Calgary-based PayShepherd has built a Vendor Relationship Management solution that pays for itself 5 times over by empowering facility operators to take back control of vendor spending and performance. This innovative fintech company helps modern industrial facilities reimagine their mission-critical vendor relationships by associating spend with performance outcomes in a sector that still uses pen and paper.
Co-founders Wesley Sessenwein and Jenn Hunter are ambitious founders that are quickly catching up to a massive market opportunity. But fast-paced growth requires acute focus working both on and in the business, something that the allure of grants and other innovation-based funding incentives can distract founders from at the most critical stage of their investment.
After a few rejected applications and "wasted cycles of good energy," Wesley decided to call Thin Air Labs' Funding Catalyst team, who are experts at securing non-dilutive funding for innovative companies. We caught up with Wesley to learn more about the role this relationship has played in his growth plans and trajectory now.
PayShepherd is a Vendor Relationship Management solution that helps industrial facilities get maximum value from their contracts and vendors. Procurement leaders are now able to work strategically, not reactively, when it comes to spend and risk management. As we grow the business, we aim to own the ecosystem between facilities and their contractors and become a system of record for how these businesses transact.
We have customers across North America and are seeing a 25% month-over-month increase in transaction volume on the platform, so we've certainly found a gap in the market that folks want solved. We recently raised $3M USD to accelerate the development of our product offering as well as expand in new and adjacent markets.
Early on, I tried to secure grants from a few different funding bodies and failed. It was super discouraging and felt like it was an inefficient and ineffective use of my time. I felt like I spent as much time on this as I did on landing customers and recruiting team members and didn't have anything to show for it. This type of capital can be super impactful, but it's hard for founders to navigate and spend the time required to be successful at it. I had decided at this point I wasn't going to focus on this anymore, but then I connected with the Funding Catalyst team and they helped me understand how to effectively incorporate non-dilutive funding into our overall capital strategy without straying from our strategic direction and exerting energy cycles without really knowing what I was doing.
I probably spent 80+ hours submitting two previous grant applications that were unsuccessful. And the worst part of it was I didn't understand why they were rejected and felt like I hadn't learned anything from the process. It was a very confusing process, everything from interfacing with different funding bodies, creating a strategy for the different opportunities and writing the actual application. It was a huge amount of work, but also a huge amount of headspace and made it very difficult to focus on the things I needed to do to actually grow the business. Basically, it ended up on the side of my desk but required front-of-mind focus to actually get it done.
Compare this to working with a team of experts like the Funding Catalyst team. They jumped into all of our content and documents headfirst and literally felt like they became a part of my team so quickly. They used my time efficiently, coached me through the process and how to keep funders interested in our progress so that by the time we engaged in the formal application portion they were already familiar with the project. This engagement turned a 40-hour process per grant to 4 hours, and ultimately we were successful in securing the funding!
We've received over $100K from funding applications that the Funding Catalyst team has supported us with and we have our eyes set on hundreds of thousands more as our company matures and scales. I've learned that, similar to fundraising from private investors, securing grants and other government incentives is a game of momentum and requires situational context about our execution plan and insights into the funding landscape to proactively find and secure funding while our C-suite stays focused on building the company. Beyond the capital we’ve already pulled in, the best part about working with Thin Air Labs is that we know we are taking advantage of all the opportunities available to us and have the plan to execute on them as efficiently as possible.
A bit of trust as we had already worked with the team at Thin Air Labs who helped us navigate our early capital strategy as prospective (and now current) investors in the company. But beyond that, the team is made up of venture folks with serious experience and skills in writing successful applications. Most importantly, they understand the unique needs of innovative ventures and are laser-focused on driving impactful outcomes for me and my team without wasting time. They helped us get a couple of quick wins which covered the initial cost of the engagement and then everything on top of that was ROI. In my opinion, working with a team like the Funding Catalyst is a no brainer for all innovative ventures. Another product that pays for itself 5 times over!