IFH Lab 2022 | Mid-Program Reflections

By Molly Willats

As the end of summer approaches (I know, we’re just as upset about it as you are). It’s been a busy three months of workshops, fireside chats, and peer-to-peer learning, and we have three more busy months ahead. But we think it’s important to stop and take a moment to acknowledge all of the amazing people and partners who have contributed their time and energy to making the last three months a success.

Last Thursday we marked the midpoint of our 2022 IFH Lab program with an exciting afternoon of in-person sessions. We also experienced first hand the limitations of technology when a power outage across most of downtown Toronto quickly derailed our plans to host a fully hybrid virtual/in-person afternoon. But we adapted and got creative, taking our round robins out to a nearby park! A tremendous thank you to IFH Lab alumni from our very first cohort PolicyMe who kindly hosted us at their new office space, and to our guest experts Peter Lu, Rob Palumbo, Miguel Gentile, Laura McKay and Will Bradley for being so willing to go with the flow! A special thank you as well to Emanuele Silli, joining us from IFH Lab Champion Partner Meridian to speak with the startups about Meridian’s strategy for engaging with fintechs, and to provide advice on how to approach and what to expect from credit unions and other financial institutions when exploring potential partnerships.

In June, we hit the ground running building on the energy of our May kick-off. We started with a workshop on Preparing for a Raise delivered by Fintech Cadence partner Osler – thank you to Liliana Korosi, Nathalie Beauregard, and Yulia Yugay for their insights into what startups need to know and plan for when preparing to speak to institutional investors. We also held three “fireside chats”. While these don’t actually involve a fireside, they are invaluable opportunities for the founders to ask questions in an intimate setting with people who have been there and done it. Tate Hackert, founder of ZayZoon an IFH alumni company joined us to speak with our teams about fundraising strategies (ZayZoon just recently announced their $25.5M series a; they must be doing something right – congrats Tate and team!). Borrowell co-founder and COO Eva Wong joined us mid-month to talk about how she helped grow Borrowell over 8 years into one of Canada’s largest fintech companies, and shared what she’d do differently now. Finally we closed the month with a different perspective on financing and fundraising from long-time IFH Lab supporter and industry expert Jeff Szeto, who spoke from his experience as an impact investor at Alder Capital.

The July heat didn’t slow us down – we packed in three workshops, another fireside chat and our second round of mentor speed-dating! A huge thank you to our partners at Leapmotiv and their founder Jeremy Vo for running the Customer Discovery workshop that kicked off July’s focus on customer acquisition and product development. We followed that up with a great conversation with IFH Lab industry expert Jennifer McDonald. As the former COO of Moka Financial, Jennifer shared her learnings from growing Moka into a leading savings and investing app in Canada, to taking the fintech into the European market. Alfred Yang, founder of finnovate.io led an incredibly helpful and practical workshop on Delivering Digital Products With Speed and Precision, and former Fintech Cadence team member and now founder of Polyrev Niall Heath helped us close the month’s workshops with Customer Acquisition Strategies and Funnels, leaving our teams with lots of tools and tips to apply.

July wrapped up with a virtual mentor speed-dating, one of our favourite parts of the IFH Lab program. Each startup gets to meet with four rounds of mentor groups to ask questions and get feedback, while hopefully creating lasting connections that can translate into potential advisors, follow-on meetings, further introductions or even investors. We want to thank each and every one of the experts who joined us on July 21st. These one-on-one meetings bring tremendous value to the founders.

With the first half behind us, we look ahead to September and October – we’ll be speaking to regulators, talking about founder burnout, thinking about how to build strong team cultures, and of course preparing for our Demo Day in November. Once again, thank you to all of our industry experts, partners and supporters. Stay tuned for more program updates and an official Demo Day announcement!