How Hone used NDF to Secure Two Commercialization Associates

Funding Catalyst

February 7, 2024

UPDATE: This Case Study was originally published in January 2023. Since then, the Funding Catalyst team has continued to partner with Hone to help them secure more than $243,000 in non-dilutive capital from various sources.

It’s time to HONE in! The HONE app improves the mental health and wellness of teams with actionable insights. This Calgary based startup empowers leaders with real-time information on the mental wellness of their team, and offers solutions on how to deal with common stressors. This exchange allows teams and organizations to cultivate and maintain a healthy culture, recognize problems as they arise and make meaningful changes along the way. HONE operates in three verticals: athletics, corporate and education.

As an early-stage business, co-founders Jessica Renney and Paula McQuaid knew they should take advantage of non-dilutive funding. They successfully secured some initial funding, but knew they did not have the capacity to secure more.

We sat down with HONE’s founders to learn more about their non-dilutive funding strategy and how the Thin Air Labs Funding Catalyst team supported them.

Tell us about your business and stage!

HONE is a mental health and culture app that helps leaders better understand and support their people to create cultures of wellness. We started in athletics, as we were both familiar with mental well-being in the athletic community having been professional psychotherapists in the space. Along the HONE Athletics journey, we were often asked if we had an app for the corporate setting. We realized there was a gap in the corporate wellness market that we felt we could address, so we went to Alberta Innovates and received a $100,000 Voucher to build the Work+Life product. As the HONE Work+Life product gained traction, we also identified a need in the education market and have been working with several school districts to improve their mental wellness and culture, thereby launching HONE Education. The possible applications of HONE are endless in our eyes. HONE is really there for anyone who exists in a community - it is a mental health app that allows leaders to support their team wellness and culture. Our business has seen a lot of growth in the past year - we’ve grown our team to seven people and are looking to raise a seed round soon.

When did you decide that non-dilutive funding was going to be a part of your capital strategy and why?

Early on, we viewed non-dilutive funding as a way to show investors that we were doing everything in our power to grow our business. Utilizing non-dilutive funding is a great way to extend our runway and bring in precious capital without further diluting our cap table. However, we realized pretty quickly just how much work is required to pursue these opportunities. When we applied for the Voucher, we brought in everyone from the team to contribute to the parts they knew best. This strategy worked, but was not an efficient use of everyone’s time. We knew working on this grant application took away from everyone’s capacity to do their jobs and grow the business. At this point, we realized that outsourcing the work would allow us to focus on selling our product and servicing our customers while still taking advantage of these opportunities.

You're busy, how do you make time for this?

Working with the Funding Catalyst team has been instrumental in allowing us to focus on our business while still taking advantage of the best non-dilutive funding opportunities for the growth of our startup. The FC team has always been three steps ahead of us when it comes to helping us gather documentation and write the grants. Partnering with the FC team gives us tremendous peace of mind knowing that we don’t have to worry about all of the little details that these grants require.

This service is so valuable to early-stage founders. We’re so grateful the Funding Catalyst team has opened our eyes to all of the funding opportunities available to us. If we were doing this on our own, the effort it would take us to find and complete each grant would far outweigh the benefits. We feel it doesn’t make sense to spend our time doing something that we don't fully understand, when we could work with experts who can help us get these grants done so much faster. The value this service provides to us is a no-brainer.

What results have you seen over what period?

We have received two Commercialization Associate grants from Alberta Innovates worth over $100,000. This funding allowed us to hire two associates critical to our commercialization efforts. We would not have been able to hire these two people without this funding. Beyond the monetary value, the hires made because of these grants have freed up our capacity to continue to execute on the grand vision of our business while our team is able to execute on the important day-to-day operations and really take care of our customers.

Cash is the lifeblood of ventures like HONE, what gave you the confidence in the Funding Catalyst team to move forward without a guarantee?

We know that startup is a game of risk and taking chances, and that no one is guaranteed anything. We knew when we met the team that this was a team that would support us in this risky landscape. Startup can be a lonely place, and having people who believe in you and believe that what you’re doing isn’t crazy is huge. We knew right away that the Funding Catalyst team was on our side and ready to take a chance with us and support us on this wild journey.

What advice would you give to aspiring founders looking to grow their business?

Know what you're good at and know where you have gaps, and then find the people who can fill those gaps. When you spread yourself too thin and you try to do all these different things that you have little knowledge of, it won’t work. Some of the best decisions we’ve made as founders came about once we acknowledged that we couldn’t do this alone anymore and we brought in smart, talented people to help us where we needed it.  We realized it couldn’t be just the two of us anymore, no matter how much we might have wanted that. It was scary to share our business with others at first, but we couldn’t be more happy that we did.

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