Skip to Main Content
The Review

Startups, here’s how you can prepare to combat an economic downturn

Startup 101

Tag Archives: fund raising

Startups, here’s how you can prepare to combat an economic downturn

With record-high inflation, wars overseas and rising interest rates, experts are telling Canadians to brace for an economic downturn and warning signs are starting to trickle to the startup and innovation economy, which can affect in a multitude of ways.

Over the last year, Canada’s tech ecosystem showed explosive growth – in fact – a recent BDC VC report showed that Canada had a record year for venture capital, breaking records by almost every metric.

While some in the startup ecosystem are sounding their warning bells, like Silicon Valley-based Y-Combinator, the industry is still positioned to continue its growth. Is it always going to be clear sailing? No. But what we’re seeing is not a halt to our momentum but rather a course correction.

It’s second nature for startups to pivot and change their mindsets to focus on the opportunities at hand. Just look at Uber, Pinterest and Whatsapp, all household names that came out of the 2008-2009 recession!

We’re here to make sure that founders stay resilient, agile and are prepared to bear the punches that may come their way.

iPad screen with stock market metrics - Economic downturn blog

So what can you do to start planning ahead and super-proof your business? We’re glad you asked.

1. Leverage liquidity.

Finding the right liquidity balance for your business can not only help you gain insight into if you have enough cash to pay off your short-term liabilities. but also allows you to set yourself up for strategic growth. Having enough cash on hand is important to meet financial obligations, but holding onto too much cash might leave important investment and growth opportunities on the table. Finding the right balance will ensure long-term stability and provides a good first impression when looking to secure a loan or other funding.

2. Budgeting, budgeting, budgeting.

This goes without saying, but take a moment to sit down and understand exactly where your money is going and where your main sources of revenue are coming from. Getting a thorough understanding of finances will help make tough decisions – if need be – quickly and effectively.

3. Lock in longer commitments.

Focusing on closing longer commitments such as subscriptions or multi-year agreements with customer, partnerships and client can ensure financial security in uncertain circumstances. Recession or not, this is a great tip for any startup that is looking to extend its runway and demonstrate loyalty to customers and partners.

4. Cut costs.

It’s only natural to turn to cost-cutting measures but it’s important to remember one thing – cutting costs does not mean you need to let go of talent. Cutting costs means reevaluating your spending to axe unnecessary costs. Create plans for different levels of financial scarcity to work for different scenarios the ecosystem throws at you.

5. Back-up business plans are your best bet.

This is similar to the last point, but apply it to your entire business plan. Your best bet in preparing for the unknown is to create multiple overarching plans that fit a range of realistic possibilities. These plans should include securing funding as planned, securing a smaller amount and not being able to secure funding at all. Look at other forms of funding as alternatives, whether it be grants, crowdfunding, bank loans or support from family and friends.

Workers having a meeting - Economic downturn blog

Want to learn more about how you can solidify your contingency plans? Apply to a DMZ program here.

How to raise capital for your startup

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what they had to say.

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


What’s new with #paid?

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

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

What’s new with ACTO?acto

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

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

What’s new with ARB Labs? arb labs

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

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

What’s new with EnergyX?energy x

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

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

What’s new with Furnishr?furnish

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

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

What’s new with Hyre?


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

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

What’s new with Invision AI?invision

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

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

What’s new with iRestify?

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

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

What’s new with Movia?

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

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

What’s new with Sensibill?

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

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

What’s new with Smooth Commerce?

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

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

What’s new with Super (formerly Snapcommerce)?

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

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

What’s new with Soapbox?

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

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

What’s new with SWTCH?

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

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

What’s new with Trufan?

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

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

What’s new with Ratio.City?

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

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

What’s new with Ulula?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our Q&A with Rishi below.

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

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

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

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

Can you tell us more about PocketHealth’s product?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions? Let us know at