North American tech is alive and thriving. As an ecosystem partner, we want to highlight the people and stories behind that growth.
So we’re giving you the inside track into how some of today’s rising tech companies got started, the challenges they’ve faced, and their take on the future of tech in Alberta.
We connected with Derrick Koenig, Founder and CEO at Ontopical, a Sales Intelligence company that helps businesses discover emerging public sector opportunities faster and easier than ever.
Let’s see what Derrick had to say…
What inspired you to found Ontopical?
Derrick: “Throughout my career as an engineer (and having owned my own engineering firm) I have lived the pain of chasing RFPs for over 20 years. It was clear to me that the status quo RFP process seldom yields the best possible results for both the buyer and the vendor. I saw that when a vendor can get in front of the RFP and help the customer truly understand and define their problem, the outcome was always better. I focused these observations on the public sector where I saw that the data necessary to make these powerful connections early in the process was already out there, buried deeply in the content being published by government organizations every day. I knew that this was a massive opportunity to improve public procurement on a global scale.”
What does Ontopical do, and how are you making an impact?
Derrick: “Ontopical is a Sales Intelligence platform that allows business development professions to see the earliest possible signal of upcoming government needs. The result is a step-change in the public procurement process that produces stronger and more robust communities for us all.”
What were the biggest challenges you faced in the early startup days of the company?
Derrick: “Of course, the lack of capital is always a challenge for early-stage startups. Next to that, I’d say that finding a problem in need of a solution, rather than a solution in need of a problem was a challenge. As an engineer, I was very solution-focused. Looking back now, we always take multiple steps forward when we focus first on the customer’s problem.”
What marketing activities have you prioritized/invested in? What has worked well for you?
Derrick: “We are just starting to set some strategy around marketing, and recently focused on a full copy update for our website, including a clear and compelling call to action. It takes a while to truly understand the customer and the language that they use to describe the problem that you are solving for them. We have come a long way since originally developing our website a year ago and now have much better understanding of the customer. Included in this, we are starting to do some content generation to start establishing our voice and brand.”
How did COVID impact Ontopical?
Derrick: “COVID actually helped us make a very successful market pivot 2022. We were previously B2G (business-to-government) and when COVID hit it became obvious to us that this ‘idea’ was growing fast but was going to be difficult to progress during a pandemic. Thus we went back into discovery mode and explored B2B (business-to-business) opportunities. This was relatively easy due to the virtual meeting environment created by the pandemic. This lead to our first B2B pilot customers and, ultimately, a successful seed raise.”
What do you think the future holds for the Alberta tech sector?
Derrick: “My hope is that investors in Alberta continue to better support early-stage founders, both those how are helping to change our energy sector AND those who are solving problems that diversify our economy.”
What Alberta tech startup(s) are you currently watching and why?
Derrick: “Athennian – love what they are doing and the success they are realizing, demonstrated by the recently closed Series B capital raise. Also, Mastrius as I’ve known Mike and Julie for years – it is inspiring to see them chase their passion. Mastrius is also one of the many Alberta startups that are diversifying the Alberta economy.”
What advice would you give to someone considering starting a tech company in Alberta?
Derrick: “Start with being very strategic with who you want to serve with your business/idea. Then speak with them to understand their biggest problems to see if your passion aligns with a solution that they will embrace.”
What’s your must-read, listen, or watch for anyone in tech?
More Alberta tech stories to come…