OneFeather Mobile Technologies Ltd. posted an articleHow challenging is it to launch a successful tech startup on Vancouver Island? see more
After helping more than a hundred First Nation Bands across Canada conduct a variety of mission-critical voting events including referendums and elections, one successful First Nations startup based in Victoria is providing safe and secure voting technology to professional associations across Canada.
Lawrence Lewis and his Victoria-based team behind the successful First Nations technology company OneFeather are getting ready to launch another new software product. SmartBallot is a voting registration and vote management tool that makes it easier for organizations to engage and communicate with membership, conduct mission critical voting events, carry out legitimate decision-making and reduce the costs and strain of administrative management.
In this interview, Lewis discusses some the lessons he's learned while building technology businesses on Vancouver Island.
How challenging has it been to launch a successful tech startup (OneFeather) on Vancouver Island?
Lawrence Lewis (LL): While OneFeather has been able to take advantage of a local Victoria accelerator program for startups, it has been very challenging. Compared to other tech startups, access to capital for First Nations early stage companies and young entrepreneaurs is essentially non existent.
Going out and raising capital is equally hard. This is because traditional VCs do not understand the First Nations space, and consequently cannot evaluate the very real opportunities that exist in this growing market.
On top of that, there are just not that many First Nations programmers or other highly qualified technical experts in emerging technologies or innovating new ones.
How has your team overcome these challenges?
LL: OneFeather’s approach has been to build our business one client at a time with a solid core product offering and value proposition. It takes a little longer to build up an inventory of clients, but by focusing on individual clients needs we have been able to develop trust and really strong word-of-mouth. We’ve built a service and product our clients will happily refer to others.
This approach has served OneFeather well, and has kept us lean and focussed on service and product development that truly matters to our clients.
You already have a successful career as an administrator and community leader. What made you decide to develop, commercialize and market your own software solution?
LL: At some point I had to make a choice. I had to decide: do I support, or do I lead?
Either choice makes sense, depending on who you are and what your goals are. But for me, running my own company and building a vision for something I believe in requires a certain fortitude and commitment. And it’s not for the faint of heart because there are a lot of ups-and-downs and mistakes along the way. You have to be prepared to learn and adjust all the time, and grow both as a person and as a company.
Building something new and disrupting elections, referendums and governance -- a space that has for the most part continued to oppressed First Nations people through its antiquated processes -- is something I am excited to tackle each and every day.
What has made your success so far possible?
Quite simply, building a company around aboriginal values and principles has made our success possible. We strive to lead with integrity. We speak the truth and stay solution focussed. These values not only ensure we provide a valuable service that facilitates sustainable governance and bringing communities together, but also helps us build a technology that customers trust so much they recommend to others.
What encouragement do you have for people with a First Nations or indigenous background who are considering an entrepreneurial path?
I am a big believer in hard work. Entrepreneurs must be focussed, and we must be determined.
Successful technology entrepreneurs must be smart about how we invest our precious, limited time. This means reading everything about the business you’re in, and surrounding yourself with good advisors and mentors.
We must also not be afraid to fail, which means we always need to be testing assumptions and what is regarded as “truth”.
Finally, we need to make sure that what we are working so hard toward is something that is inspiring, brings satisfaction and will leave the world or community a better place.
Lawrence Lewis, a technology entrepreneur based in Victoria, is the CEO of OneFeather. Lewis and his team will soon launch SmartBallot, a voting registration and vote management tool that makes it easier for organizations to engage and communicate with membership, conduct mission critical voting events, carry out legitimate decision-making and reduce the costs and strain of administrative management.
Tessa Bousfield posted an articleThe RevUP Program is vital for technology companies with rapid-growth issues. see more
New Program Focuses on Critical Tools for Fast-Growing Technology Companies
November 4, 2015 – Vancouver, BC, Canada: The RevUP Program is vital for technology companies with rapid-growth issues. BC Acceleration Network (BCAN) members Accelerate Okanagan, VIATEC and Wavefront announced today that they are mutually introducing RevUP as a custom-developed program that will be offered in the Okanagan region, Victoria and Vancouver. Individualized action plans, personal leadership coaching and targeted skill development are what make RevUP effective in efficient business growth.
RevUP seeks to overcome the common challenges that growth stage entrepreneurs often encounter: building scalable revenue and customer acquisition models, ensuring efficient operational processes and accessing capital opportunities. By participating in RevUP, companies are given the tools to address these needs. Participation benefits include: customized business growth plans, mentorship and coaching for the leadership team, tailored training opportunities and peer-to-peer engagement with other businesses that possess similar pain points.
“The pain points of growth-stage technology companies are unique in that the pain is not only felt by the Founder or CEO, but by the entire leadership team,” said Pilar Portela, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. “The peer-to-peer format of RevUP is designed specifically for those top-growth issues. We’re grateful to be collaborating with our BCAN partners on the delivery of this effective program.”
“We’ve worked very hard with our partners Accelerate Okanagan and Wavefront to speak with scores of entrepreneurs in the three regions to ensure we’re offering the right mix of resources and opportunities.” said Robert Bennett, COO and Program Director of VIATEC. “We heard quite clearly that RevUP must deliver what they need, when they need it, tailored to each venture’s current stage and strategy. We are excited about what RevUP has to offer growth-stage companies in our regions!”
“We’re thrilled to introduce RevUP, which will help provide crucial support to growth-stage companies,” said Brad Lowe, VP, National Accelerator Operations at Wavefront. “BC is home to some of Canada’s fastest-growing technology companies. Through RevUP, Wavefront and our partners will address an area of need for these businesses who are ready to take their growth to the next level.”
About Accelerate Okanagan: For technology entrepreneurs and their companies, Accelerate Okanagan is the business accelerator that provides the specialized tools, disciplines, and structure required for success. They offer unrivalled category expertise, experience, and environment through an innovative not-for-profit, zero-equity-stake model. To find out Accelerate Okanagan can help your technology business, please visit www.accelerateokanagan.com
About VIATEC: VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology & Entrepreneurship Council), was incepted in 1989 and serves as the one-stop hub that connects people, knowledge and resources to grow and promote the Greater Victoria technology sector. In addition to member benefits, VIATEC offers flexible office space and entrepreneurial advice in their building called Fort Tectoria. It's equipped with open work stations, private offices, boardrooms, a lounge and a cafe. www.viatec.ca / www.forttectoria.ca
About Wavefront: Wavefront is Canada’s Centre of Excellence for Wireless Commercialization and Research (CECR), accelerating the growth and success of wireless companies by connecting them with critical resources, partners and opportunities, to drive economic and social benefits for Canada. To learn more about Wavefront’s diverse program and service offerings, please visit www.wavefrontac.com.
- Pilar Portela
250-870-9028 Ext. 2108
- Dan Gunn
- Jonathan Sue
- Pilar Portela