Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas...!*

So, somehow I manage to break my leg on Christmas Day.

The entire time I thought I had just sprained my ankle from the fall but turns out it's fractured in 2 places. I am keeping the details of the accident a secret so I can make up awesome stories about how I broke my leg :)

Well since I broke my right leg it means I won't be starting off 2009 on the "right" leg unfortunately but I'm not going to let a broken leg stop me from all my PeerFX plans for January!

A couple of investor forums coming up so it will be a busy strategy month for us. The past month we have been testing which ancillary services make sense to add to the core forex that has kept us busy in terms of researching the viability of such services and asking for the opinions of all our "stakeholders" - customers, partners, investors, our own team etc. I am committed to the belief that everything a business does should increase the size of the entire pie so that every stakeholder group gets MORE instead of just redistributing amongst the groups.

...I think posting on the company blog right after you break your leg is an indication that I am a workaholic? I think this is a test for how much pain I can take since I am refusing to take painkillers.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to everyone and drive/walk carefully out there as it's still snowing and super slippery!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Tech Team

So here's the plan. To speed up our development we're looking for a full-time tech person working alongside a contracted development team.

The full-time person's role will evolve from hands-on coding to providing the vision for PeerFX's tech strategy as the team grows and the business provides services in addition to the PeerFX Currency Exchange service. They will evaluate the opportunities and participate in the idea identification, development and service implementation process. This sounds like a fun thing to do but searching for someone with a passion in this area and also the ability to make the tech strategy happen has been like trying to find a needle in a haystack. (interested? We're still looking for YOU to join our team - send your CV here:

As for the contracted development team, we've been very fortunate to receive a vote of confidence from Evident Point. The wonderful individual responsible for managing this team was the past CIO of Custom House and brings extensive experience from building forex platforms. His development team were also his teammates back at Custom House and I know that it will be quite the experience working with such a fabulous team of dedicated individuals.

We will begin working on the system infrastructure in Jan 09 and aim to complete our multi-currency system for commercial launch in Summer of 2009.

I am extremely excited about 2009 as things seem to be falling into the RIGHT places! :)

Hopefully we will find our full-time tech person soon too. That would definitely complete a great start to 2009!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

GREAT Tech Teams are Hard to Find

What constitutes a GREAT tech team? From the perspective of someone looking to hire a tech team to take on our system development, the team must have the following 3 traits:

1) Work Ethics

2) Professionalism (meets deadlines, works collaboratively with clients to develop system requirements)

3) Open Communication

Notice that all of the above did not refer to the level of technical skill of the team - I think it's because from shopping around for a tech team it appears that everybody says they can program all these things that you ask them to. So if the programming is "almost" a commodity, what other factors are going to make a team stand out?

I found that I am especially eager to work with a team that displays honesty, a high standard of work ethics and professionalism - most importantly, they let me know what they CAN and CAN'T realistically do within the set timeline. A lot of other developers that I have met with have over promised and of course this means further contracts down the road are out of question.

Here's a tip to those tech teams out there trying to win contracts...businesses are looking for teams that make them feel prioritized, considers the business team's contributions (you may know the best way to build a system, but we know best in terms of what the system needs in order for us to profit off this thing you're building for us), and delivers on time or at least shows a best efforts to meet the set milestones.

I believe that good people cluster and I have always worked off this theory. This is how I found my current contractors, employees and advisors. I know there are tons of other great people out there but until I know them on a personal basis I am hesitant about bringing somebody onto the team. It's really true that people like to do business with people they know...not what you know, but who you know.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December Thus Far

Money is going through the system! So far we know that for a transaction complete it takes 3 business days. Here's how it works!

Day 1: Customer books the transaction and sends the money to PeerFX
Day 2: PeerFX converts the funds and sends the money back to Customer
Day 3: Funds arrive in Customer's bank account!

For the transaction we completed, our Customer saved roughly $1000 CAD converting $35,000 USD to CAD!

I'm crazy excited that it works! IT WORKS!

So we are up and running but we need to go through the customer identity verification procedures before we can add users to the testing platform. Let me know if you are interested at!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Featured User: Jason C.

This month's Featured User is Jason C.

Jason spent some time going through the transaction process and placing an order with PeerFX on our Closed Testing platform. He emailed us several suggestions that we have decided to implement, which including the following points:

  1. Explain what an EFT is and how to go about setting that up. Jason actually went through the effort of speaking to his bank about setting that up. Our solution is to provide instructions on how to do that in the transaction confirmation email that we send out after you have a booked a tranasction with PeerFX.
  2. WHAT?! There are costs associated with sending you an e-mail money transfer? Yes there are. It can be up to $1.50 for an individual. IF you are a business and have EFT set up through your bank (PeerFX uses DirectLine for Business with the Bank of Montreal) then it can be $0.10 per transaction. Solution: We will also list the associated fees charged by your bank on the transaction confirmation page. We are all about transparency and agree that listing out potential fees charged by your bank is important. Keep in mind that the "hidden fees" are charged by your bank and NOT PeerFX.
We would like to thank Jason for his time and effort put into providing us with his valuable feedback. We look forward to having other users provide us with feedback - YOU included.

YOU can become a registered user today through sending us an email to participate in our Closed Testing system at

Join us today in Changing Exchanging!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tax Free Savings Account - Too Good to be True?

With the current economic conditions, efforts are being made to help people save money - such as this new financial product that I came across the other day.

New product from the government, my friend Alireza Fadaie of Investors Group Inc. passed this on to me:

"Put the money in the account and dont pay any tax on the interest and withdraw it without any tax consequences! Too good to be true?! Why has government become so generous?! The savings rate in Canada is horrific and has decreased significantly in the past 20 years. Now here is the great way to save!"

It does sound like something that everyone can use and if you are interested I can put you in touch with Alireza to learn more about the details. Here's some additional info I found through googling:

(Information from Department of Finance Canada)

(Information from HSBC)

Hope this helps! Happy savings! :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Progress Update

Where are we now in terms of development?

The core service has been completed and select customers are conducting live transactions on the platform - tremendously exciting for us!

Plans are also underway to build the multi-currency peer-to-peer system. We've lined up a very strong and relevant team to manage this development process and we're confident that we will be able to launch the multi-currency system in Summer 2009.

The launch of our USD/CAD platform will be in Early 2009 as we continually tailor our services to meet the demands of SMEs. We really appreciate all the feedback that we are receiving from our test users. It has helped tremendously in our developent process. In fact, we will be featuring a PeerFX User each month that provides feedback we can actually incorporate into our development process. Your ideas are just as important as ours and you should receive recognition for your contribution!

We are strong believers in the theory that if YOU build it, YOU will come; the best place to find out consumer demands is ASKING THE CONSUMER. Not rocket science.

We will be developing a video that shows a demo transaction on our website and this will be posted on this blog and also on our website. We know that you want to see how the transaction process works before you actually place a transaction - we acknowledge that this is important to you and will have the video ready asap.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Angel Forum

So we presented at the 24th Angel Forum this past Monday. I would like to think that the presentation was AWESOME - I'm glad that it stimulated questions from the audience (so this means they were listening...YAY!) and we had a lot of great questions as well.

We placed 2nd place for best exhibitor and all of that is of course thanks to our designer Hubert Chan. Everyone has repeatedly said that his work is great and consistent.

All in all we had a great experience getting to know other businesses and also the angels. I would recommend that other businesses looking for financing give the 25th Angel Forum a try. The follow up of the forum is well-coordinated and hopefully we hear back from some of the angels over the next few days.

Some key things to note:

1) Angels don't like it when you tell them you need further investment after the Angel Round - even if you're being realistic; I guess nobody wants to know ahead of time that they are going to get diluted?

2) Make your margins high enough to sound like you're squeezing out every possible penny from customers. (I'm sure the investors would feel differently if they were the customers...haha)

3) Deliver your presentation with passion; after all, if you don't believe in your business idea do you expect others to? Investors are investing in YOU - and we all know there's a HUGE difference between someone that loves what they do and someone who doesn't (even if they're extremely smart and knowledgeable).

Back to work now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Money Money Money

Yep. I'm sure that's going through a lot of entrepreneurs' minds right now. How do we raise financing in times of a tough economy.

I'm still optimistic. The good investors know that now is a good time to invest when the market is in the valley. They also know that when they see a great opportunity they shouldn't pass on it.

So how much time should you be spending on putting together the materials used for raising financing?

If you're serious about getting that money, put your heart into it. Investors sitting in on your presentation will be able to tell whether you have done your homework and are ready to have them pitch in and help you grow your business.

Spend some time rehearsing your presentation - remember it's you AND your powerpoint that combine to make the "performance" (I feel it's more of a performance to engage the audience than a presentation to "tell" the audience something). If your powerpoint is AWESOME but you're not...well, we all know what's going to happen.

Don't settle for the "at least I tried" outcome. Go in there knowing that your business is the greatest thing in the world and everybody should want a piece of this opportunity!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Conversations that Awake Passion

Q: "Why are you doing this [PeerFX]? Why are you so driven to succeed?"

A: "Because there's nothing that can't be done if I put my mind to it. I can do this."

This was part of my lunch meeting conversation today. I haven't had an advisor ask this question before, but I seriously felt the passion dance around in my eyes when I answered. This is when you know you truly believe in what you do. I know "awesomeness" isn't exactly a professional word; but that 30 seconds of conversation was pure awesomeness.

If you don't have one yet, find someone that will ask you those questions; every entrepreneur needs someone to keep them focused on the reasons why they pour their heart and soul into their business.

"Most people see what is, and never see what can be." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Morgan Sturdy

Morgan Sturdy - a person that I knew absolutely NOTHING about going into the VEF Fireside Chat event today. I'm so so so so glad I went; because Morgan is absolutely a general business genius.

What do I mean by 'general business genius'? Well, there are people who specialize in Finance, Marketing, Operations, etc. From the one hour session I could tell that Morgan knew all the principles of running a business extremely well from every aspect. He's the second person who has given me the chills from a speaker session; the other one being my long-time mentor from the Marketing department of the Sauder School of Business.

He's definitely a person that every aspiring entrepreneur should meet since he has been through the ups and downs of building his own business. Launching 2 failed products before a 3rd one hit their customers' 'sweet spot' and venturing into an industry where he had no experience are just two of the many reasons why I admire this guy. Being an entrepreneur, persistence is key; and the most important thing is getting up each time after you fail and giving it another try.

Valuation Divergence

Attended the "Company Valuation and Term Sheet Workshop" organized by Bob Chaworth-Musters of Angel Forum yesterday.

I found that this workshop was probably the most useful of all the ones that I have attended before. Not kidding. I was impressed by other entrepreneurs in the room and how much everyone has gone through with their businesses. All of the entrepreneurs in the room were actively building their businesses and not just sitting on an idea.

I think the most obvious and interesting concept I picked up was valuation divergence between angel investors and entrepreneurs. How often have you told an investor that "You'll make 20X what you invest!" and they have told you "No I won't!"?

Often times it's because we entrepreneurs forget to factor in shares that are issued for non-capital purposes or neglect to include the $$$ we need to keep in working capital etc. to run the company. This may mean that we are valuating our businesses at a pre-money valuation that's too high (ok. please don't kill me fellow entrepreneurs.)

The workshop also went through a series of calculations that support this idea and it was interesting hearing about the first-hand experiences of angel investors that participated in the discussion panel.

I would recommend this workshop to other entrepreneurs who are looking at raising financing and hopefully Bob will organize another one soon!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's a Start Up?

Apparently Start Ups are automatically clustered into the general category of "Small Businesses" (SB). In the past couple days I attended a couple events tailored for small businesses, and tax reduction, small business education and encouraging cohesion between small business organizations were hot topics.

All this is great...except that Start Ups are in a totally different space from SBs. For one thing, SBs have revenue! (If they're lucky they may have profits!) Start Ups are in a phase where we're developing a product and revenue is somewhere in the future; which means that tax cuts are also a thing that we will benefit from in the future...but not until we get out of the red!

End of the day, my opinion is that there are organizations out there that are looking to help Start Ups but they need to come together! When I first started my business I knew that the Board of Trade was for networking and if you wanted resources on writing a business plan or how to incorporate your business you would go to Small Business BC. I was fortunate enough that my friend told me about IRAP, which provides funds to support Start Up companies with their development and management team growth.

Key point is that these resources are scattered - it's GREAT that everyone is looking to help, but please combine forces and let me find you at ONE location instead of 500 - Gas is expensive nowadays.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's the Rate? Come Again?!

So I use a patent lawyer that's based in the US. They're good. Really good. Except for the fact that of course I have to pay them in USD and our CAD dollar isn't doing especially well right now.

I received an invoice and was going to head over to the a local currency exchange house to do the conversion and get a USD check; I decided it would be a good idea to check the rates online for that currency exchange house before heading over. So the median rate live update showed that 1.21889 for the ask price for USD and I then I looked up the currency exchange's own rates...they sell USD at 1.231!!! So if you converted $10,000 CAD to USD today at 1.231, you would get $8,123. If you got the median rate instead, you would get $8204. Would you like to save $80?

It's at times like this when I wish I could use my own service faster. I'm totally working on turbo to speed up our launch now.

vroom vroom*

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our First Transaction

The testing of our system with the first live transaction was an exciting event for us - it shows that something we worked so hard for during the past 10 months is finally becoming a reality. We had to make special arrangements for the funding and disbursement of the first transaction but nonetheless it was completed and PeerFX registered its first $3.50 in revenue! (We are now SO much closer to $3.5 BILLION)

We are planning on releasing a demo account on our website so that our Beta sign ups can get a taste of what the service is like and how easy it is to use. It would also be a great way to get feedback from all of YOU! We need YOUR INPUT! It doesn't matter if I love my product if YOU - potential PeerFX users - are not loving it YET.

We hope to incorporate your feedback to improve our service! Let's build this together! Keep the ball rolling team!

Our First Trade Shows!

This involved 2 days of standing in 4 inch heels. Painful YES; but rewarding. It's very encouraging to see that there is definitely demand in the market for the service that we're offering. Of course there's tons of room for improvement and there were many great ideas that came out of the conversations throughout the 2 days.

We were at the Vancouver Board of Trade Business After Business trade show and today we were at SOHO SME Conference & Expo. SOHO was more tailored for our SME target segment and many people saw the value of our service right away. However, we know that we still need to work on the educational process of letting people know how much it hurts to exchange currency at a retail level using existing methods.

The shows were a great way to get a taste of what it's like to market alongside the bigger players. I love how one person from TD bank came over to our booth to learn more about the business, went back to his booth and shortly afterward the entire team came over to ask about it. Hey, even the banks like it - awesome!

We also got a chance to meet other businesses that would be synergistic in terms of making our system more cost efficient; I also learned another way to "participate" at trade shows without becoming an exhibitor yourself. WORK THE FLOOR. If you register to attend the trade show, you could work your way around each booth and pitch your own business; I know I was approached by several business consultants, job-placement coordinators for practicum students and service reps for other small businesses.

Must say that both trade shows did a great job of putting together their events and it's a great venue to get our start up name out to our audience. We're really looking forward to our launch to the public in the upcoming months! Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Getting The Right People on the Bus

There's no easy way but I have found that one factor is critical - that YOU believe in your business and have a vision for where you know it's headed.

Think about it. You are trying to literally "sell" someone to become a part of your team that has nothing but an idea and you're telling them that they can take part in making it a reality.

Here's what's going on in their mind. Do I trust this person to lead the team? Do I think this person has the leadership abilities to exploit the business opportunity? Will other people also want to help out and join the team? Basically, they are evaluating YOUR ability to make it happen.

I can't stress hard enough that you should give them the hard facts up front. You won't get paid a large salary (I'm not even getting paid!) If you expect to help the team succeed you will put tears, sweat (maybe even blood...who knows...maybe you get a paper cut) into building the business. You WILL (and should) lose sleep over it. There is no ONE way to reach the solution (or they may even be multiple solutions to the business problem your team aims to solve). So be flexible, be ready to put in some long hours, and hopefully your new team member will enjoy the ride.

What can you promise them? That they will learn 10 times as fast compared to them sitting in a cubicle somewhere in a large corporation and that those skills will one day be used to build their OWN business. Don't promise a large salary, a ton of equity and perks - because this is NOT what motivates people to work for a start up (of course it plays a part, but the intangibles account for the drive and passion that people feel for building a business).

Good people will realize all of this and stick through it all with the team. It takes dedication, perseverance and believing in the leaders' ability and the vision of the business.

"All things go to those who go after them" - Rob Estes

So dream big and go build not just a good team, but a great team.