We aren’t bragging about the B.C. weather at the moment – the ‘holiday deep freeze’ lingered well into 2017 – however, we would like to shine the light on a few moments from the final months of 2016 that made us proud. To start … what a SPLASH by TritonWear as 2016 came to a close.
SQW to Tristan Lehari, CEO of TritonWear:
“Oh, what I could have done if I had this technology when I was consumed by mastery.”
It is one thing when we have enthusiasm for what our portfolio companies are developing – it is altogether a new level of special when there is a national spotlight put on their products.
TritonWear was featured at a special event linked to a national innovation strategy and identified by the federal Minister of Small Business and Tourism, and Waterloo MP, the Honorable Bardish Chagger, who had this to say at the event:
“TritonWear is about making Canadian swimmers more competitive so that they can outperform the world. Our government has a similar plan for the whole nation. By supporting and promoting innovative companies such as this, we are fostering the growth our economy needs.”
In addition to government recognition and accolades for TritonWear, the company received recognition from the Canadian technology industry.
In October, TritonWear was inducted into the annual Canadian Innovation Exchange’s coveted Top 20 list.
Oh, and our wearable tech company wasn’t the only Relentless portfolio shout-out from a member of federal parliament in 2016.
That’s right – the community of Squamish and Squamish Nation are now “Powered by ePACT”! The “emergency preparedness” pilot has catalyzed organizations and communities to take action across Canada.
The industry is all a buzz about the growth of the personal, trusted network’s role in selling new products. In November, the Food Navigator placed the spotlight on the impact Social Nature is having on getting healthy, natural products in the hands of consumers.
Social Nature has grown their social influencer community to over 200,000 throughout North America – sampling, evaluating and sharing recommendations about the latest in natural, organic products. Healthy eating! Healthy living! #TryNatural
On January 8th Global television tapped into Annalea Kreb’s leadership skills in the natural products industry by inviting her to share thoughts on 2017 trends. A couple trends that Social Nature’s CEO highlighted:
“Purple is the new Black”
Food’s popular colour for 2017 is purple (purple beet, corn, yams, etc). Annalea encourages consumers to seek out purple veggies and products as they tend to be higher in anti-oxidants and may be more nutrient dense than many alternatives.
“Kale is out, Seaweed is IN”
Wondering what the new ‘it’ vegetable is for the year ahead? Annalea points to seaweed. This marine algae is growing in popularity because it is loaded with minerals, is rich in calcium, magnesium, as well as vitamins A and C (it is high in sodium – so monitor intake accordingly).
View the entire segment here: Social Nature on GlobalBC.
And if you are interested in learning more about the Power of Consumer Influence directly from Annalea, check out this event on January 24th in Yaletown: How Influence Can Drive Results.
Social Nature found a sweet new space in one of Vancouver’s growing tech postal codes: Gastown.
The Social Nature team is growing and HIRING!
Keeping growth and green living at the forefront, I love how Annalea has enriched her new workspace with a vertical garden.
No garden yet at the new Wiivv basecamp, but they have a wicked view!
The Wiivv team also outgrew their office and landed in Gastown.
Wiivv invited the community to celebrate a great year, a year that included a record breaking Kickstarter campaign, the closing of a major seed financing and escalating product adoption.
Personally, I was also celebrating Wiivv’s new data. Clinical results are in. What I have experienced anecdotally has now been confirmed through a cross section of early adopters in a controlled trial – use of the custom, 3D-printed Wiivv insole results in less foot fatigue and a material reduction in chronic foot pain.
Bring on those track workouts again!
And just in time for the launch of the 2017 season, Wiivv announced the expansion of their body perfect, 3D-printed product line with the introduction of a full-length custom fit insole. The sportier, full-length option replaces factory insoles of everything from running shoes to soccer cleats. The new product announcement was covered by Triathlon Business – industry props causing both our professional and amateur triathlete hearts to burst with pride. #KeepGoing
Both Simon and I had an active end to 2016 connecting with the community across Canada.
In September, Simon delivered the keynote for BDO Canada‘s AGM. He tapped into his wealth of athletic experience as both an individual and team member.
Simon shared bold examples of innovation within the sport of triathlon, his journey as a leader in the sport, how he challenged assumptions and emphasized how much he had to tap into courage to shift the paradigm.
Honoring our commitment to participate and promote active, healthy living, Simon and I hosted a couple of unique events around the National Angel Capital Organization Summit in Vancouver.
In exquisite west coast style, we partnered with City Cycle and lead an enthusiastic batch of angel investors on a Vancouver Craft Brewery tour by bike! Thanks to Cycle City’s resident beer guide, Nick. And yes, it POUNDED rain. It was fantastic!
At this point we are thinking of making the craft beer tour a semi-annual event – rain or shine. Interested in joining the next ride?
Another Q4 highlight was when Simon and I hit the “speakers’ stage” together for the first time at the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada conference. The moment was amplified by having one of our portfolio founders (Louis-Victor Jadavji, co-founder of Wiivv) join us as well for a key part of the conversation.
We shared the investors’ perspective on rewards-based crowdfunding as either a financing or product launch strategy. LV shared his lessons learned and rationale for using a crowdfunding platform to fuel a commercial product launch. Here are a few of our key messages:
#1 Lesson Learned – Private or Public?
A public crowdfunding campaign eliminates a private start-up’s ability to iterate, learn, grow, recover, and restart privately, and on a timeline that works for a company versus a consumer’s desire. Be mindful of this reality.
#2 Opportunity Realized – The Impact of the Network!
Leveraging existing networks facilitates a successful crowdfunding launch. PERIOD. By tapping into the mailing lists of your investors, accelerator, strategic and industry partners can create powerful early momentum in a campaign. Don’t be shy about “the ask.” Don’t overlook this incredible resource.
#3 Insider Investor Tip – Under promise and OVER DELIVER
When defining a crowdfunding campaign sales goal, select a number that demonstrates persuasive customer adoption while having a high probability of execution. Delays in uptake or low percentage goal achievement could delay timing on your next fundraising, or negatively affect your business valuation due to perceived absence of campaign success.
The NCFA recently published a thorough industry report (including a Relentless cameo of course). Click here to access and download:
This edition of Beez Reel closes with some “Whitfield Wisdom” that offers a transferable lesson for entrepreneurs developing their competitive positioning:
Q: Simon, what was your super power as a professional athlete?
A: SQW – I had the ability to sit still. I saw the moment. I was prepared – I was always prepared.
I could stay calm when everyone else was rushing to get started.
We have just hit our first anniversary.
Summer of 2015 we launched our angel fund…and an inspired twelve months has followed.
Right out of the gate we made our first investment in GymTrack. Then the stars aligned in such a way that we had three closings on one day – October 15th – right in the midst of Techtoberfest, which was just cruel!
Then rounding out year one of our fund was an investment in Social Nature.
Every investment decision was catalyzed with the following question:
Will this company contribute to healthy living outcomes, participation in sport or the promotion of activity?
Sometimes the answer was direct and measurable (GymTrack, Vanhawks, Wiivv), other times the impact on a healthy lifestyle was experienced via communication and marketing strategies (ePACT and Social Nature). Knowing that our investment choices, our alliances, and our influence on the health and wellness of individuals of all ages inspires us daily.
We focus on those aspects and our companies have built campaigns and social strategies around them, including the following hashtags (which are inspirations to ourselves and collaborators):
In addition to building our portfolio, we’ve worked with some stellar organizations over the past year delivering keynotes, judging startup pitches and participating in groundbreaking announcements in health and sport.
It was a magical intersection of technology, education and sport when I mentored and judged at the second annual SportsHack.
For the November 2015 event, hackers and innovators gathered simultaneously in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax to compete for the coveted top prize of having their solution brought to market by the CFL. Very cool. Locally the host was SFU’s VentureLabs. Fortunately for a few of the hackers, I am an avid football fan and was able to share a few rules along the way to up their game.
Also in November Simon and I had a quick mission to MaRS.
While the total journey time from Earth to Mars can vary between 150-300 days, fortunately for us, BC base station to Toronto MaRS Discovery District was a 2-day adventure.
Day one we met with MaRS corporate partners CIBC, Globe & Mail and Revera to gain insights into their digital tech strategies. Day two, Simon delivered a keynote for the MaRS Innovation Centre’s “Corporate Partner Day”, on the theme of ‘Moonshots’. Below is a stunning graphic recording of Simon’s key messages captured by Visual Talks artists.
Representative keynotes and panels from 2016 to date include speaking at the Female Funders breakfast series, Simon’s keynotes at both the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and Canadian Academy of Sport & Exercise Medicine conference, and a return to my alma mater (University of Guelph) as a speaker at the Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference.
There has also been a series of health and sport announcements that Simon has been privileged to lead as Master of Ceremony:
MC of landmark collaboration among the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, viaSport (strategic partner of ePACT) and Own the Podium http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/summer/generic/canadian-olympic-committee-live-stream-1.3434183;
MC of Canada’s first wellness rewards program launch (Carrot Rewards) – co-hosted by BC Ministry of Health and federal Ministry of Health; and
MC for BC Ministry of Health and Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF) announcement kicking off “Canadian Men’s Health” week. Simon is a founding champion of CMHF and the “Don’t Change Much” campaign creating awareness and advocacy for men’s health.
It has been a brilliant year of building new partnerships with the Canadian tech, health and finance communities. There has been a healthy dose of learning, challenges and progress with our evolving portfolio.
Reflecting on the challenges prompts me to close with a few insider tips on Communicating with Your Investors:
“Beez Reel” 1st Edition
Keeping It Real With the Occasional Glimpse “Behind The Scenes”
In February I returned to my alma mater, University of Guelph, for a special occasion. My business partner, Simon Whitfield, was being recognized with an honorary degree from the College of Business and Economics. Simon spent his sporting career mastering the art of triathlon transitions. He is currently navigating the transition from professional athletics to business, so for a business school to recognize his athletic achievement, broad reaching community contributions, and mentorship for the past two decades was poignant timing.
The day was crisp and sunny. Students were on reading week, so Creelman Plaza was eerily quiet – and a wonderful opportunity for reconnection and reflection.
One particular anecdote Simon shared during his convocation address heightened my self-reflection. He said, “Dad gave me permission to use nervousness as energy – to use that energy to drive me forward. Dad gave me permission to not be afraid, to not expect failure, but to expect success.”
Simon’s Dad, Geoffrey, was setting him up to create his own possibilities.
During my campus stroll, I chuckled while thinking about my most challenging times as an undergraduate student. Never did it cross my mind, ever, while struggling through Chem100 or immersed in discovery during Anatomy labs, that one leg of my professional journey would include partnering with a world-class athlete. Never did my U. of Goo crystal ball point to a decade of investing in the work of scientists who are developing chemotherapy treatments that may have saved the lives of my 11-year-old cousin, or my young aunt who passed away when I was a teen, had discoveries been made only 20 years earlier. But all that did transpire. And it’s been an amazing experience.
I could have never imagined that more than 25 years after embracing my love for science – including a stint as a science and math teacher in the early ‘90s – that we would still have to work so hard to engage young women and girls to pursue careers in STEM.
I took my first coding class at the University of Guelph. It was tough. I understood from that course that learning to code was an essential skill to have in my toolkit … but developing the skill further was not for me at that time. And that was A-OK. Today, I am proud to live in B.C., where it was recently announced that coding curriculum will be introduced at kindergarten through grade 12 – for every boy and every girl.
Throughout the day – during my walk, during the ceremony, after the day’s festivities – I found myself thinking about possibilities. I was thinking about the possibilities that were presented to me as a student and the possibilities as a young woman educated in science. I reflected on how we create our own possibilities. And it struck me: the formula is simple.
(Belief + Experience + Mentors + Education/Training) x RELATIONSHIPS = Anything is Possible.
I believe this.
Simon also shared with the new class of graduates that when returning home from races, his mother Linda never asked how he did, but rather, “What was your effort?” His parents were wonderful in fueling a mindset that placed progress and a commitment to excellence as measures of success. Learning from experience was the gold standard. Read More
I don’t want summer to end. Beyond the spectacular stretch of weather that started in the winter(!) and led into weeks of ‘Ontario-like’ beach days on the West Coast, this summer can best be described as…unforgettable. Not only have we had great weather, but we’ve also launched Relentless Pursuit Partners in a big way. It’s an exciting time for us and I can’t wait to see where it all leads!
My excitement could keep me fueled to write and share until the wee hours of the morning – but we’ve got work to do. So here’s a quick breakdown of some of our summer highlights:
The birth of the Atlas Core Limited Partnership.
Our vision to create a fund that will finance entrepreneurs relentlessly committed to health, fitness and wellbeing became reality end of June. How did we celebrate? Biked a couple mountains, paddled the ocean and took time to embrace the moment!
Let the Games begin!!!! Read More
Simon Whitfield on His Company’s First Major Investment and His Excitement About Vanhawks
As an active guy living on the West Coast of Canada, I am dying to brag about the amazing weather we’ve had here lately. It has been unseasonably warm and sunny in an already warm part of the country. But I also grew up in Ontario and I know how tired everyone there is of hearing about the t-shirt weather we get in winter – and the bike riding we do year round – and the cherry blossoms that have already launched into bloom… So I’m going to avoid it (wink).
That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that the recent spell of good weather has reminded me about my love for being a bike commuter. It has also re-enforced the excitement I have about my company, Relentless Pursuit Partners, investing in Vanhawks for our first investment. RPP was created to be an extension of my passion for an active lifestyle, a way to support and get involved with companies I feel reflect my interests in technology and health – especially companies that are a boatload of fun!
A Perfect Match
Sometimes getting involved with a new business can be daunting, like stepping into a new relationship. Other times, there is no doubt (when you know, you know – ya know?). After what could be called our first date, I knew Vanhawks was something for my business partner, Brenda, and I. Not simply because of its appeal as an investment, but because it’s exactly the type of company we believe is important. There’s a social conscience at the foundation of everything they’re doing. Halfway through our first meeting I was completely struck by the level of thought and innovation that the team puts into the product – along with the “biker’s brain” they all seem to have. They look at things as people who will actually use their own products.
Bikes have been a major part of my life for so long that I know when ideas around them are legit. And Vanhawks nailed it. It’s as though they’d walked inside my brain and picked out everything I want in a dynamic commuter bike, plus thought of additions – good additions – I never would have considered.
Why I’m Excited
The biggest reason Vanhawk’s first bike, the Valour, is so exciting to me is because it integrates technology in a way that won’t interfere with the experience of commuting. The road detection technology that will tell me what routes are clear before I make a turn is like having a coach in my ear helping me make a decision. The pothole detection just happens and then goes onto the app, which is great because I’m not going to stop to tweet about a hole in the road (I may after the ride, but not during). And the built-in signals? I had that idea when I was a kid! Seriously. I may have to look into copyright on that! What’s the statute of limitation on childhood notions?
But really, I love bikes and adventuring and exploring. Whether it’s road trips in to go paddle boarding on the north of Vancouver Island or just cruising around Victoria, tools are important. The racing bikes from my triathlon days are awesome, but not something I can comfortably cruise down to the coffee shop on. The Valour is though. It’s nice blend of a road bike and a commuter, plus it has all the tech that I love. And I’m truly excited about everything the bike community stands to gain from Vanhawks.
Lastly, for those of you who don’t live on the West Coast and were kind of annoyed with me for bragging about the great weather we’ve been having, I apologize. For what it’s worth, in the time I’ve been writing this, the sun has slipped behind some pretty dark clouds and it’s now bucketing down with rain. It’s winter again here – and could stay this way for weeks. But I’m still riding my bike. Some things never change.