Welcome to Startup of the Week. A column highlighting BC’s most innovative and exciting tech startups. Today, we’re featuring Vancouver’s Hubly.
Hubly is an intuitive workflow tool built for financial advisors to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Financial advisors manage over 100 clients’ finances, tracking all their life events, through every financial account, and when and why they need specific services. To do this, financial advisors interact with over 20 software systems, such as CRMs and financial planning software.
This technology fatigue is amplified for professionals working in the financial services industry.
Hubly lets financial advisors and their teams take back control of their day by improving how they navigate between systems, making it easy to focus, prioritize, and complete tasks in a systematic way. Hubly makes it easy to scale a consistent client experience by streamlining how advisors collaborate with their team, track progress on important tasks, and manage service workflows and onboarding processes for clients
In this feature, Hubly CEO and Co-founder, Louis Retief, talks about finding a problem to fix, surviving the pandemic, and the important role entrepreneurship@UBC played.
Q: Why did you start your company?
A: I used to work at WealthSimple, and even though it’s one of Canada’s most innovative companies, I still got bored. I ventured into entrepreneurship because I believed I could challenge myself more than anyone else and I wanted to learn at an immense pace.
I started the process of building a startup by making a list of my 20 smartest friends and pitching my idea to them. One of the friends I pitched my idea to happens to be my now co-Founder, Ron. He said, “Louis, I am not sure if this is what we are going to build, but let’s build something massive together.” From there, we set out not to build a product, but instead to find a problem to fix.
Since we’re both passionate about personal finance, we decided to start by learning how people approach making their most difficult financial decisions. We interviewed over 250 households by going door to door knocking and quickly discovered that the large majority of people were looking for what we coined as “Human Validation” when making financial decisions.
This discovery led us to take a deeper look at the financial advisory market where we shadowed and interviewed over 100 financial advisors to uncover the challenges they faced when trying to provide a complex service to their clients at scale. It was clear that they were unable to effectively manage their countless workflows with their current technology. We decided that we were going to change that by building technology to make it easy for them to provide their services systematically at scale.
Q: What would people be surprised to know about Hubly?
A: Most people would be surprised to learn that Hubly almost died when the pandemic started. Just as the pandemic hit, we ran out of funds. To make matters worse, we lost a term sheet from investors, and as a result, could not afford to pay the team – or ourselves. We had to lay everyone off. The timing was terrible because we had just completed building our minimum viable product.
One night, as I was sitting outside stressed and wondering what to do, I looked up and saw a sign (both literally and figuratively) in front of the McDonald’s, that read, “we’re busy renovating.”
The next day I immediately called Ron and said, “I don’t think Hubly is going to die just yet. What if instead of closing the business, we focus on renovating?” We switched our mindset to renovating, took inventory of what we had, cut away all the bullshit, and focused on one singular mission – to reach 100 customers.
For the next seven months, we worked 70-80 hours per week with no pay and no employees to support our mission. I’m proud to say that on May 15th, 2021, we officially reached 100 customers.
Q: What has been most helpful to you in building your business?
A: Surrounding myself with an incredible team of advisors and mentors who have done this before me has been extremely helpful in building this business. Hubly joined the e@UBC Lean LaunchPad program early on in our journey which was transformational in teaching us the frameworks for building a startup. We proceeded to join the Hatch accelerator program at UBC to further grow our network of advisors and then joined the Barclays Accelerator Powered by Techstars in NYC.
These steps helped grow our amazing network of advisors, mentors, and team members which has ultimately helped Hubly succeed. The people surrounding Hubly have by far been the most helpful thing for building this business. I cannot thank all of the mentors and advisors who have helped us out along the way enough. You each know who you are and we appreciate your support and dedication!
Q: What quality do you think is most important for any startup?
A: My favorite mantra about building a business is; “do things that don’t scale.” Ron and I have really embodied that every single day, over the last year of building Hubly. The most important thing you can do, while going through the process of building your business, is to do things manually; like billing every single client, and manually tracking each data point through our sales and onboarding process.
It is so inefficient, but that is exactly the point. Doing things manually gives you such a clear understanding of where the inefficiencies lie in your business. This way, when it comes time to scale, you will have a strong understanding of the inefficiencies in each process and you will know exactly where and how to make it scalable. That fanatical obsession about not worrying about scale, in the very beginning, leads to the processes being so ingrained in your mind that once you need to start thinking about scaling and automation, you have the knowledge to build something that is truly going to grow.
Q: What would you tell your past self if you were starting out today?
A: As an entrepreneur, you often doubt yourself throughout the journey of starting a business. You are constantly going to be pushed and advised in different directions by team members, mentors, advisors, and even customers. The most important thing I would tell my past self is to trust my intuition and listen to my gut. It’s almost impossible to know what the right decision is at the moment but I would tell myself to trust my gut because, regardless of the decision, I will always do the right thing by the people around me and get myself through the process.
There will be more ups and downs than I can ever imagine but there is nothing worse than regretting a decision you made in which you didn’t listen to your own gut. This is something that Ron and I believe in so deeply that we have made this one of the core values of our organization.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: It’s funny that you should ask this because our entire mission behind Hubly is to provide Financial Advisors peace of mind so that they are not losing sleep at night thinking about the tasks that they may have forgotten for their clients. Of course, there are other things that can keep you up at night and mine has to do with growing the company.
Arguably, the most important piece of advice that I’ve received to date is from the CEO of Wealthsimple, Michael Katchen. He once said to me, “your organization will only grow as fast as you can learn.” What keeps me up at night is me wondering if I am learning fast enough to be able to continue supporting my team, my customers, and our company to continue growing at the speed we want to grow.
Q: What’s your favourite news source or podcast for startups?
A: Right now I’m really enjoying listening to the podcast, How I Built This With Guy Raz. This podcast showcases authentic and real stories about successful entrepreneurs. Hearing the lessons that they’ve learned through the journey of building their own company is one of the most powerful ways to learn about the mindset it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur.
I also enjoy learning from the different struggles that these entrepreneurs face. Regardless of how successful a company may seem to you, none of them have been able to get there without facing their own share of challenges and adversity. It’s often the unexpected challenges they had to overcome that brought them to where they are today. I think that the downs are just as important to highlight as the ups and so with this podcast, you really get a deep dive into the full story behind the entrepreneurial journey.
Hubly is growing and is currently hiring for many different positions within Sales, Customer Success & Support, and Development. You can learn more at myhubly.com/careers.
Want to be featured as a Startup of the Week? If you are, or would like to suggest, a BC-based tech startup that we should know about, reach out.