Small-city tech hubs are everywhere! This season we interviewed tech leaders and founders from Salt Lake region, Telluride, Saskatoon, and Regina, and got some hot tips from small-city expats in Vancouver, Toronto, and the Bay Area.
Whiteboard With Me
with Krystian Olszanski & Kevin Pierce
"The thing about [developers] is that no matter who you work with, if they’re more junior or senior than you, they could come up with just as good ideas, or even better sometimes. Because they all have different perspectives and sets of experiences."
– Krystian Olszanski
In the final episode of Season 2, Dan talks with Krystian Olszanski of Viamo and Kevin Pierce of Eventbrite. Both Krystian and Kevin are seasoned developers who have been working in tech for a long time and are now in management roles in their specific companies. Viamo is a social enterprise solving communications problems in developing countries, and Picatic is a consumer facing event ticketing platform, and the two talk about how making the lives of your users better is core to success no matter who that user is.
As seasoned developers in management roles, Krystian and Kevin also chat about growing and managing technical teams. From onboarding new employees to making strategic decisions and energizing team members, the two have no shortage of wisdom to share.
with Brett Park & Phil Corson
"We’re really big on Pirate Day, so we like to use this analogy that [our first product] is this large galleon sailing the sea, and we’ve identified that this isn’t a galleon that’s going to sail forever. So we wanted to send out, essentially lifeboats. Some of those lifeboats don’t make it to shore, but others turn into larger scooners, and others turn into what become galleons in themselves."
– Phil Corson
Dan talks with Brett Park, COO & CTO of Shiverware, and Phil Corson, Product Manager with GasBuddy. In this episode, Brett and Phil talk about product management, and some of the cool products they’ve been cooking up at their respective companies. They chat more about their individual approaches product design and how they see an idea through development into a shipped product.
The two also talk about a rising tide of energy in the Regina tech scene and how the city can capitalize on some of that momentum moving forward.
From Executive to Entrepreneur
with Serese Selanders & David Squires
"In my previous roles, it’s always been about the end-user of the product and looking at it from that perspective. So when I have a brand new idea, I could just roll out and say ‘I’ve think I’ve got all the answers and I know what to do,’ but right from the get-go I knew that in order to create something valuable, I needed to talk to the end-customer from the very beginning."
– Serese Selanders
Dan talks with Serese Selanders, Founder & CEO of ORA, and David Squires, her Silicon Valley mentor. In this episode, Serese and David talk about how they originally met, and how David ended up becoming one of her key mentors as she builds her company. Coming from an executive background in the financial industry, Serese had a lot to learn about hardware startups when she started ORA. From negotiating deals with contractors to planning out the hardware architecture, David has been an invaluable resource along the way.
Serese talks more about her journey as a non-technical founder of a tech company, and transitioning important skillsets from the corporate world to a startup. The two also discuss how they manage their mentor-mentee relationship remotely in an effective way.
with Mike Wesolowski & Kyle Drever
"I would love to see the health-tech community grow, and I think that’s something that we need. A focus on health-tech as one of the future industries in the province would be good for everyone."
– Mike Wesolowski
Dan talks with Mike Wesolowski, Founder and CEO of Luxsonic, and Kyle Drever of NC Smart Call. In this episode, Mike and Kyle talk about the complicated landscape of the building and selling tech to the healthcare sector, and what makes that different from other enterprise customers.
Mike also shares more about his history in academia, and how that was just the start of a path that led him to start his company, which is using virtual reality (VR) to empower healthcare practitioners with better training and diagnostic tools. Kyle shares more about the story of NC Smart Call and how they are changing the way staff schedules are organized in hospitals.
Let’s Do It Here
with Jamie Finney & Jeff Wandzura
"The biggest lesson we learned is how to ask the right questions, and the power of no. You have to ask, ‘what’s the reason behind the no?’ Unless you ask that second-order question to qualify why someone is saying no, you can’t change your strategy and whether or not you’re solving a true problem."
– Jeff Wandzura
Dan talks with Jeff Wandzura, Co-founder serial entrepreneur and angel investor, and Jamie Finney, Co-founder of Kokopelli Capital and Western Regional Director of Startup Colorado. In this episode, Jeff and Jamie share their stories and the many startup lessons they’ve learned, the role of universities and other institutional supports in a startup ecosystem, and the challenges and benefits of building in a small region.
Jamie shares more about the Colorado tech ecosystem centered around the medium-sized hub of Boulder. From some of the early success stories, to major landmark wins like the a Techstars accelerator in Boulder, a Denver-based Slack office and more. Jeff brings back the knowledge he’s gained for larger cities from his experience in a New York based accelerator and time spent in the Toronto angel investor scene.
Taking on the World
with Kyle Smyth & Jordan McFarlen
"I’ve read the top startup books, but I’ve found the best resource is my network, and that’s the network I’ve grown through [incubators]. There are CTOs, CEOs, and very accomplished people who are very willing to help. By knowing these people I can just ask them questions about their story, and when I have a problem I’ll ask them about that problem. They’ll give me solutions, but I won’t usually take that solution exactly. I’ll ask someone else the same question and compare, take the best from here, and the best from there, and find my own solution."
– Kyle Smyth
Dan talks with Kyle Smyth, CTO of Offstreet, and Jordan McFarlen, Business Incubator Manager at Conexus. Regina is the southward sister-city of Saskatoon, where many of our guests are from. As you’ve heard previous guests discuss, Saskatoon’s tech scene is growing rapidly, and Regina isn’t far behind with exciting scene of its own taking root in the provinces capital.
Jordan and Conexus have started Regina’s first business incubator to address the needs of an up-and-coming market. Dan, Jordan, and Kyle discuss starting up in Saskatchewan, and how the two major cities can feed off each other taking a region-wide approach to taking on the world and building a startup ecosystem. Kyle also shares the Offstreet story, how they started, and where they are today.
with Dan Jimenez
"We talk about a balance between doing amazing work as well as being really creative. What we do needs to return capital to the business, but if we only focus on numbers and doing things that scale, then we’re never going to do anything novel."
– Dan Jimenez
Dan talks with Dan Jimenez, COO of Chatbooks. If you’re not from the area, you might not think of Provo Utah when listing America’s hottest startup hubs. But in recent years the region has been taking off, and is home to one of the country’s fastest growing startups, Chatbooks.
Dan talks about the growth in the Utah tech scene, and dives deeper into how Chatbooks pivoted from being a family social network app to becoming the world’s easiest photobook. He also talks about how Chatbooks competes in a small-but-mighty talent market, and how they’ve taken advantage of Provo’s strengths in culture and education to accelerate their growth.
with Will Topping & Trevor Burgess
"Surround yourself early with people who have strengths where you have weaknesses. If you try to navigate it on all your own, yeah you might get there. But you’re going make a lot of mistakes along the way, and it’s going to burn you out."
– Trevor Burgess
Dan talks with Will Topping, Founder & CEO of Brand X Tech, and Trevor Burgess, CEO of Voltsafe. The wall outlet is one of the most ubiquitous technologies in the world, and has existed largely un-changed for over a hundred years. A Canadian company with roots in two cities is poised to completely re-invent this century-old tech in a way that could change homes, buildings, and technology around the world.
Will also talks about his new venture into Internet-of-Things tech, the two reminisce about the early days of Voltsafe (before it was called Voltsafe), and the lessens they’ve learned about entrepreneurship along the way.
Used Car Salesmen
with Alex Cruder & Daren McLean
"Do you want to be the [startup] that is suddenly competing with a very well-heeled upstart that started after you? Or do you want to be the one who raised the capital and is the well-heeled company, and not have to compete with that other person?"
– Alex Cruder
Dan talks with Alex Cruder, Co-founder & CEO of Curbie, and Daren McLean, CEO of Territorial and Advisor to Curbie.
Nobody likes used car dealerships, whether it’s the suit-wearing salesman giving you the high-pressure upsell, or all the mystery associated with buying a car with an unknown history. It’s a stressful, risky experience, which is why most people avoid them all together if they can.
Curbie is a Saskatoon-based tech startup reinventing the used car dealership by selling cars online like Amazon sells books. They’ve also found an invaluable partner and investor with one of their first service providers, Territorial.
In this episode, we discuss Curbie’s journey so far, the relationship between startup, investor and advisor, and what is on the horizon for both.