CEO, Guardly Corp.
Location: Toronto, ON
Josh Sookman is the mastermind behind Guardly, a smartphone app that enables users in emergency situations to simultaneously alert local authorities and people in their personal safety networks. For instance, if a teen is in trouble, Guardly will transmit her status and location via email, text and phone call not just to emergency officials, but also to designated contacts such as her parents, via email, text and phone call. Sookman, whose educational background is biotechnology, came up with the platform’s prototype on his own; he then hired a product team to rewrite the software to be more reliable, scalable and efficient. The app has been on the market since April 2011. Monthly subscriptions are growing fast, and with a soon-to-be-launched version aimed at college and university students, Sookman expects revenue and profit to escalate quickly over the next two years. Part of that will come from global growth. Sookman aims to expand Guardly into countries with high crime rates, such as South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. “There are still many more chapters left in this novel,” he says. “I’m excited to write each new page.”
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur, your mission is to go out and speak to as many customers and potential customers as you can. Always bring your latest beta or mockups with you and continue to validate assumptions—even when you are sure you’ve nailed down the final feature set.
What is your best advice for young entrepreneurs?
Get out of your office, classroom or bedroom and go meet people. Networking is extremely important. Knowing other people is great, but it’s who knows you that really matters.
What can governments, institutions and other businesses do to better support young entrepreneurs?
In my time as a young entrepreneur, I have come across many contests that give away $10,000 in prize money to launch a startup. That’s a good start, but I think we can learn a lot from the Y-Combinator and TechStars [tech incubator] models in the U.S. They have a great set of mentors, advisors and investors, and fantastic relationships with some of the largest technology companies. Even better: they provide a forum for young startups to show off their prototypes or minimum viable products to top-tier and other investors. This allows them to gain access to funding very easily and give their technology a real shot at becoming a profitable business venture.