1. Give us a little background about yourselves.
Kaz: I come from a family of retailers. We’ve been selling things to people for as long as I can remember. I managed my first store when I was 16. Before starting AvidTap, I was the Director of Strategy for Citizenship & Immigration Canada where I handled the introduction of new economic immigration programs like the Startup Visa. Before that, I was a corporate lawyer in New York at Ropes & Gray.
Geoff: I studied at the University of Waterloo. I’m a maker, hacker and technophile. I’ve worked at Canadian Tire, OANDA, Morgan Stanley, and Well.ca.
Danny: I’ll never forget the night when my high school speech recognizer project was able to recognize discrete words and haven’t looked back since. I went to school at University of Waterloo. I have worked on Windows Phone, built Canada’s first virtual store at Well.ca and have also worked at Amazon.
2. Why did you decide to apply for FounderDating?
Kaz: I’ve always been entrepreneurial and have always wanted to start my own company. I am passionate about retail and figuring out why people make decisions that they do. I figured it was about time I tried to find some people who wanted to also start a company. I didn’t have a clear 18 point business plan. I knew that retail was broken and that we could use technology to make it better. I was committed to finding people who also cared about the space and who had the skills that I lacked.
Geoff: As a software engineer in Toronto you’re surrounded by techie talent. It’s easy to find someone interested in your cool startup idea. What’s hard is convincing talented people to take a risk.
3. What was the “dating process” like?
Kaz: We took the dating process fairly seriously. We met multiple times. Talked about how we worked, our communication styles, and our experiences. I had a few coffees with Geoff, as well as a few lunches and I think a dinner with Danny. From the time Geoff and I had the first meeting to the time I told my office I was leaving may have been less than 3 months. We had an idea about the space (retail), we knew we wanted to do mobile stuff. We’ve formed a business as we’ve gotten along.
4. Tell us about your company.
AvidTap is a mobile retail company bringing the e-commerce way of selling to brick & mortar retail.
Our retail partners use AvidRegister, the smart & easy point of sale. And their customers use our app to pay and to collect loyalty points and to order ahead. We use the data from the app interactions to personalize the shopping experience. So next time a shopper walks into an AvidTap store, her profile will pop up on AvidRegister. Our retail partner can greet her by her name, maybe wish her a happy birthday, and ask her if she wants what she ordered last time.
5. What’s your hope for the company?
We have no doubt that the current way of selling things won’t survive. The retail connection is lost and transaction fees are getting higher and higher. Retailers will either adopt to smart selling or they will cease to exist. And a world without brick & mortar retailers is just not as much fun. There will be a day when you will use your phone to do most of your shopping. We’re going to make sure that day comes here a lot sooner.
We knew things were going well when our first customer cut us a cheque before we even had a product coded. It was just based on a wire frame and we got a cheque. We also just closed a seed round and joined an accelerator called HyperDrive, so we’re excited about that!
6. Any advice for other entrepreneurs regarding cofounders?
Kaz: If you are a business person and you keep thinking to yourself “I have this awesome idea, I just need to find someone to code or I just need to find someone in India to outsource”: stop! Companies do not outsource the core function of the company. The core function of a bank is holding money, you don’t see them outsourcing that. A core function of the grocery store is having food available, you don’t see them outsourcing that. A core function of a technology company is almost always the product. You can’t outsource that.
Geoff: When listening to someone’s pitch, think about the space and the person but don’t worry too much about the specific idea. Startups pivot. If the space is good and the person is good, keep the conversation going.
Danny: Look for somebody whose skills complement yours. Look for competence, commitment, and character. Look for doers.