- TechTO Newsletter
- January 4, 2024: Inclusive engineering, finding a Co-Founder, and the newest tech to plan your events
January 4, 2024: Inclusive engineering, finding a Co-Founder, and the newest tech to plan your events
Reads of the week, a frequently asked question, and a massive raise to unpack
What should people know?
We’re a National non-profit advocating for intersectional queer inclusion in engineering. Includes 30 university chapters from coast to coast, and hosts an annual national conference.
What was your inspiration to start EngiQueers?
As a queer woman of color in engineering, I was struggling to find my place in a male-dominated, heteronormative space. What started as a student club on campus in 2nd year, eventually grew to a national non-profit of over 30 universities from PEI to Victoria and everywhere in between across Canada.
The need was clear, students needed support in:
Education & Advocacy
Queer inclusion has skyrocketed since EngiQueers began in 2013, where we once had just a handful of folks who were comfortable enough to be out, we now have curated a culture of acceptance and inclusion as societal norms and expectations develop and evolve.
How do you think it has been received?
The need was so strong, that we exploded membership across the country in the first year we incorporated in 2017. We went from 12 to 30 schools in a single summer.
Covid was a difficult time where the organization nearly went under due to lack of engagement, but we pushed through with the launch of our annual national conference in 2023, and now have more engagement than ever.
Both in the student space with strong chapters and in the professional space by gathering over 20 sponsors and ~$100k in funding YOY, including a few multi-year sponsorship deals.
It's been so well received because the need to support and understand students in marginalized communities within engineering is more important now than ever.
How did you know you were ready to be a Founder?
I had no idea I was ready, I just knew EngiQueers had grown and needed to keep growing and overseeing things on the Board for the last 7 years since incorporation has allowed me to ensure the organization is staying engaged. However, it was always important for me to not lose myself as an engineer throughout this journey, so I still did the full-time employment thing as well, outside of EngiQueers. This was only possible by having strong team members running the day-to-day of the org and has allowed me to grow into an engineering manager.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Figuring out how to manage the scope of the org, while balancing sustainability and keeping up with a society with rapidly evolving needs and expectations in the EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion) space.
We're constantly being asked and pushed to expand bigger/more, but the pandemic showed us that our foundations weren't as solid as we once thought. Now, with our second conference coming in Jan 2024, that has changed, and we have a sustainable and repeatable annual plan that will organically engage more students and foster future leaders to be mentored and grow within. So the question becomes, are we ready to take a step back and leave things with the students, or do we dive into the undertaking of tackling the profession, which arguably has needed more support since the beginning?
Only time will tell!
What has been the best surprise so far?
Acceptance from the profession.
Being honored with the Achievement of the Year award from the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers in 2023, was a level of recognition I did not expect to be possible for many more decades.
The work we have done to bring inclusion to the forefront, and help thousands of students be themselves over the years, and be equipped with the skills to thrive in engineering despite being part of a minority group, has been recognized as needed. I'm endlessly grateful to pave the way for others to succeed.
What can people expect from you in 2024?
Launching our second annual conference in Ottawa in Jan 2024, hiring a new executive team, participating in Pride parades from coast to coast over the summer, hosting EDI trainings for various groups to educate others about our lived experiences, and gathering survey data for the first time about our demographic.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Passion knows no bounds.
It will never feel like work, so you'll need to learn to protect your time and carve out space for rest and relaxation.
Who are the Canadian startups you like in your market?
Get REAL Movement - providing positive role models
Queer Tech - breaking down barriers in the tech community
Let's Talk Science - Canada’s largest and most innovative STEM organization
See It Be It STEM It - inspiring young women to pursue their passion in STEM
The most frequently asked question of the year…
How do you find your Co-Founder this year?
The process of finding a co-founder can be broken down into three steps: understanding what you are searching for, searching for potential co-founders, and deciding on a co-founder and the way forward.
Before embarking on your search for a co-founder, it is important to know what a good co-founder looks like. You can create a checklist based on the answers to the following questions:
What skills are you missing to launch the start-up? A co-founding team typically requires someone who can build and someone who can sell. Determine which skill you need to add to your team.
What values and beliefs should your co-founder share with you? Consider factors such as risk tolerance, working style, personal investment, and other shared values.
What credibility or experience do you want your co-founder to have? Consider whether you want someone with experience running a team at a large corporation, or if you're open to someone fresh out of school.
Are there any specific knowledge or networks that would be helpful for your co-founder to bring to the team?
Once you have a clear understanding of what you're looking for, it's time to start your search. There are several places to look:
Your expanded network: Tell your friends and colleagues what you're looking for in a co-founder and ask for introductions. You may be lucky enough to find someone you already know who is interested in discussing your start-up idea with you. Warm introductions from trusted sources are the best way to find high-quality co-founders.
Events within your ecosystem: Attend tech events, industry events, and other community events to expand your network and talk about your idea. This approach is time-consuming, and you'll need to conduct significant due diligence on any potential co-founders.
Join a co-founder platform: Several programs match strong co-founders with each other to create new start-ups. Do your research on each program to ensure it fits your personal objectives.
After an exhaustive search, you have a co-founder candidate you believe is perfect. Before you commit, take the following actions:
Do your due diligence: Speak with former colleagues, classmates, and other people your potential co-founder knows to see what they have to say. Ask if they would work/hire your co-founder again, and why or why not. Verify that your impression of your co-founder is correct.
Work on a small project together: Find a task or two that you can work on together to see how it feels.
Write down your core values: Make sure you agree on how you will work together going forward.
If you still want to co-found a company together, finalize the co-founding of the company and protect yourselves by entering employment agreements with the start-up. In this agreement, agree on the shares that each of you will own and how they will vest. This protects both of you from an unexpected break-up if one of you leaves the start-up sooner than expected.
Founder programs: Entrepreneurs First, Antler, Next Canada, YC start-up school
Events to attend: TechTO
The following are suggestions from the TechTO community:
Betrand Nembot - Founder of Billdr
1) Look for people that bring you joy and can hold you accountable. Hard to make the relationship work without those 2 traits.
2) Look for folks with hard skills who can ship a product (developer, UX designer) or sell the product.
Always looking for different, complementary skills.
I.e. if you’re on the biz side, they need to be tech & vice versa
Alexander Benjamin - Founder of Lendful Loans
I’ve always found designing a RAM very helpful in figuring out what I can’t or don’t enjoy doing the work with, which can help me better evaluate who would be a great partner/co-founder.
Then, some steps like these can help.
The key, go slow, don’t rush.
Defining what the org needs first for success & defining what you value, your values, and will this person's values align with yours. You're pretty much getting married.
The associated skills needed for the role.
Extensive dating process of many leads at the top of the funnel, cross-interviewing, spending time in-person together brainstorming.
Case Studies. Get them to walk you through scenarios that you have encountered to see how they make decisions. Can they actually do what they say they can? Evaluate and find evidence of said activity/behavior.
For any deal that includes equity, ensure it vests and has a 12-18-month cliff to allow you time to evaluate.
Then once measured, evaluate.
Issac Souweine - Partner at Pender Ventures
Build in public.
The more people know about what you're up to, the better chance you find your match
Derek Jouppi - Entrepreneur First
Less focus on how and more focus on who.
You will likely build as big of a company as you think you and your co-founder can handle. If you have big dreams and need a big co-founder, Entrepreneur First proves you can found with a high-quality stranger.
Evan Hallward - Repeat Founder
Index highly for a complementary skillset balanced with the ability to work together.
You might love working with someone, but if you're both great at the same things, it's hard to really "divide & conquer".
I'd also offer the idea of "taking it slow" when it comes to onboarding a co-founder, e.g. starting part-time or moonlighting until it's obvious there is cohesion before putting pen to paper.
Zaheer Merali - Angel Investor
What I’ve learned through trial and error multiple times:
You need to understand and prioritize what your startup needs
You need to understand yourself and what you love to do. What fills your proverbial cup?
You need to look for people who love to do the things you don’t love doing - I look for people with skill sets that are orthogonal to mine and what I love to do
Actively seek these people by putting yourself in environments where they spend time - travel has been the most surprising one for me so far - I used to be quite “local” in my search and frustrated at not finding what I was looking for… fishing in a different pond has landed incredible candidates.
Andy Porter - Co-Founder of Porter
Only consider friends or colleagues you know and have worked with extensively. If that list is exhausted, start on your own. If you're non-technical, learn how to code.
Reply to us and let us know what future Founder FAQs you’d like us to discuss
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