In our series, “A Startup Story”, Industry West talked to Paul Burch (his byline should be familiar to Industry West readers) and his venture, EchoLotto two years ago. Here’s the update on where EchoLotto is now.
It’s been a huge year so far for the Saskatchewan tech sector, with funding announcements from 7Shifts and Vendasta shattering tech investment records from previous years.
While it wasn’t a venture capital raise worth millions of dollars, EchoLotto Inc. had a spectacular year – and an acquisition.
“It’s been a roller coaster of a year for EchoLotto,” says Paul Burch, co-founder and CEO of EchoLotto Inc. “Coming through the pandemic, we saw explosive growth in the number of companies we were working with, and the size of the pots they were having as people were forced to adapt to online purchasing. Our proven technology was well-positioned to help charities in Saskatchewan adjust to the cancellation of their in-person events and find ways to make contactless fundraising work so they could continue their important missions during these unprecedented times.”
Ring Those Phones
While EchoLotto has now been used by over a hundred charities and held hundreds of raffles in Saskatchewan, their watershed moment came in the form of TeleMiracle 45 in February 2021.
“We’d always viewed TeleMiracle as our ‘SuperBowl’,” says Burch. “Growing up in Saskatchewan we knew the province always comes together to ‘ring those phones’ and help the TeleMiracle Foundation raise funds to help people all over the province. When we got in contact with them and talked about their telethon event’s pandemic format being entirely online, we knew the time had come to put EchoLotto to use for them.”
Their stand-alone online 50-50 sold almost $750,000 for TeleMiracle—it was a successful event by any measure.
“That’s the sort of result we got into this for,” says Burch. “That exciting, provincewide support flowed in, and I felt privileged to be in the office (socially distanced) when the foundation called the winner to let them know about the life-changing prize.”
What Are You Doing Over There?
The event opened the flood gates for EchoLotto. The company had been adding new charities to their roster all spring when they ended up working on an event that was also using Trellis Social Enterprises, a Kelowna-based fundraising company.
“Trellis was doing every aspect of fundraising in a very slick manner—but they weren’t doing raffles. I tracked their CEO Justin Goodhew down and asked if he’d be interested in working together with EchoLotto handling raffles and Trellis doing their thing. The conversation we had was amazing—Justin’s energy and the vision he had for Trellis got me incredibly fired up.”
That conversation was meant to discuss some friendly ways the two companies could work together, but the idea grew larger fast.
“We got talking and the conversation quickly turned to— ‘hey, we’re getting into raffles soon. You’re experienced in the space. We’re looking to grow in Saskatchewan. How would you feel about EchoLotto becoming a part of Trellis?’”
“I admit—while I was intrigued of course, the timing really had me questioning things,” explains Burch.
“Things had never been better for EchoLotto. It felt like we finally had our house just the way I wanted it and now I was thinking about putting it on the market? I wasn’t sure I wanted to move, if you know what I mean?”
Let’s Be Friends
The conversation continued and the more the two CEOs talked, the clearer it became this was a great match for both companies.
Trellis CEO and founder, Justin Goodhew, knew the timing was perfect.
“We couldn’t be happier to connect to the prairies in a more meaningful way as we expand Trellis across Canada and into the United States. The Kelowna tech scene has been a great place to start a tech company but bringing in even more talent and expanding our network to grow our customer base is exciting. Trellis has some ambitious goals for growth, and by adding EchoLotto we are now the only raffle approved software provider in Saskatchewan that can also handle our customers’ ticketing, auction and donation needs. We are growing our fundraising solution across Canada and into the U.S. and raffles is a big part of that—we need the right expertise to execute. With EchoLotto we are getting that expertise plus a great head start with their excellent group of customers. Our mission is to empower global collective impact, and this is another step forward to seeing that through and creating a true revenue generation platform for change.”
“EchoLotto started from nothing, and grew to a sustainable, healthy little company that someone came along and said, ‘I want that.’ And that’s an incredible feeling,” says Burch. “Of course, we didn’t get into this thinking an exit this early was the goal—everyone who starts a tech company wants to be the next Uber of their industry and land a unicorn valuation. We navigated the landmines of a highly regulated industry. We created new technology and rode on the bleeding edge of policy changes regarding online lotteries. We had specialized knowledge—and spent a lot of time building great relationships with our customers providing them something that really impacted their organizations positively.”
Is This the End?
“In a way, maybe, but more accurately, it’s the start of an incredibly exciting new phase,” says Burch. “It’s going to be very far from ‘business as usual’ for our clients. We have so much more to offer now—they can expect the familiarity of working with EchoLotto but will have options they didn’t even realize were out there thanks to Trellis. EchoLotto won’t be its own thing going its own way—but I can’t tell you how excited I am to help bring the new services available to the customers of EchoLotto, a Trellis Company. The EchoLotto vision remains the same: Grow. Together. But the opportunities to help our customers just expanded exponentially.”
As far as start-ups go, there are only a few possible conclusions and not all of them are happy endings.
While this transaction may only be a footnote compared to the amazing and inspiring year that Saskatchewan tech companies have been having, Burch is filing this as a win for the Saskatchewan tech ecosystem.
“I want to thank everyone involved in starting something new and creating something that helped charities and non-profits raise the funds they need to do their critical work—and invite you to keep an eye on what comes next.”