion project.

Despite her success, she’s quick to warn entrepreneurs about the perils of raising capital online.

“What I’ve seen happen is an expectation amongst entrepreneurs that if you put your product up it will sell like crazy. They underestimate the work it takes,” she says. “It’s probably the hardest work you’ll do in a 30-day period in your life.”

For instance weeks before the company’s latest campaign launched she and her team worked tirelessly to promote the company’s products, line up orders and respond to customers around the world within tight time frames.

In fact, if possible, she suggests new entrepreneurs avoid crowdfunding altogether until they have the capacity to fill large orders on demand. “We’ve learned the hard way from our early campaigns,” she says. “We had this amazing pre-market sales and momentum, but then spent the next nine months just trying to catch up and fill orders. People have to think long and hard about it. It’s not easy as everyone thinks it is.”

While the startup landscape has changed drastically since she launched her business, Griffiths is proud that her team has remained in the city she was born. Toronto entrepreneurs shouldn’t be too quick to leave the city behind these days, she adds. For anyone hoping to mimic her rise to the top she believes flying across the border is a must, but relocating isn’t necessary anymore and encourages entrepreneurs to explore options at home.

“There’s really nice growing and robust ecosystem that’s emerging [in Toronto]. There was definitely a time one-to-two years ago where we thought we had to move to the U.S. because I was getting that feedback from potential investors and now I’m not hearing that as much.”

Newer Entries »