Every startup has a unique journey, and it is never a straight path. PiinPoint, an online platform for location analytics and location prediction, started with a concept born of business needs that impacted the founder’s family. Jim Robeson, one of PiinPoint’s founders, moved to Toronto to start a career in Government Relations after graduating from St. Lawrence College and Laurentian University with a Business Degree. But entrepreneurism was beckoning and Jim knew from his family’s small business experience that there was a problem that needed solving. He headed back to Waterloo, and history started getting made…
We caught up with Jim recently to discuss PiinPoint’s journey.
Why did you leave your job in Toronto and pursue an entrepreneurial route?
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs: dad, grandfather, and great grandfather – I have always had a passion for economic development and more specifically helping businesses succeed. While I enjoyed much of my time working in Toronto, I was not happy working 9-5. I wanted to have more meaningful impact on something important to me and I realized that helping businesses understand the value of the data around them and using that data to make better decisions was not only relevant and personal, it was desperately needed. That was the first step to the original vision/ concept of PiinPoint.
How did the MBET (Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology) program offered by the University of Waterloo’s Conrad Centre help you create PiinPoint?
The MBET program gave me the opportunity to validate PiinPoint, uncover the importance of team fit, and forced me to learn how to sell the product no matter who the individual was, since I was certainly not the “cool product.” The program pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone and truly work for my passion.
After connecting with Mike Kirkup, and ultimately getting into the Velocity Garage how did your startup evolve?
PiinPoint has gone from a simple product and selling a vision into one of the industry’s top site selection platforms, working with Fortune 500 customers that span across North America.
Our team has grown to include, what I believe, to be the most talented group of business development specialists, developers, and statisticians in our space.
What do you like most about the Garage?
There is no question that the mentorship we receive from Velocity and the startups within our space continues to highlight why the Garage is unlike any other co-working space in the world. No matter what the problem is, there is always somebody who can help, relate from similar experiences, or force you to think differently.
Can you think of the most notable early struggles your team faced?
Accepting advice and knowing to what to do with it.
We used to take advice from everyone. However, the advice we received was not always correct. We learned the hard way to have a select group of mentors, get multiple perspectives from trusted advisors, and couple that advice with what you believe.
Staying focused was also a challenge.
We want to change the world in so many ways. No matter what you do, it is so important to stay focused on one market and a select group of things that you do really well. There have been a number of occasions where we have lost focus and gone down a path we should have avoided. Luckily during YC, focus became ingrained in us.
Heading to Y Combinator and getting a taste of Silicon Valley, what steps forward did PiinPoint take?
We became far more focused, looked at growth as the main metric in decision-making and performance, selected team members more carefully, and strived to accomplish product market fit. As a result, awareness of PiinPoint grew throughout the world.
Now your team has grown to 10 people, how has your managerial style changed, and how do the challenges differ from when PiinPoint was first started?
As a larger team, we have further expertise and skill to draw upon. We want to make sure everyone feels empowered to apply these skills and take ownership of their work, recognizing that they are a critical contributor to the mission of PiinPoint. My style has not changed since reaching 10 team members, outside of sharing responsibility and placing accountability on the rest of the team.
Now that you’ve been experiencing some great traction, why is Communitech’s Rev program right for you?
We want to accelerate our growth at a faster rate. An environment like Communitech Rev will help us to do this, with the wealth of resources available to us and with every startup there having a sheer focus on revenue generation.
Why is scaling and sales so important for PiinPoint, and startups in general?
Achieving success in sales can solve a lot of problems for startups. We work tirelessly to tell the story of our product and demonstrate it’s incredible value. When customers invest in it, you are receiving the ultimate validation for your work. From there, it is a snowball effect, as success contributes to improving the team morale, spurring on further innovation, and allowing for further growth.
What does the future have in store for PiinPoint?
We see a tremendous amount of opportunity in commercial real estate forecasting, development of new data sets, and tenant match making. These three themes will continue to be key areas for PiinPoint moving forward.
When in KW, where’s the best place to grab a bite to eat?
Thrive Juice Bar