Kootenay-based startup now one of BC’s fastest growing companies
Thoughtexchange, one of the fastest growing companies in B.C., has helped hundreds of organizations engage with millions of people through their AI-enabled community intelligence platform, and now they are preparing to raise $20 million in Series B financing to further their growth.
In 2013, when they were known as ThoughtStream, they participated in Innovate BC’s Venture Acceleration Program through our partners at the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST). Through the program, they connected with a group of business and technology mentors and experts to help validate their idea and take their idea further.
We caught up with Dave MacLeod, Co-founder & CEO of Thoughtexchange, to explore the impact our program had and what’s next for his company.
Q: What does Thoughtexchange do, and why are you passionate about it?
A: We bring people together! ThoughtExchange is a pretty simple thing: you ask a group a question that matters and then everyone shares and rates thoughts together. The best part is that no one knows who said what so people can be very honest, and the most valued ideas rise up to the top, rather than the ideas said by the people with the loudest voice or most influence. It’s pretty easy to be passionate about what we do since we help people uncover the truth and learn from one another in a variety of sectors ranging from education to healthcare to financial services.
Q: What stage was your startup in when you entered the Venture Acceleration Program? What problems or business challenges were you trying to solve?
A: We were just at the very earliest stage where we were trying to find our first customers or our “beachhead market” if you’re familiar with crossing the chasm. We were working to get enough customers to use the product so we could get the feedback and funding we needed to learn and grow.
Q: What made the Venture Acceleration Program stand out from other options?
A: It was great to connect with people who had experience launching and running legitimate businesses and to hear their stories and excitement about what we were up to. Instead of connecting with people who have researched or studied our start-up problems, these were people who had lived through it and that is really valuable to a company just starting out.
Q: It’s been over 5 years since Thoughtexchange completed the Venture Acceleration Program. What are some updates or successes you can share? How did the program help or contribute to your success?
A: We’re over 100 people now, many of the staff are here in the Kootenays, and are set to double again. Along with our hundreds of education clients we have broken out and are helping many global organizations like Cineplex, Allstate Insurance and American Airlines. We’ve experienced a lot of success but there is still a long road ahead of us as we work to become one of Canada’s great companies. For me, the biggest value from the people I have gotten to know through the Venture Acceleration Program has been the advice and stories about managing growth and change and dealing with people and communities as you make big decisions that affect the lives of a lot of people.
Q: What’s the main reason you would recommend the Venture Acceleration Program?
A: I think connecting with experienced business leaders while you navigate growth is really an essential part of growing any company.
Q: What tips or advice do you have for start-ups or entrepreneurs living outside of the Metro Vancouver area?
A: Well, if you plan on being a globally successful company, I think you need to figure out how to create a culture that doesn’t rely on everyone sitting in the same room in the same city every day. Once you start to think like a distributed company you realize you really need to hire people you can trust and then trust the people you hire. With great people, a valuable product and a trust mindset you can start and grow a company literally anywhere in the world. It’s not about Metro Vancouver vs not Metro Vancouver. it’s about whether you can hire all over the place and have a strong enough culture that you can thrive–whether your people love to live the urban or rural life, or whatever the balance might be. I’ve heard many people talk about this subject as if it is a binary choice: metro or not. I don’t think that’s the case.
Q: What are some milestones you’re most looking forward to in the year ahead?
A: This is lining up to be another big year for us and we’re aiming to hire and continue to grow into a true Canadian tech export.
Are you a tech company looking to commercialize your technology? Learn more about how our Venture Acceleration Program connects you to a group of business and technology experts to take your idea further.