Ready, Set, Grow! FinTech Firm Seeks Global Opportunities in Mobile Personal Finance

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From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

August 4, 2017
Montréal, Quebec

Growing a tech company from start-up to global player is a delicate act of matching the right strategy with the right people and the right technology at the right time.

Exagens is a financial technology firm based in Montreal that is ready to take MAX, its virtual personal financial advisor, to international markets. With advice from the Government of Canada's Concierge service, Exagens successfully tapped into a variety of federal, provincial, and local programs to advance its technology and market outreach.

With 4 million users in Canada, MAX takes aim at millennials looking for new ways to get advice on their personal finances.

"This generation doesn't want to visit the bank. They'd prefer to swipe their phones to reach 24/7 interactive, personalized advice. MAX lets them do this," says Michael Stojda, President of Exagens. "Want to find the best mortgage option? Or save for further education? MAX gets to know a client's personal circumstances and humanizes digital personal finances."

It's a win-win for consumers and banks alike. Online banking is efficient, but maintaining customer loyalty is challenging without the personal touch. MAX tracks clients' needs, offers tailored solutions, and conducts simple transactions to save everybody's time. Banks can gather analytics to understand consumer trends and save face-to-face connections for higher value activities.

Doors Open to New Opportunities thanks to Concierge

As an investor in early-stage tech companies in Montreal, Stojda first met Jo Van Betsbrugge, an Innovation Advisor for Concierge, in 2014. He was pleased to discover Concierge and the gateway it provided to firms looking to access sources of government assistance.

Fast forward to 2016, Stojda and his fellow investor Elizabeth Laett were now actively involved with Exagens, helping co-founders Jorge Campos and Frederick Ah-Yave ramp up operations. Looking for ways to accelerate the company's growth, Stojda once again turned to Concierge for help.

"At our first meeting, I discovered the company had been largely self-funding and investing revenues into its technology," said Van Betsbrugge. "Doing R&D is capital intensive – I felt they needed to access external funding to meet a spectrum of needs, from talent to technology to exploring global markets. I saw the potential for government programs to play a meaningful role in helping them grow."

"After one quick meeting, Jo gave us half-a-dozen options that were tailored for our business, and suggested the order in which to pursue them. He also made introductions, which was key," said Stojda.

Acting on these referrals, the company quickly turned to the Government of Canada's Youth Employment Strategy (YES) and PRIIME, the Employment Integration Program for Immigrants and Visible Minorities, delivered by the Government of Quebec. Funds from the two programs allowed them to explore diverse communities as sources for hiring qualified expertise in a competitive local market.

Van Betsbrugge also set up a meeting between Exagens and Baris Demir, an Industrial Technology Advisor of the National Research Council of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP). Capitalizing on advice and support from IRAP, the company created a full-time position for a new graduate with a background in psychology and analytics, and is working on the next generation of the behavioural engine that drives MAX.

"We need to move forward in a logical, staged manner. With so many programs out there, we're grateful that Concierge helped us learn quickly where to focus next."

Michael Stojda, President of Exagens.

Van Betsbrugge also took time to discuss the Government of Canada's Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credits with Stojda. "This understanding gave us the confidence that we could work through the application process ourselves. We'd always thought it would take too much staff time – a precious commodity in a start-up." This valuable advice has allowed Exagens to invest its tax savings into continued innovation.

Another one of Van Betsbrugge's referrals led the company to contact CanExport, a Government of Canada program delivered by Global Affairs and IRAP. With this support, Exagens participated in a trade show in the United States as an important step towards launching their export strategy next year.

Seeding Success in Global Markets

Since connecting with Concierge, Exagens has doubled in size and revenue.

"We think we have something unique in the marketplace and intend to become a global player," said Stojda. "We need to move forward in a logical, staged manner. With so many programs out there, we're grateful that Concierge helped us learn quickly where to focus next."

"There are so many great companies born in Canada and Quebec that could grow internationally, while keeping their headquarters at home. Services like Concierge can help take them to the next level."

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