Canadian Manufacturing

Making a credible impression with lenders

How DIVE Networks became a global technology success



–Article sponsored by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)

Toronto’s DIVE Networks made a big splash at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year. In collaboration with Google’s “Think with Google” online platform for marketers, DIVE unveiled its data-driven media network.

DIVE’s platform is all about data, and bringing big data to heel. It makes real-time marketing intelligence accessible, fun and entertaining for marketers all over the world, giving them new levels of insight into their audiences, brands and competitors.

The company, led by CEO Deborah Hall, secured funding from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) at a far earlier stage than most companies in its shoes.

“BDC’s role is to provide fuel to capable entrepreneurs like Deborah,” says Jasmin Ganie-Hobbs, Manager, Major Accounts at BDC. “One of our objectives is to help companies like DIVE go global and achieve success, but they have to show us they’re prepared. We do not have nearly enough companies that are doing this.”

Nor, she added, are there enough women entrepreneurs like Hall who are making a difference and serving as role models for young women considering a career in technology.

Your preparedness checklist
Like any other lender, Ganie-Hobbs needs to see that a company has a financial reporting and management strategy that is clear and precise and that illustrates the company’s revenue trajectory from inception to exit.

Still, she was so impressed with Hall and her team that she made the decision to extend financing at an earlier stage of DIVE’s growth than she typically does with clients. Why? Because Hall and her team had the right attributes that allowed Ganie-Hobbs to check off all the boxes that matter to an investor or lender:

  • Industry experience
  • Sales traction
  • A solid revenue model that featured early engagement with prospects
  • A great management team capable of executing
  • A firm grasp of sound financial modeling and management
  • Prior success with another venture

“Deborah and her team had the credibility to be among that small minority of companies that I fund at an early stage because they were already far along on this learning curve and had the results to show for it,” Ganie-Hobbs says. “If you want to impress a commercial lender, these are the sorts of milestones you must achieve in your business.”

DIVE Networks thought global from the start
From the outset, the DIVE Networks team was thinking global, says Hall. Her team took advantage of existing industry relationships to engage with other companies in the Toronto area that were already working with major brands.

This served as a point of entry to broker key discussions, engage potential customers to help drive and refine the development of DIVE Network’s platform, and secure early revenues.

“From the beginning, we were thinking about how brands use content in real time, and we were thinking ‘let’s apply this to the biggest brands and dream as big as we can at the outset’,” she says. “We wanted to have our technology power the best brands.”

Lessons learned
For DIVE Networks, the keys to going global on a lean budget, and making itself an attractive investment target at an unusually early stage, boil down to the following:

  • Find and engage with prospective customers at an early stage of development. “Networking is crucial – talk to people,” says Hall.
  • Keep it simple. DIVE Networks refined its business model for its customers with a consumer-marketing approach. “We made it easy for customers to get started and see results from our platform quickly,” says Hall.
  • Be able to scale for a broad audience. “We didn’t let the development team get sidetracked by bells and whistles that didn’t appeal to a large user base,” says Hall.
  • Find great business partners. “Mike Girgis, Jake Neiman and I bring different skills and insights to the table. This has had a huge impact on our ability to solve problems and to position the company for continuous growth. Having a great leadership team with complementary skill sets makes for a better product overall,” says Hall.

Ganie-Hobbs adds one more tip. “From a leadership perspective, it’s important to stay focused on clear milestones and don’t try to be all things to all people.”

To learn more about BDC’s financing options for technology businesses visit bdc.ca/tech

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