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Vanhawks, Creators of the Bike of the Future

March 16, 2015 at 3:51 pm

[This is the second part in a series of profiles on Canadian co-founders making waves in the States. Here's part one.] 

Vanhawks is a rare beast: at just one year of age, it’s been accelerated by FounderFuel, is in the current Y Combinator batch, and has recently raised 1.6 million dollars.

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The startup’s evolution began with a carbon fibre hockey stick. Sohaib Zahid, co-founder and Chief Designer at Vanhawks, was in sports medicine when he designed the tech that mimics the human bone: virtually weightless yet difficult to break. It was after having developed the hockey stick that they asked themselves what could be done next. They decided to disrupt the biking industry, which they felt had been sitting in the past. From there they created the software layer to build the world’s first connected carbon fibre bicycle.

Their first bike, to be shipped this Spring, is called Valour. Valour is a connected bike for the urban commuter. It’s long list of features include app-connectedness, turn by turn navigation, blind spot navigation and ride tracking (recording metrics such as speed, distance, calories and time). Perhaps most noteworthy is the interconnected commuter network. In cases of theft, the Valour community is notified to look out for your bike. Furthermore, the more often you ride, the better informed others will be of road conditions in your area. It’s been speculated that the commuter information – rather than the hardware – will end up being the real product. While the team does see the powerful nature of this info, whether or not this is the real value of Vanhawks is, in their opinion, yet to be determined.

After building up a team of fifteen, setting up shop in downtown Toronto, and raising 8x their goal through a Kickstarter campaign (the most successful in Canada), the startup applied to Y-Combinator. Ali Zahid, co-founder and COO of Vanhawks, describes Y-Combinator and FounderFuel as representative of two entirely different niches. Ali credits a lot of Vanhawks’ success to FounderFuel, saying that they “would be nothing and nowhere without FF.” The team had moved from Ontario into the same apartment in Montreal to eat, sleep and breathe Vanhawks. FF, for Ali, was a family. While it teaches the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, YC has more of a hand’s off focus on constant growth. Further, YC’s vast network has been invaluable to Vanhawks. Ultimately, Ali describes Vanhawks in Montreal as feeling like a big fish in a small pond. In San Francisco, on the other hand, they’re just getting started in a huge body of water. 

When asked about the difference in living and working in San Francisco versus downtown Toronto, Ali describes two very distinct lifestyles. Tech employees in the valley work 16-18 hours per day; they exercise, eat every meal and do their laundry at work. On the other hand, Torontonians in tech find more of a work/life balance. Ali maintains that Toronto has a “secret sauce that these guys just don’t have.” While they wish to maintain very close ties in SF, they don’t plan on leaving TO any time soon.

One ingredient in the Vanhawks secret sauce is company culture. In looking to create something that outlives them, the team wants never to stray from their core values. As they evolve – bringing in more personalities and more ideas – they place importance on always remembering the consumer. The community of people seem to be what makes up Vanhawks, exemplified in the fact that two of the four co-founders are brothers. This is further exemplified in the friendship that runs throughout the four person co-founding team. The remaining two co-founders are Niv Yahel, CTO and Adil Aftab Iqbal, CMO. Niv is the brains behind the tech, working behind the scenes to both produce the best product possible and to create a successful (and growing) tech team. Adil has been running manufacturing since day one, spending most of his time abroad to ensure smooth operation from the first prototype to the shipping of the product. With this in mind, their greatest challenge to date has been finding the right people for their company. They’re constantly looking for passionate, dedicated and intelligent individuals who are flexible and willing to take risks. They only hire the best of the best – those who would follow both their product and their consumer to the end of the world.

Although the team is proud of the intensity of their growth, they want to move faster. With no regrets – because “the everyday mistakes are necessary in order to learn” – they’re looking towards the future. Up next is shipping out Valour, prepping for YC’s Demo Day, and getting back into the Toronto community by hosting events. When starting at YC, Paul Graham told the team that someone has to do what they’re doing – the question is whether that someone will be Vanhawks. They realize the power of what they’re building and “believe in it like crazy.” The Vanhawks team is hustling to create something massive and it’s safe to say that they’re well on their way.  

Stay tuned for next week’s profile on Spoil, a personalized gift concierge service. 

-Ella Sibio 

Day 19: 1 year later, Vanhawks is on a roll!

March 5, 2015 at 10:57 am

valour

We’re coming up on the 1 year anniversary of Vanhawks launching their Valour Kickstarter campaign, the most successful one in Canada, during their 3 month stint at FounderFuel. To celebrate this we couldn’t be more excited for the 2 major announcements Vanhawks made yesterday.

They announced through TechCrunch that:

- They have raised $1.6 million from Real VenturesOlympic triathlon gold medallist Simon Whitfield and Brenda Irwin of Relentless Pursuit Partners

- They joined the Winter 2015 Y Combinator class in San Francisco and have been making major strides there.

The future is limitless for Vanhawks. Co-Founder & COO Ali Zahid confirmed this in their TechCrunch article. “The vision is a lot bigger than just making bikes,” Zahid explains. “Think of us as the software layer for the bike industry of the future. Everyone says that software is eating the world, and we see that in the bike industry, too, which has been sitting in the past.”

We can’t wait to see what comes next for Vanhawks! 

7 Startups for our 7th Cohort

February 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm

“Success is focusing the full power of all you are on what you have a burning desire to achieve.” 
- William Peterson

FounderFuel is gearing up to welcome its Spring 2015 cohort on Monday, February 9th. 7 companies will comprise our 7th batch of startups. This time around, we’re trying something new.

After a deep-dive re-evaluating the past 6 cohorts, we’ve altered the structure of the program in order to capitalize on our strengths and improve upon our weaknesses. We want to more accurately reflect our purpose: to offer an in-depth and mentor-driven acceleration of your startup.

This is why this cohort will see a refocusing of the program, oriented even more towards the specific needs of the entrepreneur, and towards providing them with what will satisfy those needs. We want to have a higher impact upon the outcome and success of each startup embarking on this journey with us.

Stay tuned for more changes to come.

To remain up-to-date on the progress of FounderFuel and the 7 companies within its 7th cohort, follow us here:

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Vote for Vanhawks as Accelerator Graduate of the Year!!

January 6, 2015 at 10:21 am

Startup Awards

The finalists for the 2014 Canadian Startup Awards have just been announced and our very own Vanhawks (Spring 2014) has been nominated as Accelerator Graduate of the Year! 

Vanhawks’s mission is to make connected bikes for the urban commuter to encourage bike rides for greener and less congested cities with the best experience possible. The Vanhawks Valour, is the first Bluetooth connected bike built from carbon fibre, giving riders safety,comfort and insight for every ride. 

Vanhawks came into the FounderFuel program with a big idea and were in the early stages of manufacturing their prototype. They then went one to raise the most amount of money in crowdfunding in Canada through Kickstarter which was 820k, have attracted major media attention, made key hires and have a lot more exciting news on the way!  2015 is going to be a big year for Vanhawks! Let’s start it off right by helping them win Accelerator Graduate of the Year! 

Vote here!  

And help us spread the word!

ANNOUNCING…The Office Handoff

July 30, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Are you a starving startup? Want to move your team into an office but don’t have the budget for it yet? Know a team that deserves a few months of free office space? We’ve got the solution! 

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We’re very excited to announce the FounderFuel Office Handoff. FounderFuel has 9 permanent offices in Notman House which are provided to our companies for 6 month periods. However, we have a lot of companies from outside of Montreal who can’t stick around after the program ends. We don’t want this office space to go to waste so, twice a year (winter & summer), FounderFuel companies who chose not to stay in Montreal will be able to handoff their office to some starving startups.

To qualify:

- Team of less than 5 people
- Been around for less than 3 years
- Pre-revenue or limited revenue to-date
- Bootstrapped, haven’t raised any money
- Not currently renting office space
- Diet currently consists of Peanut Butter & Jelly or Ramen Noodles ;)

We’ll be holding rolling applications all year round and will reach out to the teams who qualify for the space in the Winter by October and the teams who qualify for the space in Summer by March.

Fill out an application here.

Questions? Shoot us an e-mail at info@founderfuel.com

Best of luck to all applicants! 

 

Day 55: Are we back in a Tech bubble?

April 22, 2014 at 7:19 pm

It’s always hard to jump back in after an extended weekend so we won’t overload you today. While you’re on your commute tomorrow morning listen to this recent podcast with Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon and Benedict Evans on tech valuations. 

Enjoy!

Day 47: FounderFuel Heads to San Francisco

April 9, 2014 at 9:28 am

On Wednesday, 5 of the 45 FounderFuel portfolio companies will head down to San Francisco to pitch at International Demo Day. For the second year in a row FounderFuel, Seedcamp (London) and Startmate (Australia) are joining forces to show the Valley that there are top notch startups located all around the world. In total there will be 17 companies from all corners of the world pitching their companies. This exclusive event is put on in conjunction with AngelList, meaning that you have to be a registered investor in order to attend. Let’s just say the pressure is on! 

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The 5 FounderFuel companies that are attending are:

1. Kiwi Wearables
2. Now In Store
3. Provender
4. Tattoo Hero
5. Transit App

To see a list of the other 12 companies check out the International Demo Day site.

Are you an AngelList registered Investor who will be in the Valley on Thursday? Come see what our companies have to offer! Register here.

Day 16: How to avoid the “Bad Hire”

February 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm

We’re approaching the end of the first month of the Spring 2014 cohort and it’s becoming clear that the teams are really beginning to settle in and get down to business. The first few weeks were all about Mentor Day and “Mentor whiplash”, now they need to crank on their business as hard as they can. To accomplish their goals most of them are growing their teams with full time employees and interns.

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For some this is the first time they’ve ever actively recruited, interviewed and hired employees. This can be quite a difficult and complex process. It gets even more difficult when you’re hiring for a startup since you often have limited funds and perks to offer. 

Today, Techvibes published an article written by Randy Frisch, the COO at Uberflip, about just how much a “Bad Hire” can cost a startup. As the company has grown, Randy made sure to look back and analyze just how much every bad hire has cost them.

He broke it down this way:
- average days a bad hire stayed (52)
- how much salary was lost on those people ($70,000)
- how much man power was wasted (way too much)

Some of his suggestions to avoid a bad hire include:
- to focus on things beyond accomplishments or resumes;
- to look for someone who has demonstrated the ability to commit to past projects or jobs;
- to shorten the length of time you give a new employee to adjust (4 weeks).

But, overall, the best piece of advice that he gives is to trust your gut. 

Here are some other posts that can you help you out in the hiring process:

5 key Attributes to Look for in the Perfect Startup Hire

How to Hire Your First Employees

How to Hire Your First Outsider and Turn Them Into an Insider

AWS is Awesome.

October 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm

We’re very happy to announce that we are officially part of the Amazon Activate program and can offer the Portfolio Package to startups in our accelerator program. This means that startups that go through FounderFuel are eligible for discounts and special offers from Amazon to help them accelerate even faster!

To learn more about Amazon Activate and how it can help your startup (in an accelerator or not), visit their website here

We’re really honoured to be counted among the following accelerators and seed funds:

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New Startup Visa Program Gives Us Even More Fuel

January 29, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Welcome to Canada!

Last week the Canadian government announced a new Startup Visa Pilot Program to encourage startups and their founders to create new jobs and drive economic growth, right here at home! The program will draw innovative immigrant entrepreneurs to Canada and link international entrepreneurs with private sector organizations in Canada that have experience working with startups.

The pilot program will begin accepting applications April 1, 2013 and run for 5 years. To start, the Canadian government has alloted 2750 Visas per year for startup entrepreneurs and their families. If there is demand and early success, the program will become permanent. This means that Canada will become the destination for startups, both at home and abroad, and bring that many more resources to our own back yard, including entrepreneurs, startups and lasting partnerships to foster economic growth and job opportunities.

According to the Canadian Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, “Our new Startup Visa will help make Canada the desination of choice for the world’s best and brightest to launch their companies.” He added that “Recruiting dynamic entrepreneurs from around the world will help Canada remain competitive in the global economy. Jobs, growth and long-term prosperity remain priorities for the Government of Canada, and this new Start-Up Visa Program underscores our commitment to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in the Canadian labour market.”

What does this mean for FounderFuel? It means we get to extend our scope even further and welcome companies into our program from anywhere in the world…and then invite them to stay. Althought we have never let international boundaries hinder our application process, this news means that companies from around the world who will become part of our program will be able to apply for the Startup Visa and bring their businesses, families and futures to Canada. All of this is nothing but fuel to make the Canadian startup ecosystem even stronger. We can’t wait to see what’s in store in the coming months!

Learn more and keep up to date with Startup Visa news here

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