Category: Blogs

The Power of Listening

Metiquity Ventures’ Bryan Slauko and Jacques LaPointe have lifted the lid on what makes their dynamic as co-founders so successful when it comes to guiding the next generation of local, early-stage companies and founders in Alberta and across the Canadian Prairies.

According to Bryan, a lot of the pair’s success can be attributed to their ability to listen, both to each other and to startups to approach Metiquity Ventures for advice and support.

“There’s a lot to be learned from listening,” Bryan began, pointing to the significance of creating a dynamic in which entrepreneurs are not speaking to the pair as though they are “trying to prove something”.

“We’re just gonna listen and learn along the way,” he continued, crediting Jacque for his ability to ask challenging questions without “being in your face about it”.

On the topic, he continued: “That’s where our founders love working with Jacques – he’s got so much experience and expertise through all the things he’s done in the past. 

“He just has so much to offer to founders, and good stories they can relate to because they’re all aspiring to do something similar.”

Likewise, Jacque credits the power of listening to agood ebb and flow” in the pair’s respective approaches to founders, remarking that letting people speak is the best way to get “to the meat of an issue”.

“We usually don’t bug each other too much,” he added, claiming the pair’s respective approaches can be helpful in “resolving debates which might be going on in a founders’ minds”.

In a previous article, Jacques also credited Bryan for the “meticulous effort” he puts into into legal documents, due diligence and the overall structure of Metiquity Ventures – an aspect which Jacques believes Bryan is all too often not given credit for.

Connecting with Metiquity Ventures

Co-founders Bryan Slauko has shared how best to get in touch with Metiquity Ventures as an early-stage startup founder based in Alberta or the Canadian Prairies.

According to Bryan – who has consistently emphasised the importance of building relationships within a company’s respective industry – getting in contact through a mutual connection of Metiquity Ventures such as a founder of a company they have invested in or an advisor can go a long way.

“We’re investing in people, so if someone comes to us through someone we know and trust really well and can speak highly for that person, it’s gonna go a long way,” Bryan said on the topic.

Likewise, Bryan reiterated that a persistent approach can show Metiquity Ventures how strongly a startup founder is interested in gaining their attention and working with them.

This approach, Bryan maintains, is the best route for someone hoping to secure a meeting with Metiquity Ventures as “[founders] that are casual about it and don’t assert themselves very strongly just kind of fade away… those ones don’t work out”.

On the topic, he continued: “Maybe you’re feeling nervous, and you’re not sure if you should keep being persistent, but in the absence of doing that, you’re sending us a message that you’re not really determined to make that business work. 

“If you’re not trying that hard to find your way through us then leave us to make conclusions about how you run your business,” he added.

However, entrepreneurs should be aware of the difference between persistence and aggression in this approach as straying too far in the wrong direction can also have a negative impact on how a company is perceived.

“I can think of a couple of people I’ve met in the last month that have just got it nailed – you can tell they’re persistent, they’re making things happen, they’re meeting the right people in the right places and they’re gonna be successful,” Bryan added.

Bryan Slauko on Growth From Difficult Situations

Metiquity Ventures’ Bryan Slauko has expressed the importance of learning from difficult situations when trying to guide the next generation of local, early-stage companies and founders in Alberta and across the Canadian Prairies.

With more than 20 years of experience – and directorial roles across several portfolio companies – Bryan boasts that he has “dealt with lots of different types of people and experiences” in his career to date, some of which he described as “very challenging”.

One of the challenges Bryan has experienced stems from a miscalculation of someone’s entrepreneurial character – a factor which he claims is “critical” due to the significance of listening and building a relationship with entrepreneurs when “investing in people”.

According to Bryan, a small team can “be thrown upside down” if a member of the team “ends up being the complete opposite and doing things that you would never, never condone”, leading to a “whole lot of trouble all of a sudden” for a company.

However, it’s situations such as these which can indicate the effectiveness of a team in their effort to give back to an industry, in spite of any drawbacks which they may encounter.

On the topic, Bryan elaborated: “A lot of learning comes from what we’ve learned from some of those challenging situations, how to deal with them and watching for warning signs.”

Some of Metiquity Ventures’ recent successes include WaitWell and Arolytics Ltd, which you can read more about via our blog.

Good governance starts with how we govern ourselves

Venture capitalists and investors get a bad rap sometimes… as sharks, dragons, and Gordon Gekko (yeeps!) archetypes throughout popular culture. 

But the truth is, it’s a lot less like a shark tank and much more about crunching numbers, serving on boards and helping founders and companies to grow and flourish; as well as reporting to limited partners and keeping track of due diligence.

Different backgrounds and skill sets are important aspects to bring to the (cap)table. 

Learn more about how Metiquity Ventures’ co-founding directors amalgamate their talent and experience

Jacques LaPointe 

Jacques has more than 25 years of experience under his belt, including expertise as the president and co-founder of Calgary-based Attabotics, during which Jacques led Attabotics through its very first equity and grant funding and the significant investment and growth that followed during his three-year tenure.

Specifically within the Alberta technology ecosystem, Jacques boasts 13 years in operational roles in the industry and 12 years as an investment portfolio manager, angel investor, director and advisor. 

“He’s had some great success that the founders like to hear about, but he’s humble,” Bryan says. ”There shouldn’t be any investor or venture capital fund sitting on a pedestal somewhere…” 

According to Bryan, the pair make a conscious effort to let people see the authentic Bryan Slauko and Jacques LaPointe, and for this reason, they encourage other founders to do the same when meeting with and pitching Metiquity Ventures about their businesses as “no one’s hiding behind walls.”

On this topic, Jacques tends to think of himself and Bryan as an ‘iceberg’ – meaning “there’s this little piece on the top that people see,” he says, but simply interacting with investors or entrepreneurs via email will not allow any party to share “what’s below the waterline.”

Bryan Slauko

Jacques notes that Bryan Slauko, a  CFA Charterholder, boasts more than two decades of experience as an investment professional, advisor, entrepreneur and Board member, including current board roles with Metiquity Ventures portfolio companies including Arolytics, cash flow app Helm and TakeMeTuit Inc – puts “meticulous effort” into legal documents, due diligence and the overall structure of Metiquity Ventures; an aspect which Jacques believes Bryan is all too often not given credit for.

“Many investors go for the story, the sizzle, but they don’t do their homework on what’s underneath and that’s unfortunate because that’s what really gets results in the end,” Jacques adds.

Do investors pay more attention to the paper trail or the people?

Metiquity Ventures’ Bryan Slauko says investors aren’t only reviewing the books when considering which companies to invest in, they’re also keen to understand a founder’s motivations.  

A few tips for new founders and entrepreneurs from Metiquity Ventures co-founding Partner Bryan Slauko 

Authenticity is key 

Bryan encourages prospective founders to have a clear purpose behind what they are doing because their motivations (or lack thereof) will be under scrutiny from potential investors who are looking for founders who show clear authentic intention to solve problems through digital innovation. 

“Some of the best ideas come from founders who were deeply embedded in an industry and can see exactly where the holes are in that industry. They have great insight into those market gaps. If they can communicate that gap, and the solution process to potential investors; that allows us to understand what’s driving [your business],” Bryan says. 

“If it was only about money and revenue numbers, then when the going gets tough a founder is going to leave and find something else to do that will make them more money. But founders who see a problem and market gap that they are passionate about solving and filling… they aren’t going to leave or abandon ship before they reach their goal. Those are the kind of companies and founders investors love working with.” 

Foster your relationship with your lead investors

Bryan adds that once that understanding is established then fostering a strong founder-investor relationship becomes key to helping companies succeed.

“I always say to people: we’re investing in relationships, not in transactions,” Bryan explains. “We’re not transactional in nature. We want to get to know people and what makes them tick. They [have to be] the kind of person that’s going to stick with it when the going gets tough because they’re going to have a roller coaster ride. It’s going to go up and down.”

Be ready to weather adversity

It’s often the way founders respond to challenges and successes within their respective industries which showcases their long-game ability to scale and grow. Investors want to be assured they aren’t working with someone who will “just throw in the towel and go find a job” at the first sign of difficulty and has potential for growth.

“We want to invest in the people that have to make it work. Not just because they’ve put their own resources into their startup and want to see it scale, but because they simply can’t imagine not making it work. They are determined to succeed,” Bryan adds. 

Likewise, Bryan encourages entrepreneurs (and especially first-time founders) to be coachable and open to feedback.

“First-time founders who haven’t done this before – they have a lot of blind spots, and we want to fill in those blind spots for them. And help them connect the dots. Part of being an entrepreneur is having the strength to challenge your own ego,” Bryan says. 

Active investing, does it mean sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind?

Metiquity Ventures co-founders Bryan Slauko and Jacques LaPointe have shared the significance of ‘being the bad guy’ when it comes to guiding the next generation of local, early-stage companies and founders in Alberta and across the Canadian Prairies.

While the pair celebrate recent success in portfolio companies moving to further seed round, including WaitWell and Arolytics Ltd as well as new investments including $400,000 Investment in Saskatoon-Based Runnr Delivery, and $300,000 Investment in Calgary-Based Mastrius.

Bryan notes that an active investing model means working with companies and guiding them through challenges and that means, “there’s been times where we’ve had to get a little bit tough and have some challenging conversations.

“We are nice guys, but there are times where we have to be the bad guys.That’s all part of managing risk for our investors and invest to make sure that companies we invest in can succeed,” he adds.

In a similar jest, Jacques LaPointe maintains that it is the responsibility of Metiquity Ventures to help founders understand “blind spots” in their strategic vision and subsequent execution – an entrepreneurial void which can only be filled with the right level of experience.

“Often founders feel like they’re doing the right thing based on the information they have,” Jacques says., “But they don’t have the broad experience of seeing (how similar challenges and problems may have played out multiple times before within other ventures and other companies.

“It’s our job as active investors and mentors, to bring those experiences to forefront and share that information so that our founders can have those light bulb moments where they go ‘Oh, okay, I get it!”

So cruel, no but constructive criticism, is key to helping our companies scale.
Read more about the success stories of WaitWell and Arolytics Ltd via our blog.

The Battle of B2B and B2C Startups

Figuring out what potential investors are looking for from startups in emerging markets such as Alberta can be worlds apart from what they’re expecting in more established hotspots such as Silicon Valley, Stockholm or even Toronto.

For example, In July Silicon Valley-based software company Teknol announced plans to move its engineering headquarters to YYC, a $12.5-million investment which is predicted to create 125 jobs over the next three years, with the company’s CEO hailing Cowtown for the “positive buzz” of its tech sector.

This year’s annual Tech Talent report also found Calgary to be Canada’s second largest tech hub (trailing behind Vancouver) with job growth in the sector increasing by a massive 61 per-cent.

Most companies, however, can be separated into two different groups with unique factors driving their investability from a VC perspective: 

Business to Business (B2B)

B2B simply means the business will focus on selling its product, service, or technology to other businesses. A company dedicating itself to this strategy needs to make sure potential investors understand why they have chosen to target other businesses (as compared to individual consumers) and the benefits of doing so.

A B2B sales strategy allows for larger purchase orders or broad installations of technology, as other businesses usually have significant buying power (much more than the average consumer), as well as a willingness to sign long-term contracts.

When preparing to pitch a B2B business to potential investors, founders should make sure to highlight the advantages of targeting other businesses and clearly explain why this is the strategy that provides the largest avenue for further growth for their company.

Business to Consumer (B2C)

Where B2B’s target other businesses, B2C’s target the retail consumer. By going direct to consumer, companies are targeting an audience with much lower buying power when compared to other businesses. However, the size of the potential market is usually much larger.

Typically, B2C businesses benefit from higher gross margins, as well as a much wider reach in terms of who they can market their product/technology to.

As an entrepreneur begins to think about presenting their B2C business to venture capitalists they should remember to articulate the breadth of the market, high margins and (again) why specifically this is the best decision for their company.

Testimonial: A Lift for Arolytics 

In September this year Arolytics Ltd – a provider of methane software and data analytics solutions for the oil and gas sector – became the inaugural investment in BDC Capital’s new $150M Sustainability Venture Fund.

The fund itself is dedicated to investing in businesses which develop technologies which will support businesses both in Canada and further afield in meeting sustainability and climate targets. 

While additional investors include Yaletown Partners, StartupTNT, and a Houston-based strategic investor, it was co-founder Liz O’Connell’s work with Metiquity Ventures which she credits to the company’s exciting next chapter.

Liz met her two fellow co-founders during an academic emissions research group, during a time in which there were little-to-no strong widespread regulations around emissions management for the oil and gas sector. However, with a prompt wave of new regulations came an opportunity for Liz and her co-founders to create digital solutions to support and automate all these new processes.

“When we work with different oil and gas clients, we really understand your pain points and corporate objectives” Liz said on the topic, citing an ambition to get clients on the path to “exceeding their north star efficiently and effectively”.

However, Arolytics Ltd’s startup journey took an eventful turn two years ago when Liz and her fellow co-founders decided to start working with Metiquity Ventures in a bid to better position their company as a celebrated solution for oil and gas companies across Alberta and further afield.

“Over those two years,” Liz remarked, “Metiquity has been there through all of these crazy ups and downs, and all these things that get thrown at us as a result of running a startup.” These issues include a new range of data challenges at the hand of an evolving emissions measurement infrastructure, many of which pertain to the (very significant) monitoring, measuring and quantifying of emissions data across hundreds and thousands of individual facilities across dozens of different states and provinces and countries.

On the topic, Liz elaborated: “There’s always that ear to run something by – that second piece of advice. Jacques and Brian are extremely responsive and they always bring a unique perspective to the table, which we really benefit from.

“Leading up to our seed round that we kicked off earlier this year. Bryan Slauko had really great opinions on what type of investor we should pursue, and that they were really kind of a partner with us as we went to raise that money.”

As Liz and the gang continue to embark on their next chapter with Arolytics Ltd, Metiquity Ventures’ Bryan Slauko will continue to sit on the software development company’s board of directors.

Testimonial: When WaitWell Got Tired of Waiting

In July this year, queue management software WaitWell – a queue management software optimizes service delivery at busy locations like universities, government offices and clinics – secured $1.5 million CAD in seed funding to expand its product offering across the States, venturing into new markets along the way. However, without the “sounding board” of Bryan Slauko and Jacques LaPointe the WaitWell story would have been very different indeed.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, WaitWell’s founders – husband and wife Steve and Shannon Vander Meulen – ran a motor vehicle registry office in Alberta, but with the ‘unprecedented new normal’ of Covid-19 came a cavalcade of service problems for customers and companies alike.

When the Vander Meulens noticed an opportunity to better resolve lineup management issues, they decided to launch beta testing on WaitWell in August 2020. 

“Through the pandemic, we knew that we had the important role of providing an essential service while doing so in a safe and effective manner,” Steve began. “The solutions that were out there weren’t exactly fit for the style of business that we ran, so we built our own and had the good fortune to commercialise that to neighbouring markets.”

On the topic, Shannon said: “Immediately we realised once you digitize the way that people enter a queue, you have an opportunity to really digitally transform the entire customer experience from the time they join the queue until after they’ve left the building.”

The pair met Bryan and Jacques at an investment summit hosted by Startup TNT (WaitWell won the investment, by the way) and were struck by the pair’s unparalleled experience in the startup world, as well as their shared determination for the company to exit within Steve’s intention of a seven-to-ten-year timeframe.

It’s this “emotional investment” in the WaitWell journey that Shannon credits to the company’s success to date, crediting the pair as a “sounding board” for their questions and concerns as they worked to build WaitWell as a leader in queue management software.

“Although we’re experienced entrepreneurs, we are not experienced in the startup world, and so a lot of times we run into hurdles, challenges and questions,” Shannon said. “Bryan and Jacques have also been really helpful in providing connections for us. They’ve done a lot of introductions where necessary.”

A Humble Handbook of Investor Talking Points

Starting a new business can be a humbling experience. Often startup founders have to begin at zero, relinquish control and admit that despite their title or industry experience, they are not the expert when it comes to scaling up. 

However, emerging markets are so attractive to investors due to their potential return on investment. A strong influx of talent is flocking to emerging tech sectors such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, creating what can be seen as ‘the perfect storm’ for tech-focused startups.

A recent technology report published by Startup Genome named Calgary among the world’s top 60 emerging startup ecosystems – largely credited to sub-sector strengths including cleantech, fintech and ag-tech – while last year 2022 YYC’s tech market comprised more than 50,000 tech jobs, 6.9 per cent of total employment across the city, according to GeekWire.

With this boom in a tech-focused workforce also comes a boom of innovation and VC capital. Combine all this together, and Alberta has created a powerful cocktail for outsized investment returns.

Alberta is a great example of why investing in entrepreneurs within emerging markets is so attractive, with factors such as a growing technology-focused workforce and robust funding from the government contributing to the growth the province is seeing in the VC space.

In August the federal government announced plans to funnell $6.1-million into Calgary’s tech sector – with plans to create an estimated 1,000 jobs across the city – and technology investors and VCs looking to the next unicorn understand it is much more likely to happen in an emerging market like that of the Canadian Prairies.

We’ve compiled a handy list of talking points for any potential investor to sink their teeth into:

Market size 

Total Addressable Market (also known as TAM) defines how much the market is worth that your business is targeting.

Investors are looking for investments with outsized returns, and businesses operating in large total addressable markets offer this opportunity. Potential investors will want to see what market you’re targeting and understand how this market will facilitate exponential growth of your company.

However if there’s a large market, how is your business going to pull the desired customers away from products and services they may already be using?

An innovative product with a growing moat

What makes your product different from what is currently offered by competitors? Who is your audience, and what pain points does your business address? These are some of the first questions you can expect to hear from venture capitalists assessing your business.

Innovation can, at times, be a loosely defined buzzword that is thrown around in business presentations to ‘wow’ the audience; but putting into words exactly how your product is a unique innovator is much harder.

Specifically, potential investors are looking for early-stage startups which clearly define what separates their business from others – how they are building a moat or competitive advantage that competitors won’t be able to easily replicate.

Quality leadership

Especially in the early stages (where you might not have a functioning prototype let alone actual revenue), investors are putting their money into your idea; namely, planning around execution and business strategy.  

They are investing in you, the founder. Your business savvy, your drive, your experience, your due diligence. Have you demonstrated that you are willing to put your time and heart as well as potentially your own money (bootstrapped) into your business?

This is why it’s important to show investors you have the vision to bring a business idea to the final product.

Being a founder of a company is definitely not easy, and you will be regularly required to make difficult decisions and lead your staff through challenging times. Being a strong leader is a necessity for building a company from the ground up and investors will want to see you have the passion, coachability, and commitment that is needed to build a company.

However, as you begin to initiate talks with a potential investor – whether it’s a VC firm or single early-stage seed round investor – they will want to see more detailed plans on how you plan to execute your vision.

Having the technical and STEM talent on board (regardless of whether it’s the founder or team) is important, we’re talking tech startups here! So a scientist, engineer, and a coder or two could be imperative in executing and running your business vision.

B2B or B2C?

Most companies can be separated into two different groups, with each group having their own nuances and things to consider when understanding what potential investors in Alberta are looking for when deciding where they will invest their money. Check out our blog post on the differences between these two different groups here.

Financials

Financial statements are one of the most important things you will bring when presenting your business to potential investors. Your numbers will be highly scrutinized, as they will provide a metaphorical looking glass into the future of your business. Find out more about pro-forma statements, financial essentials and what investors will expect from your financial statement here.

Market Analysis

As a founder of a company, you’re expected to have a high level of understanding surrounding the market your business will operate in.

Undoubtedly your company will have competition or alternatives to your new product, and investors will want to see you have performed in-depth market research to understand where your competitors fall short, why there is a need for your business, and how your company will stand apart from the rest.

Make sure to do your due diligence in analyzing the companies offering services similar to your own, and just as importantly, make sure you have researched your target customer. Investors will also want to see you understand what your ideal customer is looking for and how you intend on making them aware of the value of your product or technology.

Business Experience

When venture capitalists consider investing in a startup, they typically want a leader who has experience. This experience usually comes from one of three different places:

The first is industry experience. If your startup is focused on building logistics software for the trucking industry, investors will appreciate it if you’ve spent at least part of your career directly involved with the trucking industry. This shows you understand the problem your company is working to solve and have an inside view as to why your company’s solution is worth an investment.

The second type is entrepreneurial experience. Building a company from the ground-up is a skill most don’t possess. Investors will want to see your leadership style, as well as any direct experience you bring in taking a business idea and turning it into a fully functioning company.

Investors will also be judging you on your drive, work ethic, charisma, and personality. When presenting your business to potential investors be sure to not just say, but show, how much blood, sweat, and tears you have put into making the vision you have for your business come true.

Remember, as an early-stage startup with little to no success yet, investors are investing more in you as the founder, than the actual company itself.

Make sure to give them a reason to invest!

Putting Yourself Out There

Ask any entrepreneur who pitched their business to a round table of VC firms or angel investors and they will tell you it is a much different atmosphere compared to relying on friends and family. Professional investors don’t know you and don’t owe you anything. This is business, and sometimes, business can be harsh.

However, as long as you come prepared and can articulate the value your business offers and the potential it holds, the chances of you finding the capital you need greatly increases. For Metiquity Ventures this means emerging market technology based business.

A lot is expected of you as a founder, and that may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry. Behind all the financial statements and analysis lies the underlying truth: if you can clearly articulate to investors the potential your company has, and show you are the leader to execute on this potential, the right investors will believe in your vision as much as you do.

It’s not just about trying to impress investors, it’s also about finding the investors that impress you.

Scroll to top