This former CFO has built a concierge business for corporate offsites

Roy Wainer's career history began with roles in financial operations - he always loved enabling growth for early stage companies and along the way that meant helping teams get larger.

In this episode of the Gathering Podcast from StartWell, we explore how Roy helped a company called Platterz, which used to be in catering, scale to become Thriver - which is is now a marketplace enabling employee engagement.

He's recently turned entrepreneur and started a company called Townish - taking learnings from how scaling teams work and translating that into a concierge booking service that pairs team offsites with unique venues.

Spend time with this conversation - here's the full transcript

Entrepreneurship and company growth.

Qasim Virjee 0:17
So for the second episode of this the second season of the gathering podcast, we sat down with Roy Wainer. Yeah, from town ish town ish. It's an interesting name for a company.

Martin Hauck 0:29
It's like city ish town ish. I think it's like community. townie right, which also has negative Yeah, you

Qasim Virjee 0:39
can call people townies, right. They don't like that

Martin Hauck 0:41
city ease. City ease doesn't make sense. tarnish is good. Yeah, good choice.

Qasim Virjee 0:45
So essentially, you know, we found him interesting. And we found his company interesting. And we talked about kind of, like his background that was not necessarily in creating off sites for people. But that's kind of what the company does, is it matches spaces and experiences for teams to come together in and, and companies and says, Hey, we can create this kind of off site, you know, thing for you. And it sounds like he's gonna go pretty, Robo fantastic in the next couple of years.

Martin Hauck 1:14
Yeah, he's right now he's the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, right. But he's taking everything that he learned at platters and when platters became thriver, so for the Toronto based folks, you know them well. And he talks about what he's building it at tannish. And I think that's really cool. I think, if you are a person, that is the catch all, at a company when it's just like, nobody's doing this, but we need somebody to do it. Can you do this? That's what I took away from the conversation of, okay, if I am that person, how do I evolve? How do I grow? What am I and he highlights what his strengths are having had that experience all the time, I think it's great experience from like a, if you're eventually looking to become a founder, or an entrepreneur, that's exactly the type of role you want to be in your talks about some of those lessons. You're right.

Qasim Virjee 2:10
And I think you'll comes across as that like Roy necessarily might not have been a people person in the sense of always wanting to like concerted effort amongst people. But he always seems to have had, like a strategic value for the way that a company should progress and grow. Yeah, right. He used that word a few times in this episode, growth, growth, growth, growth, growth. And so he always wanted to grow whatever company he's with. And I think, you know, his colleagues or people that became his colleagues were like, well, we need that energy. And we need someone to focus on that and do whatever you need to, to, like, make sure we grow which inevitably means, you know, organizing labor and getting people together around a strategic vision now, so that's a good one, man, episode two. Why whiner? Right, we're entering dude, thank you for joining us at the start wall studio for another episode of The Gathering podcast.

Roy Wainer 3:05
Great to be here.

Qasim Virjee 3:08
Of course, in person right.

Career path and impactful startup idea.

Roy Wainer 3:09

In first time, we've met in person but many personally met marketing person as well. It's probably just not kind of third time. Yeah. Weird. Yeah. I've

Qasim Virjee 3:17
never met the two of us at the same time. Right? Holder?

Roy Wainer 3:20
zanaflex. Goodness.

Qasim Virjee 3:23
Yeah. So we wanted to have you here to tell us your story, and share it with the audience. Because I think it's going to be an interesting one for you know, all of us who work directly retention, lean, like people in culture and HR, because from what I understand of your career, you've, you've come to it from an interesting place. And from doing a little bit of corporate stuff, and corporate development stuff.

Roy Wainer 3:47
Yes, indeed. I think. I mean, I think everyone's career is coming from interesting place. And I think, you know, people are like, unique and have unique exterior experiences. So I don't know if mine is, like, more interesting than other experiences, as well. And so humble, right. But yeah, I actually start my career in finance, and I've always been a finance guy. I've been fully reading finance books since I was 10 years old. Wow.

Qasim Virjee 4:13
Was your dad and finance is that why he was the anchor? So

Roy Wainer 4:17
no, it wasn't fun. It wasn't Dec. And but he was always finance was always these OB as well. And I think it's kind of like this what may happen to me as well, like my finance became a hobby. It started my career, did bachelor degree in economics, did MBA in finance, started my career in in consulting. But then I was working a lot with my clients. I will always done all the time work with clients all the time, kind of like our plans. Do you know execute on the next project execute on the next few days, execute the next month. And I felt like I'm not building anything. And I wanted to build something. I live in Tel Aviv back then Tel Aviv. I don't know if you know what it's like a strong tech hub.

Qasim Virjee 4:58
Just like Coding and drinking fizzy, bubbly and chilling on the beach.

Roy Wainer 5:03
Exactly. And then I started, you know, I started getting these, like each of like you I want to do something. I wanted to start everyone who's something interesting. Yeah, I joined a startup in Israel. And I also co founded another startup in the in kind of like in parallel, which is like, kind of like an impact startup. And I started kind of like, you know, wait, tell us about that. What you did, which was through that whole history that are sure. I don't know how much time I have. So don't rush

Qasim Virjee 5:28
relax. In impact startup, so what do you mean by that? What was that company doing?

Roy Wainer 5:34
So Okay, interesting. So, I don't know if you're aware of it. But like, in India, and Bangladesh, and some other countries in Asia, and a lot of kids go to school, and they go above rivers. And some of there's actually a drowning issue there. And a lot of kids like five, six years old, who just go to school, sometimes they just have to cross rivers, they don't know how to swim,

Qasim Virjee 5:56
they're like, maybe they're crawling on top, some sewage kind of pipe or something like that. Bridge.

Roy Wainer 6:01
Exactly. So I am actually started working together with two industrial engineers. And we wanted to build something like very affordable to allow for these kids to actually go to school has some kind of like floatation belt, and the one and the Western floatation belts. Cost. I remember back then it was like probably eight years ago, they used to cost like 50 bucks, maybe now it's even more Yeah, we wanted to do something that is like as cheap as one dogs. And we're gonna do something very affordable. And so we actually thought of doing something that involves actually use, like recycled bottles of Coca Cola, or like water or whatever. And just create like a very, very easy to use and friendly floatation belt. And we got to the point where it's some kind of prototype. And we actually join this very big accelerator in Israel for impact investing. And but what I didn't know, before I started, it was how tough it is to raise money for like, fundraise for nonprofit startups, right? Oh, yeah, we have no business model. Because like the even if it's, if it's cost, like one or two bucks, the user is not gonna be able to pay for it. So we wanted someone else to pay for it, and then just deliver it to them. And we started speaking with bunch of like, different groups of like NGOs and like nonprofit. And what we realized is most of them also want money. They can't, you know, they just it's like, this is the way it was like, there are probably like 99% of this industry just wants money. And maybe there is one person that can actually deliver some donations. And so the business model wasn't, wasn't there.

Qasim Virjee 7:37
And you were how old when you were doing this? This is coming out of school or something?

Career growth, startup mistakes, and moving to Canada.

Roy Wainer 7:41
No, no. So first of all, it needs rally to the army. So I started my, I actually went to undergrad when I was 22. I started my career in finance when I was 25, or six. And I joined startups, I started the startup world when I was 28. So and then I in pilot, I did this, and I also joined another startup is kind of like the operation leader, you know, some kind of fraud that is almost like I would say, it's kind of like Chief of Staff. And in today's world, and where I kind of expected like the finance, the operations, the strategy, a lot of the things was a seat startup. And going backwards also, like, kind of like thinking about my mistakes. And that's

Qasim Virjee 8:24
what we're here for. Yeah, tell us what you did wrong in here.

Roy Wainer 8:28
I think I've been I've done a lot of mistakes in the past, like choosing and my career. But I've also done a lot of mistakes and like, kind of like deciding not to pursue my, you know, my best ideas in a timely manner. And so this startup was actually wasn't a mistake to join me. It was a mistake for me to stay in as long as I did. Yeah. Because it just didn't go anywhere. And but it was actually a very interesting. So the

Qasim Virjee 8:55
learning from that, to share with anyone in our audience who might be going through that question. Yeah. What's your recommendation on when to pull the plug on on a job? That doesn't feel right?

Roy Wainer 9:06
It's a good question. And obviously, there are a lot of like things to consider, like salary compensation, you know, some people care more about stability. But in my opinion, you know, life is short, and your 20s are short, even more than life insurance, you realize that in your 40s. And like, when you're 60 years old, it's going to be hard for you to walk in a startup. And so I think if you want to work in a startup, you have to work in a startup that is successful, you have to work in startups is growing. And even if it's not growing, everything happens fast. You're not just not flat. So in my opinion, you know, if you feel like things are like kind of like stagnant, this is damaged live. And if you feel you're not growing anymore, so I got to a point where I kind of like, you know, the first year was like really, really like I learned a lot. I didn't know anything about startup and about fundraising. But then like after I felt like I'm kind of like I'm I'm stagnant, and then I stick a stick for another year because we actually knew that we're going to move to Canada. I mean, my wife, and so it kind of like made me stagnant. But they do believe in what Sheryl Sandberg said, like I think leaning you know, like, Lenin and like if you if you feel it like that, like things are like flat or like, stagnant. This is the time to live.

Qasim Virjee 10:21
That's Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook. Exactly.

Roy Wainer 10:23
She's not for Facebook anymore. But yeah,

Qasim Virjee 10:26
I like that lesson. Yeah, okay, guys, everyone at this company, building things that people don't use anymore should just go and do something else. Canada, tell me about that. You're here in Canada, you move from Tel Aviv with Yeah, this was like a choice that you were excited about winters and so on.

Roy Wainer 10:46
So the first time we came to Toronto Samer, someone bought

Qasim Virjee 10:49
him a snow suit as like a joke. And he's like, hey, yeah, that's a great idea. I'm gonna go to Canada.

Roy Wainer 10:53
So the first time actually, we came to visit was actually in the summer to September. It was like, I noticed September is not exactly the Saturday it was like, relatively warm. It was the TF. Actually, it was so exciting to be in Toronto. And we're actually thinking of going moving somewhere just for like, the adventure. And my wife wanted to do MBA somewhere. So we were kind of like researching different schools in the US. Eventually, we actually decided on Canada, mostly for like Visa purposes, actually. Like it was easy to come here. In the US, it's like for like, it's, if you're like a spouse of a student in the US, you're not necessarily going to get a working visa. Okay. But in current I just an immediate process. Everything happens like in few days. And so So yeah, so we decided to move here, we decided to kind of like, see, you know, see what happens. And when we are the good things about Toronto, we knew a lot of like people that live here. And we knew about the winter, but obviously, there was a difference between knowing that the winter exists to actually you know, suffering through the winter. And, and just finally actually got an advice from a friend of ours that lives in lives in Chicago. And he told us for the first year, don't go, don't go anywhere during the winter. Just don't take any vacation, just experience, experience it and see, you know, and see what's up what's up. And so we decided to pursue it. And it was actually terrible winter for us. And but yeah, but like,

Company growth and hiring practices. 

Qasim Virjee 12:19
but what was the hardest thing about it?

Roy Wainer 12:22
I think the hardest thing about it is actually not like the weather, like the Arctic thing is just like paper, like become like much more. You know, like people stay at home. People don't are not out as much. Sure. And

Qasim Virjee 12:36
when was this? What year? Did

Roy Wainer 12:36
you move here? 2017. Okay, so a couple of years before the pandemic. Yeah, so it wasn't probably pandemic, but people are, you know, like, people still change their behavior when it's starting to get cooler. And this is something like we didn't expect, right. And because in Tel Aviv, yeah, I mean, there's a difference between summer and the winter, but like, the winter is still probably like 15 degrees. So it's not the end of the word. People are still going out. And even now, during the war, people are still going out. It's like, it's it's a country where like, people are like very much. And, you know, walk out layout, in a way. Yeah. And so yeah, so it wasn't like so the weather was actually not like a big issue, but like the fact that people are like more isolated was a big issue for us. Oh, yeah. And I but by then I actually started already like walking in so it was actually manageable. And a few months after I came to Toronto, I met through some mutual friend I met one of the cofounders of a company used to call platters now it's called thriver. And which was a marketplace for food to the office. Oh,

Qasim Virjee 13:42
this is interesting. Yeah. platters became thriver.

Martin Hauck 13:48
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there was a big, there was a big pivot. See,

Qasim Virjee 13:52
no one told us about that. We use platters. So we were like b2b customers of plaid. Yeah, because platters correct me if I'm wrong, but platters was almost like kind of a value added marketplace for catering. Yeah, exactly. And so we liked it. I remember a couple of my staff using that for client engagements and helping clients you know, organize source of food and so on. And then we suddenly notice that it disappeared. I don't think they communicated that they didn't exist, or that they were doing something different. You

Roy Wainer 14:21
should interview someone from that.

Qasim Virjee 14:24
But yes, it makes sense. Tell us to them to them. Yeah. So you were at thriver so now what it was thriver

Roy Wainer 14:30
so I joined plotters when like in 2017, the end of 2017 when I moved here, and I joined also like in conflict a vague position of someone that like is responsible for like the growth of the company. And but like pretty instantly I kind of like took a bunch of like different forms because the company was like in hyper growth mode. Give it pause. Yeah.

Qasim Virjee 14:52
Over to like people in culture man over here. This is interesting for me, and I'm sure for some of our listeners. An audience is how companies can advertise a role, especially one that particularly is very

Roy Wainer 15:06
unique advertised, that's the thing. It was very and, and maybe we once we kind of like start speaking about my kind of like, you know, my new company, I can tell you also about it. But like I think what I've noticed in life is like the best CEOs are like very opportunistic about like, not not not only see, I was like executives in general, very opportunistic about hiring. And this role wasn't advertised. But like, when I met the CEO, we had good chemistry, we understood, he understood that he needs me for what he wants to achieve, I understood that I need him for what I wanted to achieve. Sure. And it was a big, you know, it wasn't a match. And I think, you know, like this role, there wasn't like any role advertised. I think if it wasn't for me, they probably wouldn't hire this person after CSA, because I joined seat after sale. So

Qasim Virjee 15:54
from your example, Martin, like, what do you think in terms of the because you always hear these stories, right? Is that like, companies kind of like, have to fill gaps in their operations? You know, and they have to kind of like, create the typography of what an organizational structure is they can hire to fill these roles. But you always hear these stories of how, you know, the best fit often comes from referrals, or comes from these sorts of like nuanced personal relationships. How often is that? And is that a particular type of job that gets filled in this kind of casually?

Hiring for a strategic role in startups. 

Martin Hauck 16:29
Like what you've said twice now, or a few times? Is this ambiguous? nebulous rule?

Qasim Virjee 16:37
Yeah, twice. There's

Martin Hauck 16:39
this like, generally Strahler, the generalist but but even the generalist that can be strategic, I think, right, Chief of Staff is the Okay, we don't have a solution for this. So we need someone scrappy, that's not just gonna go down a rabbit hole. So it comes up a lot. Yes, absolutely. And so it seems like that, given your experience from like a startup perspective, that you can kind of jump into those roles pretty quickly. It's like, what do you need? What's the most important thing for the business right now? How can we move the dial on that, you know, initiative that OKR, or whatever the case might be, maybe we don't have OKRs. But what I find interesting, given your experience, and I'm curious, is, you've seen this in different companies, where it's sort of like serving a need, what are the common themes? Because companies should be hiring for this role earlier, right? But it sounds like, you identify the problem with the CEO or a senior person at the company, and they're like, oh, we should hire Roy. Because I heard these things. And those are problems we have, you just don't know what they don't know, so to speak. So like, what is it? What is the thing that startup companies should know? So that they hire for this role faster?

Company growth, hiring, and sustainability.

Roy Wainer 17:55
Him, I think they should just be all the time, I think like, like, take a step back, I think hiring is probably the best way, and probably the only way to scale a startup. And I think as the company becomes more mature thing to see our role, probably the founders role, and probably even the executives role is to focus at least 50% of the time in hiring. And this means sometimes doing things that are kind of like, look like waste of time, just getting like having coffees with people, joining them on many calls and going to events event, and doing things that like not necessarily not necessarily scale. But I think there are so important because I think the CEO doesn't even know what he needs, but he needs someone that's like going to be there for him. And going to be the person and just like thinking out of out of the box, and pursuing these different initiatives and executing on them. An internal management consultant, kind of Yeah, and I can give him like, you know, like an example for him, you know, in 2018, for example, I was always, like, very aggressive about like, the growth of the company, even probably more than the founders, you know, I had, like, you know, crazy goals for the good for the company wanted to launch new cities after CSA. I said, we will be able to launch probably seven or eight cities in 2018. And we'll be able to get the company from 30 employees, 220 employees, and actually, the board of directors were actually laughing at us like they just didn't, they didn't assume it's actually possible to doing like for a company this size. And so I just decided, okay, I want to launch these cities. I want to launch la in May I want to launch Chicago in June, I want to launch Boston in August, whatever. And back then we actually hired people in the city so like we an RFP but physically in the cities. And I just like stared I put like probably like few all nighters. I just like started poaching people on LinkedIn, poaching people from different industries. It's mostly b2b in tech and other tech companies that I felt were kind of like, adjacent to what we did. But

Qasim Virjee 20:00
you didn't have a particular like templated organizational structure for each city and we're filling those roles, we had

Roy Wainer 20:06
a template and I kind of like built also the template as we weren't like we I kind of like, yeah, okay, I knew I would like to, if we'd like to launch the city in, I don't know, like, in May, then by March, I need to hire someone to actually to kind of like acquire the supply in the city. So I like to acquire more like restaurants that can actually help us deliver to customers. This

Qasim Virjee 20:23
is interesting, okay, because I know, you're gonna tell me about this in a second. But you didn't immediately put any kind of like formal HR structures in place to help you like you didn't,

Roy Wainer 20:35
I was the first day of HR. So I was like the actually the first recruiter in the company in the sense, even though I came from finance, like and operations, but I was just putting people then, and I convinced the CEO, we need to get HR Recruiter in place, we brought someone to actually manage the recruiting and talent acquisition process. And like, in the beginning, actually manager and we kind of like build together the all the talent acquisition process in the company. And I manage a lot of departments that were very different than what I did before. But I think it was, it's not necessarily because I was the best doing it, it's mostly because I was like, the most assertive and most aggressive about doing it and about growth of the company. And this is what the CEO wants, right? Like, the CEO, doesn't necessarily need perfection at this point. And he also like, you know, like, a lot of people from the startup industry will tell you like not to hire executives, you know, when you're like a seed company, or CSA, because executive, when they come, they need to manage a team, they need to hire a team, they need to work based on the processes that they know, and how to execute on. So I think at this stage of the company, when it's like, CTSA, you just need people that like, get the work done, get the work done. Yeah. Whatever it means. And if it's like for you

Qasim Virjee 21:51
is like, all wrong growth, you wanted to see the team scale, you wanted to see revenue scale, you want to see reach, and customer like market share, expand. Yeah, I

Roy Wainer 22:02
mean, obviously, some of these are like, kind of like vanity metrics, right? Like, I don't know, you tell us about like, number of employees, I think, you know, like, we I think all of us went through some changes, like in the last two years, once, like the interest rate started to pick up. And, and we do understand that like, that, what we felt about, like, number of employees is probably, you know, a lot of it was kind of like, was a bubble in a way. And I think obviously, number of employees, it has, it means something but like, it's not important, really important, it's just a reflection of what you can achieve as a company. So if you are more people than you should have, if you are more people than like, then your revenues, or if you are more people than like the actually you can, you know, like, if you have more employees that you can actually feed in the sense that like, actually provide them with like, the right org structure, provide them with, like the right structure to grow, provide them with, like the right career path. And I think it just becomes sometimes like, organization a nightmare. So I do think that, like companies understood that they need to slow down a little bit like the growth of employees, but growth in terms of, for revenues, for sure, I think, you know, you just like, money, don't lie. You know, like, it's kind of like, if you grow in terms of revenue, if you grow in terms of customers, you're

Qasim Virjee 23:21
talking about, like sustainability, right. And if and if you're on the right path, and it feels good, and it's sustainable, then you can keep going. That's

Roy Wainer 23:28
the thing. And I think this is like maybe the one caveat, because sometimes when you grow even too fast in terms of revenues, you kind of like, you know, a lot of like things that like I've been kind of like in like, you always need to be, I think as a startup founder and startup executive, you always need to have like full awareness of things that are not exactly the way they should be. When it comes to like to, you know, like, if maybe, you know, for us like at plotters, for example, you know, maybe one CD is going less quickly than our CTO, like maybe one type of customer is going less quickly than other types of customers. And we should have a kind of like, reflected and we should have understood, and probably better, but like, but you know, just like startup, you never know, in advance, like what you need to do. But I think you always need to investigate yourself. And you always need to kind of like to be to have like full awareness to everything that happens in the company. And you need the people that help you to do it. Because like the CEO cannot do everything. Right. Right. Right. What's

Starting a new business venture after COVID-19. 

Martin Hauck 24:26
What's the biggest thing you took away from that experience? That has helped you with what you're building now?

Roy Wainer 24:33
So first of all, I'm building a marketplace. So yeah, if any does have like in terms of the business model, I think, you know, it's very similar. And because we

Qasim Virjee 24:42
didn't define this, but like, what did what did thriver do? Post platters?

Roy Wainer 24:46
Yeah. So like, so post got like, obviously, just to kind of like go a step back. So what we did was connecting between companies to restaurants. So before COVID People were five days in the office, right, and the market was Big employees used to feed employees used to feed employees. And then one day just you know, the waters shut down, right? And, and plotters had to change. And luckily, we rest service be pre COVID. So we had a lot of like resources, but still you sometimes like you know, sometimes like having a serious be investors on your cap table is not necessarily the best thing once you've got to like, lose all of your revenues. And so we did a little bit of like pivot, we decided to focus on everything the company needs, everything the office needs. And so food is still a big part of it. And but it's not the only thing. So it includes also like snacks and coffee and furniture and plants and bunch of like different services for the office. And I stayed at platters for the probably the first year after COVID. And there was so much uncertainty back then, like so much uncertainty about you know, when people are going to go back to the office, if they're gonna go back to the office, right. And I didn't want you know, like jump ship, like in the beginning of COVID. I was and I still am, like good friend with like the founders of flowers. And, but at some point, I decided, yeah, I decided I want to, you know, start my own thing. And, and I didn't know back then what I want to start. So I started like a very long ideation process in Poland to doing some other stuff like consulting, also, like some financial projects, because we already talked about my kind of, like, love and affection for finance. And but yeah, eventually I came, I kind of decided to focus on the idea of tarnish, and which was kind of I was seeing I think like a very natural evolvement, from from thriver. To me. And in many ways, first of all, it's also it's another marketplace. So what we do is instead of connecting between companies to restaurant, we connect between companies do different services, for events, and events outside of the office, usually, and it can be venues like start well can be accommodation, it can be guest speakers, it can be workshops, so we kind of like as like a full, you know, one stop shop to enhance events for companies, and to facilitate more and more events for companies, especially companies becoming increasingly I read our mode. And it's like

Martin Hauck 27:12
a travel agent for events, right? Like, you don't want to book the entire vacation yourself. You don't know what the best flights are? Am I getting it?

Roy Wainer 27:21
You're getting it right. And I think the only caveat, you know, when we speak about travel agents, it sounds very easy to replace it. Because travel agents works with consumers. And when they when consumers book events is relatively easy, in terms of like booking a hotel, in terms of like booking flight, all of the things are relatively solved. So it's very easy to replace travel agents with like Airbnb or like, you know, Air Canada, whatever. And no, no, no offense to any travel agents about like, you know, this kind of like my two cents. But when it comes to booking events for a company, yeah, it's increasingly are there it's probably exponentially harder than booking events for like two people. And it's prone to so many errors. And the events are very complicated to execute on. So yeah, the idea, eventually, is to get to a point where we are travel agents for, for companies, and they can book any type of event on town, each platform is going to take some time together. But yeah, the idea is that like, you know, once you start, you want like to book an event for a team, you get connected with people that help you on setting the visas for your employees, you get connected with transportation, you get connected with different hotels, you get connection, we actually

Qasim Virjee 28:36
first kind of travel isn't like a Travel Concierge, yeah, there's

Automating event planning and client needs.

Roy Wainer 28:41
but very automated and everything going to be done online. And everything's going to be done, you're going to have like your company dashboard, you're going to be able to see. And first of all going to invite your team, you're going to be able to see the schedule of the event and do this on. On the actually on the on the platform. One of the features that we're actually just about to launch in few weeks, which I'm very proud of is event schedule, where you can actually drag and drop your different services on a platform, then we be able to actually book them for you. And according to the time slot that you actually so

Qasim Virjee 29:15
that's means of people building out an agenda. Yeah, for you guys to fulfill. Exactly.

Martin Hauck 29:21
So you're you're you're creating a workflow within your platform that essentially makes it easier for them, but then you're like, Oh, I could help you with this. I could help you this

Roy Wainer 29:31
exactly. And everything. And obviously we'd like you know, full transparency and like, you know, as a person would build a marketplace, I do a lot of things starting manually. And you know, we just launched we just launched eight months ago. And so a lot of the things that are where I'm speaking about now, we're just doing manually for now. So let's

Qasim Virjee 29:50
let's start Sorry, what was that

Martin Hauck 29:51
Wizard of Oz? Wizard?

Roy Wainer 29:53
Exactly. It's like wait, there's

Qasim Virjee 29:55
nothing behind this curtain.

Roy Wainer 29:58
Let's try to get the same Service obviously, well, I

Qasim Virjee 30:01
guess that's the point. I mean, you're in the service industry. So if you're automating stuff, that's cool, you know, do it, you know, once it makes sense. But it's really about giving that value to the customer that you're seeing from now.

Roy Wainer 30:11
That's the thing I like, actually, our clients don't really care if we do it for them, or they do it online, we actually care because it's hard to scale like this, right? Like, you need to automate a lot, a lot of the tasks that you do in house, so in five years, so now, I'm not gonna be the one that calling you know, like the hotel in Prince Edward County, and like, ask them if they have room for like, 20 people, and, but the client actually don't care even now, they just want good service, they want like the event to look good. They want the events to be successful. They want their manager to be happy with the results, and all the employees. And this is actually some of the, you know, some of the feedback that we get from clients is, you know, and some of the feedback that kind of like made them come to us is that like, they usually book events, they're not success successful, the employees are not happy with the events, the employees are just feeling, we just wasting our time for this. What Why, why did you took us? Why did you take us to like to do this, in this day, where you can just like stay at home and not meet and like, it's not going to be it's going to be probably more fun. And so then the clients don't really care about the automation they care about, first of all, the discovery of services. So they want to know that like, Okay, if I want to book an event for like, 20 people, which co working space with us today, we'll start well, we'll start I'll be good for my team, the first need to know about stuff, then they need to know that like this is actually going to fit what they need. And then it got then going to need to actually build an agenda around it and with the service providers, around this location with the right food with the right guest speakers with the right workshop. And this is extremely complicated in terms of when you think about it, like manually, but if you think about the way you can automate it and operationalize it long term, it's actually becomes increasingly easier, as we have like more and more services for

Qasim Virjee 32:05
Thomas GPT. Make an agenda for me. I don't like Moroccan food, but I like middle eastern food. What does that mean? So get us to a restaurant?

Roy Wainer 32:18
Yeah, if you want I can speak for like 10 minutes about the way I gonna help us? Well,

Qasim Virjee 32:23
we'll get to AI in a sec. What I do want to know, though, if you can spit this out easily. What are the top give me five use cases that clients are currently coming to you for? What types of meetings? Are they trying to plan through town? It? Yeah. So or events, as you call them? Yeah.

Roy Wainer 32:42
So it's very obviously, and I would say like the the most I would say, like the easiest use case for clients. And I can tell you actually, frankly, they probably don't need us for this is just like a company that actually is like I will not say they actually go to the office like once in a while and they just want to meet for like a team building activity. And they want to do like a cooking class, they want to do like an art workshop, they want to do something. And we have few vendors of these on the platform. And, and you know, I think we actually got like some really cool ideas on the platform, but it's pretty much a solved problem. It's not that hard to find the service, it's not that hard to organize it. And you don't really need us for this, you need us if it's part of your entire, you know, entire vision for like activities for the for the company. So that's like the I would say like the easiest use case, there's just say

Off-site meetings and team building activities.

Qasim Virjee 33:37
it again, was the first one in a nutshell, team building activities, team building activities. Okay, number two,

Roy Wainer 33:41
and then I'm going to go through actually to the most complex one, and then we're just going to find ourselves in the middle. If it makes sense. Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 33:48
here look, I'll use I'll use that finger there. Yeah, we're hanging loose right now.

Roy Wainer 33:52
So the most Yeah, so the most complex one is let's say three, four days off site for a team that is relatively big. So it can be like 100 people or like 150 or 200 people Yeah. And then you need to book a hotel you need to book a transportation you need to make sure that like the agenda makes sense. When it comes to work things when it comes to like to other kind of like guests that you bring in

Qasim Virjee 34:16
right I have my definition for this because obviously we facilitate these at sartwell every day but what is your definition of what an off site is?

Roy Wainer 34:26
It's a great it's a good question because I think the the idea of on site also diminished a little bit length in the last few years. There's no really on site anymore for a lot of companies. So I would say off site is anything that is kind of like off your proper site. So like anything that like if you have a site that you are usually walking from this this site is different site. So if you're working from home, the site is can be like Prince Edward County but if you also work from an office it can also be Prince Edward County it just off your

Martin Hauck 34:57
main site literal definition. Yeah, off your normal site individually.

Roy Wainer 35:02
Yeah, and actually, I'm not a big fan of using the word of sites. And but it's a very commonly used word in the industry. And for me, it's actually it's anything about like in person gatherings. Because in person gatherings can take everywhere. And

Qasim Virjee 35:18
I have a whole like philosophy around off sites we got we got a whole more, I feel it's out built that well, it's I mean, that's a whole nother podcast. But like, I mean, it started with with that in 2019, just, you know, start well was seeing off sites is simply that in being these kinds of like meetings that can happen outside of the office, where the majority of teams coming here at least had their own built out, you know, real estate architecture, infrastructure. And so it was like, Oh, well, we might have meeting rooms where we want to just change of scenery. And that was really the number one ask change of scenery. The number two ask was gatherings that require a certain type of infrastructure they don't have in the office, it might be a larger room, you know, so we want to gather the full team now in our office that full team gathering might mean that we have to be in different rooms, because we just can't fit everyone in one space. But now, you're right things have changed in terms of like, you know, hybrid work, flex, whatever you want to call it, people having small offices, offices, in the boonies offices, underneath their pillow, you know, it's, it's gotten crazy. So the requests that we have every day, and that we feel here at stairwell is really offsites have kind of grown into a full end to end experience. Whereas so I think, you know, maybe that's where you're going, you didn't really say but like, in the most complex ask from a client for you would be that like full experience, where we're bringing people to a location, we want those people obviously, to be able to do the work that we need of them, the collaboration feel inspired. For us, it's a magical thing that we facilitate, right? Like, you want those people when they collaborate, especially if they're like working at home, and they're not used to seeing each other in person. And they're going to be like in person. So they want to feel like jazzed up to be there. But they also want to, like, create, when they're together, they want to make stuff they want to like, you know, work in ways that they can't in their differentiated physical space. And then part of that also is about the lived experience and the time that they're together. Because that fulfills that first role, which is team building. Yeah. So the, you know, like, it's

Company offsites and their purposes.

Martin Hauck 37:23
an interesting thing. Yeah. The between what you two are talking about, if I'm looking at it as a bit of an outsider, you're both like, offsites forget, you know, if you don't like the word, but offsites are your jam. Yeah. But in different ways, like, your platform would recommend start. Well, it always does.

Roy Wainer 37:41
I mean, manually. Yeah. Well, we're on we're on town it Yeah.

Martin Hauck 37:46
Was it Rivas? Right? It was like, oh, you should use start well, but what I was thinking in forgive the me going off the deep end here, but sort of like back to like, the 60s 70s with like, the acid trip and stuff, where it's like set and setting. So I see like, having been to the location for start, well, yeah. I'm like, this is a really good place for companies to align on mission, vision, brainstorming, like you're getting work done. You can do team building here, for sure. Yeah. But then there's this other aspect that you're probably facilitating, you're saying Prince Edward County, I've got this idea in my mind of like, that's more intimate. That's where we're getting to know the team better. We're not figuring out our product. We're not figuring out the next two or three years. We're figuring ourselves out which you kind of, you know, what order of operations.

Qasim Virjee 38:46
Hey, to fart in front of Frank Frank. Yeah, yeah.

Martin Hauck 38:49
Judy thinks it's funny or whatever, right. Like, I

Roy Wainer 38:52
think like every person gathering off site has three parts to it. And the first one is just walk, like collaborative works with Nick work. The second one is team building. And the third one is just fun. And I think the borders between them are like very vague or ambiguous and like it's really hard to differentiate like what's the meaning what's fun, but and I think every event is some kind of proportion between the three of them Yeah, and but companies are becoming increasingly remote are increasingly kind of like I read about like not really I read like it's kind of like one day a month or something this they are very much focused on the walk thing and they are very much focused on doing thing that they actually cannot do at amo can do it I'm like, in a very probably worse way, and like strategic work or like kind of like building the you know, building the plan for 2024 and working on the vision alignment across the vision of the company working on the goals of the company doing a lot of like, you know, a lot of like leadership coaching is also like usually done in person. And we've seen a lot of like executive Seems that actually works use us for leadership coaching. And so I think the work part, and I think this is probably the main thing that changed since 2019 are things like the years before COVID, that like that before COVID offsites were usually things, something that like only executive teams do, or companies that are just very much like remote, but not all companies where there are remote free COVID I think now it's becoming something that is more common. And it's definitely for me, you know, for me and my co founder, it's definitely our kind of like, why now, why we decided to start this business, because the frequency of this event is increasing the complexity of these events is increased. And because it's not only about fun, it's not only about fun, it's not only about human activity, it's a lot about how you can actually enhance your team, how you make the experience better, or you want to create this experience, something that people can actually feel motivated for, like four or five months after the event. And because this the way you can do it, you know, otherwise, you wouldn't be able to convince your finance team to do it on a quarterly basis or like biannual basis. And so I think free COVID It was just mostly about fun. And now it's definitely evolved into something that is much more strategic.

AI's role in enhancing event planning and supply acquisition. 

Martin Hauck 41:10
Is it fair to say that most companies have seen other companies do this kind of thing, and they do a copycat version with less intentionality? So it's just like, we're gonna go have fun and do X throwing data, and that'll fix the culture. Yeah. Whereas the companies that actually do it, well have more intentionality behind it, they might post about it on LinkedIn. Yeah, two different companies company that did it intentionally. company that copied Company A. And so they'll do the same thing. But the outcome was different, because they didn't. And so I'm wondering is the platform, you know, is the platform that town ish? Solving the how behind it, right, like, here's the suppliers. But the how is so important in terms of like, yeah, go do X, or, and by the way, this is what you should be doing and thinking about behind the scenes matchup, people that don't work together very often versus like people falling into their usual cliques or whatever.

Roy Wainer 42:09
Yeah, it's a good question, because this is actually the AI caveat that I want

Qasim Virjee 42:13
to go for. Talk about those robots. No.

Roy Wainer 42:17
So I think AI gonna help us in like many ways, but specifically about this one, one of the things that like we're planning to get to in the next few years is actually providing your best practices of how to run an event and what will be a good defense for a team based on similar teams. And because this is very complex, and you need to have data for it, and you need and you can do it like, you know, you can do just based on like asking people from the industry and asking experts. And but there's a lot of like things that going into events and other like moving pieces that you will need a lot of data to solve in order to actually show companies what worked for other companies that were similar size, similar budget, similar vibe. And so we are working on different features now. And we're probably going to launch them in the first quarter of 2024. But it's not going to be perfect, because we need more data for you to be able to be perfect. And this is where AI comes into play. And it comes to play into other some other places if you want to course. And so I think for us, one of the main challenges in general for building a marketplace is the acquisition of supply. Okay, I live in Toronto, I know that Starswirl is amazing corking space, right? Yeah, I live in Toronto, I know that like, this guy is doing like the best leadership coaching. Okay, but now I want to launch Chicago or Boston or LA, I would I find the best start well in Boston. And I think this were a ploy. And like the fact. Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 43:41
and honestly, a lot of our clients are like, can you please open a location in Montreal and Charlo Greene in Vancouver? Yeah,

Roy Wainer 43:47
but like, but I think, and it's funny because we can also speak about it. But like my, when I started actually thinking about the idea of tarnished actually started also as a real estate play. And then I understood I can just better scale as a software business. Because it's going to be extremely challenging for me to build start well, in all of the cities in the US, I opted to do by the way, you're going to be our first partner plans have changed. Castle

Qasim Virjee 44:14
has gotten so I have a different approach to scale. You know, I'm not so sexed up by like, not seeing my daughter as much and having planes, you know, yeah,

Roy Wainer 44:22
that's fair. And so yeah, so I think AI gonna help us enhance the supply acquisition and get actually more suppliers that good for us in different places across the world across North America. It also obviously gonna help with the demand like to actually build the event and build packages across different services. Because what we do now, man very manually is actually built packages for clients. So okay, you want to go to start well, you want to eat dinner in the area, you want to do like a team activity in the area. Okay, we're going to build a package around it. And one as we scale we're going to do it with AI. We're going to build these packages across different criteria is, of course, different parameters like location, like budget, like search, like type of service type of event. And AI going to facilitate all of it in a very, very, you know, scalable way.

Martin Hauck 45:12
It's fun. But

Qasim Virjee 45:12
how soon as a future because that's that's literally like a one month coding sprint with GBT, it was yesterday.

Martin Hauck 45:19
Yeah.

Roy Wainer 45:20
So one of the one of the things that I'm actually, it's funny because I told you like, I'm very aggressive. I'm very, you know, I'm very quick to do a lot of things. But one of the things that I that we've decided me and my co founder is we want to focus on Ontario. To begin with, we want to actually figure out the kinks of the product here, before we scale to other regions, and figuring out the kinks. So the product is not only about financing supply, because we already have supply, it's about building a platform that the users can actually use. It's about building the agenda for the events. It's about actually automation of the marketplace, because now, we are the one that like just do the transactions, but we want people to to be able to book things automatically. So we have like a full roadmap for like the next 18 months, it doesn't include the non supply in different regions. But I think in 2025, we're going to start expand to other regions and other locations. And then the time we're going to execute on this

Entrepreneurship, co-founding, and disrupting the events industry. 

Qasim Virjee 46:18
cool, man. So you got it. You got your horizon set? Um, yeah. How does that feel? By the way? I'll ask you this, because now you've gone from this kind of like consultant to in house kind of consultant, employee, co owner in the terms of the growth, vision and taking on scaling companies role. And now you're an entrepreneur. Yeah. And you have a co founder, who's your co founder, and and how do you guys stay motivated as entrepreneurs now versus your previous career history?

Roy Wainer 46:49
Yeah, my co founder is His name is cam. And he's an engineer. And he lives in Waterloo. So he's kind of like, part of like the Kitchener Waterloo mafia. And he was VP of Engineering for like, few startups in Kitchener Waterloo area, it was the VP for engineering for daylight was engineered from myovision. And he was also co director with EA Sports. So it's a lot of engineering experience, a lot of coding experience. And, and he just runs you know, like, he's one of the people there's like, if he has like, the vision, and like the work in and a good design to be honest, he can just run with it. And just caught like crazy. So and we actually found each other to a mutual friend that connected us and told us you told me you have to meet cam cam is very passionate about this is why he's actually in the same industry. We always speaking about it, you have to meet cam. And then when I met cam, it was the day that he decided to live is on job and decide you want to start something and he actually didn't know what he want to start

Martin Hauck 47:53
serendipity. The universe is providing

Roy Wainer 47:57
Yeah, so I guess serendipity karma, whatever, but like, and so we decided to start working together, kind of like the dislike stress test. And, and we've been working since probably now 910 months. So

Martin Hauck 48:12
awesome, that the stress test is important. So important, like takeaway for anyone listening in terms of like, I'm going to start my own thing, like stress test who you work with.

Qasim Virjee 48:22
Yeah, it's so true. And it's interesting, because like, if you're doing this kind of like, accelerator startup, you know, rapid company development or thing then often cases, it's really about, like, throw people into the boiler pot. And like, you know, if you can't stand the pressure, it's because you're not a super bro. Yeah. And like, that's just stupid. Yeah, I think if you're building a company and and you want it to be your thing, yeah. You're gonna commit to a new there's so much pain down that road, that like, doing it alone as difficult, let alone with somebody. Yeah, I'm

Roy Wainer 48:59
very much in the camp that like that you should do it with someone. Just because it just mentally it's very consuming it stuff. And also, you need complementary skills. So yeah, I can do other things I've done you know, I've probably managed or like kind of like spirited or like managed horizontally a bunch of like department like Tara and sales, customer success of departments, but I'm not an engineer by no means. And you need someone that can actually build and you need someone that can actually execute on a product vision. And you need someone that also complements you. And I think in terms of like values and in terms of, you know, of day to day, and and I think no mean camera, like very different, you know, in many ways, but we also like very much aligned in terms of values very much aligned in terms of where we want to dis company to get you. And, and I think you know, it's like just for me. I can't have it any other way. That's like,

Qasim Virjee 49:55
so awesome. That means that you're excited about what you're doing very

Roy Wainer 49:59
salary pressure, then I think like you said, like, when we just mentioned the rise on, I think it's, it's not a one year gig, it's like, I know, like, it's complicated. It's like, it's 10 years, 12 years, eight years, whatever. But like, I think people are like very much like, it's like the squat, like people are usually they overestimate what they can achieve in a year. And they estimate underestimate what they can achieve in 10 years. And I think that's really is the case, I think, especially when you build a marketplace, it's stuff, you need to sell to two sides, you need to operationalize a lot of things. It's not like building like some AI gig, it may be like, in two weeks, gonna be able to generate some revenues, but not in the next two weeks, if people are going to be able to copy. And you need to actually build the moats and building the moats is doing it with a lot of like sweat, blood and tears. And so I think, you know, like, both of us are ready for the for the long run, both of our most of us understand that this is a long journey. And but we want to change the industry and we want to change the way events are run. And we think we have a good opportunity to disrupt this injury industry, which is very, very much I would say antiquated. All, you know, you wouldn't believe sometimes like walking with like hotels, everyone like using different systems.

Qasim Virjee 51:24
So if you talk about an industry that you fit into, you're specifically talking about corporate events, is it talking

Roy Wainer 51:29
about events in general corporate events? Yeah, because I think we definitely focus on corporate events, but I think the entire events industry is a little bit broken, or a little bit like just needs, you know, shake up

Martin Hauck 51:41
and big families. Right, like, so I'm like, Can I use the platform to plan a Christmas gathering,

Roy Wainer 51:49
so we're not going to block you, but but we're not going to sell you that's the thing, that solitaire

Qasim Virjee 51:55
excited for those customers, we're not gonna block you

Roy Wainer 51:59
know, our vision is to have like a fake your money, our vision is to have like an open marketplace. So you will be able to use the marketplace to ANR. It's, by the way, the same that happened to us we'd like platters, we did have people like ordering food for like one way to us, or weddings or whatever. We never sold to these people because you want, it just doesn't make sense. In terms of unit economics, you can't afford actually to acquire this customer, because they're not going to be frequency of events, they're not going to be frequency of orders. It just doesn't make sense in terms of like the lifetime value of the customer. And it just doesn't make sense in terms of like the focus of the product, because you build a product for business people. And so I think yeah, like we we but we're not going to open, we're not going to block the marketplace. And it's also going to be up and for a lot of like team leads and other people that are not necessarily the people that we're going to sell to. But once the product is fully operating fully, you know, fully can execute fully any event, any type of event, I believe that also team leads going to be able to use it and not necessarily only people and culture and HR people.

Qasim Virjee 53:01
It's awesome. Well, it was really nice hearing your career history leading up to this point and how excited you are to solve the problems that you're doing with especially that like, you know, cautious approach to getting better at what you're doing. I think that's cool. It's exciting to hear that. You know,

Roy Wainer 53:19
I think I am. I just know better now, right? Like it's not anymore, so yeah, wicked man.

Martin Hauck 53:26
That's why it's gonna succeed

Roy Wainer 53:27
fully.

Qasim Virjee 53:29
Thanks for joining. Cast, man.

Roy Wainer 53:31
Thanks for having me.

Qasim Virjee 53:32
On that out, boom, boom. Yeah, let's do a triple boom boom, triple bomb

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