Think of a state in the United States that you don’t know much about or even a province in Canada. Outside of the major city centres, can you name some of the smaller municipalities that exist there? If you can’t, how would you know if you wanted to move there or if it was a good spot to start a business? This was the inspiration behind Townfolio, a business founded by three Saskatchewan entrepreneurs, Davie Lee, Ryley Iverson and Craig Paul.
Townfolio was created to operate as a network or directory of Canadian municipalities. When you visit a community’s profile you will discover local statistics and specific opportunities for doing business in that municipality. They provide municipal governments with data automation and an opportunity to promote their municipality to visitors. After countless iterations, the team launched a software product in November 2015 to aggregate and visualize public data, automating the community profile.
Prior to leaping into entrepreneurship, Craig was working on development teams for start-ups and small businesses, Davie worked in technical roles for numerous industries and Ryley was a small business consultant. Today the trio have taken their past experiences and brought them to the table to develop Townfolio. Craig plays the role of Townfolio’s “best kept secret” as a full stack programmer and coder. Davie is what Ryley calls the “in-house unicorn” with his technical skills and ability to not just hide behind a computer screen and be a people person. Lastly, Ryley is the business mind behind Townfolio as the lead strategist and promoter.
When Davie was working in International Site Selection helping European companies search for new locations in Canada to expand, he realized that there were limited resources available to make decisions. However, at the same time municipal governments employ economic developers to promote their municipality among numerous other job duties. After hundreds of conversations with economic developers across Canada, Townfolio learned that they do not have the time, budget or technical skills to address these pain points. That’s how Townfolio confirmed the need for a service like theirs.
Of course developing a business, especially one that has the government as a primary customer can come with many challenges. There have been many learning curves along the way. The business trio soon learned that decisions, when working with the government, can often take a long time to be made since they don’t buy like the private sector. They also learned the difference between operating a business that was just an idea waiting to be validated to a quickly growing company. “There are two very different stages and they cannot operate in the same way,” Iverson explains. “When in validation we strived to operate as simple and agile as possible. Once our business started to take off and grow quickly, systems needed to be implemented and this has been a big learning curve for us.”
Part of getting Townfolio to that validation stage was being a recipient of the Spin Master Innovation Fund, a program run by Futurpreneur Canada and Spin Master Ltd. that helps support innovative entrepreneurs and their businesses. Townfolio mentioned that being part of this program was one of their biggest milestones from this past year. “The Spin Master Innovation Fund has opened many doors to amazing mentors who want to help and provide great advice,” shares Iverson. “Needless to say, we have learned a lot from these people.” Iverson also explains that receiving the validation from being selected among several applicants for this program was incredibly valuable for them. “Being named one of the Spin Master Innovation Fund recipients has helped us build legitimacy in the eyes of customers, partners, the media, etc. faster.”