Hear from Nathaniel on why he’s excited to give back to the DMZ community, the experiences of an Indigenous entrepreneur, and how he conceptualized the MVP for LiveGauge
Nathaniel’s breadth of business expertise will provide founders guidance in accounting, resource planning, hiring, product management and corporate strategy.
The AiR program brings alumni back to the DMZ to act as mentors to the founders in current DMZ programs. Whether it’s offering sound business advice to new founders or providing guidance on personal development as an entrepreneur, AiRs play a vital role in the success of current startups at the DMZ – they were once in their shoes, and they know exactly what it’s like to be an early-stage founder.
A marketing technology entrepreneur with over 12 years of experience, Nathaniel is an ambitious founder with a strong interest in creating and participating in innovative ideas, projects, and products that impact the world in a positive way.
At the DMZ, we are committed to creating an equitable future for all founders; a prosperous economy is one that fosters diverse perspectives. The underrepresentation of Indigenous founders has been a persistent issue in the startup ecosystem as they are met with a disproportionate number of barriers when trying to break in.
We sat down with Nathaniel to learn more about his expertise, his entrepreneurial journey, the evolution of LiveGauge, and the challenges and opportunities Indigenous entrepreneurs experience.
What are your areas of expertise? What can founders come to you with questions about?
“My core expertise revolves around operational and financial aspects of business. This includes resource planning, hiring, product management, go-to-market strategy, product planning, budgeting, forecasting, and vertical expansion planning. I can also help with managerial accounting and financial accounting from my years of being the sole bookkeeper at LiveGauge.”
What made you decide to come back to the DMZ, now as an AiR?
“I would not be where I am today without the DMZ and the support it has given me. I feel so appreciative of everyone who has helped me get to where I am, and I truly want to help others in the same boat. Being able to support other entrepreneurs through the DMZ is something I couldn’t be happier to do.
Could you tell us a little bit about LiveGauge’s history? What problem were you trying to solve?
LiveGauge is an experiential marketing suite that helps brands and agencies better understand how effective their campaigns are.
“LiveGauge started by combining two ideas from experiences in my career. The concept of tracking people and understanding what led them to buy a product emerged from my time working at Future Shop as a merchandiser.
Every Thursday, we rearranged the shelf order based on a planogram printed out by the POS system. Some products were positioned based on payments from the brand, but most positioning decisions were made based on historical sales information.
I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be better to understand how we got to the end result of a purchase versus using end results to generate more end results?’ This is where my desire to understand consumer behaviour came from.
In a later role, I worked in mobile app development. In this job, I learned how it’d be possible to execute on the process of collecting consumer behaviour data. I was researching mobile devices and their technological capabilities and discovered a paper that explained the types of signals that cell phones emit. I used it as the MVP basis to execute on the business concept of LiveGauge.”
It has been nearly 9 years since you first launched LiveGauge — how has the company grown and evolved?
“Over the past 9 years, the company has been reborn. Every facet of the business, from the technological foundation, to the customers, to our founding team, has evolved.
Some changes were evolutionary, like adapting components to changing privacy laws and re-developing our algorithms to meet mobile marketplace changes. Others were revolutionary, like completely changing our target customer base, re-structuring our company, and developing new products completely outside of our primary focus.
There are positives and negatives, of course. Positive growing moments are easy to point out — like moving into our own office space and surpassing revenue goals. Negative ones are hard to recognize as blessings, but they push us outside of our comfort zones.
One notable example would be the pandemic. We are in the events business, and with in-person gatherings shut down around the globe, we were forced to look into new product developments and other target customers. Now, we are a multi-industry business with revenue streams from different verticals!”
What was your experience at the DMZ Incubator back in 2017 like?
“I still remember getting the invitation to be a part of the Incubator — it felt so right for us. We wanted to be part of a community that shared our drive, and understood our struggles and dreams.
Our fellow DMZ startups in the space had an array of experiences and lessons to share, from B2B and B2C companies, loyalty program startups, fintech, to medical training education solutions. Being surrounded by other startups makes you even more hungry as an entrepreneur. Seeing others commit 110% to their business makes you want to commit 150%. It’s a fuel like no other.
The community was exceptionally valuable, not just from the other entrepreneurs, but the DMZ’s advisors and EiRs. Their experience and insights were priceless. Mentorship is one of the best hacks a startup can utilize. A handful of solid sessions with someone who has been in your shoes can save you hours from making their same mistakes.”
“Being surrounded by other startups makes you even more hungry as an entrepreneur. Seeing others commit 110% to their business makes you want to commit 150%. It’s a fuel like no other.”
Any insights into your experiences as an Indigenous entrepreneur? What kinds of support can startup incubators, government, etc. provide Indigenous entrepreneurs?
“I often have encounters with individuals who, at no fault of their own, stereotype what an Indigenous founder ‘should’ look like.
When I let someone know I’m Miꞌkmaq they are a bit shocked, which is understandable given the way the media and Hollywood have painted the picture of Indigenous peoples. I think we’ll see that change soon though!
Today, we’re seeing more grants being offered exclusively to Indigenous entrepreneurs and strong business support communities. What I find the most interesting is that there are companies across North America that want to work with businesses that are minority-owned, Indigenous included!
These companies seek minority-owned businesses for a handful of reasons, including government incentives, and preferential selection as a second-tier supplier or vendor if they are listed as working with minority-owned businesses.
The startup ecosystem can always be better, but quite frankly there’s never been a better time for anybody to start following their entrepreneurial dreams, Indigenous peoples included.”
Are there any mentors from your early days as an entrepreneur that have made an impact on your personal or professional growth?
“There are three that come to mind. I’ll just refer to them by their first names. The first is James, he taught me how to persevere through tough times and adopt a ‘hustler’ mentality. His lessons have helped me identify when to adapt, when to go all in and fight, or cut my losses and move on.
The second is Dave. He has changed the way I look at and execute sales. He helped me to understand that the qualitative part of sales is equally as important as your quantitative parts. Focus on the psychology of your sales as much as you do your performance KPIs. Sales is an art and a science, and his mentorship has been invaluable.
The third would be Sheri. Her guidance and advice are not explicitly business-related, but she helped me to grow personally, which is critical as a business leader.”
Connect with Nathaniel here.