Leif Baradoy, CEO and Co-founder of Giftbit see more
20 Mile Podcast: Leif Baradoy, Giftbit & Lightrail
It's all about Grit and Suffering (S1, E3)
On 20Mile’s third episode of season 1, we sat down with Leif Baradoy, CEO and Co-founder of Giftbit - A B2B company that facilitates the sale and offering of giftcards to clients.
If there is one word to describe Leif, it is driven. Leif found his entrepreneurial drive at an early age, as he witnessed his relatives run successful businesses started from scratch.
This drive also led him to become a high-level triathlete, competing against the top athletes in the world and ranking in the top 5.
From ideating to entering one of the top startup accelerators in the world, to raising angel and venture capital money for growth, Leif tells the story of how he got Giftbit off the ground.
OUR TEAM IS EXCITED TO BRING YOU SEASON 1 OF THE 20MILE PODCAST IN JANUARY 2019! WE ARE CURRENTLY RECORDING EPISODES FOR OUR FIRST SEASON. WHO ARE OUR GUESTS? SEASON 1 WILL SHOWCASE A SMALL PORTION OF THE ABUNDANT LOCAL TALENT WE HAVE HERE, IN VICTORIA BC. ATTENDING TO A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES, OUR GUESTS WILL TELL WHAT THEIR MARCHES HAVE BEEN LIKE SO FAR, FROM PERSONAL STRUGGLES TO PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES, EACH MARCH IS UNIQUE YET RELATABLE.
This report is a collection of snapshots of 22 tech startups located or founded in Victoria BC... see more
Source: Haro Ventures Startup Report - Intro
Haro Ventures releases 2017 Victoria, BC "Startup Report"
What does Victoria’s tech ecosystem look like? And how can sharing this information help all the players involved in building our community?
This report is a collection of snapshots of 22 tech startups located or founded in Victoria BC, gathered over the last quarter of 2016. We share glimpses into the company market opportunities, directions, go-to-market strategies and unique differentiators. We learn about the entrepreneurs’ vision for the future of their companies, about the times they’ve wanted to give up, and what kept them going.
The information in this report was gathered using semi-structured interviews with company CEO’s, founders, and team members. Relevant qualitative answers are displayed on the company snapshot pages, and quantitative data has been gathered for an aggregate display at the end of the report.
We call these insights snapshots because we acknowledge that the information provided could very well change over the next several years, and represents where the companies are at at specifically at this point in time.
We hope to provide an informative and well-rounded picture of what the tech startup scene in Victoria looks like in early in 2017. This report was created for individuals curious about our awesome city and tech community, potential investors looking for the next big thing, and even entrepreneurs wishing to learn more about their peers.
To download the full report, click here: https://silkstart.s3.amazonaws.com/58d2a1ac68621338f7f3fba5.pdf
The incoming Trump presidency is causing concern among those in Victoria’s tech sector. see more
Incoming Trump presidency causes concern for Victoria’s tech sector
Source: CHEK News
The incoming Trump presidency is causing concern among those in Victoria’s tech sector.
Leif Baradoy, one of the co-founders of tech startup Giftbit, says 95 per cent of his company’s business is done south of the border. The company has one office in Seattle and one employee in the U.S.
“I frequently travel to the U.S. to close business deals and to meet customers, so if the way that I have to enter the U.S. changes, that could inconvenience me,” Baradoy says.
In 2015, the province’s tech sector employed more than 100,000 people and added more than $14 billion to the B.C. economy.
Experts say protectionist policies could be harmful to the tech industry by making it more difficult for Canadian companies to do business there, possibly enticing some to set up shop in the U.S. instead.
But there could be benefits, as well. Economists say a change in American culture could entice more people to visit and move to Canada. Tourism, for example, could see a bump. The University of Victoria is already seeing an increase in interest from international students. The island could also benefit from an influx of people looking to work in a better environment.
“To the extent that the U.S. is seen as a less open, less embracing of change environment, Canada is seen as place where you want to come and enjoy,” says Saul Klein, a business professor at the University of Victoria.
At Giftbit, when I sat at a table doing a code review, I wasn’t one of the few females in the room.. see more
Author: Aldyn Chwelos (Computer Science student — Outreach coordinator for UVic Women in Engineering and Computer Science)
Unconscious Bias in Tech: Why Women leave their Engineering Careers
In 2014, women held only 26 percent of computing jobs. This number drops further when we look at other underrepresented groups such as racial minorities. For example, black women hold only 3 percent of all computing occupations and Latinas only 1 percent. What’s worse is that, due to the male-dominated, exclusionary environment that permeates so much of the tech field, many of these women will not stay. The Harvard Business Review determined that 56 percent of private sector technical women leave the industry at some point in their career. A one-dimensional and unwelcoming culture is bleeding diversity from the tech sector.
A few weeks back, I was talking with some friends, and one of them asked if we’d ever experienced the discrimination or outsider feeling that is mentioned so often in respect to the tech field. For most of us, it was a resounding “yes” but explaining our answer was complicated. It was not a particular moment, course, or job. It’s still just that “old boys club” feel, one friend said. It was not something tangible that we could point to and say that, right there, that is the problem. It’s how during the first week of classes a software engineering student began grilling me on my credentials, asking what languages I knew, classes I had taken, AP programming exams I had written, textbooks I would read, projects I had built. I had not even been to one lecture, and already I felt behind. It’s when a few classmates were determined to explain to me, and to the only other girl in our project group, what “for loops” were despite our repeated assurances that we knew how they worked. It’s hearing comments like “If women do make it through their degrees they tend to do very well” or that we “are better at the Human Computer Interaction and design side.” What people think are compliments just remind us how few of us are in tech and that we are expected to fill specific spaces in the industry.
In one computer science class, the professor assigned seven-hour group tests that ran until midnight. Most groups would meet on campus to complete the tests, often not leaving the computer science building until well after midnight. For many students, this was after their buses had stopped running. Several recent sexual assaults on campus meant that walking 30 minutes home or across campus alone at 1 am was unnerving at the least. This must have come to the professor’s attention since a message was sent out recommending that all female students get home by 10 and travel with a buddy. In practice, women had to choose between fully contributing to a group project or feeling safe getting home.
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), moments like these can be attributed to an unconscious bias we all share. Our brains use shortcuts called heuristics to help us make sense of the world. These are necessary because without them we would be unable to process the incredible amounts of data we absorb every minute. Heuristics compare new information to patterns we have seen before. For example, if you see an older woman she may remind you of your grandmother and you might assume then that she’s very sweet and friendly. Heuristics are the reason we can make quick decisions, and they save the brain from having to run costly algorithms every time we face a choice. Unfortunately, these shortcuts are often based on stereotypes and lead to many unintentionally skewed perspectives.
These biases go beyond making minorities feel unwelcome in the industry to actually affecting performance. When it comes to development, someone’s code feels like a separate entity, something that speaks for itself and would be outside the boundaries of these stereotypes. A recent study of Github, an online repository where developers host and contribute to projects, revealed otherwise. Researchers determined that, when gender was unidentifiable, women and men’s code was approved at comparable percentages — in fact, women performed slightly higher than men. However, when factoring in gender, the acceptance rates of women’s code dropped by 10 percent.
Further, the knowledge that these biases exist can be damaging all on its own. For example, a professor once pointed out to the entire class that a student was not just the only woman, but that she was the only woman of color. This was a prof who would go on feminist rants in class and who I happened to admire. She was attempting to explain why she wanted the student to succeed. Unfortunately, while comments like these are intended to be supportive, more often they leave students feeling isolated.
Moments like these can have damaging effects as they contribute to something called Stereotype Threat, which is the phenomenon that the knowledge of negative stereotypes can decrease performance. In a study where young women were asked to complete a math test and a career aptitude test, women that were shown sexist images beforehand performed worse on the math test and were less likely to show interest in science and technology related fields. NCWIT states that Stereotype Threat results in decreased motivation, avoidance of technical leadership positions, and the devaluation of one’s ideas and abilities. It’s why women with B grades in computer science are much more likely to leave the program than men, despite the fact that they are still outperforming a significant portion of their peers.
Understanding and being aware of biases and Stereotype Threat is an integral part of sparking change in the community. However, as we move towards a more inclusive industry, I find it easy to get weighed down by all the things that aren’t great. It’s important to note that while the numbers may be changing slowly, we are making progress. The improvements, like the problems themselves, can sometimes be subtle and hard to see.
Not long after I began my work experience term at Giftbit, I remember excitedly explaining to my girlfriend that “I don’t notice my gender at work.” Since my first year at university when I took a gender studies class filled with women, I had been acutely aware of how few women there were in tech. Somehow in the last couple of months, I’d stopped noticing it. At Giftbit, when I sat at a table doing a code review, I wasn’t one of the few females in the room, I was just another employee; I wasn’t a female developer, I was simply a developer. It was incredibly refreshing. It’s a feeling I have heard echoed by various friends and peers during their experiences in the Victoria tech sector. It’s hard to know just how much an environment can affect you until you experience something different.
As an executive member of the Women in Engineering and Computer Science (WECS) Club at the University of Victoria, I often get approached by recruiters and faculty looking for advice on gender issues. Often, I get asked what women are looking for in a workplace environment. They are all aware they have a diversity issue, and they are looking for the secret to fix it. My go-to answer has historically been, rather unhelpfully, “Just don’t be assholes.”
Common sense and general human decency can solve a lot, but as I have learned over the years, it takes a bit more to get to a place where we all feel welcome. It takes a sustained conscious effort to overcome pervasive cultural habits. As an employer or faculty member, there are ways you can try and create a more welcoming space. One major way is to be clear about your company policy around diversity and then stand by it. Simply correcting the use of “he” when referring to generic developers or politely questioning a sexist joke goes a long way in creating a safer environment. It should not be the job of an underrepresented member to educate their peers. Always being the one to call others out on their slip-ups is both exhausting and potentially alienating. Personally, I will often not say anything for fear of being that person. However, when someone else catches it and corrects it, it’s incredibly refreshing and makes me feel like I am accepted.
While the responsibility to improve the culture should not belong to those who are being oppressed, they have valuable insight, information, and ideas that we should not ignore. As an employer or faculty member, try and have an open door policy. Let your employees and students know that they can always talk to you about any issues. They may not, and that is okay, but just letting them know you want to listen can make them feel valued. One of the things I appreciate about my job is that my boss often asks for our feedback and schedules time to listen. For conversations like these to be effective, rapport and privacy are essential. There’s a difference between calling someone out in a way that makes them feel stigmatized and ensuring that everyone feels acknowledged and respected.
In October, I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. As I sat in an arena with over 14 000 women, I felt a mix of excitement and awe. The energy in the room was a bubbly anticipation. You could see it written all over our faces: we were not used to this. Over the course of the conference, they held quite a few meetups for specific minority groups. I attended the Queer Lunch and spent an hour chatting with lovely people about work, school, and how to go about getting gender neutral bathrooms in an office. Conference meet-ups like these are important as they allow for discourse that often would not occur in a tech space. Being able to connect with people that share similar interests, experiences, and struggles is an important part of promoting inclusion and empowering minority groups.
While I was in Houston for the conference, I had the opportunity to attend a party for senior women in technology. I spent the night chatting with developers from Twitter, Amazon, Slack, and Paypal. These were women of varying races and backgrounds, women who had been in the industry for years and some that could not have been much older than me. Most of the technical leaders I engage with in my life are male. These are men I admire, respect and have learned so much from. However, there is something unique and validating about seeing women in those roles and being able to identify with them in a new way. Role models are an important part of breaking down the stereotypes that surround minorities in tech, and they are pretty damn inspiring.
While the tech industry has made improvements, its lack of diversity remains a systemic problem that requires both time and a shift in perspective and practice. As the users of technology are infinitely varied, so too must the builders become infinitely diverse. Technology belongs to us all. It’s about time the industry reflected that.
Ryan Gallant posted an articleGiftbit’s Ecommerce Currency platform to change the way online businesses approach marketing see more
Giftbit Launches Custom Currency Platform for Online Businesses
TechCrunch Disrupt, San Francisco, CA - September 13, 2016 - Giftbit today announced the launch of the Giftbit Ecommerce Currency platform in the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield. The SaaS platform enables custom currency for online businesses, including gift cards, promo codes and refund credits. Giftbit provides a web application and checkout API that allows business teams to control, create, send and track their custom currency.
“We recognized a significant gap in the tools available to online businesses,” explains Leif Baradoy, co-founder and CEO of Giftbit “no businesses are building their own CRM, but they’re all building their own custom currency because there isn't a great solution on the market. Today we’re changing that.”
Giftbit Ecommerce Currency offers online businesses powerful marketing tools on top of gift cards, promotion codes and refund credits including rules on how and when codes can be used. “Our beta users are most excited about the ability to add value to existing cards. Businesses will be able to communicate to gift card holders that they’re adding extra, temporary value to cards. Merchants can encourage spending during a specified period; this can contribute to a strong post-holiday season” Baradoy adds.
The Giftbit Ecommerce Currency platform is now available. Online businesses can get started at www.giftbit.com.
Giftbit gives organizations control over their custom digital currency. Giftbit offers gift card buyers solutions including a Gift Card Catalog and The Giftbit Visa Incentive Card. Giftbit's Ecommerce Currency platform allows online businesses to create custom currency easily.
Giftbit accepted into Founders' Co-op family see more
Giftbit is a Victoria, BC company that helps large-scale issuers of digital gift credits (think brands like Starbucks, Amazon and eBay) and volume buyers of those credits (pretty much any digital brand that uses gift credits as a promotional incentive in their online marketing campaigns) work together to effortlessly transact, distribute and manage those campaigns. The team came to Seattle last fall to participate in Founders' Co-op "Techstars Seattle" class of 2015, one of two Canadian companies that joined them for that class. (They have two more Canadian teams in this year’s class of nine companies, one from Ottawa and one from Toronto, and are loving the easy cross-border flow of talent and ideas between Seattle and our neighbor to the north).
Founders' Co-op knew they wanted to invest almost from the moment Giftbit arrived in program, but they also knew they’d need a bigger raise than they had the capacity to lead. In addition to promoting their regional and cross-border startup ecosystem, another part of Founders' Co-op's mission is to develop entrepreneurial opportunities that attract capital from great investors outside the Pacific Northwest. Not only does this help them fund more strong companies here, it also introduces new investors to the Cascadia market and increases the overall availability of risk capital in our ecosystem. They introduced the Giftbit team to some of their favorite seed-stage funds in Silicon Valley — firms that had shown an appetite to invest in this region even at the earliest stages.
One of these firms — Freestyle — had already raised their hand by leading the Seed round for TrueFacet, a Techstars Seattle 2014 company also backed by Founders’ Co-op and Maveron. Freestyle partner Jenny Lefcourt is a friend (and fellow Stanford GSB ’99 dropout), and she dug deep on the Giftbit team and opportunity before deciding to lead the round and join the company’s board.
Founders' Co-op is thrilled to back another Canadian startup and Techstars Seattle graduate, and doubly thrilled to be doing so alongside a great, founder-led Bay Area seed fund with a demonstrated appetite to invest in the Pacific Northwest. Congrats to Jenny and the Freestyle team on another great raise, and to Leif, Peter and the Giftbit team on lining up such a great investor syndicate.