AI-powered car sales platform TrafficDriven (with their first product, MintList) took first place in the 2021 Competition. Since then, they’ve raised 2.6M and have their sights set on expanding across Canada. Interview with two-time New Ventures BC Competition award winner, Mehrsa Raeiszadeh, Co-Founder and COO of MintList.
You’re a two-time NVBC first prize winner, having first won in 2016, with Microdermics. How did that previous experience affect how you approached the competition this time around with Traffic Driven (MintList)?
Once you have the experience, the second time feels different. You’ve absorbed previous learnings, so applying them is key. That said, even though we had gone through it before, we took the competition seriously, and didn’t take anything for granted.
We focused on answering the questions truthfully, while taking a deep dive into our business plan and model. It was important to acknowledge how much thought has been put into every single question and consider how our answers would be received.
Ultimately, we saw the competition as an opportunity to look at our business plan from different angles, while making an effort to look at the questions with fresh eyes.
When you entered, Traffic Driven had a strong start in the market, including contracts with car dealerships, insurance companies, and an oversubscribed pre-seed round. How did you think you might do?
Throughout the process, we kept reminding ourselves, you only win if you truly learn.
If you want to do the competition right, it requires a huge investment in terms of time and effort. We didn't look at this as “what we can get out of it”–we took this as an opportunity to take a second look at what we do. We aimed to place well, but saw obtaining prizes as just the icing on the cake.
Winning is a motivator, for sure. Let’s say though, for example, you’re driving to go skiing and you focus solely on getting to Whistler on time–you might focus on your destination and waste those two hours of driving. But if you enjoy the scenery on the road, and the company in your car, you have a blast. And you’ll still arrive on time.
What was the most impactful part of going through the competition?
I think for me it was the different perspectives we received. We used every single resource that was available to maximize the experience. That means we had multiple meetings with mentors, plus weekly updates with them, and took advantage of this amazing group of people that New Ventures BC has put together.
We had considerable traction when we came into the competition, but were still a small team, an early-stage startup and pre-revenue. It was so valuable to see what other people thought about our business, as we can get stuck in our own perspective.
Most importantly, we came in without ego–we came in as sponges, open to receiving all of the feedback we could, rather than being proud of the achievements we had made and keeping our walls up.
What advice would you have for this year’s competitors?
Instead of just focusing on the competitive aspects, think beyond winning the prizes. You win if you have the full experience. Stay modest and open to feedback while maximizing the whole experience, every day.
Focus on refining your business model and learning from the amazing people and the 20+ years of structure the competition has been built upon.
What was the best piece of advice received from your mentors?
We welcomed our mentors to poke holes into everything, from granular aspects like payment structures to our business plan and model. We also received great advice on big-picture strategies like marketing channels.
This was an iterative process where the mentors would push back, learn more, then refine their feedback for us. They validated the work that we did, then helped us plan for the future of our core and strategic marketing initiatives.
By having the mentors validate our plan, then move us ten steps ahead, we were better able to anticipate a strategic partner for co-marketing opportunities. At the time, it was too early for us to pursue that but when we needed it six months later, everything was in place.
You’ve recently raised 2.6M! Congrats, what’s next for MintList?
We’re currently focused on brand awareness and raising our Series A. We want to become a leading player in this market, and our Series A will support our expansions across Canada.
2022 competition open for entries
Want to enter the 2022 New Ventures BC Competition? Entries are open until April 11, 2022.