A prodigal startup returns from top accelerator Techstars, a new up-and-coming accelerator launches rock starH founders at home, we chat live on-stage with a former Blackberry leader, and more great stories from Saskatoon and Regina.
Startupville Live with VersaBank
with David Taylor & Gurpreet Sahota
"If you go to a place like Bay Street [Toronto], it tends to be more compartmentalized. I’ve found people in places like this [smaller cities] to think more creatively, and to be more contributors than in a place like downtown Toronto."
– David Taylor
We hosted a special live event at Innovation Place in Saskatoon, interviewing VersaBank’s David Taylor and Gurpreet Sahota in front of a live audience.
VersaBank is a fully digital, branchless bank and FinTech company with offices in Saskatoon and London, Ontario that was founded in 1979 by David Taylor. David has a long history in banking, and has taken multiple companies to IPO, including VersaBank. They recently hired Gurpreet Sahota as their Chief Architect, Cyber Security, who most recently worked at Blackberry leading their cyber security team.
David discusses the history of VersaBank, and why they have chosen to build and keep their company in the small regions of Saskatoon and London. Gurpreet shares some of the exciting new tech they’re working on, and how they’re starting to shake up the FinTech industry.
with Ryan Dumonceaux & Jon Lovering
"There’s a lot of forces that are aligning to make tech more global, and able to function from anywhere in the world. I think as those forces align, we start finding that smaller centres have that ability to access that global market and compete. When you add that with the ease of living in a smaller centre, you start to get this more powerful recipe."
– Jon Lovering
Dan interviews Ryan Dumonceaux and Jon Lovering of Deloitte’s Innovation Incentives team, which helps tech startups and firms access government incentives that allow them to limit risk and grow faster.
Ryan and Jon have both repatriated their hometown after working in top tech ecosystems like Kanata and Silicon Valley. Ryan cut his teeth with Nortel during the late-90’s tech boom, and Jon has over a decade’s experience building hardware products for Apple, Google, Amazon and Lytro.
Ryan and Jon chat with Dan about what drew them back to their home province, and the many things they’ve learned over the years. They also talk about how smaller regions can learn from Silicon Valley and other tech hubs to apply best practices while taking advantages of the strengths your region presents.
New in Town
with Zaid AlShaddadi
"[As a startup] The two things you can do [to win over new clients] is, 1) Resolve their underlying business problem and show quantitative economic benefits, and 2) If you’re fast, focused, and attentive to customer needs and communication, they’ll enjoy working with you instead of Google, Microsoft, etc. because large companies sometimes are not as responsive as startups."
– Zaid AlShaddadi
Dan interviews Zaid AlShaddadi, a recent immigrant to Saskatchewan from Saudi Arabia, who made the decision to move across the world for the opportunities in Canadian tech.
Zaid has worked over a decade in tech, most recently from Oracle in a senior sales role. So Dan and Zaid talk about his experience moving to Canada for the opportunities in the growing tech industry, and his first impressions of Saskatchewan’s small but bustling ecosystem.
Zaid is one of many people who have, and will immigrate to the province to grow the tech talent pool, so we get his feedback on how Canadian tech companies can effectively recruit and hire internationally. Plus, with over a decade in tech sales, Zaid shared with us some of his tips and tricks for selling tech to enterprise.
Canada's Hottest New Tech Accelerator
with Kristy Ehman, Nelson Wani & Alisha Esmail
"You quickly realize that the tech is the easy part. The hard part comes after building something. Starting to deal with customers, doing sales, handling rejection, trying to manage people. All of these people skills that you can’t really read a book about, a lot of it is practice and learning by fire and taking the advice as it’s given."
– Nelson Wani
Co.Launch is Canada’s hottest new accelerator for pre-seed tech startups. Dan talks with the winners of the most recent accelerator cohort, Kristy Ehman of Hyon Consignment, Nelson Wani of Autumn, and Alisha Esmail of Filtr Trade.
Dan and company chat about the crash-course that is the Co.Launch program, and how their experience has shaped their startups moving forward. They each won a cash prize, but more importantly gained a valuable network of mentors, investors and colleagues along the way, which led to many insights that have propelled them forward to the next step.
Co.Launch accepts startups from the idea stage to prototype, so the group discusses what led them to apply for the program, and advice for early founders and others who are dipping their toes in to the world of tech entrepreneurship.
with Kai Charette
"Being in a hub with other tech companies, in an area where you can manage your costs. But not only that, [in a city like Toronto] the commute is extreme. Living in Regina is by far the best opportunity for our company. You have to be here to experience it, but you’ll see why I love Regina."
– Kai Charette
Dan talks with Kai Charette of Alttra Solutions. In this episode, they discuss the benefits and pitfalls of blockchain technology, and how to cut through the buzz to provide meaningful solutions to problems.
Blockchain is a polarizing technology. With some saying its the future of the internet and others saying it’s an flash in the pan, it can be hard to cut through the jargon and address real problems. Regina’s Alttra Solutions is setting out to do just that, by working with companies to address problems that blockchain is uniquely suited to solve.
Wherever you fall in the debate on blockchain as an underlying tech, its sparked discussion and large existential questions around the world, can make for very interesting conversations. Alttra is making the bet that this will be the case for years to come.
with Jordan Schidlowsky
"I have a fundamental view that execution is more important than your idea. So if you’ve built a game, and you didn’t execute it greatly, you’re leaving the door open for somebody to come in and do it better. If you execute the best you can, you’re not leaving the door open to come and clone your idea, because they’re not going to do anything better than you’ve already done."
– Jordan Schidlowsky
Dan talks with Jordan Schidlowsky of Noodlecake Games. In this episode, they discuss growing a globally competitive game development and publishing company.
Jordan talks about the early days of Noodlecake releasing their first game, and how the mobile gaming market, the broader industry, and Noodlecake as a company has changed since 2011. Since releasing their first game Super Stickman Golf, they’ve become one of the most notable mobile publishers, having published or developed over 100 games on mobile platforms.
In 2017, Noodlecake was majority acquired by the Chinese gaming company ZPlay. Dan and Jordan discuss the process of being acquired and becoming a part of a larger global company while continuing to grow in Saskatoon.
with Chad Fischl
"In conventional farming, the farmer is constantly trying to design the seed or the plant to suit the environment that’s out of their control. In our scenario, we can control climate. We take the plant that we’re given and give it exactly what it wants, creating the perfect environment every time."
– Chad Fischl
Dan talks with Chad Fischl of Farm Boys Design Corp. In this episode, they discuss how Farm Boys is working to bring locally grown, sustainable food anywhere in the world regardless of climate and growing conditions.
Farm Boys has built a fully automated, self-contained system for growing high-value crops anywhere in the world. The demand for leafy greens and other small crops like tomatoes is high around the world, but unfortunately there are only a few regions on earth where these crops are able to grow. Chad talks more about how their system enables these crops to be grown easily and affordably anywhere in the world.
As a serial entrepreneur, Chad’s path toward solving one of the world’s largest problems is an interesting one. Dan and Chad talk more about how he got where he is today, and where they’re headed in the future.
Scaling with a Scale
with Alicia Soulier
"You have to learn how to really take a risk. The sooner you can as a leader, distance yourself and hire people who are smarter than you, the faster and stronger you will always be."
– Alicia Soulier
Dan talks with Alicia Soulier of SalonScale. In this episode, Alicia shares her story of how she went from salon owner, to tech entrepreneur scaling her business internationally (pun intended).
As an experienced entrepreneur and salon owner, Alicia discovered a problem that is core to the success or failure of a salon business. Her deep knowledge of an industry problem was the secret to building a simple and user-friendly solution that solves a problem that costs salon owners thousands, and sometimes is make-or-break for their business.
Alicia shares how she started SalonScale with no background in tech, and how she is working to save one salon at a time by “scaling” up her company.
Techstars Update from Townfolio
with Riley Iverson & Davie Lee
"A huge takeaway for us, was not even coming up with some insane idea or something like that, but operationalizing. We’re very run-and-gun kind of guys, and Techstars was founded by engineers. They’re very meticulous. I feel like a lot that was instilled in us. Staying very KPI focused, what it takes to be a venture-backed company, the steps you must follow, and we took a lot of that away. That was one of my top takeaways."
– Riley Iverson
In the first episode to kick off Season 3, Dan talks with Riley Iverson and Davie Lee of Townfolio. In our first season, we talked with Riley in the episode “The $500 Startup,” and learned about their startup story and how they were disrupting economic development.
Since then, Townfolio was accepted into one of the world’s most respected tech accelerators, Techstars in their Kansas City location. Riley and Davie went through their intensive program through the summer, and they’re back to share their experience on the whole rollercoaster ride.
In this episode, we go into detail on what it’s like to go through a Techstars accelerator, how it has impacted Townfolio moving forward, and what’s next for their growing startup.