Today I declined my co-op offer. Last week, I deferred all my classes. My time as a full time BBA student at Wilfrid Laurier University is over after 389 days.
You may be wondering, why would anybody throw their university degree away, the best proven opportunity for long term success? Why would anybody reject the chance be in the co-op program and ease on down the yellow brick road to a great corporate job? How did your parents let you throw your life away?!?
Since I haven't had a chance to explain personally to many of you my reasons for deferring classes for a year, this post will hopefully answer the above questions. First, let's roll the clock back and give a bit of context to our journey so far.
My co-founder Brandon Chow and I first met in grade one and were good friends through grade school. We ended up going to different high schools but both ended up starting our own businesses. With Andrew Paradi Enterprises, I did freelance video production and web design. In grade 10, Brandon founded Provision Host, a niche server company that grew so large that in August 2013 it was acquired by an American company looking to expand into Canada.
After 4 years of little contact, we ran into each other during Clubs Day as first year Laurier students in September 2013. After an exhilarating Startup Weekend KW working together at Communitech, I was hooked on the local startup scene. Brandon came to me the following week with an idea he had been working on and asked I if I was interested in joining. I joined Teknically as co-founder and we hit the ground building Webplio, an online dashboard for business owners to easily understand their website performance.
We soon had joined the Laurier Launchpad, sketched initial Webplio logos on used napkins, and interviewed over 200 potential customers in -30˚C blizzard conditions. In January 2014 we launched our first MVP (minimum viable product), the Webplio Snapshot Report. Instead of going straight to building the online Webplio dashboard, we used the report to test our hypothesis that businesses would pay for easy to understand website performance information. In the dead of winter we went out and sold 10 reports at \$99 each. Within 21 days we had set a new (and still unbroken) Laurier Launchpad record for fastest concept to sales.
In March, we competed against top MBA and PhD startup teams from across Canada at Dalhousie University for the Canada Business Model Canvas competition. For our innovative use of the canvas to tell our startup story, we won 1st place and \$25,000. In May, we competed at the International Business Model Competition at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Against the best MBA and PhD startups from Harvard, Stanford, and other top international universities, we finished top 40 out of 2,500 competitors. Thanks to our strong performance at these competitions, we were featured in the Globe & Mail, TechVibes, and other publications.
In May we also hired three brilliant University of Waterloo engineering co-op students to work on Webplio Dashboard development until August. Our collective hard work moved Webplio from an idea to a working product in just 4 months. With the help of a fellow Laurier BBA friend in Mississauga, we also grew our initial waitlist to 30 diverse small business owners ready to test and pay for Webplio when it launched.
In the past 6 weeks, a lot at Teknically has changed. At the end of August we were accepted as one of five companies in Canada's only Google for Entrepreneurs program based out of Communitech. We were thrilled with the new office space (complete with Google ping pong table and astroturf) and ability to directly contact Google employees with specific questions on different products or APIs we were using. We even got to pitch Webplio to Google employees and management in the Google Waterloo office.
These aspects alone were a big deal for us. The past two weeks have expanded what opportunities we think are possible. We recently received $100,000 in Google Cloud Computing credits. We also connected with top executives of Google Canada who actively want to partner with us to bring Webplio to more business owners. Unrelated to Google, our application for the Ontario Center of Excellence SmartStart $35,000 grant was approved so we'll have funds to allow for expansion this fall.
$100,000 in free servers? Google wanting to partner with us? $35,000 grant? We were at a fork in the trail.
To fully take advantage of the resources and partnership available as part of Google for Entrepreneurs, we would need to work quickly. To effectively leverage our grant money to exponentially grow Teknically, we would need to stay focused.
We remembered what it was like to work full time in the summer... We were remarkably focused, productive and made amazing progress...
To truly manifest our vision for Webplio, there was no doubt we would need to work full time.
Within 48 hours of coming to this final conclusion, we had deferred our program, dropped all of our classes, and were now working full time on Teknically.
Though many entrepreneurship stories attribute all success to the individual's hard work, there are always people and experiences that prepared them so they could take advantage of their opportunties and be successful. I am still thankful when I recall the family, friends, and mentors who helped me become who I am today.
I learned servant leadership from my Grandpa after long summer days working with my hands on different projects. I learned attention to detail from my Mom, pushing me not to accept anything less than my best. From my sister, I've learned perseverance. From my Dad, a logical approach to decision making and how to push myself to be a better entrepreneur.
From St. Andrew's Presbyterian Streetsville and Camp Mini-Yo-We, a strengthened and unwavering faith. From my high school math teacher Mr. Spencer, university level financial mathematics skills. From my high school English teacher Mr. Blake, deliberate mindfulness and the ability to write clearly and persuasively. From my Graydon and Laurier friends, the value of a community that pushes each other to be better. From Laurier Launchpad, how to systematically test your assumptions about your product, customers, and market.
Too many family, friends, and mentors to name have unknowingly fostered these skills and helped along each step of my journey. Thankfully my parents, sister, and extended family both understand and fully support my decision to defer classes and focus full time on Teknically. To God and all of you, I am truly grateful.
Now that we are working full time, we can push Teknically to Mach 2. Next week, Webplio launches exclusively to our initial 30 customers. In the coming weeks, we'll begin to open access to select people signed up on the Webplio Wait List. We've begun hiring 2-3 additional full time developers to help us bring some truly unbelievable features and functionality to Webplio in the coming months. We're also very excited for the continued opportunities that will come from our tenancy in Google for Entrepreneurs.
September 24th was our last day as full time Laurier students. Now as full time entrepreneurs, we can't wait to see what will happen in this second year of Teknically.No ragrets, let the post-post-secondary adventure begin.
And it did...in part 2.