Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector

Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector

Cristian Villamarin co-founded Flipd, an app that promotes IRL mindfulness by encouraging you to spend less time on your smartphone

Photograph courtesy of Flipd

Company HQ: Richmond and Peter
Founded: 2016
Employees: 6
Users: Over 300,000

How it works: “Think of it as a FitBit for your screen time, where we’re measuring the time you spend away from your phone. The user sets the amount of downtime they want, and then Flipd digitally locks their phone until the countdown timer is up.”

Eureka moment: “I’m Colombian, and family is very important in our culture. My little brother is 11 years younger than me, but we’re really close. When he turned 13, I gave him his first smartphone, and it really freaked me out how quickly his behaviour changed. It actually affected our relationship. I realized how technology is changing all of us.”

How much you spent initially: “The company started with three of us working from our homes—our CTO, Andres Moreno; our CMO, Alanna Harvey; and me. It was all sweat equity. We just put in as much of our free time as we could. There was no income; we all worked side gigs to pay the bills.”

Your turning point: “We got $50,000 in grants from places like MaRS and the University of Waterloo’s AC JumpStart program. That allowed us to hire some staff, find an office space and bring the whole team together.”

Your big-time backers: “Techstars; Ryerson Futures; Figure 1 founders Gregory Levey, Richard Penner and Joshua Landy; and Candice Faktor of Faktory Ventures.”

The best advice you’ve received: “Think bigger.”

The worst advice you’ve received:“ ‘Take money from anyone who’s willing to give it to you.’ A start-up doesn’t only need money; there needs to be strategy behind it.”

Tech jargon You use too much: “Definitely ‘KPI’—key performance indicators.”

Tech jargon you hate: “ ‘Growth hacking,’ because in reality, that just means marketing.”

Your go-to office attire: “A plain T-shirt, jeans or chinos, and Nikes. I’m training for an Iron Man, so I run to work and back.”

Coolest thing in your office: “We have these phone booths, so you can take private calls, or hide in there with a laptop and not be distracted.”

If you weren’t running a start-up: “I’d be running a taqueria selling super-expensive tacos. I lived in Mexico for a bit, so I know my tacos!”

App you can’t live without: “Mint. I need to know where my money is going, and I like getting reports each month. ”

Your tech role model: “I don’t have one. I like to be the captain of my own ship; I’m not trying to be someone else.”