#11 – Plugging In w/ Will Topping & Trevor Burgess
An episode of Startupville
By Innovation Place
Startupville features interviews with successful small-city tech founders on what it’s like to start and grow a tech startup in a smaller city away from the garden-variety metropolises like Silicon Valley and Toronto. At Startupville, we challenge the notion that the next big thing can only be made in Silicon Valley.
Startupville is produced in partnership by Innovation Place and Martin Charlton Communications.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*Episode note* - we experienced some feedback in the audio in this episode, please accept our apologies!
Dan talks with Mike Wesolowski, Founder & 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 it has existed largely unchanged 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 lessons they’ve learned about entrepreneurship along the way.
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.
We hosted a live episode at Innovation Place in Saskatoon to celebrate Season 1 of Startupville! Dan and Mike bring back some of the guests from the first season to talk more about small-city startups and more!
Remember Ryan Quiring from SafetyTek and Episode 3 of the show? Well his band, Tickle Trunk was the entertainment at our wrap party. So stick around until the end of the show to hear a teaser of what's to come for Season 2, and a special Startupville performance from them!
Dan talks with Katrina German, CEO of KatrinaGerman.com, and Greg Sutton, CEO & Co-founder of TinyEye.
Managing risk is a tricky business. Every entrepreneur has their own motivations for what they do, and they have to balance their "why" with all the risks involved in building a startup. Gaining a better understanding of what drives you will allow you to take calculated risks, and align your startup in a way that's the best fit for your goals. For founders who can master the art of managing risk, even failure can be a step forward that propels you to new hights.
Dan talks with Wilf Keller, President & CEO of Ag-West Bio Inc, and Blaine Chartrand, Program Head of Bioscience Technology at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
The global population is expected to grow by over a billion people in the next ten years. Food production has changed in many ways, and technology is becoming a big part of how we are able to feed an ever-increasing amount of people. Coming from a hotbed of biotechnology and agriculture innovation, Wilf and Blaine discuss how tech is an integral part of growing more (and more healthy) food into the future. Combined, with over a half century in communicating bioscience and Wilf since the 1970's, they discuss some of the communication mistakes that were made from early innovators that have changed the public discussion around food innovation.
Dan talks with Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7shifts, and Leejay Schmitt, Co-founder and CEO of Skylite Labs. There’s no denying that Silicon Valley is the startup capital of the world. There’s a critical mass of experienced talent, capital, and mentorship, and the culture of hustle is unmatched. It all combines to create the perfect storm help startups scale.
Is it possible for startup founders to take advantage of the opportunities smaller cities present, and still have access to the wealth of knowledge and support The Valley can provide? And how can they inject that Silicon Valley energy into their own communities to compete on a global stage?
Dan talks with Jeff Cutler, Chief Strategic Relations Officer at Canadian Light Source (CLS), Canada's synchrotron research facility and one of only a few in the world, and Kennedy Mangera, formerly of Canadian Isotope Innovations, a startup using technology gained from the CLS to solve the global shortage of medical isotope supply.
Not all technology is ready for market when it's first discovered or invented, sometimes it can take decades for a breakthrough to reach its potential. Some of the most revolutionary ideas take years of long-term research and investment for it to ever see the light of day. In this episode, our guests discuss how important it is for an ecosystem to invest in hard science that can pay dividends for society (and shareholders) if you're patient enough to see it through.
*Episode note* - Due to an echo-prone recording location (and some enthusiastic table tapping), there is some extra background noise in this episode. Please accept our apologies!
Dan talks with Ian Meier, Co-founder & CEO of Agrimatics, and Alix Hayden, Associate Director of Innovation Enterprise. In a small city, you’re only ever a few degrees of separation from the next great piece of advice or support that can save you months of headaches.
What can you do in the early stages of your startup to learn from the mistakes of those who came before you? And does starting in a small city reduce your access to mentorship and support, or can you take advantage a smaller, more connected ecosystem in a way you never could in a city of millions?
Dan talks with Ryley Iverson, Co-founder & CEO of Townfolio, and DonnaLyn Thorsteinson, Director of Programs & Operations with the Saskatoon & Region Economic Development Authority and SquareOne. All cities and towns have an economic development office looking to grow activity in their region. Townfolio's software helps economic developers attract more investment, and they themselves are helping the local economy by growing their tech startup. SREDA, like many other economic development agencies, has embraced the power of tech entrepreneurship, because tech can scale faster than any other industry. This provides an opportunity for the local economies to skyrocket on the backs of a strong tech ecosystem, but there are many pieces of the puzzle to make this work successfully.
Dan talks with Katherine Regnier, Co-founder & CEO of Coconut Software and Ryan Quiring, Co-founder & CEO of SafetyTek Software.
It takes a village to raise a startup.
Building a startup is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s so important for founders to surround themselves with the right people to help push them through it all.
Whether it is getting advice from an experienced veteran, commiserating over shared struggles with other founders, or having those closest to you keeping you grounded as you think you’ve reached your limit.
Nobody has ever built a successful startup alone. It comes in many shapes and sizes, and we all need to find our village to keep us moving forward.
Dan talks with Jacqueline Cook, Chief Strategy Officer with Vendasta, and Conrad Neufeldt, Co-founder & CEO of Kasper.
Smaller cities have something of a little sibling syndrome. Can they get over their inferiority complex and play in the big leagues? It can take years for startup founders from off the beaten path to realize their potential and the hidden potential of a diamond in the rough. And there’s nothing like a good surprise to catch the eyes of talent and investment. Can big things come in small packages?
Dan interviews Jeff Dyck of Mentor, a Siemens Company, and Jordan Dutchak of the tech incubator Co.Labs. Mentor (formerly Solido) was the largest tech acquisition in the history of their home province when they were acquired by one of the world's largest tech companies. Co.Labs is the provinces first tech incubator, taking startups from 1 to 1000. In this episode, they discuss the chicken and egg problem that all unestablished tech hubs face, and how Saskatoon is fighting the odds to build a vibrant, meaningful tech ecosystem thanks to continued involvement from the established veterans and small upstarts in the region.
Startupville is hosted by Dan Gold, formerly of The Economist Group in London, UK and some of the world's largest media campaigns. Dan interviews successful small-city tech founders on what it’s like to start and grow a tech startup in a smaller center away from the major hubs like Silicon Valley and Toronto. At Startupville, we challenge the notion that the next big thing can only be made in Silicon Valley.