OMX’s Nicole Verkindt says optionality is important for successful tech companies

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At the latest TechToronto, Nicole Verkindt, founder of Toronto-based OMX, shared some amusing anecdotes to show what it takes to be successful in an unconventional industry.

Verkindt kicked off her presentation by explaining the “un-sexy” industry she wanted to disrupt with the launch of OMX, an online platform that helps companies working on government contracts track their compliance. OMX recently received a $3.8 million investment from Lockheed Martin.

During OMX’s early days, Verkindt said she would “bike down to Bay Street” to pitch her multi-million dollar idea to receive funding, but found herself facing a lot of rejection.

“Over the course of six months, I basically got no every single day,” said Verkindt. She added that even when she thought she was finally going to receive funding from a VC, the VC turned her away because someone told him that the government procurement industry “will never change.”

Although it was tough, Verkindt says this was the moment that allowed her to not only channel her disappointment into something positive, but also bring money into her company.

“We need to stop talking about it as a technology sector, because I think that technology’s place is in every single sector.”
 

“We lost out on that deal, but that was the moment I always think back to because you know, when you’re really angry and you’re so broke, you can’t afford a therapist. That’s what you have to channel,” said Verkindt. “I was able to, by not raising that big round of funding, to keep control of the company and just get very close to our customer base.”

Verkindt said focusing sales and expanding OMX’s customer-base allowed her to “basically raise money.”

“[The] best kind of money you raise, which is sales, [is] from that customer base so that was our pivotal moment in disrupting this sort of non-sexy market,” she said.

When speaking about what to do when your startup doesn’t receive VC funding, Verkindt gave a shoutout to a BetaKit article about optionality, noting that it’s important for entrepreneurs to keep their options open and have backup financing plans.

“I always had this huge whiteboard in my dining room where there was like six parallel tracks, so nothing ever rested on one deal or one guy,” said Verkindt, stressing that her backups included government grants, sales, small $40,000 funding rounds, and financing from family and friends.

During her presentation, Verkindt also shared a couple of anecdotes, reminding the TechTO crowd that for entrepreneurs who want to disrupt an older, un-sexy sector, it’s crucial to remain optimistic.

“That’s the number one thing that we’ve had to carry through all this, essentially shit, which is starting a startup and getting past the first three, four, five years,” said Verkindt.

Verkindt also stressed that Canada’s tech ecosystem needs to stop being referred to as a “technology sector.”

“We need to stop talking about it as a technology sector, because I think that technology’s place is in every single sector,” she said.

Watch the full presentation below:

The next TechTO takes place on July 10. Get your tickets now!

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer at BetaKit. As a fourth-year journalism student who has written primarily about entrepreneurship, Amira has developed a growing interest in Canadian startup, business, and tech news. In her free time, Amira enjoys reading, baking and watching legal shows.