Each year, the AccelerateAB Startup Advising Sessions provide Alberta startups with high-quality advice from people who have built, scaled, and exited technology startups themselves, in addition to storytelling and pitch coaching workshops. In 2018, the winner of the Startup Advising Sessions Pitch Competition was Rena Tabata, CEO & Co-Founder of ShareSmart, who was awarded the inaugural Alex Raczenko Pitch Award.
We recently caught up with Rena to get an update on what she’s been up to since participating in AccelerateAB, and to get some helpful tips for startups attending this year’s conference.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
My hometown is Richmond, British Columbia, and I grew up in a household that worshipped the mountains. We’d ski, fish, climb, pick mushrooms and seek natural hot springs. To fund our passion, my dad operated a commodity trading company where I cut my teeth in seaborne trade, risk management and stakeholder management. I was nine years-old when I first began working at my dad’s office, initially filing papers and then taking on HR and accounting duties by the time I was in high school. I observed the art of brokering business deals and never thought that I’d ever apply the skills I gleaned from just ‘being around’ my dad’s office.
Where did the idea for ShareSmart originate?
ShareSmart was developed from a place of need. The majority of healthcare professionals — including doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedical professionals, allied health and health sciences students — use their smartphones to discuss patient care with their colleagues. They do so to provide and receive clinical decision support, conduct consultations and to ensure care teams are on the same page. Until ShareSmart, much of the smartphone-based communication occurred on apps that were not appropriate for handling sensitive patient information. A team of healthcare professionals, privacy lawyers and technical experts teamed up to directly address this issue. Since then, ShareSmart has been taken up in hospitals and academic centres across 71 countries.
What were some of your biggest early challenges?
Our biggest challenge in the early days was building our engineering team. Consultants have always been easy to come by, but identifying senior tech talent who could join our team on a full-time basis was not so easy. By bringing in some key staff, we were able to leverage their professional network to bring our technical team to twelve!
What was your experience like as a startup participating in AccelerateAB?
In terms of speakers, networking and mentorship, AccelerateAB is world-class. We were blown away by the genuine care and interest the mentors had for our team and vision. Mentorship day was intensive and hitting the big stage with our pitch was nerve wracking. We were honoured to take home the Alex Raczenko award and, as our team drove home from Edmonton, we reflected fondly over the surreal experience.
What really took us by surprise was the interest our participation in AccelerateAB garnered on the part of potential investors and healthcare stakeholders. We continue to meet regularly with the mentors we first met with at AccelerateAB and are very grateful for the ongoing support and to the conference for accelerating our vision.
Tell us about ShareSmart's journey since AccelerateAB and where you're headed.
AccelerateAB helped us reflect deeply upon our plans. It also pushed us to dream big. We’ve continued to forge forward towards our goal to become a global standard in health information privacy. We successfully closed a $1M round and partnered with localized partners based in Japan and Indonesia to serve as their respective market’s mobile health communication solution.
Any parting words of wisdom for other startups at AccelerateAB 2019?
Come rested and ready to network! Much of the delegation who attends AccelerateAB are looking to elevate the startup ecosystem, whether it be through investments, partnerships, or through mentorship. Be ready to tell your story and vision over and over again, as you don’t know who you’ll run in to. It could be your next big hire, an Angel or VC looking to back you, or a PR agency looking to amplify your story! Conversely, look to give generously of your advice, your network or your experiences.