It took a kick in the ass from Dan Martell to get Michael Brown out of Atlantic Canada.
The Clean Simple CEO had been hemming and hawing about the possibility of raising a round to take the commercial cleaning management company’s software to the next level. “It’s pretty tough to raise funding in Atlantic Canada,” Brown said over the phone.
A tersely-worded prompting from one of Atlantic Canada’s most famous entrepreneurs had Brown expanding his horizons. “The next weekend I had booked a flight to San Francisco.”
“The biggest takeaway is thinking bigger. If you don’t know what your larger vision is, you can’t start steering the ship.”
The tough love has paid off. Today, Clean Simple has closed just under 600,000 in seed funding, led by HIGHLINE VC, BDC capital, Innovacorp, EastValley Ventures, and notable angel entrepreneurs like David Sobey, Patrick Hankinson, and Stuart MacDonald, founder of Expedia.ca. MacDonald will also be joining Clean Simple’s board of directors.
Clean Simple has capitalized on its East Coast roots, finding a spot in Volta Labs, which led to the Martell connection, as well as that of EastValley Ventures’ co-founder Gerry Pond, who is also connected to the incubator. The company has also benefited from an Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) program, which has matched its funding dollar for dollar – a boon that goes quite far considering the East Coast’s lower costs of living and operations on average.
“That’s one of the advantages of living in Atlantic Canada,” Brown said. “There’s no reason right now to give up more [equity for more investment dollars]. We’d rather prove it out, really knock it out of the park, and have our pick next round.”
While still planning to remain a home-grown company, Clean Simple has looked West to Toronto for its next opportunity. Brown has been spending two weeks a month for that past six months developing a peer network.
The mentorship to think bigger Brown has found in Toronto has steered the company away from rookie mistakes (such as at one event when Brown was taken aside and told that his early valuation for the company was so low that it would be taken as a red flag) and towards bigger risks – from a cleaning company that needed management software to a software company providing needed management tools for cleaners across the country.
“For me being outside the region, the biggest takeaway is thinking bigger,” Brown said. “If you don’t know what your larger vision is, you can’t start steering the ship.”
With new funding and a national network, Brown is steering Clean Simple towards a larger vision: becoming the Salesforce for commercial cleaning.