Chris and I met on the flag football field at Dalhousie. Fast forward 6 years and ~300 pints later, here he is on Coffeetalk…
Mike: You recently left your corporate job in downtown Toronto to become an entrepreneur. Tell us a little more about your new ventures…
Chris: Well, what was once a few ventures (including planting some seeds for a beer company) has become singular. All of my time is now being poured into a training app for the retail and restaurant space. It’s called Spiffy, and it allows staff to complete basic mandatory training from anywhere, as well as optional training from vendors. For example, Sport Chek needs to teach Bob how to fit you for some ski’s, but Salomon wants to influence the sale of their products by ensuring Bob knows that their product is best for your epic cat-skiing trips.
With training content, a quiz, and payment all being delivered within the app, there is no need to bring the team in for a demo. Spiffy will reduce labor costs by allowing staff to train at home, and they’ll be much happier to complete it from their couch. A lot of this training today is completed in store, where corporate is trusting managers to convey the right message, and trusting their employees to pay attention, which why we’ve all had some lacklustre experiences in chain stores and restaurants.
We’ve just sent in some applications to US-based accelerators, and sent our pitch deck to our first potential investor. I’m really enjoying the hustle. I have to figure I’m doing something right if I’m excited to get out of bed every day, right?
Mike: What is another cool start-up that you’ve heard of or know that many will soon find out about?
Chris: For a laugh, check out Bernie.ai. It’s artificial intelligence for dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. The idea is that it will learn “your type” and swipe on your behalf. I don’t think it’s live yet, but it should be worth a laugh when it is!
For something more real, check out Kash. They’re taking on big credit card companies with a direct debit solution for retail (kind of like scanning your Starbucks app at the register). It’s a tall task, but it will save a lot of businesses a lot of money if they’re successful.
Mike: You are very much a people person that thrives in social situations. What approach do you take when fostering new relationships?
Chris: Well, first off, thanks man! I just try to never have a veil on. What you see is what you get. I apply the term “a rising tide lifts all boats” to my social interactions. I love to meet interesting people, and love leaving the table knowing that I’ve helped them get closer to a goal – big or small – and perhaps they’ve done the same for me. There are always opportunities to help each other grow and prosper.
Mike: What is/are the biggest fault/s that many make (usually unconsciously) when building relationships, or networking as many term it?
Chris: Being selfish. Or worse, not doing it at all. Some people don’t commit any time or effort to building relationships. It’s often too late that people realize the value of relationships, so I’d suggest people get started (Hint: Read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi)
Mike: Biggest piece of advice for university students on how to maximize their experience?
Chris: Advice… Differentiate yourself. Do you know how many Bachelor of Commerce or Arts grads there are in the world? A degree is never going to get you a job on its lonesome. Getting a degree is a check mark. In my mind, the two most important things to do is get involved extracurricular activities (like JDC and other case competitions) and start building your network. Doing one will help with the other, and they’ll both set you apart from the horde of graduates.
Mike: Who are your role models or thought leaders in life/business world that you follow?
Chris: I’m a big fan of Keith Ferrazzi (I know you’re in the same boat). I think the business world would be a better place if more people got past the small talk to learn what’s really important to another. I never miss an opportunity to drop a Wedding Crasher quote, so here goes: “people helping people, it’s powerful stuff”. I also think the whole Paypal Mafia is amazing. Guys like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk are awe inspiring. They have completely different thought processes than most of us, and that’s what it takes to have a real impact. Check out Zero to One by Thiel for a short, but thought provoking business read.
Mike: What are the 3 most interesting/entertaining Twitter or Instagram accounts you follow?
Chris: Hoodclips is probably the funniest, but lets not go there…
Mike: Favorite place to meet a few friend for a pint in Toronto?
Chris: Tried and true pub: PJ O’Briens.
Beer and fun: Pacific Junction Hotel. Good vibe, ping pong, and Deer Hunter. Winning combo.
A new find for me that has great cocktails is Rush Lane. I like a bartender who can hold a conversation and mix a mean drink. You’ll find that there.
Mike: Favorite coffee shop to post up at?
Chris: Best coffee in the city is Fahrenheit at Jarvis and Lombard. Best Barista is Mari Palhares at Portland Variety. She’s amazing – tell her I said hi if you stop by!
Mike: Pick 3 people alive on the planet to have dinner with. Who are they and why?
Chris: Man, this is hard. I’d probably put:
Peter Thiel – I like to spend time with uber smart people who can explain things in ways that I can understand. That’s why I hang out with you, Wilkesy 😉
Mark Cuban because I like a man who speaks his mind, knows what he wants, and makes things happen!
If you think Chris sounds like a decent guy or want to call him out on his BS over a pint at PJ O’Brien’s, surely he won’t turn down your offer. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.