A Toronto architect determined to foster urban development and create “more dense, liveable cities,” has emerged as the winner of the latest Fierce Founders Bootcamp pitch competition.
Monika Jaroszonek, CEO and co-founder of Ratio.City, earned the $100,000 grand prize for the best pitch, making her case Thursday before a standing-room only audience at the Tannery Event Centre and a panel of five judges, beating out seven other competitors.
“This is very exciting because now it means we can start building out this functionality that we’ve been talking about and hopefully hit the market as quickly as possible,” said Jaroszonek after the symbolic cheque presentation.
“This really lets us hit the ground running. We’ve been bootstrapping, self-funded to date, and this lets us expand our team and … create a product that will be viable in the market, and help build those dynamic cities that will make great neighbourhoods for us all to live in.”
The Fierce Founders Bootcamp is a six-day, Communitech-run program that helps women tech entrepreneurs improve their companies, and traditionally winds up with a pitch competition for prize money on the final day. Sponsors of the program include Kognitiv, TD Bank, Deloitte, BDC, Google Developers, Thomson Reuters, the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada.
Competitors at the Fierce Founders pitch competition, from left, Daryna Kulya, OpenPhone;
Charlene Nadalin, Amintro; Natasha Dhayagude, Chinova Bioworks; Lisa Pfister, PFERA; Monika Jaroszonek,
Ratio.City; Maya Strasser, JAUNTIN; Serese Selande, ORA; and
Erin Laidley, Innovative Protein Technologies. (Communitech photo: Kelsey Vere)
The eight finalists who made pitches were chosen from the program’s cohort of 24 companies.
“It truly was such a hard decision to [choose a winner],” said judge Betty Rhiger, Partner at Deloitte Canada.
“Some of them have just such neat ideas. They frankly make me feel like an underachiever. There is some real intelligence there and some differentiated IP. Across the board, there were really high-quality pitches and you can tell they’ve had coaching.”
Rhiger said Ratio.City stood out for its “differentiated product” and the quality of Jaroszonek’s team.
“She clearly knows her market space and has a lot of experience,” said Rhiger. “On top of that, she has a product that actually pulls together that right now. Her market, her clients, would be paying multiple different sources to do [the] work [that her product does]. You could be spending 75 grand a year on somebody to do the work that her product would start doing for $500 a month.
“The business model is really there for her clients, to drive a lot of cost down.”
Other judges included Michelle Scarborough, Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives and Women in Tech at BDC, Aaron Bast, Associate Director of MaRS IAF, Eva Lau, Managing Director and co-founder of Two Small Fish Ventures and Sarah Marion, Senior Analyst at iNovia.
By virtue of her victory, Jaroszonek additionally earns a placement in the next cohort of the Fierce Founders Accelerator, a six-month program of intense mentorship, also for women entrepreneurs.
Jaroszonek said the bootcamp allowed her to step back from the day-to-day of running her company and hone her business plan, “going back to first principles, making sure our business model made sense, apply everything we learned, test it, and focus on our messaging and how we communicate.”
She said the program not only met her expectations, it “exceeded them.”
“I’m also grateful for all the support of the other women in the program, she said. “Seeing everyone else’s pitch, getting their feedback, and suggestions and being able to integrate that.
“There was a great group dynamic that was a product of being all women who are at a similar point in growing our businesses. We could all learn from each other and get great advice.”
Other companies pitching Thursday included:
JAUNTIN, which provides on-demand insurance with the swipe of a cell phone button; Amintro, a solution for social isolation experienced by seniors; PFERA, a tool for horse breeders which reduces costs and increases the predictability of a horse’s birth; Ora, which makes a notification device that helps keep lone workers safe; OpenPhone, which provides small businesses with a second number on their existing device; Chinova Bioworks, which makes an all-natural food preservative that is extracted from mushrooms; and Innovative Protein Technologies, which makes a product that protects agriculture crops from frost.