For this edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I had the opportunity to interview Kamal Dhanoa, Founder and CEO of Adsaki, a tech startup in Ottawa. I recently featured her crowd-funding campaign on the blog, which is still going on for those interested in providing support.
Adsaki is building an incredibly smart and innovative app that will change the way marketing professionals and business owners source advertising opportunities around the world.
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance and what did you learn?
Traveling along the entrepreneurship path for the first time, and as an early stage startup, there is a steep learning curve. It’s both challenging and incredibly rewarding. You learn it all, hands on – from legal, business planning, pitch development and presenting, funding/finance, etc.
What I’ve learned is, there is no single resource that you will find (books, online resources, coaching, etc.) that will adequately prepare you for your own unique startup path and footprint. It is great to read as much as possible, to inform yourself and to widen context; but, in the end you must pick and choose the path that works for your specific reality, business and future goals. Learn to trust yourself, and also be honest – know where your strongest abilities are, and which are your weakest – leverage accordingly and don’t be afraid to seek assistance. It takes a village to raise a start-up so I am truly grateful for all the assistance I’ve received thus far.
From the finance perspective, my current difficulty is self-funding. When you’re an early stage startup, funding is very difficult to acquire. In addition, as I have a family (including three children), and am currently on leave without pay to allow me to focus on my startup, I face my own unique set of funding challenges; however, this isn’t a deterrent, it’s just another challenge that isn’t impossible.
I’m currently running a crowdfunding campaign to help offset the cost of accessing a grant (MITACS) that will help me source a university led technical resource to assist with software development.
For me, challenges are another outlet for creativity. When you believe in your product and the prospective users that would like to purchase your product (I’ve had to tell a few that it isn’t ready yet), you push through any challenge, and it’s exciting. Passion never becomes “work”.
Paolina: What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
Advice regarding how to produce and frame financial projections for the purpose of presenting a pitch deck would have been incredibly helpful as I don’t have an accounting or finance background.
It is one of the key elements of any overall business model, It doesn’t just help you to better understand your business and ensure your pricing model is sustainable, when it comes time pitching to a panel, whether for a contest or to raise money, it is a requirement.
Paolina: What topics would you want to learn more about when it comes to finance and your business and why?
It would be great to learn more about the different funding options that are available (Grants, loans, Angel Investors, Venture Capital) – what the pros and cons are of each, and based on the type of business you’re in and the phase of your venture, which ones may work best.
There is a lot of information available; however, it’s very difficult to decipher which “pathway” would work best for you, especially early on. Now that I’ve acquired some more experience and learning, I have gathered a better understanding; however, there is always more to learn.
Because I’ve gathered a better understanding, I would like to share some support programs that I recently discovered that have been helpful:
Concierge – Your Guide to Innovation: A Government of Canada resource that offers free customized advice when it comes to sourcing funding and support programs for small and medium sized businesses. I Wish I had discovered them earlier as they literally do the legwork for you based on your type and phase of venture.
Algonquin College Applied Research and Innovation Program: This program helps start-ups (selected via an approval process) with aspects of their design and development requirements by leveraging students who are looking to gain industry experience. Again, this has been a great discovery and is incredibly valuable to startups where resources are scarce.
Other programs that I will be considering for the next phase of my startup:
MITACS: A not-for-profit national organization that partners industry with academia. They support ventures by matching your funds by 50% to support research and development projects via the placement of highly qualified grad students and supervising professors.
Lead to Win (affiliate of Carleton University’s TIM (Technology Innovation Management) program: This is an Incubator/Accelerator that assists high-growth potential ventures of varying size.