Real Advice for Entrepreneurs from 5 Toronto Startups

RemitrBusiness

Being an entrepreneur can often be a solitary journey. Are you considering taking the leap into entrepreneurship? Have you already leapt, but feel mired in uncertainty? Or are you finding yourself firmly on the hamster wheel thinking “what next?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here are some learnings from people that have been there, done that and are still doing it. They don’t have it all figured out just yet, but they’re on a solid path there.


Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, Founder

Scale Without Borders (9 months)
People Tech

“Don’t underestimate the importance of building relationships very early on. Scale Without Borders is only a few months old, but it is a direct result of the relationships I’ve been able to build over the years.

Another big thing is value. Founders should always think about driving value to their customers, their partners and whoever they are affiliated with. The results should follow naturally, and if they don’t, you’ll know it’s because you need to reassess the value of your offering.”

Scale Without Borders brings together experts in the Canadian startup ecosystem to help new tech entrepreneurs access available resources to help them grow and scale in Canada. Nouhaila is also the Programs Lead for the Women Founders initiative and the DMZ Startup Accelerator.

Jean Na, Co Founder

Whiip (1 year)
People Tech

“I’m still pretty early in my journey to be able give legitimate advice, but I’ve really learned the value of acquiring the skills that you may not have – and I really mean that.

It’s just me and my co-founder right now, and our backgrounds are programming and consulting with a math undergrad thrown in for flavour – so nothing related to design. But, after learning that design is very expensive, I decided that, you know what, I don’t have the money for design right now, but I do have time, and I’m hungry to learn.”

Whiip allows companies to build a collaborative culture in their workspace. Their platform allows employees to connect, find help, share obstacles, and unlock new ideas together as a team.

Irina Zusman, Co Founder & COO

Bagsaway (2 years)
Travel

“Having an idea and running a business are two very different things. Expect to deal with a range of tasks from low-level, to high-level, to downright intimidating. DON’T let that discourage you. 

There will be moments where you will feel like you’re not actually doing what you want to do, or that you’re losing focus on the big idea or your passion in all the nitty gritty things. To reconcile the gap, relate each of these tasks to the bigger picture, reframe your outlook and focus on how each administrative task or big presentation ultimately aligns with your values and drives the company towards your overarching goal.”

Bagsaway helps you to find a place to stash your bags between check out and take off. They partner with local businesses and storefronts to create a network of convenient, low-cost and secure luggage storage locations on demand. 

Monika Jaroszonek, CEO & Co Founder

Ratio City (2.5 years)
Property Tech

I don’t have a business background, so starting my company was like a DIY MBA. My advice would be to be a sponge. Take advantage of all the resources available to you – whether it’s structured programming, youtube videos, learning platforms, incubators – whatever you can get your hands on. Go out and listen to people’s stories first hand, learn the lingo and terminology, look for patterns.  You’ll find that you can actually move that unscalable mountain one pebble at a time. 

Don’t wait to participate. Just start moving and figure it out as you go. Start building a diverse network early (both personally and within your industry) and the right people will come looking for you. I’m very proud to say that we’ve built an awesome team that builds amazing cities.”

Ratio.City’s online mapping and analysis tools help urban redevelopment projects get through municipal approval processes faster. They use data and technology to help the real estate industry understand the complex urban structures of cities and find great sites for redevelopment.

Sandeep Todi, Co Founder & CBO

REMITR (4 years)
PayTech

“The very definition of a small business is that we are not unique. There are going to be at least 1000 people doing the same thing. So, how do you differentiate yourself? It’s often a deceptively simple rule. Can you fulfil an unmet need for a market that is large enough or well defined in your mind? Or, if that need is already being met, can you do it better than somebody else and create a sustainable, competitive advantage? 

There is little difference between one grocery store and another. The only real differentiator is that they have to be close to you. That’s the variable that most people are sensitive to – the convenience factor. But if the local grocery store is not responsive to what people in the neighbourhood want, then they likely won’t survive. 

So, you have to know the needs of your customers. You can always start from some point of conviction and then continue to learn more about your customers’ needs over time. The key to growing a business is to become better at what you’re doing every single day, by listening to your customers and making sure you are the best person to address their needs.

When you’re starting off, you need an overdose of certainty, otherwise it’s difficult to begin. So be super confident, but be open to input and be willing to learn. There’s a nice term for this – “strong opinions, weakly held”. You’re going to have strong opinions about what you do, but don’t hold on to them so strongly that you prevent yourself and your company from evolving beyond what you initially envisioned.”

REMITR champions small and medium sized enterprises by making business payments effortless. The established and extensive REMITR Global Network guarantees fast (often one-day) payments wherever you do business. REMITR takes the pain out of payments, so customers can focus on what really counts – freeing up their cash flow and growing their companies.