Introducing the FounderFuel 2023 Cohort of Impactful Innovators from across Canada

May 3rd, 2023

Real Ventures
5 min readMay 3, 2023
FounderFuel 2023 cohort, the program’s 14th cohort.

Version française de ce blogue par ici↗

Since announcing FounderFuel’s return on Feb 14th, the excitement in the Canadian startup ecosystem has been palpable as evidenced by nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs attending 11 information sessions from Halifax to Vancouver!

For the first time, Real Ventures partnered with Panache Ventures and Inovia Capital to triple-down on our collective commitment to early-stage founders. And with well over 200 startup applications in just 4-weeks of recruitment, we can confirm that the entrepreneurial spirit remains strong!

We are thrilled to have found 7 of Canada’s best early-stage companies to carry on FounderFuel’s tradition of excellence that includes iconic alumni such as Sonder, Mejuri, Paper, BenchSci, Bus.com, Unsplash, Valence Discovery, Haleo Clinic, and Willful.

Founder Development as the Key Success Driver

The post-COVID boom and bust cycles have solidified our belief in Founder Development as the key driver of company success. We believe that cultivating founders’ self-awareness, compassion, and mental resilience strengthens their ability to navigate the challenges, pressures, and interpersonal traps that often cause startups to fail. Deconstructing their ego and understanding how their sense of purpose influences their ability to build diverse yet cohesive and productive teams will ultimately help founders thrive in all areas of their lives.

Our thinking around Conscious Leadership has evolved towards a more comprehensive model inspired by the UN’s Inner Development Goals, which are now at the heart of our program. We believe that investing in founder well-being will help them build strong companies that stand the test of time and produce large-scale, positive impacts on society.

Introducing the 2023 Cohort

This year’s cohort remains true to our mission of being a pulse check of emerging innovation. We have founders rethinking social games and rent payments, launching cosmetic hardware and streamlining sales prospecting. From simplifying data middleware to interior design procurement and championing tech adoption for pre-loved retail resellers — the cohort is a snapshot of what excites Canadian innovators in 2023.

AIM Colours is a hardware/SaaS company that combines cosmetics with technology to create tech-enabled press-on nails that can wirelessly change colour directly from a mobile app. Founded by Dr. Alejandra Huerta, CEO, and Isabella Dominguez, CTO, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec.

Artemis is a data ops and AI analytics company that empowers analysts to quickly turn datasets into actionable knowledge. Founded by Josh Gray, CEO, and William Shi, CTO, headquartered in Vancouver, British Colombia.

LeaseSimple is a consumer fintech company offering renters a digital wallet to pay rent using any payment method at any rental property. Renters can also earn money in the form of Lease Credits from brands, properties, and employers to lower the cost of renting. Founded by Jeremie Romand, CEO, Fred Gomez, Co-CTO, and Vincent Mullier, Co-CTO, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec.

Prospecer is a SaaS platform built for Interior Designers to streamline the entire design process from specification to procurement. Founded by Natasha Popek-Konieczko, CEO, and William Harford, CTO, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario.

Quack is a B2B SaaS prospecting platform for salespeople that makes cold calling easy. Founded by Taylor Del Giudice, CEO, Jacob DiCarlo, COO, and Vinayaka K., CTO, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta.

Roll is a social app that uses online board games to build more authentic relationships. Founded by Mike Roberts, CEO, and Mike Cheng, CTO, headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario.

SnapWrite AI helps brands manage their pre-loved goods responsibly with trusted resellers. Founded by Athiya Rastogi, CEO, and Aryaman Rastogi, CTO, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario.

SAVE THE DATE!! Join us on Tuesday, July 11th, for our iconic Demo Day from 4 pm — 8 pm on the eve of Startupfest! Don’t miss THE startup event of the year!

Building on our Commitment to Diversity

This year, we actively sought out and encouraged founders from underrepresented groups to apply. Key collaborations with groups like Rep Matters, regional tech hubs, and the sharing of shout-out videos attracted founders from all walks of life. As such, we started tracking the ethnic diversity amongst the finalists and are proud to share that 57% of founding teams included at least one founder from a racialized group. This initial benchmark will help us improve diversity in the program for future cohorts.

As for women founders, we are proud to have 3 female CEOs and even an all female founding hardware team! When compared to previous years, only 26% of the finalist teams included a female co-founder versus 35% in 2020 and 45% in 2019. This sharp decline has highlighted our need to continue outreach efforts that encourage women to consider VC and tech as a promising path to have impact on the world.

It Takes a Village

FounderFuel would not be possible without the exceptional support of our devoted sponsors AWS, BDO, BFL Canada, Blue HF Legal, Boast AI, EY, Fasken, Fonds de Solidarité FTQ, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt, RBCx, Scale AI, and Silicon Valley Bank. Having their world-class expertise at our founders’ fingertips at this formative stage contributes exponentially to their acceleration by, setting solid foundations for sustainable growth right from day one. Thank you!

Mentors remain the backbone of FounderFuel’s success. Over 135 mentors from across North America committed to coaching our cohort this year. To our Mentors, we are humbled by your generosity and thankful for your gifts of time, energy, expertise, and guidance.

And finally, thank you to our founders for trusting us. Your grit, resilience, and creativity will undoubtedly lead your companies to great success. Thank you for giving us a sense of purpose, much laughter, and endless reasons to feel grateful.

With love and gratitude,

Katy, on behalf of the FounderFuel and Real Ventures team

Please stay connected with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for FounderFuel updates!

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Real Ventures

Canada’s leading early-stage VC firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs and nurturing the communities in which they thrive.