Category: Startup Story

Vas-Tum Tiles are the Future of Plastic Recycling

The plastic problem that plagues our planet is an uphill battle. Canadians throw away over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Only 9% is recycled while the rest ends up in our landfills, waste-to-energy facilities or the environment. And we’re a relatively small population.

From plastic straws to disposable grocery bags to takeout cutlery, it seems cities everywhere are trying to create solutions. On the business side, winter jackets, swimwear, home goods, and building materials are taking advantage of these waste streams to create products that sell for a premium and can back up their sustainability claims.

One of the main reasons that plastics aren’t recycled is because of our sorting system, which has limited sorting abilities and can’t recycle things made of multiple materials. Also, in Toronto, none of our recycling equipment has the ability to detect black plastic. Vas-Tum was founded to find a way to recycle as many pieces of plastic as possible and create affordable and functional building materials that can help us divert plastic from being burned or sitting in a landfill.

A Decade in Plastics Manufacturing

Pavneet Singh started VAS-TUM with a solid industry background. He started working for his father’s company, Ajit Plastic,  where he assisted with everything from production management to business development. But, he was constantly fascinated with waste streams in plastic production and lifecycle and wanted to create a solution for all the un-recyclable materials that are burnt or just simply thrown away.

When he started exploring the possibilities of the project, his father left him to his own devices. After almost 2 years and over 100 iterations, he went to show it to his biggest mentor and business inspiration. His father laughed in his face and thought Pavneet was wasting his time, going from industrialist to scrap processor.

Pavneet knew that this was still a problem to be solved, and he had the skills and knowledge to make a real difference. So he persisted. Retailers in the industry loved the idea and could see the benefit of such a high-quality, diverse offering. Not only was it manufactured locally, but because of the infinite number of waste streams, there would be few reasons for supply chain disruptions.

Unfortunately, the local market wasn’t on the same page, and found it inauspicious to put a product made from trash in front of their houses, even if it was repackaged beautifully. But this did not deter Pavneet, and he decided to explore other markets they could sell to.

Repurposing Plastic

Recycling plastic for construction isn’t a new concept. The widely popular grassroots initiative began in Guatemala and has gone international, helping catalyze economies globally. Anyone can combat waste and help build buildings with waste materials.

VAS-TUM’s innovative recycling process can treat not only plastic waste but industrial and agricultural waste. They use this to then create beautiful, fire retardant, anti-static, weather friendly and cost-effective paver and floor tiles that have a life span of more than 2 decades and are infinitely recyclable.

The tiles are produced using fully automated injection moulding, which means that the melted plastic is injected into a tile mould, meaning there is no product wastage in production and you get a beautiful, uniform product every time.

The tiles are suitable for temperatures of -30 degrees to +40 degrees Celcius, are anti-slip, anti-fungal and anti-microbial, and are lightweight, making them more cost-effective to transport and install.

Eco-friendly Building Material Trends

Sustainable building materials make sense with a growing global population, a housing crisis, and carbon policies. But how do you classify sustainable building materials?

“Green” without 3rd party certifications could mean anything from manufactured locally to non-toxic to simply more durable. The Most commonly labelled green building materials include; bamboo, cork, cellulose, earth, fibre cement, hempcrete, recycled steel, stone, and wood.

The global green building materials market is expected to reach US$711.06 billion by 2030 from US$270.26 billion in 2020 at a CAGR of 10.16%. The residential green building materials market is expected to lead the growth in the coming years, with people who have disposable income becoming increasingly aware of health concerns in their environments. Growing government regulations around the world for carbon neutrality will also drive in part the adoption of these materials.

Growing Your Startup

The Vas-Tum North American expansion is well underway as the team looks to secure a manufacturing facility in Ontario. In the meantime, they say that the programming team at TBDC helps keep founders motivated. Market awareness is very important and is the biggest gap the team experienced upon arrival, and the TBDC team has been key in helping the company make meaningful conventions.

Are you part of an international startup looking to expand into the North American Market? Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC), is Toronto’s original business incubator, with an offering specifically designed to help established businesses reach their potential in the western hemisphere. Ready to take the next step? Apply today!

Doormonk’s Startup Story

The top businesses in the world generally have a few similar qualities. According to Peter Cohan, a business writer for Inc., those qualities are; clear and enticing goals, a good understanding of their markets, smart at raising – and spending capital, a cohesive team and can adapt to change.

If you want to see the perfect example of what that looks like at a startup, look no further than Doormonk. We accepted them into the Startup Visa program in January 2021, and have exceeded our expectations in every way.

A business created out of unfortunate circumstances and a desire to help the community do better, DoorMonk is a cutting-edge platform to help food businesses and vendors communicate seamlessly, and use data and analytics to optimize costs and food wastage.

Read on to learn about their inspiring Startup success story!

In the Beginning

An engineer by training, Ashutosh studied engineering for electronics & telecommunications. Doormonk is not his first startup though. He originally manufactured lightweight automated telescopes and sold that business to the incubator and a new startup at his previous university.

His dad became sick and had an extended stay at a hospital. When Ashutosh was checking in on him, his father complained that the food was just okay, and this dedicated son set out to get to the bottom of it.

First, he interviewed hospital staff, then he reached out to the hospital food vendors to see what the issues were on that end. He mainly found out that food providers weren’t able to predict the necessary inventory each week. When you have long production times and short shelf life, filling last-minute demands leads to sourcing sub-par materials.

This intrigued Ashutosh and he decided to explore the problem further to see if it was a one-off. He reached out to other hospitals, restaurants, and entrepreneurs to see if there was an overlap in the problems that they were facing. It’s common for restaurants to struggle with narrow food margins, understanding food costs, and achieving that magical just-in-time supply chain.

Armed with his market research and determination, Doormonk was incorporated in 2018, MVP developed within the first 2 quarters, and a Beta launched a month later. In their first month, they signed US$500,000 in contracts, and have revenue targets of $2 million this year.

Why People Love Doormonk

Doormonk does more than just serve hospitals and restaurants, they also serve corporate offices, & educational institutions. Everyone has to eat, but if you want to provide food without the hassle of running an in-house restaurant, you can source it all out to Doormonk.

If you do have in-house cooking and serving staff, their platform is still of benefit. They offer real-time data and analytics to make cost-saving suggestions for your perishable inventory. They can also help with detecting fraud, and have stringent food and safety protocols.

And vendors are just as much a client of Doormonk as the kitchens they serve. Not only do they get access to the aforementioned data and analytics to help understand what they should be growing and sourcing, but they also get access to SOPs to help them scale and meet customer expectations from the first delivery.

Doormonk’s Startup Journey to North America

No Startup journey is a linear one. The Doormonk team says they did a lot of learning on the go and you never stop testing the product or learning.

When researching their market they realized that food logistics is a global problem. They wanted to create a scaleable product from the get-go. Canada seemed like a great place to reach a global market. They could easily expand into the US and weren’t too far from Europe.

One of the hardest parts of their Startup journey was when investors made offers, then withdrew. Ashutosh says, “This was a tough time. We really had to learn hard lessons. Until money hits your bank account, never consider a deal done.” But, the best entrepreneurs can pivot and still thrive. As a company, they had to learn how to be extremely frugal and there were learning curves in managing the cash flow.

They eventually closed their seed funding round in May 2019, raising US$100K. Today they are bootstrapped, profitable, and targeting US$ 2 Million in revenue.

Because of the varied background of the startup team, they weren’t really sure how to test and market their original market. Now that they are making waves in India, and the fact that they already have some great North American contracts, means it’s a great time to expand.

They came to join the TBDC Startup Visa program for the tailored business advice and mentorship pairings. With such a large applicable market, TBDC’s incubation program will help the Doormoonk team find great new market fits and develop a sales strategy that will help them achieve sustainable growth globally.

Growing Your Startup

Are you part of an international startup looking to expand into the North American Market? Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC), is Toronto’s original business incubator, with an offering specifically designed to help established businesses reach their potential in the western hemisphere. Want to see if your startup is ready? Book a call today!

New Advancements in an Ancient Industry – Future of Livestock Nutrition

Animal husbandry is an industry older than written language, thought to have spontaneously occurred an estimated 12,000 years ago. But breeding for productive performance did not happen in the traditional sense until the 1800s. Taking animals off of grazed land meant that farmers had to augment livestock nutrition to ensure they could still function the way people needed them.

Globally, 80% of all agricultural land is used to support livestock production, and 26% of the Earth’s ice-free terrestrial surface is used for grazing. Agriculture itself is undergoing a much larger evolution to fight resource depletion and keep our land productive after 2050. With a growing population demanding fresh, healthy, and affordable food, the livestock industry is making many incredible advances to try and combat resource scarcity.

Meet BioEnttri

Founded by Dr. Randhir S Gajraj and Mr. Kranti Vij, BioEnttri is an innovative and cutting-edge biotech venture, with Dr. Aanchal Vij (Director, Marketing and Communications) and Mike Clarke (Direction of Communication overseeing the EU Market).

Dr. Randhir Gajraj, based in India, is the Technical Head and Managing Director at Sabran Bioenttri. He is a scientist with over 3 decades of experience in the field of algae and related research & development since 1989. Dr. Randhir has worked on many government and private projects in India and set up algal factories for many applications for food, feed, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, and has experience in harvesting and processing Algae. He has published widely in the field — several scientific reports and research papers, 5 articles — and filed 6 patents and half a dozen trademarks in the algal and allied biotechnology.

Bioenttri proved their product works at the grassroots level associated with the suppliers and channel partners of the largest milk producer in India, Amul (and associate dairy brands) — a federation composed of 3.6 million milk producers in Gujarat and Maharashtra state/s, for over 65 years. The trademarked algal feed and essential probiotic-based supplement/s (CATTLACT and the MIDA) were able to increase milk yields by 15 – 25% in the first week itself. They have maintained that output over the course of the algal feed supplement dosage/s. Now they are ready to expand into the North American market with the trademarks Green Fodder Forever (GF2) and the RUMINUTRA.

Amul and the White Revolution

India is now responsible for one-fifth of global milk production, but it wasn’t always this way. In 1965 India established its National Dairy Development Board, and in 1998 India surpassed the USA to become the world’s largest milk producer. Since 2000, India has doubled its milk production, and much of that was thanks to Amul.

Amul followed a program similar to one run by the National Dairy Development Board in the 70s to help households with 2 or fewer milking animals double their production. Encouraging those with resources to earn a larger disposable income through milk production meant Amul’s growth was tied to a range of towns and cities across their province, directly impacting rural and urban communities. In 2021, the company was collecting 3.3 million litres of milk from 2.12 million farmers across India. All these farmers are paid upon collection or delivery, meaning they have control over funds’ accuracy and see immediate returns.

How does BioEnttri’s innovative product augment livestock feed? The microalgae macro venture offers an alternative to conventional fodder, utilizing rapid CO2 sequestration to provide bio-nutrients and sustainable ingredients that increase milk yield. This makes the animal feed both more sustainable and more nutritious. Best of all, results are seen in just 1-2 weeks.

Sabran Bioenttri started its algal R&D and production base in Mumbai, near the Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan state. The conceptual idea of Green Fodder Forever (GF2) was funded by the BIRAC-based grant from 2018 to 2020. The pilot production of algae-based GF2 was completed with testing and trials with many farm-based cattle herds, dairy farms and dairies like SUMUL, NESTLE, SARAS, and GOKUL based in the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, UP, Punjab, Gujarat, Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka. The algae and probiotics-based consortia coated on dry fodder to make green fodder got immense attention and mileage in the Indian territories’ and a few more trademarks like PCUP, MIDA, CATTLACT and CATTCAL were made, and launched with the business partners in India.

Algae Farming Trends and Opportunities

A growing trend in recent years, you may already be familiar with a few types of algae adopted by the health food market, spirulina and agar. In fact, the global Algae farming market was estimated to be worth US$782.9 Million and is expected to reach $1.2 Billion by 2027.

Personal Care & Cosmetics

This algae sector alone totalled US$50.59 Million in 2021, according to Future Market Insights. The overall market value is expected to reach $76.50 Million by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 4.2%.

Food & Beverage

While researchers are still trying to understand the bioavailability and digestibility of algal proteins, the presence of phytonutrients and fibre have made it a long-lived ingredient in the health food markets. Algae are responsible for creating a range of natural pigments that we value and can make great alternatives to harmful synthetic dies commonly used in food and cosmetics.

Globally, people are adopting vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyles to help with carbon emissions, and during 2020, at the height of the pandemic, global markets for algal protein were estimated at US$771.3 Million and expected to reach US$41.1 Billion by 2026, achieving a CAGR of 6.6%.

If you want to see an example of an amazing Canadian company making a difference in algae farming, Orbital Farms developed large closed-loop farms that are able to grow food and vaccines everywhere, including space. They did a great podcast with Harry Duran, that discusses how to structure start-up products for financing.


p> Because of algae’s simple lifecycle requirements, they are simple to manage and make great biofactories. The similarities between algae and plants mean that there are fewer genetic modifications required to make them efficient producers. On top of that, waste streams from pharmaceutical manufacturing can be used in other algae production streams.

Bioplastics & Biofuel

Seen as the next big move for biofuels, a group of 35 Japanese companies came together to announce their efforts and boost algal farming globally in October 2021. Some notable names include Eneos Holdings and Honda Motor Co.

In the early days of using algae for synthetic biofuels, companies had issues scaling production to meet demands. But in more recent years advancements in controlled environment agriculture, and in the process of algae, photobioreactors, have helped combat this.

Bioplastics are more easily adopted by society. There are companies that have created bioplastics that degrade in natural environments and meet commercial standards for consumer products sold in the USA.

Cows & Water

Nutritional supplements aren’t the first innovation to happen in cow farming. In 2019, engineer and entrepreneur Peter van Wingerden and his wife/business partner built and began operating a floating dairy farm in one of Amsterdam’s busiest shipping ports. The 4,800-sq-ft platform is complete with milking machinery and yogurt-making machines, as well as a storefront.

Other Innovations In Animal Feed

No one solution is going to be the be-all and end-all for meeting increasing global demand and consumption habits. There are lots of interesting ideas for helping farmers get the forage they need to feed their livestock herds.

The insect farming industry is growing rapidly and feeds both humans and livestock. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 27.8% to reach US$7.96 Billion by 2030, and agritech startups have been improving the concept to refine efficacy and cost-effectiveness.

Bioenttri’s North American Expansion

The lucrative North American dairy market attracted Bioentrri’s attention, but their journey has been longer than expected. And this wasn’t the only COVID-based issue. Farmers are busier than ever with supply chain delays and shortages, and a lack of foreign workers who usually work Canada’s farms during the busy months, and building relationships with consumers is taking longer than planned.

Bioenttri says about their North American expansion, “TBDC has opened up many horizons for us in terms of connections and opportunities for funding, grants and partnerships. TBDC has made commercialization and expansion activities smooth with the help of the startup ecosystem they have created which fosters growth.”

What advice would the team give to others trying to expand their start-ups? “Our advice for other startups/founders would be to do their market research and create a plan. Once that is done, having the right people in front of you such as a TBDC can make the whole process much easier.”

“Our experience with TBDC so far has been nothing short of amazing. The program was very efficient and structured in a way that it caters to the needs of different startups. Specialized focus is provided which helps in the rapid commercialization and development of a startup.”

Want to expand your Start-Up?

Breaking into the North American market can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be hard. When looking to expand your start-up globally, our incubator has 3 key performance indicators;

  • Proven product-market fit
  • Proof of concept
  • Strong founding team

If your company has all three, we encourage you to apply for our Start-up Visa, as you’ve already done most of the hard work. Want to hear more about the TBDC start-up visa program? Book a call today!

Why Documize Founder Chose Toronto For Their North American Headquarters

The ability of a company to serve a global market is always rapidly expanding. Toronto Business Development Centre works daily with startup founders from around the world to expand their business into North America. Harvey Kandola, of Documize, is one of our dedicated founders who chose Canada because of its access to international markets and quality of life.

What is a Product Manager?

Product managers are involved in every industry from automobile manufacturing to streaming services. Their function is simple to define but not to execute; successfully execute the lifecycle of the product. This means developing and pitching product ideas, updates, and positioning, helping manage development, and ensuring that the product satisfies the target consumer.

How did this ubiquitous job title come to be? The official product manager position was created by Neil H. McElroy in 1931 when he worked for Procter & Gamble. If you recognize the name, it’s because he became the Secretary of Defence and helped found NASA.

A good product manager becomes your cross-functional connection in your organization. They manage goals and expectations for business leaders, help ensure correct and consistent brand messaging, and become specialists in the product functions and applications. But how does one become a good product manager?

p>With lots of practice and the right tools.

Meet Documize

Harvey Kandola was born and raised in London, England, and started his first company months before the 2008 recession. Since then, he has grown and exited his first tech-startup businesses and moved to Toronto to expand his latest venture through the TBDC Startup Visa Program.

By trade, Harvey is a full-stack engineer. As he was growing his business and helping his family run their plethora of businesses, he saw the potential for a SaaS company that would help manage that mountain of word docs, contacts, and manual processes that came along with product management.

Documize was created to give product managers a system of records, and create a centralized hub for product teams. For those of you who haven’t had much experience with product managers, it means that this program can help coordinate logistics & objectives, analytics from all different stages of the product lifecycle, and overlays customer interactions to help teams build a roadmap for success.

The software was developed over a course of a couple of years and is now being used by hundreds of customers.

Harvey’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Harvey states “For my first startup, I packed in my city job and took out a lease on an office, and in one month the 2007/2008 recession. In the beginning, we were worried that it was going to be a nasty fight. But in reality, when money is tight, new players have the opportunity to bring a cheaper product to market.”

“Aside from that, we received threats of lawsuits from bigger competitors. We were threatened once by a large competitor and you have to hit back. Also patent chasers, you just have to learn to brush it off and move on. You think ‘this is it’, but then you come back and get on with it.”

Harvey always sort of knew that he would be an entrepreneur. Both of his parents ran businesses, and he became the Chief Technology Officer at his brother’s company, MRM Worldwide. In the role, he learned a lot about people, processes and the inevitable chaos of management in large blue-chip organizations. But, he always heard the faint call for entrepreneurism.

Harvey’s Journey to North America

Harvey’s first startup, Countersoft, was founded in 2002 that made enterprise-grade projects and help desk management software; 60% of his customers were concentrated in the USA alone. He finally felt it was time to start something new when large enterprise customers all complained about the constant battle to retain and share know-how.

When he decided it was time to launch Documize, he was originally looking to start the company in San Francisco. Because the procurement process for American enterprises can be long and arduous, he was looking to secure a starting location that would give him an easy place to manage American licensing, payments, etc.

After being offered the opportunity to obtain a Green card to the US, he decided to move operations to Canada instead and landed in Toronto in July 2020. TBDC’s Startup Visa program was appealing because it provided a central location for dealing with both the US and Europe. Currently, 95% of Documize’s revenue is outside of Canada.

Now in the process of getting his Toronto team established, Harvey is grateful for the insight and advice the TBDC team has provided him throughout his journey. He says the financial know-how and industry connections the team has provided him made the startup journey so much easier.

Advice for New Startup Founders

Harvey has two pieces of advice for new startup founders.

Disasters are inevitable and you just have to look at the big corporations (Instagram/ Facebook have outages) if they can’t get it right with their millions in resources, how can we be expected to. You just have to take it on the chin and keep moving.

, you have to really focus on building a great product. In our early days, about 90% of our customers were word of mouth. Even the supply chains of your enterprises will be using your product and pushing it forward. If your customers aren’t ripping it out of your hands then you don’t have a great product.

Are you interested in Canada’s Startup Visa Program?

Thinking of taking your startup international? Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC) is Toronto’s oldest business incubator and the only one that helps companies move anywhere in Ontario. Since our inception, we’ve helped over 9000 companies move to Ontario and scale. If you are leading a company with proof of concept and a strong management team, we can make the connections you need to accelerate your expansion into the North American market. Excited about the opportunities you see here? Book a call to see if your business is ready.

INSTA Foods – Healthy Food & Disrupting Food Waste

For most of its history, Canada’s multi-leveled agri-food and agricultural sector have played a crucial role in the economy. Currently, Agrifood is responsible for 1 of every 9 Canadian Jobs, employing 2.1 Million people in 2020. Canada has 193,492 farms, which cover 6.89 Million hectares (about 6.9% of Canada’s overall land area).

In 2020, Canada exported nearly $74 Billion CAD in agriculture and food products (including raw agricultural materials, fish and seafood, and processed foods). Canada is the fifth-largest exporter of agri-food and seafood in the world, exporting to over 200 countries in 2020.

A process that once was responsible for the creation of cities is now facing a hoard of issues due to population growth and climate change. Increased transportation costs and growing cities mean that fresh produce has been grown for shelf life and not flavor. Internationally, the industry is also looking at a loss of all farmable topsoil by 2050. On top of this, at all levels of the Canadian food cycle, about 40% of food is wasted.

TBDC is a partner of the Government of Canada to help bring Innovative international start-ups to Canada. One of the amazing companies in our recent Start-up accelerator cohort is INSTA Foods. They specialize in 100% Natural plant based, air dried, healthy food products. By dehydrating perishable food items that commonly result in food waste, they extend its shelf life while retaining its colour, taste and aroma so can serve the large community of health concerned citizens.

What inspired you to become an Entrepreneur? 

I’ve been an entrepreneur since a very young age. Even when I didn’t know what “Entrepreneur” meant and how to spell it, it was not used that frequently. All I wanted to do is to help others and create value in others’ lives with my work. I ran numerous businesses, starting when I was a child.

While growing up my parents instilled “Food Respect” in us; no food should be wasted in any way. My mother used to make delicious recipes from leftover food & I did Food Drives with my friends. We collected leftover foods from the neighbourhood and distributed them among the under privileged. I’ve had a lifelong mission to reduce food waste, INSTA Foods was the obvious next step.

We started very small, as I did not have any food manufacturing experience, but my vision is always to create a big impact and add value in other’s life with this business.

What were some challenges you faced when moving into the Canadian Ecosystem? 

First  of  all,  just  understanding  what  is  there
and  what  is relevant  to  your particular  venture is tough. Even if you do figure that out, then you have to find out who to talk to and how to get introduced to them. Then that is another real challenge is entering in the ecosystem without having any references or knowing anyone.

Being a newcomer to Canada, I didn’t have any connections or Canadian experience. Market dynamics are different and especially since I moved to Canada during COVID so It was really difficult to reach out to people, get the required information and responses.

Tehmina’s Mentoring & Volunteering Includes  

  • Food Systems Fellow 2022  at Acumen Academy-Rockefeller Foundation (United States/Global)
  • Advisory Board Member to Greentech Europe 2022 at Village Capital (UK)
  • Mentoring at  Women in Leadership Foundation (Canada)
  • Mentoring at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship (United States)
  • Climate Reality Leader & Mentor at Climate Reality Group (United States)
  • President at Connected Women Pakistan (A Community of 7500+ Women Entrepreneurs)

What’s been one of your biggest business challenges so far in your Start-up Journey? 

I moved to Canada last year on a Start-up Visa for my business; INSTA Foods. I am a Mother of 3 kids, but
I had to move here with my youngest kid, and my elder kids, 11 & 13, had to stay back home with their father due to Visa issues and COVID.

It was a challenging time to set up a new business with a preschooler, who was missing his siblings, without any support system. It was overwhelming trying to focus on promoting my new business while taking care of my emotionally devastated child. While working from home, helping him with online schooling, doing house chores; I had little energy left at the end of the day for my own work so I tried to squeeze in work here and there during the day when I could.

Still, I was frustrated that I couldn’t make commitments to leads and opportunities because my schedule was unpredictable. But then I realized that rather than feeling defeated or frustrated I should embrace what I have so it was then when I decided to divide my day in different parts, hire some day care facility, and slow down and was able to achieve a good balance between my both passions Motherhood & Entrepreneurship.

InstaFood’s Roadmap to Success 

The road to success with start-ups is rarely a straight line. In 2018, Tehmina was selected to represent
Pakistan as one of 13 participants from South Asia in ‘Women Trading Globally’ by the Export Council of Australia. In the following year, she received the Foodprenuer of the Year – Khadija Awards from the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Pakistan.

While she’s received various prestigious accolades since arriving in the West, Instafoods is still currently working to penetrate the North American market. Tehmina is in talks with 3 major retailers, and you should expect this brand to become a household name shortly.

By next year, Tehmina wants to establish INSTA foods as trustworthy, healthy, and natural food brand,
diverting 100’s of tonnes of food waste and making healthy food more accessible to all. And she’s not only looking to divert food from landfills, the company can also help food retailers and manufacturers with their circular economy goals with INSTA’s “Zero Waste” Food Preserving Solution.

The Future of Digital Events: ibentos Profile

“Pivot” has been a word that managers and marketers have been seeing all over the internet since the start of the pandemic. At this time, companies were deciding if they needed to take a hiatus, but those poised to move to a digital space had big growth opportunities and market demand. The most successful companies of the pandemic shifted their strategy to meet new market demands, and ibentos is a perfect example of a company made that magical pivot.

The founders of ibentos come with 13 years of experience in event technology & marketing and offer ground-breaking solutions to event organizers. Originally focussing on event marketing and technology for in person events, they took the opportunity of the pandemic to launch a virtual, hybrid, and in-person events platform for the metaverse.

What Is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse refers to a virtual-reality 3D space where users can interact with other people and the digital environment. The goal of using the Metaverse is to elevate customer experiences. One misconception about the Metaverse is that it exists only for immersive gaming purposes, but it’s so much more than that.

The closest representation of the metaverse is the 2011 science fiction novel Ready Player One. If you’re wondering how far off we are from this universe, Facebook is already on its way to creating its version of OASIS through Facebook Horizon. Consumers can access this virtual world using the Oculus Rift or the Oculus Quest 2 headgear.

Imagine the possibilities for the events industry, from online learning platforms to virtual conferences to digital trade shows.

The ibentos Journey

A successful young business will need to remain agile enough to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. When ibentos was founded, it was 4 people who worked round the clock to launch their MVP. Just a month after holding an educational fair to connect all the universities in India to potential clients, they were presented with their first international project. To this day they’ve executed over 3000 virtual and hybrid events for 80+ customers.

During the beginning of COVID – the event industry was in pain. In-person events were canceled. Organizers were out of business and were laying off their employees. To address this need of keeping the industry alive, a lot of virtual event platforms, like ibentos came to rescue. ibentos was a new venture and this was a turning point for Bhatia, his team and business. Their biggest achievement during this period was that they were able to support and retain all of their employees (a team of 50+) during the tough times, due to this quick adaptation of their event technology solutions.

Co-founder & CEO, Harpreet Bhatia says, ‘When you are working for an organization, you bring a change in your life. But entrepreneurship gives you the power & opportunity to bring change in the lives of others – of your employees, your society, your industry, country & the world. Every country depends on its entrepreneurs for development. They are like economic soldiers of a country who generate employment, lead the way by finding innovative solutions to various issues of the country and creating a self-sufficient society. The change that I can bring in my capacity is what drives me to keep innovating & keep moving forward.”

While companies were shutting down or filing bankruptcies, ibentos was giving bonuses and hikes to their team. By building a virtual platform, they gave the industry a ray of hope. They could continue their businesses now, stay in touch with their clients, generate revenue (in fact, more than before) and could retain their employees as well.

An Entrepreneurial Journey is Rarely a Straight Line

Harpreet talked to us a little bit more about his entrepreneurial journey, and some of the challenges he has faced along the way –

To be an entrepreneur, one must be willing to take on challenges. Entrepreneurs face numerous hurdles in today’s hyper-competitive business climate. And my well-wishers and loved ones always made me aware of it. I’ve always believed that entrepreneurship is my true calling, it’s what I was born to do. But I would be lying if I said it was a smooth sailing journey.

When when I started my entrepreneurial journey in 2009, the first and most difficult challenge for me was quitting my stable high-paying position and announcing my venture/idea to the world and family, as well as committing the funds and credit I had. It was, without a doubt, the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. And trust me when I say I was handed with my fair share of curve balls.

I began my business venture from my own house. While it appeared unrealistic and foolish to others, I was confident that this was only the beginning of what I envision as a great business. It was not easy to find the suitable talent for the startup. But the universe was on my side, and after many trials and tribulations, I was able to find staff who were and continue to be true gems in my endeavor.

The next step was to earn the trust of customers and clients. I recall spending several nights developing pitches and sending out mailers in the hopes of receiving a chance to showcase and prove the excellence of our goods and services to potential clients. I still recall how thrilled I was when we cracked our first sale. Even though we bent our backs backwards to adjust their needs and specifications, It was the most significant achievement of my life.

Even though Harpreet’s ideas were rejected many times along the way, he never doubted himself. He shares, “I had responsibilities not only to myself and my family but also to my employees as well…. there is no going back.”

The most important lessons He’s learned as an entrepreneur include;

  1. To never give up on yourself; if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Everything will ultimately fall into place if you are passionate about something and work hard at it.
  2. Be patient with yourself and remember that good results take time.
  3. Finally, but certainly not least. Make a move! Great ideas are abundant in the world, but only action leads to success. Walt Disney once said that the easiest way to get started is to quit talking and start doing. I took the leap of faith and the rest is history.

The Virtual Events Industry: An Overview

ibentos virtual events marketIn 2021, the virtual events market size reached $114.12B, and is expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate of 21.4% by 2030. The clamour for virtual events doubled in 2020 when the pandemic forced governments to impose restrictions on physical gatherings. Because of a growth in demand, brands discovered the benefits of hosting virtual events, including their cost-efficiency and time efficacy.

Many were learning the intricacies of this technology while relying on it for day to day operations. In virtual events, weak internet strength, malfunctioning equipment, and lack of two-way communication can ruin the experience for all participants. Despite these challenges, virtual events organizers continue addressing trends such as micro-events, personalized content, and socializing components.

How Will the Metaverse Impact the Digital Events Industry?

Do you remember when experts thought virtual events were a temporary solution to communication gaps during the pandemic? Well, Metaverse and other industry leaders made sure they’re here to stay.

With mega-brands like Meta supporting the industry, and innovative technology solutions like ibentos, there’s no doubt it will experience rapid growth in the next few years.

What’s Next for ibentos?

In the next six months, the company will be ready to launch their community platform for brands, associations and organizations can use it for their digital content repository along with networking, marketplace and live conferences.

In the next 1-2 years, the company plans to raise funds for launching a DIY Metaverse events platform and launch a large-scale partner program globally. In the next 5 years, the company plans to launch the first around the clock event support centre to ensure all events are hand held to keep our stakeholders one step ahead, and take ibentos through its IPO.

Grow Your Business Through Digital Events

Virtual events are some of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to penetrate the North American market. They’re an ideal tool for launching, growing, and scaling small and medium international enterprises.

Are you ready to take your business to new heights? We can help.

TBDC is Toronto’s first startup incubator. Located in the heart of the downtown core, our team and ecosystem partners help set you up for success in the North American market. We offer access to business advisory support, a diverse pool of entrepreneurial-minded communities in a professional environment, and a highly curated calendar of events that are designed to move your business forward. Book a Call now to begin your growth journey.

Supply Chain Transparency Helps Businesses Grow

Quality control in manufacturing is not a new process. You can trace its roots all the way back to the Middle Ages when guilds incorporated training and enforced high standards on apprentices. Aspiring craftsmen would train in these establishments to hone their skills and become experts in their craft. To be considered masters of their specialties, they had to prove that they could create a masterpiece that showcased their knowledge and experience to produce a high-quality product.

At the start of the industrial revolution, manufacturers started to focus more heavily on the number of goods produced, rather than the quality. Priorities began to change from quantity to quality when the demand for better goods started to increase. Manufacturers started realizing that they needed to work smarter and apply ways to control quality to improve their bottom lines.

In the ’80s and ’90s, many super large organizations had reached their peak. The market became flooded with entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to replicate the success of the large corporations without the resources of an integrated supply chain.

In recent decades, quality control has become a crucial aspect of manufacturing. Regulatory bodies, internal auditing consultants, and external inspection services are cropping up globally, helping meet new customer demands for supply chain transparency and assurances of sustainability.

Tetra Inspections is just one of the companies doing this, but founder Mohamad Afali is building a reliable and innovative service to help you ensure quality in manufacturing across 25 countries. Tetra Inspections has a range of inspectors working on the ground internationally to ensure your manufacturing contracts are being followed to the highest standards.

Supply Chain Transparency Has Become a Necessity

Consumers have more access to information and brand options than ever before. And as consumers are getting more educated, there is an increasing desire for knowledge that helps them make good purchase decisions. Some consumer concerns include;

  • Sourcing of raw materials and chemical processing
  • Product quality & safety standards
  • Sustainability & Environmental protection
  • Manufacturing costs and ethical treatment of employees

And the desire for supply chain transparency isn’t being driven by consumers alone. Governments, NGOs, and company stakeholders are starting to increase pressure and implement regulations that make monitoring the entirety of your supply chain a growing necessity.

Understanding Supply Chain Outsourcing

In 2021, the highest areas for outsourcing in the supply chain were; distribution & logistics (at 42%), manufacturing (at 37%), finishings (at 29%), and packaging (at 23%).

Why do companies outsource their supply chains? From a small business or startup perspective, it is so much more cost-effective to have someone else make and ship your product to the end-user. But not all product designers and marketers who have good product ideas understand the regulatory and lab testing requirements for the countries where they want to manufacture.

But outside of this seller/producer outsourcing of the supply chain, your production company can further sub-contract your manufacturing work to other companies to save costs or meet tight production timelines. Tetra Inspections track the location of their inspectors when they do quality checks, so you can see every facility where your goods are being manufactured, stored, or packaged.

Tetra Inspection Coverage Map

Based on Tetra Inspection’s data, more than 37% of suppliers visited under their inspection services were subcontracting production or some steps of production to other factories without sharing that information with the client. Tetra is looking to increase end customer trust and manufacturing trust through sharing GPS data of inspection tours.
Mohamed shares “Since we started our Journey in 2019, our inspectors travelled more than 600,000 Km to help our clients secure their goods manufactured in Asia and make the products consumed in Canada, USA, EU… safe for the final customer. 600,000 KM is the equivalent of 15 times the circumference of the Globe”.

Building a More Ethical Supply Chain

Consumers care more about where their products come from, and businesses are starting to listen. A 2018 study showed that businesses that make specific sustainability claims and give customers access to data grew twice as fast as companies that made unclear sustainability claims.

With the rise of certifications like B Corp, having a trusted manufacturing inspection service that can provide you with social and ethical audits is essential. Tetra Inspections has 6 main pillars to their ethical audits; observation & documentation compliance, health & safety & hygiene, waste management, child labour, hours & wages & benefits, and labour practices.

Post-Pandemic Supply Chain Trends

Many companies and most consumers experienced supply chain disruptions in the early days of COVID, and many are still recovering from production and shipping bottlenecks caused by reduced capacity in workspaces and increased safety protocols. But, these disruptions left many companies evaluating their supply chain for ways to avoid future disruptions.

Companies are looking at a number of ways to fight these disruptions, including branching out from countries historically known for their cheap manufacturing, creating short-term demand-supply synchronization strategies, and adopting technologies that allow for more transparency at all levels of the supply chain. If you’re looking for new suppliers, Tetra Inspections has auditors in over 25 countries.

As shipping costs continue to increase, it has also become comparable to manufacturing goods locally. Mohammed says, “the costs of a 40-ft container have increased 7 to 10 times since the start of the pandemic, and the customer is starting to see the higher prices. Because these shipping costs are getting so high, it is sometimes cheaper to pay for the more expensive labour for smaller consumer goods to be produced more locally. The pandemic helped us expand our network.

There are some limitations to re-shoring production. Because we haven’t done the work here, generations lose their abilities. Small brands that do well, producing locally make sense.”

Growing Your Start-up in North America

Tetra Inspections moved to Canada in December 2021, and his experience was relatively straightforward. Prepared with the right information through our pre-acceleration program, Mohamed had already set up his banking and business structure before he arrived.

His biggest challenge adjusting to the North American market? Adapting his sales and marketing approach. Mohamed comments “TBDC has been always very supportive, they provided a lot of mentorship, coaching on all business fronts, we followed their recommendations for lawyers, accounting firms, software’s, and received introduction to angel investors. One of the great things TBDC has done is they made us aware about all grants and credits offered by the Government.”

Are you part of an international start-up looking to expand into the North American Market? Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC), is Toronto’s original business incubator, with an offering specifically designed to help established businesses reach their potential in the western hemisphere. Want to see if your start-up is ready? Book a call today!

Get The Most Out Of Remote Work With The Help Of UnRemot

UnRemot is a virtual office platform that enables businesses to connect with remote professionals and collaborate effectively.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, remote working has become the new norm and many businesses expect to continue operating remotely even beyond the pandemic due to the benefits it provides. The global market size for the SaaS in collaboration, teamwork, and remote work market is already estimated to be at CAD 35 billion. UnRemot, a tech startup that provides remote working and talent discovery solutions, has recently announced its move from India to Canada through TBDC’s SUV program to expand its market size and take advantage of this new opportunity.

UnRemot enables businesses to streamline their workforce by providing a single platform that allows them to discover, hire, and manage remote talent while also providing virtual offices to improve collaboration and teamwork. The startup’s platform is made for two sets of customers – businesses seeking to hire remote talent and freelance workers. While there are existing platforms like Upwork and Microsoft Teams that allow talent discovery and remote collaboration, UnRemot offers both these features on one integrated platform for businesses. Furthermore, the startup will also handle all the hassles around the safety and security of payments, underwrite the work quality, and delivery timelines of the freelancers on their platform. For freelancers, the platform provides an opportunity to engage with potential employers and find work.

UnRemot is founded by Shiju Radhakrishnan, a proven entrepreneur and IT professional with over 16 years of experience. Before launching UnRemot, he successfully built, an online holiday booking platform that generated over three million USD in revenue. The website was acquired in 2018 by, a publicly funded UK-based travel company. He has won numerous accolades including Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 by Junior Chamber International.

Under Shiju’s leadership, UnRemot has already achieved high traction and currently has 125 businesses that are using its platform. The startup has reported that there are over 15,000 active monthly users and 6,200 active weekly users. UnRemot’s list of clients includes Grant Thornton, the sixth-largest consultancy firm in the world. The startup has also recently raised CAD 100,000 at a CAD 1 million valuation. Ever since the startup joined the SUV program, TBDC has been working closely with Shiju in ensuring the company is ready to scale up and expand its presence in the North American market.

Women-Led Start-Up Makes It Easier to Eat Healthy

INSTA Foods produces a range of air-dried and plant-based natural food products to cater to a growing demand for healthier food options.

INSTA Foods is a food production company that specializes in natural dehydrated food products. Through an innovative Airdrying technology, the company produces a wide range of food powders, healthy snacks, and ingredients wholly sourced from vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. These powders are organic and free from any preservatives, additives, or artificial ingredients. INSTA Foods is one of several start-ups from TBDC’s SUV program that is looking to make a strong impact in the North American market.

According to Tehmina Asad, Director of INSTA Foods, changing consumer preferences and growing demand for healthier, sustainable, and socially responsible options were the key drivers behind the launch of the company. “We also wanted to address the alarming issue of high wastage happening in the fresh foods category by creating products that offer a longer shelf life”, said Tehmina. Originally launched in 2011 in Pakistan as a B2B Company, INSTA Foods started off its Retail Natural Brand in 2018 by only making food powders but have since developed and expanded their product line to include healthy snacking options and herbal teas. The company has a state-of-the-art facility in Pakistan where it processes all its raw materials that are sourced from trusted farms and are of the highest quality.

Under Tehmina’s leadership, INSTA Foods has already achieved numerous milestones and achievements. In its home country of Pakistan, the company was selected by Export Council of Australia for “Women Trading Globally” course, awarded the Best Foodpreneur in 2018 as well as the Laurel of Honors Award from the Women’s Chamber of Commerce in 2019. The company was also selected to participate in SIAL Canada’s annual exhibit in 2019 where it generated immense buzz and built solid leads within the North American market. However, for Tehmina, this is only the beginning of an ambitious journey. “Our mission is to become the first choice for customers in natural food products by 2025.”

Tehmina’s success in launching Pakistan’s first natural food brand has also had a significant impact for the women in the country. Through its factory as well as its Supplier Training Program, INSTA Foods has created immense employment opportunities for women in Pakistan. In a country where women entrepreneurs face massive obstacles, Tehmina has become a source of inspiration for other many other women entrepreneurs in the country.

For Tehmina, choosing TBDC as a partner for the company’s move to Toronto was an easy decision. “As someone who is a big advocate of gender inclusivity, I was immediately drawn to TBDC when I saw that it shared the same values and also had a woman leading the organization”, said Tehmina. “TBDC has been highly responsive and accommodating and their mentor network has helped me tremendously in learning more about the Canadian market”.

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