It all started with an advice from a VC. It was the Fall of 2018, I was taking the Entrepreneurship course at the University of Toronto. Being an Engineer, I was hot on using AI to make the next killer app. After pitching my idea to my instructor, a VC, he said to calm down, and that I should go talk to my customers before I proceed. The idea was to use mobile phones and computer vision to manage inventories, and my initial target were small bookstores. My plan was to go around to interview the bookstore owners, validate my hypothesis, and start building my app. But as Mike Tyson says, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Lo and behold, the bookstores were not interested. They had existing solutions, and those that did not were fine with using a pen and a notepad to track inventory. Ouch… I had been punched in the mouth. However, in the process of talking to the customers, I noticed that there was a common thread among the bookstores which were struggling, and it was that renting a store in a city like Toronto had become unaffordable.
Fast forward to today. Tenatch has since taken part in ICUBE/Edge, 500 Kobe, Fukuoka Global Challenge, Kobe University Global Entrepreneur Education Program, and AICHI CO-CREATION Program, meeting many great mentors and fellow entrepreneurs and lifelong friends along the way. Each program taking us a step closer to generating revenue and becoming a fundable start-up. And with the help of Founder Institute, I believe we will finally be able to cross that threshold.
Our mission has not wavered much since the days of the bookstores in Toronto. Retail Entrepreneurs still face the triple whammy of high rents, competition from e-commerce and inadequate marketing. The pandemic lockdowns has accelerated the shift to online shopping, killing many more brick’n’mortar stores in the process.
My co-founder (Nick is a Fellow at the School of Cities at U of T) and I have always been passionate about cities and urban development. I remember playing Sim City as a teenager, and even though I did not understand the mechanics of the game at that time, I got hooked to that game. Every few years, I would come back to play Sim City and similar games, and finally even managed to ‘complete’ the game. A successful city requires a vibrant economy, and retail stores are a vital part of that story.
I would love to get feedback on what it takes to help retail stores survive, and look forward to hearing ideas on how we can solve the Retail Apocalypse.