Be bullish on these 6 early-stage startups

Be bullish on these 6 early-stage startups
Toast co-founders April Hicke and Marissa McNeelands

Hey, it's William. Welcome to (or back to) my notebook – my thoughts, my latest writing, articles worth reading from around the web, and other recommendations.

My stuff

I got a discount code for The End Of VC As Founders Know It?, an event featuring executives from Coho Growth, Fort Capital, Pender Ventures, and Pocketed. It's on February 13 at entrepreneurship@UBC (Robson Square). The code is nevvco


Semi-local things

In 2024, I expect big things from these 6 startups

  1. A sommelier in your pocket: sipply is an AI-based recommendation engine that recommends wine pairings for your meals and delivers the bottle you select to your door. Led by former Dapper Labs executive Cady Tedman, the startup is currently in beta, but with recent funding secured from LOI Venture, the company is on the verge of breaking out.
  2. The smart medication organizer designed by Apple (not really): Loba is a beautifully designed pill storage box. It’s wi-fi connected and has an accompanying app in which you can track your dosages, receive reminders, and follow wellness news. CEO Kate Bouchard started Loba to solve a personal need, and Loba’s sales (I’ve seen the internal numbers) show she wasn’t the only one with it. For people in my orbit, health and wellness are at the top of many of their 2024 goals lists, and I expect Loba to be on many 2024 startup growth lists.
  3. The women in tech champions: Barely a year old, Toast – founded to elevate women in the tech industry – already has more than 70 partner organizations and north of 6,000 women on its platform. The progress co-founders Marissa McNeelands and April Hicke, CEO and chief growth officer, respectively, have made in such a short time frame has them feeling ambitious – so much so that they’re launching U.S. operations this year.
  4. A modern family office: I don’t have ‘family office’ level assets yet, but when I do, I know who I’ll be calling. MyFO CEO Simran Kang built the startup to solve a key issue in wealth management software: siloes. Her product is finding what you would call: market fit. Last month Kang shared that her venture has seen 200% MoM growth; doubled in team size; and is harnessing AI to get to the next level. Oh, and she also told BetaKit that in 2024 she wants to “grow MyFO’s revenue by 20 times.”
  5. Accelerating fuel tracking fintech: “Once I met Alice [Reimer] and the team, I was sold,” explained Janet Bannister, the managing partner of Staircase Ventures and lead investor in Fillip Fleet’s $5 million seed round. Bannister is not the only one who felt that way. Almost exactly a year earlier, Fillip, which builds a digital fuel payment and tracking solution, was awarded Calgary’s inaugural $250K DCBank fintech prize. This year, I'll be looking out for Fillip in the fast lane.
  6. The marketplace that grows your organization's investments: The world of finance and investing revolves around numbers, and the numbers that the team at Yield Exchange have been sharing keep growing. Yield Exchange is a B2B SaaS platform for organizations to access competitive GIC rates. Think universities, school boards, hospitals, etc. A few months ago CEO Yvette Wu – a 40 Under 40 Winner –  shared that her startup 10x’d its municipal client base in just six months. But she's not resting on her laurels. In fact, Wu recently shared that she was starting the year off feeling “a little stressed." Stress is a normal part of startup life. But my guess is if her team continues to perform at 2023’s level, Wu's cortisol levels are headed for a steep drop.

Vision Pro and Vancouver

From Vancouver Tech Journal editor Kate Wilson: "Vancouver also has a history of breaking new ground in the VR/AR/MR hardware space. Key components of Microsoft’s HoloLens, which was arguably the first practical AR headset, was developed in B.C. If Apple’s new headset gains traction, it could unleash a new wave of enthusiasm and funding for VR/AR/MR companies in Vancouver."


SandboxAQ, a spinoff of Big Tech firm Alphabet acquired BC's Good Chemistry. Apparently, it was an acqui-hire for GC's AI and quantum expertise. This will become more common as the race for this type of talent tightens. And given this news, I'd also keep an eye on Vancouver-based Variational AI, which harnesses AI for drug discovery. ,

Elsewhere in Canada

A new term I learned from Lighthouse Labs founder Jeremy Shaki that reflects how some employees are feeling in response to the proliferation of AI: FOBO – "fear of becoming obsolete."

CCI policy head Laurent Carbonneau on the future of open finance in Canada.

Tal Schwartz shares five Canadian fintech predictions for the year.

Not surprised: "A staggering 35 percent of Canadian employees say that they are bored at work."

Also of note

Old but good: "The job of an executive is: to define and enforce culture and values for their whole organization, and to ratify good decisions."

A great line from Victoria founder Rob Fraser: “Every setback is a setup for a comeback.”

Ryan Broderick suggests what he believes is "the single worst paragraph ever written by a tech founder."

The 10x Salesperson.

"The business that’ll make you the most money is probably not the one that’ll impress people at the cocktail party."

Not tech

Word Sniper: Gabriel Attal, "known for his ability to think on his feet," has risen to become France's youngest-ever Prime Minister at age 34.


My Vancouver VC list

I put together a list of 45 Vancouver venture capital firms and funds, as well as the key people you need to know at them. It was updated this month. Pay what you want to get it. 

Innovate West 2024 (April 16-17)

Use this link to save $100 on your Innovate West ticket, courtesy of my friends at Deloitte.