Connected is four years old, bootstrapped, and one of Canada’s top small and medium employers two years running, as well as one of LinkedIn’s Top25 Startups in Canada. Co-founders Mike Stern, CEO, and Damian McCabe, VP Engineering, began Connected to deliver on their vision to enable business success through the design of software-powered products. And, Mike Stern sees opportunity ahead for tech-focused entrepreneurs in Canada.
Located in Toronto, Connected employs 160 people who collectively speak 35 languages. The Connected team of engineers, product strategists and human-centred design professionals design software-powered products that are used globally.
“We partner with the world’s leading organizations to build software-powered products that are enjoyed by millions of users globally,” explained Stern. “You likely have our clients’ apps on your home screen, their smart products in your home, or wear their devices every day to stay connected. I’d love to say more, but because we help our clients build their next-generation flagship products, they tend to want to keep those things under wraps!”
When asked about future tech growth in Canada, Stern replied, “I think there is tremendous potential for tech- and innovation-focused growth across Canada. There is already great evidence of that, as Toronto recently outpaced Silicon Valley and all other North American cities in tech job creation.”
“But,” Stern added, “it’s going to take more of an effort from national, provincial and even city governments in fostering homegrown innovation. It’s great that they’re inviting our neighbours to the south to open satellite offices here and building international partnerships, but the other side of that partnership is all the amazing value and work that’s being created here … and having an impact on a global stage. The government is waking up to the fact already, but they need to keep nurturing and promoting it.”
So, how does a tech entrepreneur build a profitable business right out of the gate? “There has to be a sound product-market fit,” said Stern.
“Is there a job you’re helping your customers or clients with? A challenge you’re helping them overcome or an opportunity you’re helping them seize? You have to get really clear on what your customers need, and you do that by talking to them, not living in a bubble. It all comes from a personal place, sure. Often you’re your own ‘first customer’ in trying to solve a problem. But, then you have to start talking to people to make sure you’re not the only one with that problem. You know, see if you’re not crazy.”
Stern offered this advice to Canadian entrepreneurs looking to start their own startups, “Know your mission and live it. Really try to identify and make clear to yourself what it is you believe on a deep level, and then try to bring that mission to life.” Stern added, “That, and having a clear set of people values to make sure you’re building the right team to bring the collective mission to life.”
Related: Canadian Business