Life Lessons: Kate Hiscox, Venzee

Content provided by Business in Vancouver

Kate Hiscox describes herself as a serial entrepreneur. Since 2004, the 43-year-old has founded six startups.

Like many startup founders, Hiscox has in the past fallen into the trap of focusing on the branding, office location and investment sources without doing enough research.

“Be super, super sure you know everything that’s going to be involved to build and start the business and have customers literally in place before you even write a line of code,” she said.

She admits she made this mistake not once, but twice, while launching two separate e-commerce sites a decade apart.

Hiscox opened her first e-commerce store in 2004.

“If we had [done the research], we would have discovered as soon as we opened accounts with suppliers and manufacturers that they were going to send us information about their products, their inventory costs and so on and descriptions in spreadsheets and printed catalogues,” Hiscox said.

“That ended up for us in eight months of unexpected work trying to get 10,000 products loaded onto our store.”

She sold that startup for $1.2 million, but years later, in 2013, she started a similar e-commerce venture.

“My mistake then was I assumed, because there had been 10 years between Store 1 and Store 2, that there had been progress in the manufacturers and suppliers sharing information with us about their products,” she said. “I thought there would be a more automated process.”

For her current venture, a cloud-based inventory management system for retailers, suppliers and manufacturers, Hiscox did her homework.

“It was going to everybody I knew in my e-commerce network, which was Europe, Asia, Latin America, [asking] ‘What’s everybody using on the retail side? What are you doing with the spreadsheets your suppliers are sending you?’” she said.

On choosing Vancouver as a startup location | “[Our accelerator] 500 Startups was very supportive of us being here because it’s a lower-cost base than San Francisco; investors were supportive of us being here because they see it as an extension of Silicon Valley. … The other cool thing is that Venzee won the Generator Challenge around two months ago. The City of Vancouver [and incubator Discovery Parks] sponsor, with the British Columbia Technology Industry Association, a competition that offers 12 months of free office space. … That’s another big thumbs-up for Vancouver; we love the kinds of things they’re doing here.”

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