Lucky #13. The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world. For FounderFuel, it has fundamentally challenged our paradigm of startup acceleration. Like our startups, we have embraced the crisis as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. The FounderFuel team has created a virtual accelerator from the ground up for our 13th cohort, creating a new structure to honour our long-standing commitment to accelerating startups — despite not being physically present at Notman House.
We choose to maintain our commitments to founders amidst these uncertain times, to continue elevating them to their fullest potential by providing them with advice, stage-specific support and access to networks to help their companies scale rapidly.
2020 marks a milestone for FounderFuel. We have now accelerated over 100 companies since our founding in 2011. That’s 100+ companies that are creating social and economic value in the Canadian tech industry — a testament to the health of our ecosystem. We are so grateful to have played a part in these companies’ journeys, alongside so many others in our vibrant community.
During these 9 years, FounderFuel has been both a learning arena and launch pad for many ambitious Canadian startups. It has a rich history of successes, including Sonder, Real Ventures’ first unicorn, and category breakers such as Unsplash, Mejuri, Bus.com, BenchSci, LiveScale and Willful. FounderFuel has also accelerated many companies that didn’t quite make it — significant learning opportunities for those founders and our team alike.
This year, Conscious Leadership training is a core pillar of our programming. We believe that developing our founders’ self-awareness, compassion and mental fortitude will aid them in navigating the pressure and personality traps that often cause startups to fail. Understanding how their ego and sense of purpose impacts and influences their ability to build diverse yet cohesive teams is critical. It’s also key to driving large-scale impact on society and will ultimately help a founder to thrive holistically in all areas of their lives. We believe that investing in founder wellbeing will enable them to build strong companies that stand the test of time.Introducing the 2020 cohort
FounderFuel has always been broad by design. We search for applied AI, for those creating data in industries where it is scarce, and for brilliant minds who want to use technology to solve important and tangible problems. We take chances on B2B2C companies, hardware startups, unsexy industries with huge markets, companies before product-market fit or without revenue. This year was no different, and the talent pool yielded the strongest Top 20 contenders we’ve seen in recent years. The competition was intense with over 175 applications, 75 interviews and extra diligence to ensure our finalists were adapting rapidly to the sudden economic downturn.
Despite the impacts of COVID, this year’s founders all decided to double-down on opportunities to thrive, demonstrating incredible resilience, determination and grit. Please give a warm welcome to this year’s cohort!
B2B Quotes (Mathieu & Alexandre) – B2B Quotes is a web platform devoted to finding professional service providers matched to a company’s exact business needs.
Gallea (Guillaume, Linzi & Michael) – An online to offline Art Marketplace. Making authentic and local art part of your daily life.
Lunchbox (Emile, Rory & Frédéric) – A social platform that enables students to create their own work experiences together, empowering them to shape the impact they aspire to have in the world.
Oxilia (François, Jean-Simon & Tommy) – A flexible recruitment marketplace for locum and veterinary professionals. Leveraging AI to match the needs of clinics to a dynamic new generation of vet professionals.
QuoteMachine (JD & Jonathan) – A sales platform seamlessly integrated into retailers’ operations to scale custom orders online and collect payments faster – with financial peace of mind.
Simplyk (François & Thibaut) – The first fee-free fundraising platform for charities to better empower non-profits to change the world.
Stamped AI (Simon & Philippe) – A tech-enabled audit firm that takes care of year-end financials in a fast and affordable way, using a smart mix of seasoned CPAs and technology.
Waverly (Philippe, Michael & Patrick) – A first-of-a-kind Empathetic AI-Driven Personal Content Curator.
We believe companies that put down roots during uncertain times are better positioned to thrive when the world steadies itself again. We remain optimistic about the prospects of the Canadian technology startup environment. Our commitment to diversity
The current environment has also highlighted a sore-spot for us. FounderFuel values diversity and was proud to have women represent 45% of our top 20 finalists in 2019 and 37% of the final cohort. We are disappointed by our lack of support for diverse founders in the FounderFuel program this year. Compared to 2019, FounderFuel 2020 saw significantly fewer applications with female co-founders. As a result, there were 10% fewer female founders in the top 20, and 20% fewer in the selected cohort.
We believe that diversity of experience and thought lead to innovation. In order to improve the diversity of our cohort in 2021, we will actively engage with communities beyond those orbiting the startup ecosystem. We will educate diverse founders about the VC path and help more women and people of colour to recognize that with our support, they can become the change they wish to see in the world.Gratitude for our community
FounderFuel would be nothing without its community of support! Our virtual Mentor Sprints are in full swing with 115 mentors participating from all over North America. Mentor sprints are core to showing founders multiple facets of their business. Without such a diverse, broad network, they would not get these key perspectives nor be able to position themselves as successfully for the future. We cannot thank our mentors enough for their generosity and commitment to gifting their knowledge and time to help our founders succeed.
We would also like to thank our 8 incredible sponsors (AWS, BDO, BFL, EY, Fasken, Microsoft, RBC and Silicon Valley Bank) that have maintained their commitment to support us and our program through so much uncertainty. We are grateful for their unwavering commitment to uplifting founders and startups, and for playing the long game with us.
Finally, we want to commend our founders. They impress us daily with their engaging presence, their work ethic and agility in adapting rapidly to massive turbulence in each of their business models. Although we are connecting remotely, we are still connecting deeply, making this year’s FounderFuel journey just as powerful. Thank you for giving us a sense of purpose, lighthearted laughter and endless reasons to feel grateful.
With love and gratitude,
Katy, on behalf of the FounderFuel and Real Ventures team
Please stay connected with us via social channels for details about our epic Demo Day! We will definitely share more once government regulations for social gatherings of 1000+ are clarified.
For interviews with the FounderFuel General Manager (Katy Yam) or with our startup founders (as listed previously), please email Sarah Bezeau, Program Manager at email@example.com.