Startup Interview GroupNotes.Ca (@GroupNotes): Startup Weekend, Sleepless Nights, And The Launch!
Welcome to a new series called Startup Monday! Every week I’ll interview a hot up and coming startup that’s ready to change the world. I’ll introduce you to the founders, their vision and how they’ve managed to execute their idea.
I connected with Groupnotes on Twitter and wanted to learn more. If you know me you know my business partners are my best friends, so the Groupnotes story hits close to home. Lets get down to business!
Nima: Why Groupnotes? How did you come up with the idea?
Jason: We started Groupnotes from a pain we felt as students, working in industry and even working today as founders. When we want share and discuss content online it’s not only inconvenient but also inefficient to have to navigate to a new email or a shared document in order to communicate your thoughts to a co-worker, teammate, or friend.
We’re developing Groupnotes as a way to keep those discussions right on the webpages where they’re actually relevant! For the Groupnotes team, we’re both the founders of this company and the consumers we’re trying to help.
Nima: That’s fantastic! I wrote a blog post called 5 steps to turn an idea into a business. One of the main focal points was identifying problems. The Groupnotes story is a testament to professional problem solvers.
Why is Groupnotes a good investment?
Jason: To start, we’re tackling a problem that nearly everyone who has a web browser has encountered (talk about a large market!). Now that people are spending more and more time online every day there needs to be a platform to carry out and catalogue all of the private discussions occurring surrounding web content. We want to create the platform that archives and manages all of these conversations in a way that’s meaningful to users. Furthermore, we know we’re the team to do it: we’re passionate about the problem we’re tackling, have previous startup experience, and have an in-house, rock star development team.
Nima: Now more than ever it seems building a platform is the way to go. Vertical and even horizontal integration strategies rely on platforms to scale. By building a platform you’re setting yourself up for future opportunities via new products and services. I like what you guys are up to.
Let’s meet the founders!
Graham Kennery – Platform Architect & VP Excellent Facial Hair
Jason Moore – Business and Engineering Student & Vice President Whip Cracking
Matthew Gardner – Pitch Master, Designer & UX Advocate
Greg Connell – Engineer, Masters Student & Wordsmith
Mathieu Gosbee – Developer Extraordinaire & Resident Smart Car owner
Nima: VP Excellent Facial Hair sounds awesome. I could totally pull that off! Graham, I’ve got my eye on you!
Where are you from and where did you meet? How did you gain exposure?
Jason: We’re all from the Greater Toronto Area and met through an event called Startup Weekend Toronto, one event out of the hundreds of worldwide Startup Weekend events. Groupnotes was the business that we ‘built’ for that competition in 54 hours at #SWToronto and after a sleepless weekend we ended up beating out 80 other fantastic ideas to take home top prize. After that, the Startup Weekend organization gave us 24 hours to make an explainer video and enter it into Global Startup Battle, the world’s largest startup competition, as one of Canada’s four competing teams.
After weeks of hard work, voting rounds and judging by an esteemed panel made up of Tony Hsieh (Zappos), Brad Feld (Foundry Group), Leah Busque (TaskRabbit), Chris Hollod (A-Grade Investments), and Jesse Draper (Valley Girl, Inc.) we emerged as the global winners, beating out over 10,000 other competitors!
Today we not only work together but live together (without killing one another!) and couldn’t be more fanatical about spending 18 hours a day attacking this problem!
Nima: Wow, what a rush! Congratulations! I could spend an entire interview on your experience at startup weekend or even on working and living with business partners. Tony Hseih is the man! I loved his book: Delivering Happiness. Reminds me of the camaraderie and culture at Go Daddy.
Some entrepreneurs like to start big and build backwards where as others prefer to start small and scale up. What came first the chicken or the egg?
3) Built Beta
4) Gained Exposure
Nima: How was the idea born and how did you gain exposure?
Jason: The idea was one of those seemingly simple ideas that came out of a sleepy late night discussion, but stuck with you even the morning afterwards. After mentally developing the business and thinking about what was technically feasible, domains were registered, but it would be another couple of months before the Groupnotes concept was pulled from the “startup ideas” document and put into practice and real development at Startup Weekend Toronto!
The team was assembled on location the first night at the competition! Jason and Matthew had worked on a startup before and had been working together on class projects for years, Greg turned up at the event as well and was a fellow student from the Masters of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MEEI) program all three attended at McMaster University, and Graham and Mathieu were classmates and friends who Matthew had worked with at a previous Startup Weekend Competition in Peel. It was serendipitous that all 5 showed up and appreciated the idea as pitched, luckily it was voted through on the first night of the competition so the team could form and start working as hard as we all continue to do today!
We have built our beta and the first batch of sign ups and keys will be released this week! This announcement has given us exposure online but we also got a lot of exposure from winning the competitions, we like to say that our “doing stuff to press ratio” was ridiculously out of whack. Not many companies end up on Mashable 54 hours after they form, but we haven’t stopped working our butts off to even out that ratio and with our beta product we think we’ve aligned those.
Nima: Press is hard to get. Something tells me your “doing stuff ratio” will balance itself out. I love Groupnotes hustle!
What is your greatest asset and what has been your greatest obstacle?
Jason: The team and our mentors are our greatest assets, by far. The team is passionate and willing to work 24 hours to make this idea and this company work. Like we said: we live together, we’ve taken trips together, and we haven’t killed each other yet! As well, the 150+ member pool of mentors which we are connected to by working out of the HYPERDRIVE incubator in Waterloo, ON (In the Communitech Hub, home of BufferBox and the Pebble smartwatch). The mentors are what sold us on joining HYEPRDRIVE, even after only a week the advice and guidance we’ve received has been instrumental in moving as fast as we do with Groupnotes.
Nima: Which domain registrar do you use for your domain portfolio? I’m hoping it’s Go Daddy!
Jason: Yup! Go Daddy all the way! We have a ton of domains with them for various things.
Nima: Are you currently looking to recruit talent? If so, my uncle and adviser, Sasan, is always open to positions like VP of Tea & Coffee
Jason: Currently we’re not looking to bring on any more talent, but that could change! Keep an eye out on Groupnotes.ca and blog.groupnotes.ca for when we do start reaching out to grow our team – it comes with good coffee and a lot of snacks!
Wow, what an honor to interview such a dynamic tech startup! Groupnotes is on the fast track to success and I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments as friends, roommates and business partners. Please join me in congratulating our friends at Groupnotes!