In November 2017, the first-ever Volta Cohort was selected. After 45 applications, 15 pitches, and one world-class event, the judges chose five companies to each receive mentorship, resources, and a $25,000 investment.

Now six months into the program, the founders and employees at OnBook, Trip Ninja, Clockk, MyMem and Rovault have been hard at work developing their businesses. We caught up with the founders of these early stage Atlantic Canadian tech startups to find out how Volta Cohort has helped them “get there faster”.

India White, OnBook

How has Cohort helped you take your concept or business to the next level?
Cohort has been instrumental in moving OnBook forward. OnBook was just an idea before applying for the pitch competition, today, it’s moving closer to MVP. The mentorship and accountability of Cohort has helped make this happen.

What are some benefits of being a part of Cohort?
In the early stage that OnBook is in, mentorship, training, and access to expertise has been pivotal. It’s also great to have a work space alongside the other Cohort members – we are really all in this together.

How has Cohort helped accelerate your company’s development?
OnBook would likely still just be an idea without Cohort. The investment and program have given me the opportunity to bring the idea to life.

What advice do you have for those selected to pitch at the next Cohort event?
Don’t focus on features, focus on the problem. If you’re able to set the scene of the problem that you are solving, the audience (and judges) will be more engaged with your solution. It can be nerve wracking to get on stage in front of a hundred people and a panel of judges, but try to embrace the opportunity and have some fun up there!

Eric Fisher, MyMem

How has Cohort helped you take your concept or business to the next level?
Cohort has helped us gain a new sense of focus and urgency and provided us runway to bring MyMem to market. We’re at an exciting stage and Cohort is helping us tackle our immediate challenges and prioritize our activities in a way that we can learn and adapt rapidly.

What are some benefits of being a part of Cohort?
Having structured meetings with experienced founders via the Cohort Board provides us with great feedback, support and accountability. There’s a ton of brilliant people within the walls of Volta, and in the broader community, and being able to tap into that expertise in a more formal way is super helpful. Being able to work physically at Volta also creates a lot of informal networking opportunities. Peer support is a huge benefit. The first group of us Cohort founders have bonded already from being able to work in close proximity. We’ve called our space “Cohort Corner”, even if it’s not actually a corner!

How has Cohort helped accelerate your company’s development?
The mentorship and accountability have given us much greater urgency and focus. We came in with an interesting idea, prototype and lots of directions we could go with it. Now, we have a much better understanding of who our customers really are and what their biggest problems are. The continual improvement of our understanding of people’s problems has challenged our assumptions about market segments and our business model. Which is great, because we’re much closer to where we need to be.

What advice do you have for those selected to pitch at the next Cohort event?
Be passionate, clear and concise. Don’t be afraid to say why YOU are the one who can pull this idea off. Because Cohort supports companies at such an early stage, the judges are not looking for a proven business model or polished in-market product. Instead, it’s my understanding that they’re looking for new ideas with a big market opportunity, and for people who can execute on their vision. Oh yeah, and be yourself!

How has being involved with the Volta community helped you grow as a founder?
Being a founder can be challenging in ways beyond figuring out how to start and grow a business. Being part of the Volta community reminds you that you’re not alone and there are others out there also facing similar challenges, taking risks, and living the sometimes not-so-glamorous startup life. It’s a lot of fun, but can be tough too, and the Volta community is great because you’re surrounded by peers who are/have been in the same boat.

Andres Collart, Trip Ninja

How has Cohort helped you take your concept or business to the next level?
When I entered Cohort I was just leaving Propel ICT, and the continuing mentorship/guidance received through the Volta Cohort board has been very helpful. The fact that it is at a two-month interval is perfect for the stage of company we are. Additionally, the funds provided (leveraged by ACOA/IRAP) have helped us get the early employees we need to augment our founder group’s work.

What are some benefits of being a part of Cohort?
Having a dedicated space within Volta has been huge for us, as we have a team of three full-time on-site people. Also we run on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and having the $10,000 credit with AWS has helped us move much faster. Essentially we could set things up really fast without worrying about spending a few extra dollars in the process.

How has Cohort helped accelerate your company’s development?
The biggest thing has been the dedicated working space. With a small team, although it might seem minor it is a huge benefit to have somewhere stable where you can work. It lets you get into a routine and just removed one more thing from your mind.

What advice do you have for those selected to pitch at the next Cohort event?
Make sure you show why this is a pain right now, what you can solve immediately, and what your long-term view for the company is.

How has being involved with the Volta community helped you grow as a founder?
You meet people every day that are doing really cool things and learn from their experiences. Sometimes having a five-minute chat with the right person over coffee can save you a few hours/days/weeks of going down the wrong path.

Paul Doerwald, Clockk

How has Cohort helped you take Clockk to the next level?
Being one of the winners of the Volta Cohort competition validated me and my idea. That encouragement caused me to put most of my consultancy work aside and focus nearly 100% of my attention on Clockk. Without Cohort, I would be balancing both, and probably taking on new consultancy customers and projects. Knowing that someone else thinks me and my idea are worth supporting means that I believe it too. Even if I hadn’t won Cohort, I would still be working on Clockk…but because I won, I’m far further ahead.

What are some benefits of being a part of Cohort?
The most important benefit to me has been to join the Volta community. While I’ve enjoyed the AWS credits, the Cohort workspace, the board of advisors, and the amazing Volta staff, being a part of the community is what has mattered most. I am really looking forward to meeting the competitors and winners of the next Cohort and to welcome them into our community. Yes, we’re building our own little Cohort community inside the Volta community, and they’re both pretty awesome! I can’t wait to welcome the next batch in!

How has Cohort helped accelerate Clockk’s development?
I think “accelerate” is a great word for what’s happening to Clockk. When you start a business, there are a million things that need to be done. Being a part of Cohort has put Clockk in the fast lane to becoming a high growth company. Resources and opportunities fly at you and sometimes it feels like all you have to do is steer. Although my idea and my market are unchanged, Cohort has caused me to refine my value proposition, rethink my sales model, and build my marketing strategy, all without even touching the product. Cohort membership has helped me structure a business that will be more successful than the business I would have created alone.

What advice do you have for those selected to pitch at the next Cohort event?
Do all the things to make a great business: talk to customers to explore their pain, build an innovative product, get out there and sell… and then when you pitch, tell us about it! Whether you win or not, you’ll be on your way to building a business. The Cohort investment is about supporting the [early stage] business that’s already there, so make sure there’s a business, and the rest will take care of itself.

Also, regarding the money: It’s not about whether you need the money, but rather how you will use the money. Investors want to see how the money will make the business grow. It’s okay to pay yourself — paying yourself is a part of running a successful business, but the most important thing for the pitch is to show how the money will make your business grow.

How has being involved with the Volta community helped you grow as a founder?

Being a founder means a lot of lonely, dark days, filled with hard work and lots of discouragement, never knowing when you’ll get your next “win”. Being a part of the Volta community means that you have a community of peers — people who are going through the exact same thing you are. You’re not alone any more. When you’re discouraged, there’s probably someone who’s been through the same thing. When you’re lonely, there are people to talk to. When you get your “win”, there are people to celebrate with who know just how much that win means. The community is the best thing about Volta.

Eshan Lavasani, Rovault


This Cohort also includes a fifth company. Co-founder of Rovault, Ehsan Lavasani has been developing the startup’s marine camera solution that aims to save seafood plant’s millions of dollars annually. As reported by Entrevestor, Rovalt’s “algorithm-based visual recognition software” is designed to identify species based on size, growth and health. Lavasani wasn’t available for an interview, but we are looking forward to watching and supporting him as he and his team build their business.

Interested in being a part of the next Cohort? Applications close April 13. For more information and to apply, visit www.voltaeffect.com/cohort.


Also published on Medium.

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