An executive asked [Lem] if genetics could have caused a bad reaction to pot... see more
Source: Canadian Press via Times Colonist
Author: Tara Deschamps
Canadian tech companies look to cash in on cannabis with innovations and apps
TORONTO — One of John Lem's first hints that the technology behind his DNA testing company Spartan Bioscience could be a hit with cannabis users, came years ago when an executive asked him if genetics could have caused a bad reaction to pot.
The question intrigued Lem so much that he eventually applied Spartan's technology to a new Toronto-based venture called Lobo Genetics. Through Lobo, he created a genetic testing device that fits in the palm of a hand and uses cells obtained through a cheek swab to measure a person's ability to metabolize THC — the main psychoactive component in cannabis — and determine someone's predisposition to short- and long-term side effects.
Lobo believes it could be a hit with health-care practitioners and medical marijuana users, but has also recently experienced a flurry of interest from the recreational industry.
"We thought the med pool was going to be first in terms of adoption, but dramatically on the rec side, there are a lot of potential opportunities," Lem said.
The boom Lem is seeing puts Lobo Genetics among a wave of tech companies benefiting from the Oct. 17 legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada.
Already the pot tech industry has seen the debut of Toronto start-up Strainprint Technologies Inc., which makes it easy to track and manage the dosage and effects of pot, and California-founded Weedmaps, which helps users find locations throughout Canada where they can buy the substance. Also cashing in on the pot tech rush are Ottawa-based Shopify, which powers provincial and private marijuana e-commerce offerings, and cannabis companies like Lift & Co., which runs a reviews app.
"There has been no shortage of entrepreneurs getting out there," said Dan Skilleter, Lobo's director of policy and communications. "The last year has been so busy for cannabis and certainly Lobo saw the opportunity."
Skilleter and Lem said Lobo has only launched on a pilot basis, but is already seeing enthusiasm.
Those high hopes have spread to Winnipeg, where Save the Drive is readying a platform that allows people to hire a personal shopper to buy and deliver weed.
Its chief executive officer Chanel Graham said it has yet to launch because of weed shortages and required changes to legislation, but legalization has already brought a spike in interest.
"I am surprised how many people reached out right on Oct. 17, hoping that we were in operation," said Graham. "We have had quite a few customers contacting us."
The same is true for cannabis-centric social networking platform High There!
The Florida-based venture, which helps users find buds to, well, smoke buds with, said it has seen a 300 per cent increase in sign-ups since legalization and plenty of those new users are based in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
Over at Strainprint, chief executive officer Andrew Muroff said users in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto have flocked to its product the most.
Strainprint, which has focused on medical marijuana users but works just as well for recreational users, launched the day before legalization to take advantage of the attention pot would garner.
However, with its launch and legalization lining up, Muroff said, "We did see a lift, but it is hard for me to know if it came from legalization."
A new podcast series about entrepreneurs produced by The Globe and Mail. see more
Source: The Globe and Mail
Author/Interviewer: CHAD HIPOLITO/GM
I'll Go First: With startup in her viewfinder, Nicole Smith didn’t give up
Nicole Smith knew she had a great idea for a business. What if she could link vacationers with professional photographers to document their trips?
She left a steady job at Microsoft and worked hard, even running through her life savings and selling her car. Today she is the founder and chief executive officer of Flytographer Enterprises Ltd., which she describes as an Airbnb for vacation photography. “We connect travellers with local photographers in hundreds of cities around the world for short, fun vacation photo shoots.”
Ms. Smith, who has lived in Spain and South Korea and travelled in Europe, runs her company out of Victoria, where she is also raising two sons. She mentors other female entrepreneurs and believes in work-life integration.
Here she talks about how she made Flytographer into an international business and shares what she has learned about often being the only woman in the room. Ms. Smith was interviewed for I’ll Go First, a new podcast series about entrepreneurs produced by The Globe and Mail.
How did you come up with the name Flytographer?
I wanted to create a name that would become a noun or a verb describing the space. Kind of like Rollerblade or Kleenex. I went through a litany of terrible names. I think one of them was Friend Follower.
But Flytographer offered the word “fly,” and you’re usually flying on your vacation, and also “fly on the wall,” because you’re having a photographer capturing those moments. I had this dream five years ago that someday someone would use it in a sentence, “I’m going to book my hotel and my flight and my Flytographer.” We started seeing our customers using it in sentences, and the first time I saw that I literally had goose bumps.
What is the biggest misconception people have about your company?
People think it’s just for millennials, or it’s just for people who are vain. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Our customers range from millennials to grandparents. In fact we recently posted a photo on our Instagram feed of this couple in their 80s. It lit our Instagram page on fire because the way they were standing there, head to head in this loving embrace, was just priceless. Flytographer is for people who prioritize experiences over things, and people for whom memories are the most important thing when they travel.
The camera on a cellphone today can rival that of a DSLR. How do you sell travellers on using your company?
I would say you could have a Wolf stove and the fanciest pots, but you’re never going to cook the same meal that a professional chef would. It’s kind of the same thing with photography. Secondly, it’s hard to get a good photo of everybody unless you have an incredibly long arm.
Or a selfie stick.
By the way, a fun fact: More people died as a result of selfie sticks in 2015 than shark attacks.
The third thing is that one of the reasons we travel is to see how others live. Our photographers are excited to host you around their city. So as you’re walking the streets with, say, Roberta in Rome, she’s going to tell you about her favourite coffee shop, her favourite restaurant, or that there’s this great street fair for the kids happening on Saturday nearby.
How did you pull together photographers from all over the world?
I found my first photographer on Craigslist Paris, of all places. Initially I sourced people from online forums or contacted them directly. Because we had no credibility, and because no one had done this before, it was incredibly hard. When I launched the site I think we had 18 photographers, but then it got easier because we started getting exposure in the press, and some partnerships. Now we’ve had more than 12,000 photographers apply to our website, and we’ve hired about 500.
Was entrepreneurship something you considered when you were young?
I did not see myself becoming an entrepreneur at all. I didn’t dream big enough, and when I look back it kind of makes me sad. The more that Flytographer grows, I get opportunities to chat with young women, and I really think it’s important that people be able to see it before they begin. I think I just didn’t see it enough as a young woman. That’s probably why I ended up at Microsoft for 12 years.
So you need to see it before you can be it. How do you get involved today?
In Victoria there is a community organization called VIATEC, which represents the tech sector locally. I’m on the board, and I have opportunities to meet with and connect with women. We usually go to all these events where there’s a lot of beer and the gender imbalance is like 80-20 for men-women, and I thought why don’t we create an event that looks a little bit different. So I started Rosé and Real Talk. We had 100 startup women in Victoria come to our inaugural event in the spring. We had copious amounts of rosé and we had five local women in their 20s, 30s and 40s talk about advice they’d give their younger selves.
What was the reaction from your family when you told them you were going to leave a stable job and create something from scratch?
Well, my dad said it was the worst idea ever. If you have a great job at Microsoft, why would you risk that? It all comes from a good place, though – they love you, they’re worried about you. But then later, a year and a half in, when I hadn’t paid myself at all, and it was draining my life savings, and I had to sell my car, he was like, “What are you doing?” But I said, “You know what, Dad, I know this seems crazy, but you gotta trust me. I would literally sell my house next, that’s how passionate I am about this. At the end of the day the worst thing that could happen is it all explodes, but I’ll get another job – I’ve got skills, so I’m going to go for it." And he said, “Okay.”
Many entrepreneurs have a co-founder who can help shoulder the stress. What do you do?
I’ve realized it’s important to build a network of fellow founders, and I’ve got some people now who I can talk to. But my go-to person is my best friend. She lives in Copenhagen, and we talk over what’s up all the time. It could be 11 at night and I send her a message, and we’ll hop on Skype and talk it out. She’s an amazing sounding board.
How do you balance your professional life with your personal life?
Being a mom and being a startup founder are both full-time jobs, and there are days where I feel like I totally crushed it on the mom front and was “eh” on the founder front. And then vice versa the next day. You’re going to have to make trade-offs.
The biggest tip I have is work-life integration. This summer when I had a business trip to Europe I took my kids along and they were able to meet a lot of the photographers that we work with and understand my business on a deeper level, and therefore feel more connected and less competitive with it. The second thing was my 13-year-old actually interned at Flytographer for a week this summer. I can’t even tell you how fun that was. We got dressed for work together, and we went in, and then we’d have lunch together and he sat with our dev team. Over all, try to balance it as best you can and not judge yourself too harshly.
What is your greatest fear?
Not being an awesome mother.
How many hours do you sleep at night?
I’m a big sleeper – like, I’m a niner. It’s one thing I don’t negotiate.
What’s your favourite rosé?
Anything from Provence.
You speak three languages. Did you pick those up during your travels?
When I was in business school I focused on international business and marketing, and I loved learning about different cultures and how different people communicated. When I graduated, the last thing I wanted to do was get a boring 9-to-5 office job where I’d have to wear pantyhose. So I decided to travel. I spent the first six months living in Mexico City and I studied Spanish. Then when I ran out of money I came back home and I realized I wasn’t quite ready to settle in yet. I moved to South Korea and spent a year there teaching English and learning some Korean.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Oh, that’s easy. I would absolutely tell myself to dream bigger. A lot of women especially have this sort of invisible ceiling that they put on themselves. For me that was definitely the case. And so I just want to beat that drum to every young woman that I can. You don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to be an expert, but you have to have that passion and that resilience and that steeliness to keep going, because you can really build amazing things.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
ABOUT FLYTOGRAPHER ENTERPRISES LTD.
In business since: 2013
Revenue: About $5-million
Sometimes selfies just aren’t good enough – like when you’re on a bucket-list trip, or in Florence to celebrate a wedding anniversary.
Flytographer gives travellers another capture-the-moment option: the services of a local professional photographer.
Through the company’s online platform, travellers click on their destination and choose from a lineup of photographers. They set a place and time for the photo shoot, pay online and meet their photographer on the scheduled date. A link to an online gallery of pictures is e-mailed to customers within five days of the shoot.
Nicole Smith, Flytographer’s founder and CEO, says she came up with the idea for her startup during a business trip to Paris. Her best friend, whom she hadn’t seen in years, flew in from Copenhagen for the weekend, and Ms. Smith knew she needed to capture the occasion in photos. They had only their smartphones, so they asked another friend to pinch-hit as photographer.
Today the company’s 450 photographers, who span 250 cities around the world, have done more than 20,000 Flytographer photo shoots since the company launched, she says.
Most Flytographer photographers specialize in weddings, says Ms. Smith, who worked previously as a marketing manager for Microsoft Corp. To be part of the Flytographer platform, photographers go through online interviews and critical reviews of their portfolios.
Ms. Smith says Flytographer customers get more than great travel pictures; they also get a chance to connect with professionals who are proud of their city and often act as local ambassadors during the shoot. At the same time, photographers who normally rely only on local gigs get access to global customers.
In Feb 2017, LlamaZOO began cold-calling mining companies, a sector that uses a lot of spatial data. see more
Source: Douglas Magazine
Author: Shannon Moneo
LlamaZOO’s Lateral Leap
How it All Started
When Charles Lavigne and Kevin Oke created LlamaZOO in 2014, the tech wizards’ intention was to build a software platform where 3D content would be used for education and training. The two post-secondary school dropouts turned video-game creators targeted university veterinary programs, a sector they felt was in need of improved methods to deliver classroom material.
“For the last 50 years, [professors] have been teaching out of 50-year-old books. The medium they’re using to teach complex subject matter is not the best,” says Lavigne. “Why not teach the basics in 3D?”
And thus, EasyAnatomy was hatched. It’s a learning application, using a virtual dog, that offers 3D viewing and cadaver dissection, as well as quizzes and supplementary material. Today, EasyAnatomy is used by 90 universities around the world. But while the product made vet education graphic, portable and engaging, sales did not match expectations. “It’s not easy to sell to universities,” Lavigne says...
Her request for funding to scale up Victoria-based DeeBee’s Organics was “quashed without question.” see more
Source: Times Colonist / Canadian Press
Author: Armina Ligaya
Women seeking business loans face bigger barriers, study says
When Victoria’s Dionne Laslo-Baker sought a bank loan to expand her burgeoning organic popsicle and freezies business in 2014, she was shocked by the patronizing feedback she says she received from a male banker.
“One of them said not only that they couldn’t fund us, but, why am I bothering to do this?” she said. “I have a very successful husband, who makes a very good salary. ... Why are you kind of disrupting the peace?”’
She felt defeated.
Her request for funding to scale up Victoria-based DeeBee’s Organics was “quashed without question.” It was one of the first times she realized that women entrepreneurs face bigger barriers than their male counterparts.
And a lack of access to capital is one of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs, a new study suggests.
The wage gap between men and women has been long-standing — with women on average making 74 cents for every dollar of annual salary made by men, according to the most recent Statistics Canada data — but research by PayPal Canada and consulting firm Barraza and Associates suggests that this dynamic also applies to those who own small and medium-sized businesses as well.
Businesses owned by women generate an average of $68,000 less revenue than men who run similar businesses, representing a gap of 58 per cent, according to the online survey of 1,000 Canadian small and medium-sized businesses between Jan. 26 and Feb. 28.
The findings suggest that the median annual revenue for businesses owned by men across six different categories of firms ranging from manufacturing to services was $118,000, but $50,000 for those owned by women. Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
The gender revenue gap is slightly smaller for businesses operating online, at $55,000 or 44 per cent, compared to offline businesses that had a gap of $71,000 or 64 per cent, according to the survey.
One barrier to growth for women-owned businesses is access to capital, the survey suggested. Roughly 53 per cent of women-owned businesses with an e-commerce component said it was “easy” for their company to get business credit to grow their business, falling short of the 67 per cent of men who reported getting loans with ease, the survey found.
Becky Reuber, professor of strategic management at the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto, cautions it’s difficult to compare businesses based on the gender of the owner, as there is some research that suggests that women tend to start businesses in sectors that have lower-growth rates, such as service-based businesses. For example, there are fewer women engineers and in turn fewer with the background to start high-tech businesses, which often see higher growth, she added.
Still, when you compare the performance of similar businesses owned by men and women, recent studies have shown that there is no difference, said Reuber.
That being said, there is a difference when it comes to seeking capital from investors, she said.
“There is evidence that some stereotypes play up in that. And women may have more difficulty getting high value investment,” she said. That is also what Laslo-Baker found. When she wanted to raise more funds in 2014 for DeeBee’s and met with some food industry players, one of which told her they would consider investing if she got a “man in here who could be the CEO and run this company.”
“I thought, ‘What? A man in here? I’ve already taken this product to Canada and parts of the United States. Is that nothing?’ ” Laslo-Baker said.
Despite these challenges, DeeBee’s has continued to expand. Its frozen treats are sold at major grocery chains such as Metro and Sobeys, and in every Canadian province and 20 states in the U.S. including California and New York.
The company has a commercial loan from Bank of Montreal, backed by Export Development Canada, and at DeeBee’s last capital raise, which closed in June 2018, the company’s valuation was $16 million, she said.
She believes attitudes are slowly changing, with more people expressing that her background as a mother and female entrepreneur is an asset not a drawback, she said. “As more women succeed, it’s going to pave the way.”
The federal government has made gender equality and increased workforce participation by women a priority. Among initiatives aimed at this goal in its latest budget, Ottawa has allocated $1.4 billion over three years from the Business Development Bank in new financing for female entrepreneurs and $105 million over five years to help the regional development agencies support women-led businesses.
Round 2.5 and Round 3 ventures announced - New Ventures BC see more
Round 2.5 and Round 3 ventures announced - New Ventures BC
The results are in! Our esteemed panel of judges have evaluated the Round 2 submissions. This year was extremely competitive, leaving us with 18 ventures moving directly into Round 3, and 27 ventures pitching in Round 2.5. To ensure fairness and accuracy, all scores were analyzed and normalized by Octothorpe software.
Congratulations to all!
Top 18 – advancing directly to Round 3 (in alphabetical order)
- AntEater Analytics
- CRM GeoTomography Technologies
- Cuboh (local startup Victoria startup)
- Cyberdontics Inc.
- Distill Analytics
- Embrace Orthopaedics Inc.
- HeadCheck Health Inc.
- iComply Investor Services Inc.
- PROtect. Smart Personal Safety
- Skaha Remote Sensing
- Voltific Technology Inc.
Round 2.5 – placing 19-45 (in alphabetical order)
- Advanced Intelligent Systems Inc.
- Avestec Technologies Inc.
- B4 Technologies
- Event Temple
- Go99 Operations
- indigetech software inc.
- Lean Technique
- Logical Autonomy Technologies Inc.
- Pisano Technologies
- Plasmatic Technologies
- Propel HQ Inc.
- QiiQ Healthcare Inc.
- SensoDrive Technology
- Virtro Entertainment
- Volta Air Technology Inc.
- VoltSafe – Lab 498
- Zennea Technologies Inc.
The top 18 companies advance directly to Round 3. The remaining 27 teams will enter Round 2.5, where they will pitch for a chance to advance. The top seven ventures from this pitch day will join Round 3, creating our Top 25!
Round 2.5 pitches happen June 21. Our final Round 3 ventures will be announced on June 22.
Good luck to all of the teams!
Scott Phillips was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Pacific) in the tech category see more
Prestigious entrepreneur honour for Starfish Medical founder
Starfish Medical might need to engineer a new mantelpiece for its Tennyson Place offices as the company landed a major award over the weekend when founder Scott Phillips was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Pacific) in the technology category.
The award, considered one of the world’s most prestigious business honours for entrepreneurs, comes on the heels of Phillips being named 2017 Technology Champion at this year’s Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council awards.
“We’ve been fortunate to win a few things, and I say we because this is a team thing, but this award in particular is recognized around the world and we are an international company so this is very helpful,” said Phillips. “I’m really honoured, to be honest. I mean, it was a large category as ‘technology’ is pretty broad … I’m delighted to be chosen.”
Phillips, who has received congratulations from clients and colleagues in 12 countries since the announcement, said the win is a validation for the decisions Starfish has made over the past several years.
“When I frame what we are doing, it’s usually in the context of the medical [industry]. But when you go through the exercise and apply for these awards, it forces you to think in pure business terms,” he said. “It gives me a good feeling to be recognized in more than just the tech expertise that we bring, but also in our business achievements.”
Starfish, which designs and develops medical devices, has had plenty of the achievements.
The 18-year-old, private company has reported 50 per cent growth in each of the past two years. In March, it announced the acquisition of Toronto medical-device designer Kangaroo Group to attract more business from the medical-technology hubs of the eastern U.S.
That expansion helped the company grow to 130 employees, with 25 in its office in Toronto.
“Financially, it’s a good story. We have tripled the company in the last four years and become the only national firm in our industry,” Philips said.
The acquisition of Kangaroo has paid off for Phillips, as the firm landed two new clients in Michigan whom he believes they would have missed without an eastern presence.
“We are making good headway there. … I’m confident we will see some interesting development in places like Boston, New Jersey and New York that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said.
Growth seems inevitable as Starfish plans to add to its sales force.
“Every year we say to ourselves: ‘Let’s put the brakes on a little.’ Then we grow 30 per cent,” Phillips said with a laugh. “Maybe this is the year we stabilize a bit, but in this business, you kind of respond to demand.”
The EY Entrepreneur of the Year program runs in about 145 cities in about 60 countries.
Rob McCurdy, chief executive of Pinnacle Renewable Energy, was named the overall EY Entrepreneur of the Year for the Pacific region.
As the Pacific region’s winner, McCurdy will compete with other winners from the Prairies, Ontario, Atlantic and Quebec regions for the national honour as Canada’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year. That winner will take on the world.
It was nearly five years into the development of what was initially titled Dollhouse... see more
Source: Times Colonist
Author: Michael D. Reid
Gaming guru Mattrick receives UVic honour
Don Mattrick grins as he recalls a classic example of his legendary persistence, and how it spawned a $5-billion franchise while he was president of worldwide studios for the Electronic Arts gaming company.
It was nearly five years into the development of what was initially titled Dollhouse, a passion project the ambitious business mogul was working on with game designer Will Wright.
Even though his executive team threatened to resign, he soldiered on and Dollhouse morphed into the hugely successful life-simulation video-game series The Sims.
“Literally, for five years someone would come into my office and say, ‘This is never going to ship! This is the dumbest product you’ve ever had,’” recalled the amiable tech titan at the University of Victoria Monday morning. Mattrick, who on Monday night received the 2017 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year award, was at UVic to inspire fourth-year Peter B. Gustavson School of Business entrepreneurship students.
“‘You have 75 full-time people working on this! All the rest of us are busy making a difference in our company,’” he said, recalling the reaction of some colleagues. “Does Will have compromising pictures of you?”
While executives accused Mattrick of having “this huge blind spot,” the Victoria-based entrepreneur’s tenacity paid off with a product that became one of the best-selling video games in history.
“You have to try and champion things,” said Mattrick, who has done plenty of championing since his teenage years when he offered to work for free at a ComputerLand store after unsuccessfully applying for a job there.
The Burnaby-raised visionary’s experiences inspired him to create Distinctive Software Inc., which would become Electronic Arts. So began a career turning startups into major businesses and setting the standard for video-game development during three decades in the technology sector.
Other career highlights include his tenure as CEO of Zynga, the social-media gaming company, and as president of Microsoft’s entertainment businesses, overseeing the growth of the Xbox console and its PC gaming businesses.
He has served on public and private boards, including the advisory board for the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is currently serving as co-chair of the Premier’s Technology Council.
As well, Mattrick is an honorary fellow with the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, and holds an honorary doctor of laws from Simon Fraser University.
While Mattrick answered questions about his successes, he wasn’t above acknowledging his missteps. He recalled the one that got away in the 1980s — Tetris.
“I’d seen the first prototype,” he said. “Three friends pulled me aside and said: ‘We could write this in three hours! You cannot pay this money to license this.”
He said he considers having passed on the tile-matching puzzle video game released in 1984 a mistake — albeit one he’d learn from — since it went on to become a $2-billion franchise.
“It’s overwhelming when you start something,” he said. “But it gets easier because you learn how to accept failure and success in the same way. Give yourself permission to fail.”
Without revealing the person’s identity, other than to quip it wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg, Mattrick said he just spoke with an “Internet gazillionaire” friend. He asked for advice on how to inspire students at UVic.
“He said: ‘Just kick them in the rear and tell them to go do it,’ ” Mattrick said with a laugh.
“There’s no perfect entry point. The benefits of doing it are going to teach you a lot more than the benefits of trying to make a perfect choice.”
Mattrick said he was fortunate to have some great coaches who taught him the importance of time management, setting priorities and how to think strategically.
“At the end of the day, it’s about people and the first person you’re managing is yourself,” he said. “Be resilient.”
He emphasized that starting a tech company is “a team sport” and that his experiences in the U.S. have confirmed that Canadian entrepreneurs are as talented and as capable of success.
“In the U.S., they’re just more brash and competitive,” said Mattrick, who added that “I’m a bit of a hermit” who happens to be “super-competitive” but likes to think things through before taking action.
When asked to name his proudest achievements, one of his answers took some students by surprise.
“I married exceptionally well,” he said, referring to his wife of 25 years Nanon de Gaspé Beaubien-Mattrick, president and co-founder of Beehive Holdings, the investment firm that supports women entrepreneurs.
“My wife speaks five languages, is a literature and business school grad. She pulls me aside all the time and says: ‘I can’t believe you said that in a public setting. You are such a geek!’
“She’d remind me that most people wouldn’t care about the math. They’d care about the emotion.”
A DISTINGUISHED LIST
Previous winners of the University of Victoria Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year award
• 2016: Linda Hasenfratz, CEO Linamar
• 2015: David Foster, businessman, philanthropist and record producer
• 2014: Dennis Washington, founder of The Washington Companies
• 2013: Brandt C. Louie, chairman of London Drugs
• 2012: Dennis (Chip) Wilson, founder of Lululemon Athletica
• 2011: J.R. Shaw, founder of Shaw Communications
• 2010: Alex Campbell Sr., co-founder of Thrifty Foods
• 2009: Sir Terence Matthews, chair of Mitel Corporation, and chair and founder of Wesley Clover
• 2008: Clive Beddoe, founding shareholder in WestJet
• 2007: David Black, president of Black Press
• 2006: Gwyn Morgan, former president and CEO of EnCana Corp.
• 2005: Dave Ritchie, chair and former CEO of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
• 2004: Jeff Mallett, former president and chief operating officer of Yahoo!
CEO Brianna Wettlaufer has led Stocksy United in a strategy that has disrupted the global stock... see more
Source: Douglas Magazine
Author: Alex Van Tol
Photography: Jeffrey Bosdet
Why Stocksy United's CEO is a Rebel With a Cause
High energy, big enthusiasm, formidable smarts — CEO Brianna Wettlaufer has led Stocksy United in a strategy that has disrupted the global stock photography industry — by doing the right thing.
On a chilly day in December, I march into the rabbit warren that is Market Square in search of one of Victoria’s fastest rising entrepreneurs, the CEO of Stocksy United, the stock photography and video-footage sensation launched by industry veterans who set out to reinvent the highly competitive but endlessly derivative microstock industry.
A third-floor frosted door opens into Stocksy’s office space, which can only be described as old barn meets hipster warehouse. The space hums with quiet activity. Most of Stocksy’s 25 Victoria employees are clustered around a long bank of enormous screens that stretch across the centre of the room. In the foreground, two Gen-Xers share a late-afternoon conversation.
I’m soon joined by Stocksy’s CEO Brianna Wettlaufer, a tall, stylish thirtysomething who easily slides into the interview, her smile authentic, her laugh surprising in its depth — and its inclusiveness. When you’re with her, you feel like you belong.
Wettlaufer and her partners founded Stocksy in 2012. Just four years later, this artist-run cooperative has made a big dent in the microstock industry. Wettlaufer recently announced Stocksy had doubled its revenue in 2015 to US$7.9M, paid out more than $4.3 million in royalties to artists and paid its first dividends of $200,000 to member artists who sold imagery in 2015.
Making the announcement, Wettlaufer boldy said: “At a time when some stock imagery companies are slashing artist royalties and others suffer from bloated, outdated collections, Stocksy’s success proves that clients at the major design firms and Fortune 500 companies we serve agree that the combination of fair pay combined with meticulous curation equals a far better product. Our member artists are invested in the company’s growth and paid equitably, so they can spend more on photo shoots, making the Stocksy collection uniquely vibrant and current.”
No wonder competitors have taken notice. Stocksy has truly emerged.
You have a global outlook, but I understand you are an Islander?
Yep, I was born here. I did the usual: moved away. My mom was American, so I grew up between here and San Diego. But Victoria has always felt like home. I can’t live anywhere but Victoria. Everywhere else is ruined.
Did you go to university here?
I didn’t go to university [laughs]. I have no regrets. I kind of dropped out in grade 11, homeschooled myself for a year and then it was like, Do I finish this? Or do I just start my life? And the teacher I was working with was like,Dude, you’ve got this. Nobody cares if you graduate high school. And I was like,OK, that’s how I feel.
You were self-taught in graphic design, so how did you get into the industry with no formal training?
There was a place called PCN Creative at the time. I walked in and said, I think you should hire me and they were like, Yeah, just sit and wait. They let me wait for four hours, and I was thinking, Nope, I’m not going anywhere until I get a response. The creative director eventually came out said, All right, we’ll give you a chance. I worked my way up from the bottom. I was there a year, then got hired by one of their clients to be their creative director. That was a leadership consulting firm, which I think had a pretty big influence on my idea of leadership.
So you skipped over all those other levels of doing leadership wrong and got to work with experts whose role is to teach others how to do it right?
Yes, they let me take some of the tests they administered, too. I did one that was really traumatizing! At 19 or 20, you have this self-assured perception that you know yourself so well. No f-ing way you do. The results came back and showed I was insecure and constantly seeking validation. I’m like, What is this? OK, this is going to change NOW [smacks table]. I realized if I wanted to do things, I had to do them for myself.
So then iStock hired you as a writer. Did you bring those leadership skills to that position?
Possibly. I think I’ve always been very process-focused. I quickly came in and was like, Well, this is nice how you’re running this, but we’re going to fix it[laughs]. The photo process when I came in was pretty much a free-for-all — anybody could upload anything, the team was a mess, there were no standards. So I was like, Why don’t you let me take this over? They let me.
You knew you could do more and do it better if you put parameters in place. That’s a big part of your heavy curation process at Stocksy too. You still have final say, I understand.
I had to fight everybody when we first started — even some of the other co-founders — about what my vision was. I wasn’t going to accept anything else. I put together the first creative brief for our membership: Here’s what stock looks like now. It’s a joke. Here’s what it should look like. It was photo-to-photo comparisons, good to bad. We would break them down into what was working and what was wrong. It didn’t make sense why stock had to have a different look in comparison to things that were in magazines. It was breaking down the patterns that people had fallen into. We spent a lot of time writing creative briefs and education pieces, and we’ve got a really hands-on editorial team. When you’re consistent with people while challenging them, once they hit that bar you’re trying to push them to, they’re usually really thankful that you did.
Stocksy is different because you hand-pick your photographers and pay them well. How did you decide on your business model?
Until we came into the scene, there was the notorious line where the industry was racing to the bottom. Subscription models had just taken over. When you have subscriptions, you’re literally paying pennies to the photographers. When we came in, the point of things being sustainable was really important. You can’t be sustainable if you’re not paying people the true value of what they’re creating … I think that’s what gave us a competitive edge. Everybody’s fighting with the subscription thing, saying you can’t bring value back — and I think we’re showing that you can.
The platform co-operative based on fair pay is a new and different thing. You give 90 per cent of profits to your artists?
It was a very deliberate choice of wanting to prove that you don’t have to take that much money away from photographers and artists in order to run your company. Run it on a shoestring budget, keep your staff low, be intentional — and when you give back to your community and your artists, they give back to you to create a stronger product. It creates a cycle and feeds the success of your product. It was a gamble that might not have worked out, but we’re lucky. I think we did validate that with the loyalty we have from our members. All the other agencies have gone through our member directory trying to poach [our photographers] and our photographers are like, I left you for a reason. This company is treating me well, I want to support them.
In your second year, you extended ownership to staff. What prevents other companies from doing that?
Even as I’m listening to other people wanting to set their companies up like that, they’re like, Well, we’re going to do it but we’re not going to do it as a co-op, and I’m like, Why wouldn’t you want to do it that way? and they’re like, Well, I’m not sure I can trust everybody. There are major trust issues. It’s not going to happen overnight. If you want everybody to be collaborative, working together, you have to share your information and invest in the education of everybody’s understanding. We’re accountable to everybody who is a shareholder, which is no different than a traditional business model. But we get the pleasure of being accountable to people who are actually invested in the product and the integrity of the product and its long-term success, versus a venture capitalist who’s just looking to cash out as quickly as possible. We get to be much more long-term focused.
Stocksy serves Fortune 500 companies, household names and even banks. How have you managed to work with such well-regarded companies?
I think we’re lucky in the executive team that came together to formulate the way we do things. We weren’t learning things for the first time; most large agencies have a fairly rigorous onboarding process with legal and accounting. Our goal was: how do we make that as easy and as personal as possible for them? We make sure we do everything we can to be excited about what [our clients] are doing. We have a full-time creative research person helping clients uncover photos quickly. We’ve made a very deliberate effort in our tone and in the way we talk to people. This is just how we do business, trying to keep it as human and sincere as possible.
How does Stocksy manage to compete against the “big guns” in stock photography?
The fact that we love photography and want to support artists creates a much different approach to our business versus just, How do we make a ton of cash? We have a really high ratio of photographers on staff, so we end up championing it …There is an infectious quality to that. Focus on quality over quantity and give clients the great stuff they want — that’s our edge.
I can’t let you go before you tell me what it was like to have Stocksy featured in the New York Times!
We met the writer at the first-ever platform co-operative event (which is testament to how much people are paying attention to the co-op model). We stayed loosely in touch, and when [the New York Times] was preparing to run the article, we got a call saying they were going to send a Seattle photographer up to shoot the team. Which was so strange! That they sent a photographer up from Seattle?! We were like, Wow. We were one of the most read articles in the New York Times that day. People care about the why.
Hayhurst borrowed the Fuckup idea from a group of tech entrepreneurs in Mexico... see more
The Refreshing Brand Strategy of Failure
One of my favorite reads (albeit not in the brand strategy genre) is the Book of Heroic Failures by Stephen Pile, founder of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain.
The book, now in its third edition (a runaway success, it seems – not great if Mr. Pile is interested in living the brand) documents people who are brilliant at being abysmal.
As Pile says “It is a grave misreading of the human predicament to think that everything will be a success. Sanity and happiness come from embracing catastrophe and applauding it.”
Which brings me to the worrying subject that inspired this post – our growing cultural need to never be seen as failures.
It was a James Altucher podcast with media entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk that snapped me to attention. Vaynerchuk was spitting mad at the legions of self-help gurus who ran commercials showing hundreds of thousands of dollars on their kitchen table, a Ferrari in the garage, and the promise that they could help you, Joe Q Public, achieve the same results.
As Vaynerchuk said, these commercials were disturbing for three reasons:
- They were lies – generally the Ferrari was rented, the fortune borrowed, and the advice dished out by someone who had no real-world experience to back their advice;
- They propagated the myth that success should come effortlessly, and quickly;
- They painted over the disturbing realities facing most risk-taking entrepreneurs – 97% business failure rates and, according to a number of studies, an inordinately high rate of suicide, depression and mental illness (49% of silicon valley founders were diagnosed with depression vs 7% among the general population).
CONGRATULATIONS, YOU FUCKED UP
I work primarily with tech companies. And tech is probably the worst offender when it comes to the myth of overnight, effortless success.
Hayhurst borrowed the Fuckup idea from a group of tech entrepreneurs in Mexico who felt the need to reinstate sanity in their world. The format of the evening was simple – three local tech stars take the stage to present – in the most unvarnished, painfully honest terms – how they fucked up again and again on their road to success.
The event in Mexico proved wildly popular, and has since spread to many cities around the world.
It isn’t hard to see why. First, it’s cathartic. It also provides valuable reassurance to startup founders that their trials and tribulations are entirely normal. And finally, it teaches us to learn from our mistakes, instead of pursuing the insanity of failing fast / forward.
As Hayhurst said “Just as bad as the myth of instant success is the bastardized myth of failing forward. Failing forward was originally all about failing, learning from your failure, adjusting, and incorporating your learnings into your business. But it has come to mean failing without learning, only to fail, fail fail again.”
Hayhurst is quick to add that the myth of instant success is pervasive throughout our society, not just in the tech sector. “Thanks to social media, we’re inundated with images of people who are better looking, happier, more successful than us. If I’m 13 years old and I don’t have as many likes as another kid, I’m devastated. Either I get depressed, or I turn to more and more outlandish ways of getting myself noticed.” We’re living in a world of reality stars who achieved dizzying success by simply debasing themselves into the spotlight. Talent seems a trivial detail. This ain’t healthy, folks.
So how can we correct this? From a brand perspective, I have an idea.
THE BRAND STRATEGY OF JOYFUL FAILURE
Celebrating failure, as Hayhurst pointed out, is useful for a number of reasons. We learn from it, and we build community around our shared imperfections.
Community is one of the key pillars of every successful brand strategy. Could brands build a community of fans by admitting imperfection?
Consider the story of the Bass Pub from the Book of Heroic Failures:
“In 1995 the Polar Bear in Soho was named the worst pub in London by the listings magazine Time Out. Business immediately shot up by 60%. By the time they had erected a banner outside saying ‘The Worst Pub in the West End’ it was impossible to get in.”
Or, on a larger (and more serious) scale, take a look at Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles – a wildly successful program that pointed out the company’s frustrations with the unsustainable way it produced its garments.
Finally, take a look at Apple. Behind the bright white sheen lurk countless errors and failures (remember asking artists to play along with Apple Radio for free for 3 months?) But Apple remains undiminished, because the company isn’t afraid to pivot, or even abort. And it still treats mishaps and gaffes as opportunities to get closer to its fans.
I believe there’s tremendous blue ocean for brands willing to embrace imperfection.
And if you fail, you’ll succeed even more convincingly next time.
As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business… and then helps them tell the world. For more on creating your company’s value proposition, connect with Marc on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up to his monthly newsletter.
Want to try building your own powerful brand to create unfair business advantage? Try out Marc’s DIY Brand Build Guide – available Nov 1, 2016.
She will be named a gold, silver or bronze winner at the awards gala in New York on November 18th see more
RevenueWire CEO Named Stevie Award Finalist
VICTORIA, BC, October 6, 2016 – RevenueWire CEO Bobbi Leach was today announced as a finalist in the Female Executive of the Year in Canada category for the annual Stevie Awards. She will be named a gold, silver or bronze winner at the awards gala in New York on November 18, 2016. This is the second nomination for Leach, who won silver in the category in 2015.
“I am honored to be a finalist,” said Leach. “I’m so proud to be part of such an accomplished group being recognized by the Stevies.”
Widely considered to be the world’s premier business awards, the Stevies received over 1400 entries this year in 90 categories. Finalists were chosen by 110 business professionals from all over the world while 5 specialized judging committees will determine gold, silver and bronze placements in the weeks before the gala.
Leach has been CEO of RevenueWire since 2009. Over that time, the company has seen top line revenue grow by over 400% and the number of employees has increased from 15 to over 80.
About The Stevie Awards
Stevie Awards are conferred in seven programs: the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, the German Stevie Awards, The American Business Awards, The International Business Awards, the Stevie Awards for Great Employers, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business and the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Stevie Awards competitions receive more than 10,000 entries each year from organizations in more than 60 nations. Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about the Stevie Awards at http://www.StevieAwards.com.
RevenueWire helps software and subscription companies sell online. Our RevenueWire Commerce platform enables turnkey ecommerce, payments and subscription management in over 200 countries, 33 currencies and 24 languages through a single cloud-based platform. Our dedicated and experienced team actively connects our clients with more ways to earn money whether it’s boosting sales, optimizing subscriptions or offering upsells and cross-sells.
(250) 298-6040 ext. 7229
Don Mattrick, who remains a B.C.-based investment leader, has been awarded the honour see more
Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy
UVic selects Don Mattrick as distinguished entrepreneur of year
The man who helped bring Microsoft to Victoria, and who once led Electronic Arts and gaming company Zynga, has been named the 2017 Gustavson School of Business 2017 distinguished entrepreneur of the year.
Don Mattrick, who remains a B.C.-based investment leader, has been awarded the honour that recognizes a business leader who has achieved success through his or her acumen and entrepreneurial spirit.
“We're so pleased to recognize Don as our 2017 recipient. We’re especially excited to honour a resident of our city,” said Peter Gustavson, chair of the selection committee. “Don is an icon in the technology and gaming space, and represents the drive and entrepreneurial spirit that is supported at the School of Business."
Mattrick has served on several public and private boards, including the advisory board for the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He is co-chair of the Premier’s Technology Council.
Mattrick has a long history in the technology sector, including stints at the top of Electronic Arts and Zynga. As president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business, he championed the establishment of a Microsoft game design studio in downtown Victoria.
That studio closed in 2013, after two years of operation.
Mattrick was responsible for leading the team that grew Microsoft’s Xbox 360 adoption by 700 per cent to nearly 75 million consoles, and grew the Xbox Live membership from six million to nearly 50 million subscribers in 41 countries.
“There’s no doubt that Don has enjoyed a storied career thus far, and I can think of few Victorians with a more distinguished entrepreneurial record,” said Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council.
Mattrick, who was raised in Vancouver, is married with two children. He will receive the award at the distinguished entrepreneur of the year gala on May 8.