Interview: Bridgit, winner of the NBTC Entrepreneurship Competition

It took just 14 minutes for the dreams of 3 young entrepreneurs to take flight.

On March 8 of this past year, 48 of Canada’s top young entrepreneurs gathered at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre. Their job was to convince a panel of 6 judges that their idea for a new business will succeed and prosper in a world where most start-ups fail in mere months.

One of the teams, Bridgit, advanced past the preliminary competition and into the finals round. There, they spoke before an audience of almost 400 while en-route to winning the $5,000 first place prize as they delivered a flawless presentation on their business idea, a construction site management mobile application.

Composed of Mallorie Brodie (University of Western Ontario Ivey School of Business), Lauren Hasegawa (University of Western Ontario Civil Structural Engineering), and Simon Bromberg (University of Toronto Engineering Science), the team created an app seeking to streamline the management process for construction sites. Rather than keep paper documentation, Bridgit seeks to digitize the process, making it significantly faster to input and search records, track information, and organize pictures. And, in the event of a legal dispute over the construction site, rather than having lawyers spend hours sifting through piles of paper documents for evidence, a quick tap of the button will yield relevant data in mere seconds.

The Cannon was granted an opportunity to interview Bridgit on their growing enterprise. When did they want to become entrepreneurs? Where will they go from here? What happens if they fail? Find the answers below!

The Cannon: So $5,000… That’s a lot of money. How to you plan on spending it to further develop your company?

Bridgit: I think right now the money is going to be really great in terms of getting development running a lot faster. Right now we’re doing really well on the business side of things but it would be really great to get the development moving a bit quicker and getting a prototype ready for the end of April. So I think we’re looking into hiring interns right now so it would be really great for the summer to have a little bit of extra money to do so. So I think that will be really helpful for us.

C: So you’re pretty much going to expand your human resources?

B: Yes.

C: You’re not going to be bringing someone on board who will join the start-up as opposed to be hired as an employee?

B: I think one of the biggest enticing things for students is the experience of working with a start up and being able to be really hands on with the business will be really great. So we’re looking at all age students but probably first and second years mostly just because they probably have the most availability in terms of summer work. We’re looking at Waterloo right now but all schools really just to expand our team and we need a lot of help just to get this going.

C: Before you entered this competition did you think you would win it?

B: No, not at all. We put our best foot forward and I think we thought we had a good chance but we definitely didn’t think it would be an easy win by any means. There were 48 start-ups in the competition and they all gave amazing presentations from what we saw in the round of finalists so it’s a big honour to be chosen as the winner. It definitely was not something we expected but, we’re really grateful for it.

C:  So by winning this competition you’ve proven yourselves as being some of the best entrepreneurs in Canada and maybe even all of North America. So does this give you guys a bit of a confidence boost or would you say your confidence in the project is about the same as before you started the competition?

B: I think this reinforces that what we’re doing people can understand and relate to the problem. It seems like everybody knows somebody in the construction industry so it’s really great as soon as you put the problem out everyone knows construction and the delays associated. So I think this reinforces that we’re on the right path, but we still have a lot of work to do so we can’t take this too much and let this get to us too much.

C: You’re in civil engineering, is that correct?

B: I’m in fourth year civil/structural.

C: Were you considering entrepreneurship when you entered the program?

B: Yes, so Mallorie and I are both apart of the Next 36 entrepreneurship program, so Mallorie’s a business student and I’m a civil engineer and our third co-founder, Simon, is at UofT doing Engineering Science so he’s our technical lead. We all have really diverse backgrounds so I’m all things construction and Simon’s all things technical and Mallorie’s all things business. We make a really good team and we’re just all bringing our different experiences forward. We’re all really interested in entrepreneurship; we’re all in the Next 36. It’s all very exciting.

C: When did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

B: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I come from an entrepreneurial family so it’s something I’ve grown up around. I think it’s really interesting to come from a background in engineering and to add entrepreneurial spirit to it. It’s a really interesting combo. It’s something I’ve been interested at least since high school and starting university.

C: What happens if the project fails?

B: If something fails, we’re going to pivot and take it in a new direction. We definitely have ideas in place for if something doesn’t works, this is kind of what we can go to next. We’re all pretty flexible in terms of allowing that to happen if that needs to happen. There’s no point in staying on a sinking ship.

C: If you could address other aspiring young entrepreneurs what would you tell them?

B: If I looked at myself a year ago, I never would have seen myself in this position today, but it’s just something you kind of have to keep going at it and there’s a lot of ups and downs associated with it. There’s a lot of days where you could feel really down on yourself about it and there’s days where it’s really good, like today. It’s just one of things where you’re going to have to trust.

I had an online art gallery before this venture and I think what I learned from that is there’s no such thing as an “aha” moment. You need to really work on modifying your idea and refining your idea and not just doing the idea that was stuck in your head from the first day you got it but really making sure it makes sense with the market’s demanding.

Even with this idea we started with similar ideas to do a construction application but even over the last few months we’ve taken it in a whole bunch of different directions and staying open to that. None of us feel too emotionally attached to one specific thing. As soon as something comes up that we feel like we need to change we’re able to make that change, which is really important because otherwise we’d just be spinning our wheels a lot.

C: Have there been any days where you felt discouraged about your project and felt like it wasn’t going to succeed? And if there were, how did you push yourself through those days?

B: Today was such an amazing day, I mean we found a company to partner with throughout development, this competition was obviously an amazing experience. We were just talking earlier today about how during these amazing moments you just need to be so happy because you know you’re going to have those darker days, and so when you get to those darker days you can kind of think back, “OK well, last week, look how well we did, so we’re going to have this success again, it’ll just take some time.”

I approach things in a very analytical manner so even if there’s one person that doesn’t like a certain thing, that’s great feedback, but you need to weigh how many people are saying that versus something else so you don’t get yourself into a negative spin. Not everybody is going to love your idea and that’s something you have to accept and be really fact oriented.

By: Mark Ye – Writer
Published March 13, 2013
Image by Micheal Gil