Victoria’s Certn took home the BCIC Top Regional Startup prize in 2017, for their AI platform that helps create more accurate credit profiles. What’s happened since then? The network built and recognition received has helped them to secure new clients, grow their team by 4x and raise over 1M.
Interview with Certn’s C3O, Andrew McLeod.
Your company’s quick elevator pitch – what do you do, and why are you passionate about it?
Certn’s platform uses machine learning and AI to create comprehensive and predictive credit applicant profiles. The platform allows banks, lenders and property managers to effectively validate identity, and make better risk decisions. It also helps provide access to credit to people who may have been rejected in the past for lacking credit history. We’re passionate about expanding access to credit and about helping landlords and lenders make better-informed decisions.
Describe what stage your startup was at when you entered. Did you expect to compete for the top prizes? If not, what was your motivation?
Our motivation was to compete for the top prize, get some brand awareness, and see what else is out there. The contest helped us validate our idea – not only for us, but for potential investors. They can see us now and say, ‘this is a company that has done some due diligence – this is a great idea.’
Was being in the competition helpful for attracting investment?
It adds a lot of credibility to say New Ventures BC recognized us as the top regional tech company – it carries some weight. People understand that the process isn’t just about submitting your name and getting people to vote – there’s a lot to do. The judges and organization are credible and not taken lightly.
You won the top regional startup prize. How have you used your prize money?
We used it to hire another employee in Victoria, in combination with some grants we received. It meant we could bring on another employee in the short term, and as we got more revenue and raised a little bit more money, it meant that person was able to start much sooner. We’ve also used it to further our app’s development.
Any updates or successes you can share since completing the Competition? How did the competition help or contribute to your success?
The competition gave us a network, and a lot of media coverage. When it was announced and we were on CBC and in the newspaper, it made a lot of potential clients, property managers, and landlords see us as credible and willing to give us a chance. We’ve doubled our revenue month over month since competing, grown our team by 4x the size, and raised 1M in financing.
When we first applied, we didn’t have any revenue – we were on our way to launching a product. We’ve since launched and are now killing it. The recognition is huge – the prize money is great, but $10,000 in startup world is like two months of office rent. That is great, but the credibility, access to connections, and potential customers really was the most helpful.
What was the best feedback from a mentor, juror or fellow competitor that you received?
We got a lot of support and that was really great, but as a niche product, we found that the most helpful part was the introductions. I think that was the most valuable – when companies are at this stage, getting into the final group, and getting mentors – there is some feedback that could be really valuable, but if you’ve made it that far, you’re probably already doing something right.
What tips do you have for this year’s BCIC-New Ventures competitors?
I’d probably say don’t get overwhelmed — at first it can seem like a lot of work, but it pays off. And, don’t be afraid to share details – a lot of times, companies are hesitant to share what’s going on, but the judges are super friendly, the mentors are really great – it’s a really positive experience.
Any other comments you’d like to share?
It was a great experience — we enjoyed the whole process. Even though we had to write a lot in the early stages (a feasibility test and a venture plan), it was so useful to put it on paper. We still use this work internally and externally. And, most of all, it was a lot of fun: pitching, getting to know the judges, and keeping in touch with the NVBC network. It was a fantastic experience, overall.