How do I introduce to the world a company into which I’ve poured my blood, sweat and tears over the past two years? This journey began in August 2019 when I took stock of all I had learned through my boutique consulting firm, Indie Group, and fully committed to transform financial-services consulting into something better for everyone involved.
When I started Indie Group, I did it on my own. That was not by choice; I could not find a partner who believed in me. Everyone doubted me when I said I could secure master service agreements with some of the largest Canadian banks. But I bet on me, and I did it. I did it through observing the gaps missed by companies that I had worked for, by identifying opportunities and then building solutions. I learned that consultants longed for a partner that wouldn’t exploit them with egregious margins. Clients meanwhile were tired of VMS (vendor management systems) failing to produce the expertise they required, especially when large consulting firms charged exorbitant rates.
It turns out that Indie Group worked well in the microcosm it operated in. I built relationships with consultants whom I now call friends. The secret to success was transparency. Being open about how much margin I was taking, paying fairly and facilitating—rather than controlling—the process resulted in Indie Group winning the Supplier of the Year award through the Canadian LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce in 2019.
It felt good, but the greater problem continued to nag me. I could solve it directly in this small way, but the industry largely remained the same—and working in the field I had always envisioned what a data-driven technology solution might look like. With Indie Group, I had confirmed that a massive problem exists industry-wide. I built a company that was the initial proof-of-concept for a blue-ocean opportunity that would help everyone involved. It saves time and money, all while generating fair rates.
With the spark of an idea in place, it was time to tool up and commit fully. In 2019, before the ravage of the COVID-19 pandemic, I enrolled at the Smith School of Business to complete a Master of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Every day I applied my coursework to the challenges that consultants and enterprises face when finding each other. A benefit of enrollment at Smith was that I was able to partner with Sun Life Financial and survey procurement staff at several of the largest Canadian banks for my primary research. This validated my experiences and proved the existence of a significant supplier-risk gap at all major financial institutions. This is a gap I know how to solve. The solution led us to file our first patent earlier this year.
Within the walls of Goodes Hall, the home of the Smith School, I poured myself into learning, preparing and building the foundations of Indie Tech. This ensured that I would give myself the best shot at doing this thing the right way and maximize my chances of success.
Part of being prepared included understanding the mechanisms of financing and researching not only the pathways to securing funding but also my fit. It was knowing that the odds were definitely not in my favour. It was knowing that this journey would hurt, make things immeasurably harder, create ever-larger hills and valleys and test my resilience. The reality is that just .37% of funding goes to Latinas like me, not to mention the untracked financing struggles for QTBIPOC folks, of which I am one. But this information provided fuel and power. It meant that to succeed I had to be—and continue to be—more diligent and persistent than my competitors. I will always need to be on point. That has brought a lot of extra work, which will continue. But I am confident that any barriers will prove to be a difference-maker, as the extra effort is producing a superior product that will outperform even my wildest vision, once the right funding and fit are realized.
This approach includes competing for and taking advantage of every growth opportunity that I can find. So far, I have been fortunate to participate in mentorship programs such as LaunchYU at York University and Microsoft’s Women in Cloud. More recently, I won entrance into 1871 in Chicago and its partnership program with BMO Harris, WMN Fintech, as well as the DMZ Supply AI accelerator supported by the Scale AI Supercluster. I have been awarded grants and special loans from CanExport, the Dare to Dream program and Delia.
Of course, it hasn’t been a succession of wins. Along the way I have stumbled, cried and bottomed out with the grace one would expect of a baby panda falling from a tree (we’ve all seen the videos). It hasn’t always been pretty or glamorous—but I am indefatigable and have a propensity for toughness.
Now with teammates on board, we’ve had to be crafty. We’ve bootstrapped the company this far because I don’t come from a background where one calls on friends and family to seed a round to get us off our feet. Even now, we are underfunded compared with most companies that reach our stage.
With such a complex problem to solve and an enterprise gateway marketplace (of which there are few in this relatively new category) to build, I have so far largely been passed on by investors. They do not understand how painful this problem is. Or worse, they do not believe I have what it takes to succeed. I have lost potential avenues of funding because I publicly stood firm in the face of discrimination by the goliaths of this ecosystem. I have felt hopeless and thought of giving up. I have lost friends. This journey is not easy, especially for QTBIPOC founders building enterprise software. The doubt from outsiders is constant, but we’ve stayed the course. Innovation never follows the path of least resistance, especially in a blue ocean.
The doubt from outsiders is constant, but we’ve stayed the course. Innovation never follows the path of least resistance, especially in a blue ocean.
By building this company independently, reflected in its name, I have stayed true to the values I embrace. This has meant that our team sees the dream and values Indie Tech’s nascent culture. The transparency and care with which I built Indie Group can be transferred over through a core group of people whose dedication I could have only imagined. My gratitude for this small but mighty team is immeasurable. I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them as we slug it out together. As we fail together. As we rise stronger.
Indie Group will continue to work closely with Indie Tech for now. This will soon change as we get ready to welcome other boutique consulting firms on board with open arms. On that day, it will no longer be ethically reasonable for me to maintain a services business, and I will divest.
We will continue to be transparent about margins and will continue connecting clients with the expertise they so direly need. We are releasing early sign-ups for independent consultants, which will be followed shortly by a beta marketplace. As we grow, you can expect full automation of the consulting process, from end to end. This includes a pricing model that will for the first time give everyone a true sense of supply and demand, who brings the most value to an engagement and—most importantly—what is fair.
Over the next few weeks, we will be coming out of stealth mode and finally out in the community talking about our new system. We will address the problems and inequity we see in current processes.
Over the next few weeks, we will be coming out of stealth mode and finally out in the community talking about our new system. We will address the problems and inequity we see in current processes. We will begin asking our community to join us and gathering the feedback necessary to continue building our product to closely meet the needs of clients whose shoes we’ve also worn.
If you know any of our team members, please be sure to congratulate them, as the feat of launching our beta is anything but small. If you are an incorporated consultant who works with large financial institutions, we want to talk to you. And for hiring managers and procurement professionals, come learn about our secret. By the time you are informed, we will be ready for you.
Please help me in welcoming Indie Tech to the enterprise software technology ecosystem.
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