The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Innovation is not always sexy with Nicole Verkindt of OMX

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Since graduating in 2007, Nicole Verkindt has had quite the ride. From her first job as the ‘hot walker’ at the Woodbine Racetrack, to learning sales on the fly with a Belgium firm, Verkindt founded OMX (Offset Market Exchange), a powerful procurement platform for various complex supply chain industries.

Working with major International players like Lockheed Martin and British Aerospace, Verkindt became a prominent fixture in major boards, and government discussions, as a major proponent for innovation across Canadian industries.

In this latest episode, Verkindt speaks candidly about her journey out of business school, her view of innovation, and why it is vital to Canada’s place in the global economy.


...thats new Siris of the Ivy entrepreneur podcast. You're invited to listen in on the guest visits, my hustle and grit glass taking place virtually at the Ivey Business School. Hustling great is, of course, that we created to teach you everything that you didn't learn in business school in business school. In it, we invite world class innovators and entrepreneurs to talk about topics like motivation, how toe learn, what to prioritize and even how to be happier. In these episodes, you'll hear live audio from my classes because, honestly, there's just something different about the energy, excitement and honesty taking place in a live classroom environment. So get comfortable, grab a seat and don't worry. Unlike my real class, I won't call Call you enjoy. Nicole has also been a dragon on CBC's next Gen den. She was also named Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by start of Canada. In 2017. Nicole sits on the board of the Canadian Crown Corporation, Canadian Commercial Corporation and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Nicole is a true Canadian champion for entrepreneurship, hustle and grit. Class of 2020. Please welcome Nicole Verkin E Swath, Cole. Welcome. What do you think e love the fake applause at the end. I was awesome. Yeah, they did an awesome job. Nice team. They set a high bar. So you're the first. You're the first one that the team had to actually do an intro for on. So I don't know. That's a pretty high bar for the other groups living up to those expectations. Yeah, No kidding. You know, it's a really high bar, though, like the color of your jacket and the background. Calm a lot. I know it. I'm a lot. A lot. So it's so it's happening. Yeah, well, you know, my wife Justine and I went to go downstairs to the studio and teach. You're gonna wear it. You're wearing that today? Yeah. This is what I'm going with. Its innovation day. It's about being different. I'm going for it. Thanks for being the stupid desk since seven o'clock this morning. So, like, I'm hoping you guys can wake me up a little bit because I'm too far away from the coffee machine. Oh, they will. They will for sure. They're gonna bring it. Tons of questions rolling in, but I wanted to start with eso a handful. Maybe two or three people have heard this story on opening day, Nicole, but I loved it. Your opening Day speech to the HP ones coming in. And the reason I thought I was so cool is because you were just open and honest about frankly being lost and not really knowing exactly what to do out of H B A. And a lot of people take here in the room. Digital. Take this course because this is, of course, that allows them to work on themselves and try to figure out what they want to do, what they're all about and what's next. So I thought you sharing your story on how you chose a little bit of a non traditional path would be a nice way to start, if you don't mind. Sure, I mean, good on ivy and kudos to Ivy. And I'm I'm sure you're influencing this Eric on having these different types of courses because I remember we were the first year to go through the entrepreneurship certificate, and I specifically remember it being a little more stuffy than it is now. In terms of the classes were very structured around kind of these three tiers accounting, management, consulting and investment banking and those air three really great careers. But the thing that those three careers tend to have in common is that you get on a treadmill, right? Eso in, sent in the sense that you know, if you haven't done your summer internship at an accounting firm and then you're going to recruit for for that out of school, it's it could be very difficult. And so those were sort of the three paths that I remember thinking where my options at Ivy and the whole time I just felt really uncomfortable with, um, I did put on a horrible suit and interviewed twice at Ivy, both of which just when really badly. And so I had no idea to do in my life. I ended up, but I think the Ivy Leader program is still happening. But I went thio Moldova and Russia for the summer. In between, Thio do this entrepreneurship program, which was set up right after the fall of the Berlin Wall to teach Communists what capitalism was so really out there Definitely not a direct path to a career by any stretch of the imagination. Um, but I was graduating. I ve everyone kind of had a job or an idea what they wanted to do, lined up. And, you know, somebody asked me what I did. And when I When I look back because I was in between and didn't know what to dio, I ended up working at the racetrack. I would by being the exercise walker and my title was hot Walker. So that was the first job I had. And that was my official title. And my job was to walk quickly with the race horses on the way to the track from the warm up area. And so, like a war big...

...number over my head. And I delivered the race forced to the jockey, and I have a little ivy business cards, and I was a hot walker, so all to say, you can be a hot walker and then move on from there. But I did that. I did a bunch of kind of weird things. I ended up taking a job commission on Lee, working in sales for a company out of Belgium that I got linked up with through an Ivy MBA. So he told me that this company he said. You know, there wasn't a big base salary, but it will allow you to travel, which I loved doing at the time. And so I took this job. The job didn't pay anything, but they gave me a $30 per diem and a percentage of sales and, uh, kind of hoofed around Europe in the Caribbean, selling these, um, advertorial that were inserted into the center of the Economist and New York Daily Time New York Daily News. And they were like advertisements on countries. And so I did that for about a year, and it was a really fascinating experience, and I actually did quite well at it. But it really taught me how to sell, which I almost feel like or felt at the time that some of the other Ivey grads I was going through with it was almost like if you were out making no base salary and you were, you know, calling 100 people a day. It was almost it was almost like us. I was almost slumming it right, which I waas in a sense. But when I look back and then, you know, I guess the intro video tells the story of what I did from their worked in a family business, did a start up as a subcontractor, offshore manufacturing and company, and then eight years ago started OMX. But, you know, when I kind of go through that whole trajectory the number one most important thing when I look back for me, the most important skill, it was knowing how to sell and knowing what works and doesn't work. And so I mean, obviously, things make sense backwards. But I left. I ve kind of willing to do anything and then took on that sales job, and it seemed like it didn't make sense. But when I look back now, I was thrown off the deep end and was forced to learn how to sell. And so I'm really grateful for that for that opportunity. And I just think, you know, I I end up now talking a lot about diversity and some of these other things that for innovation and big companies, and then we're gonna talk about that a little bit today. But a lot of big companies now, you know, want to understand how to innovate, and when you look at the data points that contribute to innovation. You know, one of the most important elements is this notion of a diversity of opinions, not necessarily diversity in terms of what you're born with, but also experiences. And so I think that's a I think it's important to remind everyone on the call today in class today that I think that taking on these kind of strange, unusual experiences that might not have a direct path into a career can really help contribute to an organization's way of thinking outside the box way of, you know, growing into new markets. They would have thought that they would have grown into etcetera. So it ends up being a direct correlation between organization's ability to grow and expand into new markets and new sectors, etcetera, and having a team of people that have very, very different backgrounds. It could be because of the qualities that they were born with, you know, race, gender, etcetera, but could also just be the different experiences that you you took on and different things that you learned and did so, including being being taught by a teacher with a purple jacket in front of a purple wall. It is not entirely you know, it's not entirely what everyone else would be doing in that scenario with the wall that purple, but it's all about this idea of just thinking a little bit differently about things and so I could get into my background a lot more, you know, as we chat. But I think that's what came out in my HB A one talk was just that. Like, if you just look at what I went through, I mean, the whole time I I was telling myself that my life was a shit show. And when I look back now, I think, Well, actually, some of those things were really key building blocks to for me to learn some of these, you know, out their skills and gain these experiences that were different. And then I ended up building an entire company and selling it kind of based around these idea of doing this country reports. So we automated a lot of the data intake that was required to to estimate impacts of GDP, and so that kind of translates back to that very first sales job I had. So there's lots of ways to go about this, and I just think that it's really critical for anyone kind of in school now to be to be open thio, learning all sorts of new things. So, people, uh, I'm scanning some questions and I wanna related to what you just said. Uh, they build up the first thing out of ivy is like the thing right. It's like the first thing...

...on your resume. It's your first justification to your parents that this was the right decision, that it was worth spending this much money on, that it was worth their investment. Whatever. Like, should they be building up the first Does the does the first thing matter as much to you? Who would technically be hiring these people out of school? If if someone, if someone was the hot horse hot walker and then, you know, traveled for six months, uh, you're gonna hire that to kind of profile it? OMX. I mean, you could spend your background into anything You could say that, you know, while I traveled, I learned all about this country, and that's why I should be an account manager selling to that country. It doesn't. It doesn't like it's really hard to judge someone when you're hiring them based on what they've done in the summer in between a few years of school. So I would say no. But also, of course, it does, too. And the extent that if the folks today in the are we calling this in class, you know, if you want to feel like it does, it doesn't feel like it. It doesn't if you want to get into a startup, you know, I think that interview process they're gonna be looking for something very different than obviously a larger, more established company. And and so I would just say that joining a startup, the number one thing that people hiring are looking for is the ability to be a self starter more than anything. And so, like, I've hired some students who did the camera that's called for you. It's like the franchise painting company where you're running around painting houses and you get a percentage and you know, But they spent the whole interview talking to me about how they had to knock on doors and pitched why your house need to be repainted. And I thought that was fantastic. So I mean, you can spend anything like to answer your question. Yes or no? And three other thing that I think is important is a lot of people are in a big rush, you know, which is good, because you you don't want to be so about things, but pretty big rush to make things happen quickly. And, you know, a lot of the data is coming out that the best entrepreneurs are in their mid forties, and they've done a bunch of things. They've got some battle scars and they've made a bunch of mistakes. And so you don't You know, you don't have to be hitting it right out of the school year after it's okay to be doing different things. So that was one of the questions, actually. Did you always know that eventually you'd be doing something entrepreneurial? I know it was in your family a bit because you didn't read out of school. Say, I'm going to go work for myself. You you were pursuing, wanting to work somewhere else. So did you eventually know that you wanted Thio? I had no Look, Let me be. I don't know how to be more clear. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life? Absolutely zero. No idea. It was like this. I'm just gonna push this decision. Just kicked that can down the road and on DPI put it off and I had absolutely no idea. And it terrified me. And I think it's important for people to hear that that that it absolutely terrified me that I, you know, people knew what they wanted to do, and I had no idea. And the idea of joining my family business was not at all what I wanted to dio. I ended up doing a start up in the sector, and then our family business actually got into some pretty pretty big trouble. And I joined the business just thio help with a restructuring efforts. So I didn't join it because I was going to take over and this thing was going to be huge, you know, we were going from 900 to 200 employees under, you know, some stress of contract changes, and that's a whole nother class that that could be taught on what happened there. But it was kind of just me reacting Thio. Okay, I think that I'm going to go put my effort here now and then. I don't know Things go on, I can say that I never was able to sit still very long, and even within OMX every three years, we were kind of dramatically reinventing ourselves. That I've seen in a lot of people that are entrepreneurial is just every couple of years, every two or three years. They say you have a seven year itch just always wanting Thio continue Thio iterated and change things. So there's a lot of questions that are coming in about sort of the personal figuring yourself out side of things. So I wanna I'm gonna come back to those I wanna love those into, ah piece. But first, I want to get your perspective broadly on innovation because you see innovation from a bunch of different perspectives. You see it from as an entrepreneur, involved in some policy on the government side, sitting on boards, uh, as an employer, How are we doing? How's the country doing in terms of innovation? So the country's doing horribly. I don't know how else Tiu say that, but so there's kind of two conversations. I have changed my definition of innovation dramatically. Now I think my definition is that it's an attitude. So to answer your question, your first question on what is innovation? Obviously, it's a lot of things. There's lots of ways to define it, and you google it. There's definitions, but I've come down to this notion. That is, it is an attitude. It...

...is a way of thinking about things. And it's a little bit of what I described earlier about, um, you know, breaking the box, making a bigger box. You know, look, looking outside the box at different ways to do things. Um, it's a lot of tiny activities. It's small pivots. It's a lot of grinding away, making small changes and experimenting so that that's kind of how I would define innovation. You're saying much about how Canada is doing. Um, so I co chaired this task force last year called the uh, Canada's Task Force on oh gosh, economic, but kind of where we were at in Canada was led by the Business Council of Canada. 100 biggest companies they put me on is the token small business, and we looked at all the macroeconomic data of what is happening with businesses in Canada and the economy. And, um, you know, our economy has done well over the last little while. But when you really dig in and look at the root drivers, oven economy, a lot of the fear, um, around, why we've done well is because we've had a bull market in the US You know, Donald Trump has done a lot of bad things, but he did a lot of good things for the stock market and for GDP in general growth. And and just some of those drivers were not some of those drivers that drove our GDP. It was scary to look at them because they were not the things, you know, I I p um I p exports had never been lower and in relation to other countries, we were the worst, by far the regulatory burden that we face in trying to get new ideas implemented and startups going and businesses in Canada. It was higher than most of our peers, So there was five or six metrics that kind of are there to tell the story of what we're going to see 10 years from now. And they were they were quite poor and getting worse with regulatory burden being being very, very poor and definitely the I p export, which we see us, something that kind of could tell a story. A longer term story, right? So how do we build the next Nortel on the next rim? And how do we How do we really generate new I p and not just be selling oil and commodities that that don't they have a big impact on the economy. So I don't think we should ignore them, but they don't have. They don't drive these really high margins and really high paying jobs. So through that study, we we kind of discovered that it is a problem in Canada. We've got a bit of a branch plant mentality. We have, you know, branch plants of large brands here, and so they don't typically have big innovation budgets here in Canada, their innovations happening in the US or Germany or wherever their headquarters are. But on the other side of things, I've been a part of the startup community for a decade, and I've seen a huge change, and I'm sure you've noticed it too, Eric, with you and your wife, like the vibe in the startup community in the last 67 even five years has changed dramatically. There's a lot more capital for early stage. There's a lot more interest in the space like there was no early stage seed funds eight years ago. So I'm enthused by that. I mean, it was by, you know, Shopify and some of these other champions that we just seen and done really well. So there's there's good and bad sides to the whole conversation, but we cannot rest on our laurels and just think like we've always had a good in Canada. And I think that's part of our problem is that we don't We are experiencing this this urgency of We need to innovate now. I mean, we need to do it in big ways. Thio kind of ensure that we do well as a country 10 years, 20 years, 50 years from now. Yeah, we had this big versus small innovation sort of debate in the first half of class, So talking about old type, probably a tired example. But there's ah baseball team in in Savannah called the Savannah Bananas, and this guy named Jessie Cole bought the baseball team. Baseball is boring. It's a long game. Toe watch beer is expensive and Jesse came in and said, Things isn't a baseball game. Let's make it entertainment. Let's put 70 year old people break dancing on the field. Let's make beer $2. Let's make the first base coach line dance. All the baseball players gonna wear kilts and suddenly ticket sales skyrocketed. So we talked about like soft innovation versus, you know, more like industry changing innovation and maybe not the best example right now. But we talked about electric cars and Elon Musk like That's you know what he's doing. A multiple different ways is changing industries, and the debate was, Is there is one better than the other, like Ben, and it came down toe that this conversation was around impact and it was one has impact more than the other that, uh, it seemed like the class was sort of gravitating towards a zoo. Muchas you may not like him as a person. That musk type innovation is more helpful for the country, agree, disagree, comment on that soft versus like the monumental, game changing innovation. I love you and Musk, and I...

...want to agree that the second one has a much bigger impact in the long term. It probably does, you know, building another Nortel a rim like I gave a as an example, but we cannot ignore the first innovation. I mean, that is where I think that we could almost doom or because we've already got all these businesses here that just need to make these little changes to be more relevant internationally. And that's really what we're talking about. Growing the country and GDP. That's the game is exporting. Like I went over to Germany on this economic council and we were interviewed by the minister of I don't know if anyone's heard this terminology. You could do a whole class on this called the Middle STAD, And there's an entire economy in Germany of these medium sized family owned businesses and the middle STAD in Germany. There, like $100 million businesses, right? But they have a very interesting story, you know. They're privately held, usually by 11 founder, and they're incredibly innovative. And what they like to say in Germany that the Middle STAD is is actually gaining more margin from China than some Chinese companies because they're powering automation and factories in China, and they're powering areas where Chinese factories air, gaining more and more margin. And so the German I P driven machinery from the middle stat is, is gaining a big piece of that. But I bring that up because it's not sexy. It's not reinventing an entire industry like electric cars. But you can be damn sure that the entire U is funded by Germany, which is Ah, lot of their growth is being driven by this very, very successful middle STAD, which is, you know, boring industrial businesses, led by founders that are willing to take risks because they're not big corporate that are publicly traded and taking less risk. And there there they are innovating. But they're not. They're doing more of the seven year old line dancing and in the in the in the example of just thes small pivots to gain more market share as opposed to reinvention. I think that a lot of people don't do innovation because they feel like they have to be an engineer and they have to completely invent something. And innovation is not a variant of the word invention, like they're very different words, right? Invention is to be a scientist and innovation is a different thing. It's It's to pivot and change and and and change something and experiment. And that can happen in a world where you could be generating revenue quickly and where you could be having a huge impact. So an impact not meeting like I just mean kind of. If you look back to straight business driving more margin and that example, you know, if you're just making one tooling device more automated for a factory that spits out 20 million T shirts a year, I mean again, not sexy. But you could make a lot of money. Yeah, so suggestion on like I wanna We'll wrap up the company talking that I want to get Thio more on the personal innovation side. So what could we actually be doing? And we're gonna attack it from two ways either the company level. So, like processes or steps that maybe you've used in your own companies to b'more innovative, and then I want to tackle it from an education perspective. So there was a question about I'll get to the specific question from Matt about what we could be doing frankly, as educators who teach entrepreneurship to be teaching it, you know better and more effectively. But start from a company perspective. Like what did you do at Tiburon Rom X to be innovative, to stay sharp? Well, I mean, we were so different because we were starting up. So we were We were all innovative. From the beginning, I would say the smartest thing I did was just hire people that were also entrepreneurs. Um, and it's kind of a different example, but I think the solution I'm saying it's a different example only because if you're venturing out on doing a start up like you are innovating, you just are like your There's just no way out of that. I mean, um, but there's a book that I'm going to force, or you can force everyone to read. I'm sure. I think you have a power to do that. You talk about about a year ago called Loon Shots, and it starts about talking about the history of radar and trying to get radar introduced into the military. And, you know, you read the story of them trying to get radar into the military, and we're like 20 years before the Second World War and and they should have had it in. But every lunch, the questions loom. Shots or Moonshots, it's loom shots. Everything that happens to these people is what happens to innovation and large corporations. You can see the corporate bureaucracy of of trying to get some funding and all the things that go wrong in trying to get innovation to the company. So you see this story, and then it starts to talk about models that actually work, and I'll give you the punchline. So, actually, now you guys don't have to read the book. The punch line is that you need a dedicated team completely walled away from all of that corporate bureaucracy because that...

...stuff will kill you. So dedicated, team walled away. And the absolute most important thing is whoever leads the team needs a straight shot to the CEO, to the leader with money and authority. And so they tried to innovate in the U. S. Military, they couldn't make it happen. Finally, people are dying and we're in 1943 you know, you know, we all know what happened then during the Second World War, and finally Franklin Roosevelt wrote a letter and authorized this guy gave him straight money, straight authorization from the president of the country. And then he got his own people and he was able to finally make things happen. But you know, you can't bury them. They can't be within the organization. You can't scatter them. It needs to be a dedicated team completely walled away with authority. That's that's, I think, the model for encouraging innovation and large companies. Of course, what we Seymour often is just acquisition. So large companies realize they're not being innovative. They're losing market share to competitors. They don't have their tech solution or whatever, so they just acquire it. And I guess that's okay, too. We see that a lot as well. Yeah, on the boring tactical side, what we did when I was in the thick of it was you literally, we literally said, like when it was budget time, like if we were to break it down into a piece of the pie, What percentage goes to current maintaining our current payment system? What percentage of our budget time people, whatever goes towards working on stuff that we don't currently sell, and at some point we just made a call. We're gonna have our Deb team. Is this big? We're gonna have 10 people working on maintaining what we have today. And if we don't work on what's coming and what's next, then we're screwed. So we're literally gonna say 50% of our people resource is time are walled off and they're gonna work on net new super tactical stuff on the personal set. That could be hard because, especially your publicly traded. There's so much pressure to be every quarter delivering more margin and and it's expensive to be innovative. Yeah, okay, on the personals. Well, let's go to the education side. So the question is, and forgive me that I don't see who the original question was from about entrepreneurship education. I'm scrolling here. There's many questions you could come off you to ask it if you Yeah, Matt, go for it. Basically, the observation was that Canada has the highest post secondary rate, but my impression is that you wouldn't see it as an entrepreneurial hub. So I'm wondering, do you think there's a connection there and if so, how can we improve the education on a scale level so that we can build more of a pipeline for entrepreneurs in Canada. Yeah, it's a great, great question. I think that we are missing the practical piece in this. So what I'm seeing out of schools like Ivy is amazing because they didn't they weren't offering content before, So I think that's a huge improvement in the last 10, 15 years. Um, but to me, I think it's the things like it's the practical side of bringing students into startups, you know, maybe during the summer, or just connecting those dots a little bit more, I think would be really, really key, even just fostering startups like, I remember going through the entrepreneur certificate Ivy and there was a guy I don't know if you remember him, Eric, or what your you were. But he was a professional baseball player, had always been a professional baseball player, and he always had this idea for these underwear. That would be better for professional baseball players. And, um, so we were taking entrepreneur finance in school, and it was theoretical. As you can imagine, we're learning how you raise capital and equity and, you know, kind of basic building blocks. But he actually had his start up in his mind the whole time and the teacher at the time said, Well, let's actually use his startup and we're going to teach the class in a more practical way. Let's actually take that and figure out how to help him raise capital and walk through all that well, fast forward a few years. You know, he sold the company a little early, in my opinion, but he did very, very well. And it's a brand. You guys probably all know Saks Saks underwear. So I sat next to him in managerial finance class, and we use that as the example kind of throughout. And that's to me. That's great education because it's practical, it zits, really, and then you can actually apply in the real world. You could have been raising money at the same time. I mean, I think he did a few years later, but I think that that is the solution. The other piece of the coin, you know, as we started studying the Canadian economy and what's needed is there's a There's a direct correlation between attracting people from other countries, so having a very proactive immigration policy, the government introduced the startup visa. They've introduced other measures to bring people from other countries who want to live in Canada but are also very entrepreneurial. And they tend to go through the school Canadian schools before they come, come to Canada kind of full time. And there is a much higher percentage. The data is showing...

...off people that are coming to Canada starting. They're coming here starting businesses. And so there's There's that correlation that we need to be mindful of as well, which I think is really interesting because they come through the school's first. So now that is a broad stroke. I'm just going off the data that we found in the Economic Council, but, um, anyways, it's it's obviously not a nisi answer, but I think that the I think the answer lives in the word practical, right, like so get out of the textbooks, and that's what the case study is, which is great. But the more we can use the rial examples, um, and work on them in school, I think the better so now to the personal side of innovation. Having gone through, I did the same thing as you. I think my beginning was like a bunch of stutter steps and screw ups and had no idea what I wanted to do. Still, don't I think I will be teaching in some respects for the rest of my life. But who knows in what capacity? Any advice that you might offer to help people navigate that early Those early phases, like self work, they could do, you know, travel personal development like journaling. Ah, strengths, assessment, like what can they do to help make that process less painful? Well, I think if people are interested in a startup, something I see a lot is people saying I really wanna do a startup but I don't have an idea. So I see that a lot. And then I also see a lot of spending a year or two brainstorming and coming up with the concepts and kind of going through that process, which is which is interesting. But you see a lot of those two things and so I think with those two things, I would just say that the more and more people get an appreciation for the fact that the process to find out what you want to dio is actually the process of being on the field and making mistakes and doing your screw ups like you have to do those things like sitting in your basement, coming up with the idea for six months and working on the idea, you know, in your mind or, you know, a lot of a lot of technical people. That's where they go wrong is they develop a product you know, in their basement, and they're not sitting next to a customer. So I think the answer, unfortunately because it's messy, lives in doing these very, very cheap experiments as often as possible and knowing that all the mistakes are are critical for the process. If you're wanting to be an entrepreneur, that's that's to me. I think is important for people to hear. Is that like you? But you never hear of those those mistakes. That's why I try to highlight them, although I forgot most of them. But, you know, I I'll call up a client, say I have this this product that I want to deliver and I won't have it built yet. This is what I would have done early on and said, you know, would you give me, um ah $1000 Thio, go and run this procurement for you and then, you know, boom, I crashed. They say no. Then they explain to me why it's no. And then I know Oh, don't build that technology. So, you know, it might have been embarrassing. It might have been a stupid phone call. I might have gotten a big fat No, it might have been embarrassing when I saw the guy at a conference a month later, but I found out quickly, you know, by asking. I did it before I invested in technology. Um, it was free. And it's just this notion of I mean, we're in Canada so we could say it. Although I hate hockey, but like, you just have to be on the ice. You can't. You can't. You can't go to Bali and find yourself with a journal and and think that that's going to be how you come up with your idea, right? Like you've got to be on the ice just doing things in an industry you have an interest in. Yeah, we gotta be in it. And it, like it is inherently messy, You know, you wanna I wish there was shortcuts to figure it out. And like we've arrived, here's the playbook, but I think it just isn't inherently messy process, for better or worse. So a bunch of questions that I'm gonna start to moderate here, but tyranny yours is getting up voted quite a bit. So I'll let you ask your question to Nicole. Sure. So in my question, Nicole, I kind of referenced a bunch. A bunch of statistics that prove that women entrepreneurs potentially have the odds stacked against them. There was something like they're less likely to reach a million dollars in revenue. I think companies with male founders received funding after their first round, close to 35% of the times. But for female founders, that's around 2%. So my question for you is, Why do you think that is? Perhaps it is an innovation issue, Perhaps not. And what can we do to kind of shift those patterns? Really, Really. Good question. Um, I feel bad given the answer, because the answer kind of sucks, but I'm going to give it on based on as much data as I remember. You are right that the data shows that it's mostly an innovation problem that what gets lost in those stats is that a lot of women...

...entrepreneurs are starting businesses for products that only women want that are inherently like. VCs cannot invest in those companies, not all of them. But, you know, if you're opening up, uh, waxing shop downtown and if there's one shop you know it's not scalable unless it's a brand, obviously, but a lot of the data shows and a lot of women are doing, you know, starting companies while they're having kids as well. And so it's a little bit part time. It can be again. This is based on data not being not beating them up for doing that. I'm just saying that what gets lost in some of these numbers is, um, that on a whole, they're just tends to be less innovation happening. And so it's very hard. Thio. They're not venture back herbal like there's a There's a model for providing venture capital to a company, and it's based on unique I P. It's based on something that's extremely scalable, and you just look at the stats there. There's more women than men in university, but there's a hell of a lot more men in engineering, and the most technically backed startups are founded by men who have an engineering background because they understand the technology. And so those air are way bigger things to get over than just saying what we need. More funding set aside for just women. Another big reason at the early stage, and I've seen it because I'm an early stage angel investor, have invested in about a dozen companies. And what happened to the early stages? You don't have a lot of data, right? You can't look at a lot of sales or churn or the key inputs on what you would decide on it to invest in the company. So what investors do is they invest entirely based on the entrepreneur. You know, they back the jockey, not the horse. So they back the entrepreneur, not the idea, and they don't realize they're doing it. But a lot of investors like to invest in people that remind them of themselves when they were younger, right, and I've even seen it with myself. I'll come across a woman that's excited and hyper and kind of like me, and I'll go, Oh, yeah, I think I think this. This could work and I don't do it on purpose. I'm not sexist towards men at all, but I gain. There's something in there at the studies, air starting to unravel that because, you know, 97% of a big angel on D. C. Investors are men. That is a real staff the 97% of start ups that get backed at an early stage. And you have to do the early stage for you to the late stage. So you know, you have to get through that that that step. They tend to be men, maybe for that reason, but there's, you know, this is a This is not a problem that we can solve right away, because again, it's it's rooted in culture. And if you're a little girl and your parents are telling you to play with the Barbie and not something I'm not giving you the same the same, I don't know. I have, ah, nieces, nephews that play Minecraft like obsessively, and it's great because now the girl is playing the same s so that that's great. But, you know, if I just think it's a very, very complicated answer, and I'm sorry that I don't have an easy answer. You are right on the data, but a bunch of those things all contribute to it. But even even just growing your business and getting sales if you can't raise money until you have sales. And half the time I was selling two men in positions of power, they would be CEOs and they'd be in their late fifties and I'd be 20 and I'd be a young woman, and I'm less likely to go out for dinner with them until one in the morning to close the sale. I mean, I did anyways, but it's more intimidating, you know? So So there's all of these little factors that build up that all contribute to it. But we are having a moment. I think I've never seen I'm I'm on an investment committee for VC fund called Disruption Ventures, and we're raising lots of funding were only investing in women led start ups, and we're seeing a lot of that type of momentum happening now. The government stepped in and set aside funding just for women led companies. So we're gonna Seymour and Mawr, and then we're going to see more women entrepreneurs be successful and then mentor the next generation, and it's only going to get better. So I know it's a long winded answer, but its's a fascinating answer. And to just go right back to the reason you guys are in this class. One of the contributing factors is that their data is showing that there's less innovation and women led businesses than male lead businesses. And I think it's a bunch of reasons. But But that is, that is, what I've understood is, on the most part, one of the reasons, And you don't have to be technical to be innovative, right? We've talked about this. You can. You can have 70 year olds doing the splits on the first base. That could be an innovation. So I think the more women start to see that you don't have to be an engineer or your innovation could be reaching the customer in a different way or the business model, not just the technology. I think the more that we see that, the more we're going to see more companies. You're talking about sales in the beginning, Nicole, and so I don't wanna I don't wanna pump retires too much tyranny. She's gonna blush. But tyranny was one of the finalists for the great Canadian sales Challenge. It started...

...with 2200 students across Canada, and she made it to the final 16. No big deal, no big deal. You're looking for a sales person. Uh, you may want to connect with. I am right now. I am looking for a sales person. I need a sales person who wants to sell wine rocks. Who will be in touch? She'll be on it. She'll follow up with you. Be careful. Uh, e check it out. I actually do. We actually do need somebody. Uh, Cyrus, you had a question that they're your cellar genius dot com. Cyrus had a question about superpowers go for its iris. Um, yeah. So my question was so last week, our speaker, Alan Gartner, talked about how his superpower was not having foam. Oh, I think a quick definition of this is kind of like, what do you think differentiates you or makes you, like, unique around from those around you? So my question is like, What do you think your superpower is? Oh, my gosh. Oh, wow. Um, I have to think about this. I think it's changed a lot, too. My superpower now is like cutting to the crux of something like very quickly trying to get to the to the to figure out. I know that's not like a sexy like a straightforward one, but like very quickly being able to see, like what needs to happen. Like I was just listening to pitches here right before this class and you know, very quickly being able to see what their issue Waas, that's a great great superpower can be. That's the worst superpower ever. I need to think of a better one. E was the word after I said I was like That was awful. No, it za great one. I think you share it with my It can be annoying because my my wife, Justine, who you know, she just sees it faster than me all the time. And so there's so many times where I'll be like long as I do. It's trying to explain things in a long winded way, and she's the one who's like Now I got It's this like just let me I just wanna But she's so quick. She's always so quick to get to the root of something. And she's She's always there faster than that because she's smarter than that. Michael, to build on that you. So go ahead. Ask your question. Hi, Nicole. So my question is, what is your opinion on striking a balance between pursuing a pre existing talent and working to acquire a new one? Okay, this this is a really good question. Um, I have gone back and forth on this because when I was starting my business, I needed to be better at accounting, so I obviously had to learn enough skills to be to be good enough accounting. Um, I am a firm believer now that I think that you shouldn't care about the things that you're not good at and that you should just double down on all the stuff that you are. And, um, if you're an entrepreneur, higher, the higher the skills around you that you're not good at. So, like, I truly tried to work on being more detail aren't to be more. You know, all the things that I'm not known for and I had to do it in early days in our team was small, but then I just prioritized hiring an incredible ops person, an incredible CFO. And then I got to doom or of sales, the growth, the other stuff. So I would say, keep doubling down on what you are good at. Thank you. What? I'm able to follow up on that, Eric really quickly. E was going to say, Would you still would that still apply to somebody who's very young, like a like a 21 year old hypothetically, right, Michael? Yeah. No, that that's a good point because, you know, if a 21 year old came into the company and they're really good at selling but then they didn't I don't know, Philip fill in the CRM. And so they were, like, totally locking any detail or diligence. Then, like it would it would it could be a fault. Um, I guess it, I guess it depends. I think that for the most part, that one's hard. I kind of need more specifics about, like what? The challenges and what you're not sure about. But I think the general rule is, um is to spend more time doubling down on what you're really good at and then own it, right? So you're going in for an interview, you say, like these. This is what I'm really, really strong at. And it would do well in this environment, right? So maybe you need more structure or less structure, or you wanna work commission on Lee or or maybe you're you are detail oriented. And you you know what I mean? It's kind of hard to say, but it sucks because big companies, from what I've seen, tend to like very well rounded people. Whereas I'm the opposite. Yes, that's right. Thank you very much. Let's go. Will Will. On track. You had a good question about Kobe. It actually. Oh, yeah, for sure. First off. Thanks, Nicole. This has been super super awesome. So far on my question is, uh, this time of covert has really shone a spotlight on the fact that we need to be able to be nimble in both our businesses and in...

...our personal lives. And that ability to pivot and innovate has really been magnified. It's a skill necessary to survive these days. And so I was wondering if there are any leaders you admire and draw inspiration from for the way that they innovate. Are there any leaders I draw inspiration from? Oh, man. Oh, my gosh. I have no idea. Um it is true that cove it has has shone a spotlight. Um, but I'll just say I'm not answering the question at all, but I will say about Cove it that I think that the opportunity for all of you has has become even bigger in the sense that we have accelerated the economy by a decade in one year in this notion of digitization and innovation and all of the skills that all of you, I'm sure are very strong at. And so the number of companies that are being forced with without, you know, like I was selling Enterprise Cloud based supply chain software for the last decade and the number of my clients that were still on on premise so that they couldn't access any of their data if they were not in the office at the exact location was unbelievable. Some of the largest companies that it would shock you Well, they're all being shook shaken into this notion that they have to digitize and and do all of these things. Thio be ready for, you know, global pandemics. and and many other potential crises. So I think that's a big opportunity for you guys. Um leader I admire. I don't know. Maybe I'll have to get back to Eric on that, but I there's so many. Can't think of one right now. Is everybody doing it right in? Yeah, everybody doing it right in Canada. I feel like a lot of people look Thio Tobias lately. ATT's Shopify. I just feel like he's just way ahead of a lot of things. Um, like a very future like forward looking person. And I just love. We talk about putting yourself out there and having the courage to be disliked. We were talking about that earlier. He just doesn't. He's just him, you know, like he does not care. He puts his opinions out there and doesn't care if they're contrary to popular opinion. These you know, the prime Canadian example right now, but he has the courage to be disliked, I think, and he's a German that immigrated to Canada because he met a girl in Germany. So there is another example of driving immigrants to Canada. Thio, you know, here, living in his girlfriend's basement, trying Thio, make payroll, and it's just that struggle. That combination of that struggle could be really good. Could be. Could be really kind of forces entrepreneurship. But yeah, I know there's that. He's a great example, because, um, you know, he hasn't changed from what I know about him in the last decade at all, in the sense that he hasn't gotten Really It's very Canadian. Hasn't gotten two weeks. You know, ego hasn't gotten too big etcetera, but yeah, hasn't settled down like their latest innovation is in fulfillment, which is which is brilliant taking on Amazon. So I love it. I mean, they are a really good example. Yeah. Yeah. Nicole, how can we help you? You've been so generous with your time that I ve This year you came back almost in back to back sessions weeks later, after you had checked off the ivy lists and you thought we were gonna bug you for a while. And then little did you know I'd come right back and ask you to come speaking class. So how come we you helpful for you? Oh, my gosh. I don't know. You guys aren't bugging me at all. This is fun. And it's easy, especially with the drive to London. I remember coming to Ivy, and it was like, Do you mind coming out of the class? You had no problem. There was this huge snowstorm that Onley hit London and I had the wrong car for that snowstorm, and I was like, Oh, God. But no, this is easy. This is just and one hours, um, call between the others. Um calls. Yeah, pop on. I love your your backgrounds. Legit minds all made up and fabricated. Where is this? Your office? Yeah. So I bought a place in Kaledin an hour north of Toronto, and it's like an old 18 built in 18 30 or something stone Stone house. And this is the new addicts. So I turned it into an office because there is an office in the house. But this is like I have a D h d. And so, like, I need to be secluded in an attic, where to get out of this office, there's a ladder that's like rickety, and so it's like you don't just get up and go and sit at the kitchen. Tables are eating, so it's been it's been very critical of Lost six z. Awesome. Like Cinderella in the attic. That's awesome. That's awesome. Anything you wish I would have asked Nicole. Like, look, these air. These were probably the most entrepreneurial people at Ivy right now. These are people that give a shit about personal development. Um, and they're just trying to figure it out. Any advice to your I don't know, 21 year old cell for anything that you wish I would have covered that I didn't. Well, the advice I have for my 21 year old self is just, like, just try things and not care so much about the perception of how they look. So, yeah, for anyone in the class that wants to reach out to me. Go ahead.

And I think tyranny already promised to come work for free to have good sales experience. I'm seller Genius stuck off. That's awesome. That's awesome. Nicole, you've been super generous. E appreciate you coming in. Thank you so much. Good to reconnect with you and we'll see you. I don't know. Hopefully in person at some point in the future. Yeah. See you later. Thanks, guys. Dig here. You've been listening to the ivy entrepreneur podcast toe. Ensure that you never miss an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit ivy dot c a forward slash entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for listening until next time.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (55)