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Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector

Ilya Spekhov founded Encounter, an app that lets users shop for home furnishings in Toronto’s trendiest bars, hotels, restaurants and cafés.

Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector

Company HQ: Sherbourne and Dundas Founded: 2017 Staff: 4

How it works: “When a user visits a bar or hotel, the app gives them a list of the venue’s decor. If they see something they like—whether it’s a glass, lamp or chair—they can order it straight to their door. That way, people can try things in real life before making a purchase.”

Eureka moment: “I’m a long-time Airbnb host. A few years ago, a German couple stayed in one of my apartments. They fell in love with my oven mitts, so I gave the pair to them as a gift. That got me thinking about how practical it would be if people could buy what they see wherever they go. I updated my listings to say that everything in the apartments was for sale and guests bought all sorts of things.”

How much you spent initially: “Airbnb has indirectly financed my entire project. I’ve invested $200,000, all of which I made off my four listings.”

Your turning point: “When I started involving interior designers. I wanted to make sure that I was including the most high-quality products on the app, so I flew to trade shows in London, Paris and New York to make those connections.”

Your big-time backers: “It’s just me. I know a lot of start-ups go to venture capitalists for investments, but I want to do as much as I can on my own first.”

Tech Jargon you hate: “Everyone who runs a business these days is called an ‘entrepreneur,’ but the real entrepreneurs go all-in.”

Past life: “There was a point when I was a full-time Airbnb host. Other than that, I spent half a decade working in tech and a bit of time in hospitality.”

The worst advice you’ve received: “Money is the most important part of running a business.”

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The best advice you’ve received: “Don’t spend too much time seeking other people’s advice. That knowledge comes from their experiences, and you should focus on your own.”

Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector
Vintage Leather biker jacket isolated on white

If you weren’t running a start-up: “I’d be travelling the world.”

Your go-to office attire: “My rock and roll outfit: velvet boots, ripped jeans, a leather jacket and a custom-made hat.”

App you can’t live without: “HotelTonight. I travel a lot and use it for last-minute bookings.”

Your tech role model: “Elon Musk. He’s basically Superman when it comes to getting shit done.”

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