Who are we?
We've been there, and done that.
Helped 500+ Founders
Kristen stumbled upon the start-up world while working at PUSH, a wearable-technology start-up based in Toronto while completing her degree at the University of Waterloo. PUSH was acquired in 2021 by Boston-based WHOOP. She understands from first-hand experience the nature of problem-solving day in and day out in a fast-paced, dynamic and ever-changing environment. She’s worked at 2 of Toronto's most reputable start-up hubs; MaRS and Ryerson's DMZ.
Wanting to help other entrepreneurs experience similar success, Kristen switched gears and started working with her local Regional Innovation Centre. Her responsibilities included ‘on-boarding’ new clients and engaging with them one-on-one to understand their needs, expectations and goals. From her ‘boots on the ground’ approach and genuineness when listening to the ‘where-we’re-at’ realities and needs of entrepreneurs, she understands how intimidating and difficult it can be to navigate the spectrum of entrepreneurial resources. How do you know what resource is best? How effective are they? How long does it take? How much does it cost? These are common questions she dealt with on a daily basis with entrepreneurs from across a wide variety of industries.
In early 2019, Kristen transitioned to the early-stage private equity world and started working with Malcolm at the Spark Angel Network. She's worked with over 150 early-stage companies and knows full-well the fundraising process that founders go through, what works (and what doesn’t), investor’s expectations and the soup-to-nuts journey founders must successfully navigate. She’s mentored countless entrepreneurs and founders at Co-iLab, Spark Centre, Brilliant Catalyst and Venture13 providing honest and realistic advice.
She is the operational behind-the-scenes driver and the catalyst that sparked Insights’ creation. Kristen is compassionate, goes above and beyond and provides entrepreneurs with guidance and access to the resources they need to take their business from paper ideas to concrete realities. Her 360o experience acquired by working in a start-up, a government-funded regional innovation centre, early-stage private equity and from working with over a hundred entrepreneurs gives her the experience and insight that benefits entrepreneurs, founders, and owner-managed businesses in a real ‘been there done that’ impactful and practical point of view.
Malcolm brings a broad mix of skills and a diverse set of experiences having looked at the business ‘gemstone’, over many years, through its many different facets; 10+ years in the corporate world, 10+ years in the academic world and 15+ years in the start-up and private equity world. An Ivey MBA, CPA, Chartered Investment Manager, founder, professor, mentor, portfolio manager, advisor and serial entrepreneur Malcolm embodies the ‘been there, done that’ set of experiences that matter the most to entrepreneurs, founders and businesses at all ages and stages, across a broad spectrum of sectors and industries, both domestically and internationally.
Founder of the Spark Angel Network in 2012, Spark's investors have been involved in financing 74 ventures resulting in four exits (2 went public and 2 were acquired by ‘bigger fish’). Teaching in the business faculties at 3 universities (York, Trent and Ontario Tech) with an academic focus on entrepreneurship; in which the founder/owner-manager is the hub of the wheel and the spokes represent various subjects and disciplines. He’s taught 10 different courses, in 6 different disciplines, to over 8,000 students in his academic career. Country Manager of Microsoft in Canada in its formative years (which 'fun fact' started above the Golden Griddle Pancake House, near the airport in Toronto) he joined Microsoft before it went public and led its development until 1990, establishing 8 offices across the country and a distribution and support centre in Mississauga. Less than a decade later, he started building CryptoCard (a remote access and network security firm) from a single shared-office facility in Carleton Place (near Ottawa) into a company doing business in over 30 countries, leading it to a successful exit in 2006 with its sale, to a boutique merchant bank in England, and retired from corporate life.
His interests pivoted and he dove into the ‘crazy start-up world of entrepreneurship’ as a mentor, founder, advisor, and investor. Over the course of 4+ years working with the Innovation Synergy Centre in Markham (now known as VentureLab) and the Business Advisory Centre in Durham (BACD) he worked with over two hundred start-ups and entrepreneurs from ‘idea and inception' concepts to ‘growth and development’ realities. Along the way he founded, or was part of the founding team in 15 different businesses, most successfully, (some not so much, 3 crashed and burned - ouch), 3 wound down, 4 had successful exits (yay!) and the others are still operating today across a variety of industry sectors doing business in Canada and internationally.
Over the last 10 years, he’s seen hundreds (and hundreds) of investment opportunities, screened over 250 companies and received formal investment presentations from over a hundred. He knows first-hand what works, what doesn’t, and what’s needed to make a business viable, scalable, and successful. He knows what investors are looking for and what start-up founders must provide when they're looking for private equity financing. Malcolm’s background and diverse set of experiences has given him the unique ability to provide a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, been-there-done-that, point of view for the benefit of entrepreneurs and founders by delivering more knowledge, more experience and more insight. And that, in a nutshell, is what Insights is all about.