Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector

Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector

Lily Tse founded Think Dirty, an app that educates consumers about ingredients in health and beauty products

Company HQ: King and Berkeley
Founded: 2012
Staff: 7
Users: 2.5 million

How it works: “We’re essentially Shazam for personal care and beauty products. You can scan any barcode and the app gives you a breakdown of the allergens, chemicals and possible health implications, then suggests cleaner alternatives where applicable.”

Eureka moment: “After my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I started doing research on the possible causes. I was shocked to learn that products I use every day contain carcinogens. The beauty industry isn’t regulated like the food and drug industries. At the time, companies weren’t even required to list ingredients online. I realized we should be paying closer attention to what we put on our skin.”

How much you spent initially: “In the early stages, I bootstrapped the company with freelance income and a developer. We got a $5,000 grant after a pitch competition at George Brown, which helped us get some extra leverage.”

Your turning point: “Right after we launched, I got a call asking if I wanted to be interviewed on Global News. I was too excited to sleep that night and I didn’t have time for a shower before the interview.”

Your big-time backers: “MaRS, CFC Ideaboost and Ryerson DMZ.”

Tech Jargon you hate: “All of it, but the worst is ‘thought leadership’—it’s such a buzzword and really doesn’t mean anything significant.”

The best advice you’ve received: “Always plan for Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

The worst advice you’ve received: “You need to ‘think big.’”

If you weren’t running a start-up: “I’d still have a business, but it would probably be related to dogs, tech or mental health.”

Your go-to office attire: “I always have my sunglasses and a backpack.”

Coolest thing in your office: “A head massager.” 

Your tech role model: “Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx. She started her company with very little money and now she’s one of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaires.”

App you can’t live without: “I use Headspace every day. It’s
a guided meditation
app that helps keep my mind clear.”