CapIntel is a leading Canadian B2B financial technology company that aims to streamline time-consuming tasks for advisors and provide quick perspectives on a client’s investments and proposal developments.
CapIntel’s proprietary technology is used by over 10,000 advisors across the country. Following the recent announcements of partnerships and strategic relationships with IG Wealth Management, Canada Life and Equitable Life, CapIntel is driving the industry toward efficiency, transparency, and better client outcomes.
Techcouver sat down with James Rockwood, the founder and CEO of CapIntel, to learn more about his path his fintech startup took through not one, but two, accelerators.
Describe your entrepreneurial journey founding CapIntel
JR: Growing up, I had always wanted to run a business. I pursued accounting and worked in investment banking because I wanted to start with technical skills. While at KPMG, I quickly realized that I couldn’t stay in transactions long-term, so I began spending my free evenings and weekends looking to create a business that would impact the world.
Around this time, I was hearing a lot about the wealth management space and saw an opportunity to facilitate a long-overdue change.
Why did you decide to look for an accelerator program?
JR: Initially, we were 100 percent focused on building a minimum viable product and raising enough capital to survive. About eight months in, we had a very rudimentary product with minimal revenue and we needed access to customers, mentorship, and investments to continue growing.
At the time, we were not getting our product in front of enough investors or clients and needed to realign our vision for CapIntel, so we knew it was time to get help. I knew an accelerator program would support this need as I had heard from other founders that it would expose us to accomplished mentors, present funding opportunities, and provide business development support. I was sold.
How did you choose Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) as your first accelerator program?
JR: I love the concept of Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) because there are no strings attached for the mentors and no guarantees for the participating startups. The no strings attached approach means that mentors have no obligation to engage with you. However, if they do, it’s because they believe in you and want to help you. This is a very humbling process, but it allows founders like myself to learn how to market themselves, be coached and solicit the right kind of help. No matter how great an idea or product is, it takes a strong team to launch a successful company.
Also, with there being no guarantees, typically only 50 percent of the companies that start the program will graduate. The mentors are all very successful people with a lot to offer, so with everyone competing for their interest, it forces you to be at your best. Participants take mentor advice seriously and need to show progress or lessons learned. It’s very intense, as any accelerator should be.
What were your greatest learnings from the CDL program?
JR: We successfully completed CDL, and it did two things for us. Firstly, it helped us identify and zero our focus on the most important projects and tasks. Secondly, it helped us complete our pre-seed financing round. I was able to get a lot of face time with mentors that ended up investing in CapIntel.
There are many learnings I took from the CDL program that I use to this day. CDL taught me how to pitch and build relationships with angel investors. It also taught me how to market myself to get mentorship from extremely smart, talented, and busy people.
How soon after exiting CDL did you decide to look for another accelerator program?
JR: After we graduated from CDL, I stayed focused on the business and we began generating more significant revenue. It was clear we were very close to product-market fit. At this point, it made sense to learn how to position the business for the next round of funding.
Why did you choose Next Founders as your second accelerator?
JR: I chose Next Founders because it is specifically designed for companies in the Seed and Series A stage. While CDL is great for companies at the pre-seed or idea stage, Next Founders is best for companies farther along.
As a company grows, the opportunity cost of investing time into an accelerator increases. If you have a product you can sell, the time you spend in class or being mentored is time you could be spending on selling the product. Thankfully, Next Founders is designed with this mind. You’re able to choose the courses you want to attend, so you feel like you’re getting the most value.
Companies participating in Next Founders can’t be terminated from the program, so there isn’t the same level of accountability and drive on the founder’s side as CDL. This is the type of program where you’ll get out what you put in. Success will require taking ownership over your growth.
To this day, I continue to benefit from Next Founder’s alumni program. It is a vast network that alumni can tap into to get help and help others.
What were your greatest learnings from the Next Founder Program?
JR: My most significant learning from Next Founders was how to position the business for investment and institutional investors. The approach to raising capital from institutional investors is entirely different from angel investors and understanding this was key to CapIntel’s growth.
What considerations would you advise founders to think about before joining an accelerator?
JR: When starting an accelerator program or even thinking about it, it’s important to understand that you are responsible for getting the value out of it. No one can prescribe success.
To quote another mentor of mine, “Don’t fall in love with a hero.” Starting a company can be frustrating, and every once in a while, an advisor or accelerator will come along and it will sound like they can solve all of your problems. That’s rarely ever the case.
If you find yourself looking for this, I recommend you take a step back and look critically at the areas of your business you feel are struggling and work to find unique solutions for those pain points first.
Is there a founder profile who you believe will benefit the most from an accelerator?
JR: A founder who is unafraid to check their ego and commit to being coached will benefit the most from an accelerator.