Alumni Q & A Series

  • Meet the CIX Top 20 Founders: Lauren Lake and Mallorie Brodie of Bridgit

    Lauren Lake and Mallorie BrodieFor the past 10 years, CIX has identified Canada’s most innovative and promising tech companies with the CIX Top 20. Selected companies get the chance to present in front of an audience of leading Canadian and global investors, corporates, tech industry peers and potential customers.

    Meet Co-founder Lauren Lake and CEO Mallorie Brodie of Bridgit, a 2014 CIX Top 20 company. Kitchener, Ont.-based Bridgit is a software company that builds end-to-end project management tools for construction sites, and has been used for 7500+ projects across North America.

    What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?

    Entrepreneurs have to be able to embrace failure. Things are moving so quickly in a new business that you need to be able to make decisions quickly and learn from trial and error. It’s better to fail and learn from it than to do nothing at all, and this is something that entrepreneurs need to constantly live by.

    How do you foster a positive culture at your company?

    The biggest way we've been able to foster a positive culture is through hiring amazing people. We've been able to build an incredibly diverse team of people from all different backgrounds. Having a team that brings many unique perspectives to the table has built a supportive and collaborative working environment. In startup companies, there’s often immense pressure to grow your team quickly, but being strict and hiring people who embody your company’s values is extremely important to building a lasting culture.

    What was an important lesson learned through running your company?

    One important thing we've learned through building Bridgit is the importance of understanding your users. Bridgit was started by talking to hundreds of people in the construction industry and asking people what their pain points were. Nobody will understand the problem you're solving better than the end user, so being able to put yourself in their shoes is extremely important.

    What was the experience like to be selected as a CIX Top 20 company (and/or how did it benefit your company)?

    We were thrilled when Bridgit was selected as a CIX Top 20 Company in 2014. It was an honour to be included among the many great companies and CIX alumni. Being recognized as a CIX Top 20 company helped build a strong network of fellow entrepreneurs and tech investors. After winning CIX Top 20, Bridgit began expansion in the U.S. market and raised a $2.2-million seed round of financing.

    Think you've got what it takes to be a CIX Top 20 company? Apply now.

  • Meet the CIX Top 20 CEO: Caitlin MacGregor of Plum.io

    Caitlin MacGregorFor the past 10 years, CIX has identified Canada’s most innovative and promising tech companies with the CIX Top 20. Selected companies get the chance to present in front of an audience of leading Canadian and global investors, corporates, tech industry peers and potential customers.

    Meet Caitlin MacGregor, CEO of Plum.io, a 2015 CIX Top 20 company. Waterloo, Ont.-based Plum.io combines artificial intelligence with advanced industrial/organizational psychology to help companies hire people with the greatest potential for succeeding in any role.

    What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?

    The number one piece of advice I give to anyone just starting off on their road to entrepreneurship is to constantly ask yourself the question: 'If I wasn't doing this, what would I be doing instead?' If you can't imagine doing anything as important or fulfilling, then you're going to have what it takes to survive in the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.

    How do you foster a positive culture at your company?

    We measure where everyone in the company thinks the culture is today, and where everyone wants it to be in the future. We use these gaps to create a data-driven culture roadmap. For example, one culture element that is important to everyone at Plum is team orientation. So we make sure that we're planning consistent professional development and team-building events that we participate in together.

    What was an important lesson learned through running your company?

    Building a business will take a lot more time and resources than you could have ever anticipated. That's why it’s so important to start a company that you really believe in. You need to be able to wake up every day, confident that this is the best thing you could possibly be doing.

    What was the experience like to be selected as a CIX Top 20 company (and/or how did it benefit your company)?

    It's been an honour to be selected as a CIX Top 20 company. It has truly given Plum incredible exposure and credibility in the CIX community.

    Think you've got what it takes to be a CIX Top 20 company? Apply now.

  • Meet the CIX Top 20 CEO: Gregory Levey of Figure 1

    Gregory LeveyFor the past 10 years, CIX has identified Canada’s most innovative and promising tech companies with the CIX Top 20. Selected companies get the chance to present in front of an audience of leading Canadian and global investors, corporates, tech industry peers and potential customers.

    Meet Gregory Levey, CEO of Figure 1, a 2014 CIX Top 20 company. Toronto-based Figure 1 is a digital platform that enables healthcare professionals to share and discuss clinical cases. More than two million healthcare professionals now use their network to learn from one another.

    What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?

    Figure 1's story is still very much in motion - that is to say I don't think I'm a successful entrepreneur yet - but one of the things I'm sure about is that resilience is a key quality. When things are good, you have to recognize it won't always be that way. When things are bad, that too shall pass.

    What are the pros and cons of building a company in Canada?

    We have a very supportive community here, with good universities, healthcare for employees, and increasing amounts of capital. It's a great place to start a company, but as a company begins to scale, Canada can be somewhat limiting. There aren't as many people here who have firsthand experience leading large-scale growth.

    How do you foster a positive culture at your company?

    Diversity of people and diversity of thought. We try to only hire interesting people who bring unique perspectives to the community that we're building. Also, 50 per cent of our team, and 50 per cent of our senior leadership team, is made up of women.

    What was an important lesson learned through running your company?

    The importance of saying no. Figure 1 could go in so many exciting directions that literally every day we are approached with opportunities. But, 'the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do' (Michael Porter).

    What was the experience like to be selected as a CIX Top 20 company (and/or how did it benefit your company)?

    At the time, we had really just scratched the surface of what we could offer healthcare professionals. The recognition helped us to improve our product and grow our community.

    Think you've got what it takes to be a CIX Top 20 company? Apply now.

  • Meet the CIX Top 20 CEO: Rob Douglas of BioConnect

    Rob DouglasFor the past 10 years, CIX has identified Canada’s most innovative and promising tech companies with the CIX Top 20. Selected companies get the chance to present in front of an audience of leading Canadian and global investors, corporates, tech industry peers and potential customers.

    Meet Rob Douglas, Founder, Chairman and CEO of BioConnect, a 2017 CIX Top 20 company. Toronto-based BioConnect provides an enterprise biometric authentication and security platform to establish stronger trust in verifying a person's identity across physical, IoT and digital applications.

    How do you foster a positive culture at your company?

    Firstly, it is fostered in a deep-rooted commitment. I will fight for, protect and develop our culture at all costs. There are employees in the world, and then there are BioConnectors - they are not the same. I don't believe in the employer/employee model because it is restrictive to the self-actualization of every one of us. I think there is a better way to engage, grow and learn skills to become more successful and enjoy the journey at a greater level than you would as an employee.

    What are the pros and cons of building a company in Canada?

    I am pleasantly surprised, as a Canadian who for many years had not worked in Canada. I never saw governments or ecosystems as a key enabler for tech companies, and that has proven to be surprisingly positive while building a company in Canada. I don't have many cons. If I had to stretch my head to think, I think that Canadians are still learning how to compete on the global stage and understand that global competition is working and operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    What qualities make you a good leader?

    I am a learned leader, not a natural born leader. Learned means I had to watch others. And in my learning, I noticed you need to have very good vision skills to see the future you seek. You need people skills and you have to lead by example. You must be willing to sacrifice yourself at extraordinary levels in favour of your team or your company, and your team needs to see that. Your team will follow leaders that are willing to put their personal agenda aside for the good of the company as a whole.

    What was the experience like to be selected as a CIX Top 20 company (and/or how did it benefit your company)?

    We were surprised, delighted and felt honoured. We had no idea that it was coming and to get that recognition really meant a lot not only for our company but for each BioConnector. We have customers and partners all around the world, and to see that recognition gave strength to the mission that we are on.

    Think you've got what it takes to be a CIX Top 20 company? Apply now.

  • Meet the CIX Top 20 CEO: Lisa Shields of FI.SPAN

    Lisa ShieldsFor the past 10 years, CIX has identified Canada’s most innovative and promising tech companies with the CIX Top 20. Selected companies get the chance to present in front of an audience of leading Canadian and global investors, corporates, tech industry peers and potential customers.

    Meet Lisa Shields, Founder and CEO of FI.SPAN, a 2017 CIX Top 20 company. Based in Vancouver, FI.SPAN is a cloud-based API services management platform that allows banks to use APIs to connect to customers and fintechs.

    What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?

    Integrity, domain expertise, and innovation stewardship are all table stakes; intestinal fortitude is the quality that separates entrepreneurial wheat from chaff. Building a great company means being able to operate under the constant, wearing mantle of uncertainty. Intestinal fortitude is the practice of maintaining one's long-sight vision, yet extracting kernels of actionable insight from every encounter – including the 'stinging rebuke' ones.

    How do you foster a positive culture at your company?

    At FI.SPAN we have several 'structural' elements designed to develop and reinforce a positive culture, including an open-concept office, daily coffee runs, weekly team lunches (with a strict 'no shop talk' clause), and an equity ownership program. The most important element, though, is our weekly all-hands. Every member of the team speaks to their projects & activities – this means that over time engineers can contribute to sales pursuits, HR is able to develop a nuanced recruitment and onboarding program, and everyone is able to 'explain to mum' what we do.

    What qualities make you a good leader?

    Aside from intestinal fortitude (see above), respect for my colleagues and confidence in their ability to make good decisions is the best asset I bring to FI.SPAN. Since this isn't my first fintech startup, I don’t have to conquer leadership or industry 'legitimacy' challenges that first-time CEOs often face. I'm able to implement what worked and (hopefully) avoid pitfalls from my first run, and I’m more apt to delegate.

    What was the experience like to be selected as a CIX Top 20 company (and/or how did it benefit your company)?

    At the CIX Top 20 event in 2017, we garnered 1:1 exposure to the whole 'who's-who' of Canadian tech investors in a single day. CIX exposure also accelerated our sales process with banks, which was a bonus surprise. As a startup founder, you need to guard your time and involvement, and CIX was absolutely time well spent.

    Think you've got what it takes to be a CIX Top 20 company? Apply now.

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