Startup Resilience Navigating Relationships for Early-Stage Founders

Episode 47 Startup Resilience

Growth Hackers determined that the greatest indicator of startup success is resilience:

“You might feel that things are moving slow in your company – that is natural. You may make decisions, that, in retrospect may lead to undesired consequences, or perceived setbacks in your goal to reach critical milestones. If you are an entrepreneur building a brand new startup, you probably have trouble seeing any light at the end of the tunnel from time to time.”

It’s how far startup success is defined by how far an entrepreneur is willing to go and wait to see its startup succeed.

One often overlooked reality about startups is that launching and sustaining one is not as straightforward as successful entrepreneurs might lead you to believe. Even with the current resources available to aid the growth and development of startups, persistent challenges remain. As a budding startup entrepreneur, be prepared to navigate numerous obstacles and endure difficulties.

Startups face many challenges in their journey to scale.  An entrepreneur’s ability to effectively manage these issues as they surface is a sign of your character as you grow.

Many of these challenges are dependent on the relationships you create and cultivate along the way. What stories never get told are the failures that transpire because of these relationships. They could come from opportunistic clients unwilling to pay for services rendered, or from toxic employees or cofounders. They could come from once-enthusiastic partners willing to drive more value through their own relationships, but ultimately default on this promise. For many founders, these failures are hard lessons they take to the new set of relationships they encounter.

  • Developing the right team
  • Finding the right partners and vendors
  • Selecting the right VC
  • Personally as a CEO, determining your limitations and making the decisions you think are right for the company, in those moments

We were excited to host Devin Ramphal, Sector Manager for Innovation and Technology at the City of Brampton’s Economic Development Office and formerly CEO/Cofounder of Clean AIR which was acquired in 2023 and Jennifer Cameron, Co-founder and CEO of INVRS and formerly the founder of hyperWALLET, which was acquired by PayPal in 2018 for $400 million USD.

Both had important stories as founders who have navigated relationships in their startup journeys and provided some great insight from their own experiences to help founders build resilience.

Transcript

Hessie Jones

Hi everyone we’re talking navigating relationships for early stage founders and I read this article a few days ago on growth hackers that determined that the greatest indicator of startup success is resilience. They say you might feel that things are moving slowly in your company and that’s totally natural. You actually may make decisions that, in retrospect, may actually lead to some undesired consequences or perceived setbacks in the goals that you’re trying to reach. If you are an entrepreneur that is building a brand new startup, you probably have trouble seeing any light at the end of the tunnel. From time to time. So it’s how far startup success is defined by how far an entrepreneur is actually willing to go and wait to see its startup succeed. Hi everyone. My name is Jesse Jones and I’m and welcome to Tech Uncensored one often overlooked reality about startups is is that launching and sustaining a startup is not as straightforward as any successful entrepreneur might lead you to believe. Even with all the current resources that are available. Through accelerators like altitude or through investor funding. There are persistent challenges that that always remain. And as a budding startup entrepreneur, you have to be prepared to navigate a lot of those obstacles and endure a lot of those difficulties. Many startups face challenges in their journey to actually scale and your ability to actually manage a lot of these. Issues as they surface is a sign of your character as you actually grow and develop as an entrepreneur and as a CEO. Lot of these challenges are mainly dependent on the relationships you cultivate and you create along the way and what stories I find that never get told are that failures that transpire. Because of these relationships, they could. The from opportunistic clients who are unwilling to pay for their services rendered or you may find that once you’re developing your team, there will be that one toxic co-founder or employee that you end up hiring there. They they could be partners. Or people in your network who are willing to drive enormous value through their own networks to help you succeed. But they ultimately default on their promise. So for many found. These failures are hard lessons they take to a new set of relationships that they encounter, whether or not they develop a new team, whether or not they find the right partners or vendors, and even when they select the VC. But even you personally, as a CEO. It’s determining your limitations and making the right decisions that you think are right for the company in that moment. So today, I’m excited to welcome a few people who are going to talk about this topic with me. Devin Ramphal, who is the sector manager for Innovation and technology at the City of Brampton’s Economic Development Office and former CEO and Co founder of Clean Air. Which was acquired last year, 2023. I’m also pleased to welcome Jennifer Cameron, who is the Co founder and CEO of Inverse and formerly the founder of Hyper Wallet, which was acquired by PayPal in 2018 for 400 million. Both have some really important stories as founders who have navigated relationships in their startup journeys, and they’re going to provide some amazing insights from their own experience to help founders build resilience. So welcome, Devin and Jennifer.

Jennifer Cameron

Thank you, Hessie.

 

Hessie Jones

OK, so let’s start from the beginning when for both of you and I’ll start with Devin, tell us, tell me about your early startup experience. You developed this amazing idea. You want to see it grow. What made you become an entrepreneur?

 

Devin Ramphal

Yeah. Good question, Hessie. Thank you. I think in the beginning, the first real entrepreneurial journey I had was after university, right? So it was actually a totally different company. It was in clean air. dot AI was a. Company called DRAM. Innovations where we invented a fuel nozzle that doesn’t drip when you pump gas at the gas station, so you know you pump gas. And now you take your nozzle out. It drips all over the floor. That was the first venture that was featured on the CBC’s Dragons den. That was a special energy innovation episode. Our technology actually came second place across the entire country for sustainable innovation. Unfortunately, 2nd place didn’t get anything from Dragon so we but we got a lot of publicity and within a month our company was like like hurled into this media frenzy and people were emailing us from all over the world. We had, you know, six weeks to put a business together and A and a website together and manage all of these inquiries which was really. Cool. So that was the first venture. We took that pretty far. We have a patent for it. We have we received an offer to purchase the technology a few years ago from one of the largest OEM’s in the market. So we didn’t take the offer at the time. We didn’t feel the offer reflected the value, but that was that was venture #1. And then we kind of morphed into venture #2, which was clean air dot AI, but really to answer your question why it started off, it sounds kind of cliche to say, but it sounded it. It started off almost like altruistic. Like we wanted to help make the world a better place, right, with like. With, you know, stopping these unnecessary drops and saving gasoline when you look at it on a grand scale, it was 300 million liters of fuel every year around the world that was being wasted. But really at the crux of it. A feeling entrepreneurship. It’s just it’s it’s internal and it’s a drive to to do something bigger and kind of leave a legacy, right? Something that will last, you know, beyond beyond you as a person. Right. Like when when I’m gone from this planet, you know what’s what’s what’s remaining? I think for me, that’s that’s really what it is. It’s just leaving something behind. So yeah, I don’t know. That’s that’s why it’s morph. I don’t think it’s altruistic anymore by any means, but that’s kind of how we started being fresh out of school and out of university.

 

Hessie Jones

So thanks. Thanks, Devin. Jennifer, what was your catalyst?


Jennifer Cameron

I don’t think my catalyst, like Devin, said there is an altruistic element to it. When I look at both Hyper Wallet and inverse, I know that I have an underlying passion and belief. And prosperity with hyperwallet making. The ability for people to transact easier was a motivator and to to to stimulate. Business growth was a motivator, and with INVRS, there’s a desire to see sort of wealth unleashed. I mean, if people learn how to invest properly from an early age, that has tremendous consequences of how you know, like a generation of people who grow up being far richer than anyone ever. Else has been, so there is an an altruistic element absolutely for sure, and as far as the legacy absolutely, I’m definitely motivated by successful outcomes and. You know making value, but when my true motivator, the thing that really gets me going is. I really like to be creative. I really like to see an idea come to fruition and just as importantly for people to enjoy it and like it so. Sometimes I say. I’m an artist. This is when I’m being a little bit silly, but sometimes I say I’m an artist and entrepreneurship is my canvas, but I know it’s a little bit silly, but that is sort of how I feel very passionate about creation.

 

Hessie Jones

Yeah, yeah. You’re the type of people that live. That draw outside of the boxes, right, you you would like to think out-of-the-box. You don’t want to be constrained, correct?

 

Devin Ramphal

Jen gave me a thought as. Well, I think. That those are really, really good words, Jen. For what? What? That made me think about is one word which is building right. Like, for me, it’s what gets me excited, is building something. Right? So. And, you know, in Brampton, we’re building this Brampton Innovation district. And in the tech startup, you’re building a cool technology and and and new market need for it. So I think really. To add to what I said before, the crux of it for me is building something.

 

Hessie Jones

So so, Devin, you started your company with your friends and this is a commitment that you all decided this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to be here for a while. So now your friends become your business partners and your Co founders. What was that transition like? For you.

 

Devin Ramphal

It was. It was a long transition. So we actually stayed in business for almost a decade and give or take, you know, so some people came and some people left, and then they came back. So but for the more or less it was about a decade of of, of, of, of Friendship and business together. The transition was, was it. It was easy. In the beginning and it got harder as the business grew and got more serious and especially when you bring in other stakeholders, investors, customers, it could be VC’s. It could be, you know, family and friends or angels, it doesn’t matter. But when when you had others. With expectations and that’s when. I would say friction started could build with your friends, right? So that’s when that’s when things really started to transition and started to change. But in in the beginning, when you’re still developing your product you you know you don’t have many customers yet. You don’t have many investors you know on your board of directors. It’s just your group of friends and maybe some family members. It’s I don’t want to say it’s a funny games, but it’s a lot. It’s a lot smoother, right? But again, these external stakeholders when they come in, things get a lot more serious and that’s when friction would start to.

Hessie Jones

So we’ll get into the external stakeholders then in the future question. But Jen, I wanted to to ask your experience. You raised, you raised money in two economically difficult time periods. So in the early 2000s with Hyper Wallet and now in 2020. We were, we were seeing high interest rates. What was similar and? What was different between the two and what happened in the the early odds that help you navigate what’s happening today?

 

Jennifer Cameron

Right. So. I guess you could say that we had the misfortune of starting hyperwallet justasthe.com bust was starting. I remember BC saying to us when we were at fundraising, he said there was a cold wind blowing up from San Francisco and then, you know, it really did hit. So I mean that was, you know that was like 2 decades ago, but it was. So, Devin, you probably don’t have experience with it, but it was not good. And then when we started. Inverse, we were just starting to do the fundraising and then inflation hit and interest rates hit and the stock market was crashing. And it’s, you know, if you’re talking about. And like an investment research platform and in the investing environments, not so good. You know, people aren’t as interested because they’re losing money, so. On the Surface 2. Scenarios of bad timing. However, I don’t hold to that notion of bad timing. It may look like bad timing on the surface, but time passes and then that bad timing turns out to be good timing. So it’s a bit of a wait and see. I will say that I haven’t gotten serious about fundraising for inverse because of what’s happened in the marketplace. We went back to bootstrapping and I’m very, very focused on revenue. Laying the ground for fundraising but not being active at it at this stage. So I guess what’s different is back in the couple of days like we just. Kind of kept. We, you know, we knocked maybe for longer than we should have because it just was not the the right time. And this time, at least I have the experience of going through a bad. Time to raise money. Realizing that it can be negotiated and just keeping my focus more on the business rather than at knocking on doors.

 

Hessie Jones

So let me ask when you were raising with Hyper Wallet to talk to me about the dynamics between you and the Co founders in your company, what was what was that like like would you consider best friends, I guess because you started the company together that you had worked in previous companies. Together, what was your relationship like with? Your Co founders.

 

Jennifer Cameron

Well, I very much admired my co-founder. I thought that she was brilliant and I still do. I still admire her. I still think she’s brilliant. I think we went through a big honeymoon phase at the beginning. There was so much enthusiasm about what we were doing and we did raise some some early financing, roughly about half, $1,000,000 before, you know things got too too bad. So there’s all this energy that we’re pouring into it and. And then sort of, you know, reality started to hit as money started to dwindle out of the bank account and, you know, fundraising was becoming increasingly different. Difficult and we. Didn’t have. Proper business model at the time, like a way to make money.

 

Hessie Jones

So let me turn to Devin. Because as you grow your company and you realize that, OK. These are my business partners and my friends, but at the same time, now that we’re growing up, we have to actually start thinking about how we protect the business and how do we protect our individual interest in the company. What does that? Look like when when you get to that stage.

 

Devin Ramphal

Takes a lot of foresight, right, and I guess. Being so fresh like we’re we’re a first-time entrepreneurs, we didn’t really have companies before. Some of us had some professional experience in industry, but so the start-upup start a game as you know is a totally different game going through it a second time. I would do things very, very differently and I think Jen, Jen had a really good point where times. Age, right? And as an entrepreneur and when you’re working, you know, with your Co-founders and you’re raising this money, it’s it’s important to recognize the time frame that you’re in. And think to think about how that time frame could change in the future. For example, we raised money with with the venture capital firm in 2021, right. And at the time, you know, funding was fairly high, interest rates were low. It was relatively easy to raise funds. Just 12 months later. The tide starts to change, right? Like, as Jen said, like a cold wind was blowing from from California. So. The reins of the VC started to tighten up and we started to get squeezed a bit. And whereas in right in a regular time frame, VC would have said, yeah, we’ll give, we’ll extend your convertible note by, you know, X amount of months. That didn’t necessarily happen with us. It was really like, hey, you know, you got to. You gotta step it up. And by the way, we’re going to do X&Y to your company and add them. The other conditions and into your notes. So there’s I think having the foresight of of knowing what what time frame you’re in and how things could get worse or how things could get better is really important for an entrepreneur to know. And so much of the time as entrepreneurs, we’re just happy to raise money. Someone’s going to write us a check. Oh my God. Like, yeah, I’ll, I’ll take that. But if you don’t, if you have a good product and good business, someone will come and give you money. You don’t have to take this check today, right? And. I think that. Part is really. Important for us with with my Co founders and I we we we got super excited with the first check and then. We were even. More excited with the second check, right and. And ultimately, you know, you founders could end up digging themselves a hole for their startup company, right? If if, if you if you get too excited and carried away with being in that moment with with with that you know that funding, does that answer the question?

 

Hessie Jones

It it does, it does. So I wanna. I wanna actually talk about the relationship with your investors because you you have made a point of saying that, you know, people go with the money. Is, but that shouldn’t always be the case, because when people when companies go into relationships with investors like Sorry, financial relationship with investors, it’s really a marriage that’s going to last the length of the time that you know the the where the money keeps flowing so. For for you, maybe I’ll start with with, with Jennifer. What was it like when you were when you were raising? When you’re raising money? What kind of investors did you go after in the beginning?

 

Jennifer Cameron

I guess you’re talking about hyperbolic phase. When we were raising them, because we have.

 

Hessie Jones

Yes. Yeah. Or or and and. And yeah, and how did that change your criteria in for inverse too?

 

Jennifer Cameron

I think the the environment was different than it is now, so I don’t know if what I have to share is going to be entirely relevant for. For new investors for excuse me for new founders. It was a lot less structured than it is now. There weren’t accelerators, incubators, and that sort of thing. And all of the sort of was well, wisdom best practices? Maybe it’s the better word that have grown up around. He raised around testing and failing fast and all these sorts of things that just wasn’t there. So yeah, so I guess, I guess I just wanna, I just want. To be clear about that. I still I. I guess my strategy at this stage going forward is to. I want to when I start speaking with investors, I want to. I want to have as much power as I can and I believe that will come from having a strong company and strength comes from having product market fit which is. Just a, you know, 50 Cent way of saying there are people willing to pay for what you have so. That’s. I’m just I’m. I’m just more focused on business rather than fundraising at this stage for now for the moment.

 

Hessie Jones

But but you you also talked about coming from a position of strength. So I’m going to ask Devin, this is that so when you look for investors? What? What would you look for differently than you did in the beginning? Like what? What are the things that resonated with you?

 

Devin Ramphal

Yeah, yeah. For the company that we were building. So we were in the clean air dot AI was in the HVAC air filtration space. We had an an HVAC filter that produced hypocras air quality, but also reduce the energy consumption in the building. And we had sensors building to it. So you can know exactly when to change your filter and you can gather intelligence on on the air quality. The air quality in the building. So looking for an investor, what was important for us was someone that was connected in that space. It was that we weren’t just looking for and just for money, you know, we we were looking for someone that could make those strategic connections with customers. So the industry was property technology, our prop tech for short. We were looking for Proptech specific. And we found some, right. We found some we we started off the journey by joining a prop tech accelerator and this accelerator actually put some funds into the company. So that was really helpful. And through that prop tech accelerator, we actually and that was like our first round and then through this prop tech accelerator we actually met the more of like a larger. Prop Tech VC, who ended up putting some funds. In their round. So we were when we were identifying potential funders, I think we did a fairly a fairly good job like we were very. Tensional, we did have some funding that was offered to us from angels, but we again wanted to be very careful of like our CAP table. We’re trying to keep it as clean as possible, so we didn’t end up going with the funding from from, from the Angels. We stuck with the VC’s. But you also need the other part of this is you need to be careful. The strings that come with the funding right, we were offered funding from a few other sources and some of those other sources we didn’t want to, we didn’t want to go and attach yourself to those strings, right. You know, one of them would have made us relocate our company entirely. Which you know wasn’t. Uh, wasn’t really possible for us. And that’s just an example of some of the strings. That can come with the money.

 

Hessie Jones

Is there like from both your perspectives, knowing what you’ve lived through, especially with investor relationships from your perspective, was is there an? Inordinate amount of power imbalance when it comes to this, like Jen did you experience a power imbalance when when you, when you eventually got funding from from the investor side like how much that the kind of pressure that they would put on you as a company and a founder?

 

Jennifer Cameron

Well, I mean, as it turns out that first money that we raised was. Well, no, it it wasn’t too onerous or anything like that. It was just the person who happened to invest. He was. Just I guess. Bit of a. Different sort of guy. And no, it wasn’t. It wasn’t like your typical BC. I mean, he was a professional investor, but it was just different. It was just different time, right than it is now.

 

Hessie Jones

Why is that? Why? Like maybe, maybe. Devin, you can. You can answer that like, it just seems to be maybe the early 2000s were a different time when technology was starting to peak and then everything was like, Oh my God, I got to get into all this New stuff and now like there is I think because there there’s a reticence in in what’s happening in the market that investors too have put more pressure on founders to meet specific milestones and to the point that they’re they’re hovering, right, I mean what? Devin, what do you think?

 

Devin Ramphal

Yeah. Yeah. I think for me, it really depends on the, the the type of the investor and the type of the BC, right. So I’ve seen the smaller the investor, I I found that you have. More and more. Pressure, right? If you have a much bigger institutional investor, you have a little bit more flexibility and the founders have typically. Like a little bit more saying the company right, the smaller VCs, maybe they’re not as well known, they tend to exercise their strength and the power over over the founders and try to. A lot of them. It’s it’s it’s, it’s kind of weird because they some of them get the get the inclination that they could. Run the company better than the. Founders. But we’re seeing in the market that that’s not actually the case. So like a lot of these VC’s that take over a tech company and try to run it, they end up running it downwards instead of upwards, right? So it’s. And I I’m seeing that’s more common with the smaller, lesser known VC’s rather than the bigger VC’s. If, if I could give advice to a startup, I would say try to go to a bigger more well known VC and raise funds there. I think that would be a better experience than a smaller V. And that’s just. My personal opinion.

 

Hessie Jones

So let me let me pivot a little bit and and talk about a different type of relationship. So these are partners and suppliers. And so a lot of. Startups. They begin by not by trying to do everything themselves right, so they may not necessarily seek out potential partners or vendors early at the early stages where they could actually get some competitive advantage. So I’ll ask Jennifer this because first of all, in either through hyperwallet or or through inverse, do you rely on certain partnerships or or suppliers? And if if based on those two experiences? What are the things that you that you look for in defining a good partner or vendor relationship?

 

Jennifer Cameron

It’s certainly more relevant to talk about suppliers with respect to Invrs. So when we were creating inverse or sort we are, it’s still active creation, but. When we were first. And the idea was first there we needed data suppliers, but we weren’t sure what our business model was going to be and there was but a disconnect between how the supplier would price out their their data. Versus how we were going to be consuming it. And then, you know, earning money from it down the road so. But we needed that data in order to start building, and there are other. Tools and that sort of thing. So that was tricky. That was a tricky negotiation to try and. Create a contract that was flexible enough to support. You know where we thought we were going to go, but like I said, it was just where we think we’re going to go, so contracts, OK, it’s tolerable knowing what I know now, I would probably want to tweak it. They are receptive and good partners. And we have been able to make. Some changes to, like we reinterpreted what a customer was, which was, you know. Very good. My favorite and help. Us having to start paying additional money so so that was great. I guess what I would say the the piece of advice I would give to nascent entrepreneurs is to really read those contracts carefully. It’s so difficult because they can be so dry and they. They just. But if you can try and put yourself into different frames of mind under different scenarios, you may. It may be it may help to enlighten. What you’re signing on to and then give you some latitude to negotiate.

 

Hessie Jones

OK.

 

Jennifer Cameron

Things that would be more in your favor. But I think.

 

Hessie Jones

Yeah, go ahead Jen.

 

Jennifer Cameron

I think working with contracts and that sort of thing, I definitely think it’s something you get better at you. You need to have experience doing it and practice doing it.

 

Hessie Jones

I think so. The other thing about contracts is that I guess when you’re when like very, very early on, people don’t put as much importance in contracts because they think that hey, my friends doing something over here, let’s collaborate and then they failed to even put a good contract together to to make each other accountable for the things that they said that they would do, right. So I’m going to turn to to Devin because like. Choosing the right partner is going to be important, especially in the beginning when let’s say. You need to establish a certain level of trust, especially when you’re bootstrapping, and you don’t. You can’t necessarily afford to pay the supplier for the things that they that they are are providing you. So tell me what like what these negotiations or agreements? Like to to make sure that there’s some mutually beneficial thing that happens between the the both of you without one actually having a a stronger upper hand than the other.

 

Devin Ramphal

Yeah, yeah, no, it’s a good question. I would almost come back a little bit to what Jen was saying earlier and kind of watching how the winds are blowing, right and. A lot of the time when the start up signs a contract with someone, they’re very excited about it, right? And it’s it’s in a happy time and you know, hey, we have a new partner on board. All we got our first supplier locked in, there’s a lot of excitement. And UM and startups can. Caught in that right and not realizing that there’s going to be dozens of contracts down the road and more suppliers, right, that that you can secure. But I think it’s important to say, you know like from like different viewpoints like which ends at how can this go South? How can this relationship go South? How can this partnership go South? How can this supplier go South, right and. One of the key things that we learned. Is especially specifically to suppliers, multiple sources of supply always right. Never rely on a single source of supply. So we were a hardware company and we had to visit by these physical filters that we were selling to customers and. And it would have derisked our company greatly had we had a second source of supply, right. But so exclusivity is one thing to look for in these contracts, payment terms, right, net 30, net 60, net 90, ideally from a startup perspective, you want to push out your payment term as long as you can. The the supplier would want to squeeze it down as much as you can. Right. So working with that supplier to find that ballot. UM, keep an eye out for how the contract could be changed, right? You don’t want someone to make a unilateral change. These change. Like, if there’s a suggested change to the contract, you’d want it to be a mutual change. So those are a few of the things I’ve seen with supplier relationships. But coming back to partnerships in general. Hey guys. Can you repeat that part of the question? Has the partnership part?

 

Hessie Jones

Yeah, OK. So what did I say here? So what would it? What would the negotiation agreement look like so that there is equal benefit to both of you without one having the upper hand?

 

Devin Ramphal

Yeah, yeah, I would. I think there’s creative ways to do this with partnerships, right. One thing I would advise against is going in, going rushing into like any sort of joint venture or a 5050 partnership, 5050 partnerships, they, they there’s a lot of challenges with them, a lot of the time. They don’t work out as. Well, and essentially what happens with these 5050 partnerships is you can end up in a deadlock right between shareholders. Your board of directors, all of that. So avoid fifty 50s and try to find other ways that you can make that partnership equally even you don’t necessarily have to give equity for partnership. But if you’re in that situation. Where you know you found. We found a strategic partner that’s willing to put some money in and or give you X for a certain piece of equity. Don’t give a ton of your company away. Try try to hold as much as you can and try to find another way. Think from your partner. This potential partner shoes. What do they want, right? What’s in it for me with them? Right and. And try to see if you can give them something else other than equity or or control in your company. Keep your company the operations, the board as much internally as you can. I’ve been trying not to give. Too much of that out.

 

Hessie Jones

OK, perfect. So let’s go to the last topic where we’re going to talk to you and talk about you as the CEO and and what makes you tick. So Jennifer, as a two time founder, what do you think has kept you going despite the hurdles that you’ve experienced? And what do you think? What do you see in yourself that may not have been evident at the time of, let’s say, your first company?

 

Jennifer Cameron

So what keeps me going? I guess a desire to see my vision manifest. To put it simply. And what do I see in myself that I? Maybe didn’t have before. Well, I was pretty wet around the ears when. I co-founded Hyper wallets so you know I’ve added a lot of experience to that. One of the things that I heard back in the day was no credibility. So I did a lot of work to close that credibility gap again, like. Nobody’s going to say that to me again. And then there’s a lot of soft skills. I mean, business is about. You know. Improving your skills around empathetic listening. Trying to find. Win win scenarios. I mean, I just there’s a lot I would say that I’ve added since over the 20 years.

 

Hessie Jones

So this is something that you said you said being a leader is tough. You have to give courage when you feel none. I don’t find any of that easy. You have to be curious and you have to have faith in yourself. But I do know I’m improving as a leader. I know I’m better than I was when I started paper wallet. I can evaluate my decisions objectively. So what do you think? How you changed as a leader over time?

 

Jennifer Cameron

So that quote. That’s still true from where I sit right now, it is tough to be a leader. You do have to show you do have to encourage other people. You have to be curious asking those questions. It’s really a skill of art. Rather than just, you know, maybe jumping to a conclusion.

 

Hessie Jones

Is there a now? Would you say that you did anything differently and and back then I don’t even know if there is a thing called mental health back in the but now it like it seems to be a way for a lot of founders to actually find strength if they have the time to meditate.

If they have time to take care of themselves, like their mental health or their physical health is, that is that something that has changed with you as well?

 

Jennifer Cameron

I you know, in a way, I think life has even gotten more difficult than it was. I mean, now I have a family I have any and, you know, a parent is dying. It’s really gotten more difficult. And the demands on my mental health have grown. So yeah, I meditate. I do a lot of a lot of internal work. I really try to keep my I find if I focus on what I don’t want, it’s not helpful at all. I have to keep, you know, quote UN quote eyes on the prize. The vision of where I want it to get to and how that’s going to feel. So you have to, yeah, you have to be intentional about your emotional state, absolutely.

Hessie Jones

Thank you. So, Devin, let’s turn in to to turn to you about the topic of asking for help, because you, you, you are all for it. I know, I know you you have relied on mentors to help you while you were dealing with some some. Issues with with your company. Tell me about the importance of mentorship and and seeking advice and how what that has meant to you during that time.

 

Devin Ramphal

Yeah, it’s a. It’s a good question. I think you know, as the co-founder, CEO of a company, it’s especially the CEO role like it’s very lonely at the top, right. There’s not a lot of people that you can turn to, especially around you like it in your executive circle, in your coping circle and your director circle. You can’t necessarily turn and speak to these people openly about about some of the issues that are the companies having, or even you’re having personally. So very lonely at the top as the CEO, but having external advisors was one of the most powerful things for for us at clean air and all through my entrepreneurial journey. I I I had an EIR multiple IR like one at at altitude accelerator. I had one all the way in Guelph. I had another one that was a professor at at Rotman where I would. And I would routinely and especially as you know, we’re going through the acquisition phases as we’re raising funds as we’re negotiating with the suppliers and building this partner relationship. I would be on on the phone with these advisors and really just using these advisors as sounding importance, right. That’s all it really is. It’s you’re you’re asking some questions and you’re getting some feedback. And as the CEO, it’s your job to take that feedback and just you make the decision on it whether you want to take it or not, take it or take action on it or do the the total opposite. It’s entirely up to you. But as as long as you’re gathering as many of these qualified opinions as you can. And and then I find that you’re essentially collecting this data, and that allows you to navigate a little bit better as as the CEO. So advisors very critical, multiple advisors, very critical because there’s times when my advisors were saying the total opposite, right and that would help me calibrate in terms of the next steps. So yeah, I would highly recommend having multiple diverse advisors for for anybody growing your company.

 

Hessie Jones

OK so I have one more question to to ask both of you as you look. Yeah, and you, let’s say, reconcile your vision of entrepreneurship based on what’s real and based on what you envision, what was the most telling lesson for you, Jennifer, like regrets, anything that you would do differently? What do you think?

 

Jennifer Cameron

I think. Having faith. Is really important. Because when it’s dark and leak, which it certainly will be from time to time. Have to have faith and I think that goes circles back to what you started this podcast with resilience and how much you’re going to hang on. To make your vision a reality. Because it’s not about, it’s not about the honeymoon stage. It’s not about, you know. When things are great, the the the. When the rubber hits the road is when things are really dark. And that’s what you must get through.

 

Hessie Jones

Thank you. That’s powerful. Devin, what do you think?

 

Devin Ramphal

Yeah, regrets. I don’t. I don’t have any regrets. I would do it all over again if I could. The amount of learning that came out of it was unbelievable, right? It was just like the the things that we were put through as a company, the challenges we faced, I can’t put a value on that education that it that, that it taught me. Would I do things differently 100%? But but that doesn’t mean I regret it, right? Just looking back, there’s a million mistakes that we’ve made, but that’s, that’s again how we learn, right? That’s how we grow. So I wouldn’t go back and change anything. It is, it is what it is. But for the next time I know way, way better, I won’t make the same mistakes twice, right. So definitely happy. Happy with the experience of going through it and. And no regrets.

 

Hessie Jones

Thank you. So I think that’s going to be our last word and and that’s all we have time for today and I thank both Jennifer and Devin for lending the wisdom to this important. Topic and sharing your journeys about a topic that not many people talk about. So thank you again for coming. If you and our audience have any topics that you do want us to cover, please drop us the line at communications@altitudeaccelerator.ca in the meantime. Have fun and stay safe.

Host Information
Hessie Jones

Hessie Jones is an Author, Strategist, Investor and Data Privacy Practitioner, advocating for human-centred AI, education and the ethical distribution of AI in this era of transformation. 

She currently serves as the Innovations Manager at Altitude Accelerator. She provides the necessary support for Altitude Accelerator’s programs including Incubator and Investor Readiness. She will be the liaison among key stakeholders to provide operational support and ultimately drive founder success. 

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