TamilChangemakers Insights: Learnings from launching a startup during Covid because of a toothache to getting on CBC's Dragons' Den
"I have spent hours talking to hundreds of founders, investors, and mentors, and while our investors and advisors come from diverse backgrounds, they're mostly Tamil! We're not sure why this ended up being the case, but I’ve come to realize that shared stories created strong connections. Our idea got conversations going, but the stories about our similar upbringings, and commonalities that existed were what brought us together with these investors."
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Launching a startup is never straightforward. Yet there's countless resources, experts, blogs, YouTube videos, and podcasts that make it seem like it is. Looking back at the past 2+ years, there were probably more times my co-founders and I were confused about the path forward than we had anticipated, but a saving grace has been the Tamil community.
Shared stories create connections
Aside from our very helpful and gracious advisors and investors, literally every Tamil professional we connected or interacted with offered some form of helpful insight/connection/advice or simple words of encouragement. Quite honestly, the latter has been the most meaningful and impactful as we go through the typical motions of early company building.
I have spent hours talking to hundreds of founders, investors, and mentors, and while our investors and advisors come from diverse backgrounds, they're mostly Tamil! We're not sure why this ended up being the case, but I’ve come to realize that shared stories created strong connections. Our idea got conversations going, but the stories about our similar upbringings, and commonalities that existed were what brought us together with these investors. That said, in a city like Toronto, I would love to see more cultural diversity in early stage investors of BIPOC founded companies.
Pitching on National TV
We received 4 offers from the Dragons when we pitched but ultimately turned them all down. It's funny looking back, because when we spoke to them, they were mostly focused on how we can capture the Toronto market or the entire Ontario market, however when folks from the Tamil community spoke to us, they only saw global opportunities and pushed us to think even bigger. This is when I fully understood the power of our globally connected community.
Short-term pain for long-term success
Our habits of working lean, not paying ourselves, and burning less than $3,000 CAD per month really helps us keep going even as we potentially head into a recession. This obviously impacts the highest risk investments, which are early stage startups! Keeping this in mind, we had to pivot our strategy to make sure we'd be able to stay cash positive.
Our focus is on generating revenue quickly in a sustainable manner.
We're now in a good spot with lots of work ahead of us, with a live pilot in the market and customers on a waitlist. Our future looks bright.
Kartik Bala is co-founder and CEO at Snapsmile, a startup that's on a mission to provide affordable and accessible oral health to all. He has held product management roles in the edtech and fintech space. He graduated with a B.Com from the Toronto Metropolitan University.
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