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Perfecting their pitch

If you think you've got the next billion-dollar business idea, one budding entrepreneur advises you not to quit your day job yet

Chris Karasewich, co-founder of Cattle Track, is a hard-core serial entrepreneur who works 80 hours a week. His new mobile app was designed for cattle ranchers.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Chris Karasewich, co-founder of Cattle Track, is a hard-core serial entrepreneur who works 80 hours a week. His new mobile app was designed for cattle ranchers. Purchase Photo Print

Chris Karasewich would not disclose the details but he said he had a really good idea to bring to this weekend's RampUp Weekend.

The 54-hour business startup jam is a fitting end to Global Entrepreneurship Week. About 50 people are expected to spend the weekend at the Asper Business School's downtown facility at the James W. Burns Executive Education Centre on Lombard Avenue.

They will throw out business ideas and, basically through mob rule, filter out the 10 best. Participants will form into teams and by Sunday night pitch the business ideas to judges.

Six months ago at the last RampUp Weekend, Karasewich pitched the idea of a mobile app that would take the place of hand-written log entries that cattle ranchers use to monitor the growth of each member of their herd.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/11/2014 (1036 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Chris Karasewich would not disclose the details but he said he had a really good idea to bring to this weekend's RampUp Weekend.

The 54-hour business startup jam is a fitting end to Global Entrepreneurship Week. About 50 people are expected to spend the weekend at the Asper Business School's downtown facility at the James W. Burns Executive Education Centre on Lombard Avenue.

They will throw out business ideas and, basically through mob rule, filter out the 10 best. Participants will form into teams and by Sunday night pitch the business ideas to judges.

Six months ago at the last RampUp Weekend, Karasewich pitched the idea of a mobile app that would take the place of hand-written log entries that cattle ranchers use to monitor the growth of each member of their herd.

Called Cattle Track, the idea came in fourth out of 10 at the event in May.

"We knew we needed to work on some of the aspects, especially the revenue models," Karasewich said.

There are only a few test models in the field now, but he's developed the concept enough since May that Karasewich won the $7,500 first-place prize in Innovate Manitoba's Pitch Day event held earlier this month (full disclosure: this reporter was one of four judges).

Karasewich had no previous connection to the cattle business before starting a business developing a mobile app that could fundamentally change the way cattle ranchers operate.

And notwithstanding his easy-going, downtown hipster attitude, Karasewich is no pretender. He's already a hard-core serial entrepreneur, working 80 hours a weeks. He has a growing skill set, including an ability to find like-minded partners who will work for a piece of the action (as opposed to a paycheque.)

"We will not be making any money for a long time from Cattle Track," he said.

"So you need something to support that."

The 28-year-old Asper Business School graduate has, with a partner, a two-year-old Internet marketing company called ASAP Marketing that brings in revenue to pay the rent.

It's the same kind of business that funds Dustin Refvik's ongoing startup activities.

Refvik is one of the original organizers of the RampUp Weekend events and has become Karasewich's partner in Cattle Track. He also has a digital marketing company called Night Ideas.

"It's definitely growing," Refvik said of the grassroots interest in entrepreneurship. "There's lots of interest coming out of the schools with students from Red River College and Asper School starting to participate."

The interest is at such a level that when he heard about the RampUp Weekend events about a year ago, Karasewich went out and actively tried to come up with an idea to pitch.

"I was playing hockey with some guys from Crystal City and I asked them if there was anything they were doing now on the farm where a technology solution could be created to help make things easier," said Karasewich.

His friend told him about the log books for cattle that the ranchers review periodically to decide what to do with each head of cattle.

So Karasewich figured a mobile digital app that could keep those records and allow ranchers to quickly look up the history of the animal would be useful.

Although there are alternatives, they are expensive and complex.

"We're producing something that will be easy to use and affordable," he said.

The goal is to have 15 to 30 users by the end of the year, when Karasewich will start to approach potential strategic partners such as the big feed and grain-handling companies and large farm data companies.

"The goal is not to make money from the farmers," he said. "The goal it is to make money from the people who are already providing seed and feed and other inputs to the farmers."

Cattle Track was the only Manitoba company with any presence at last week's Agri Innovation Forum, and Karasewich is already getting lots of traction with potential strategic partners.

He's also amazed at the kind of community support he's getting.

"I've only been involved (in the startup community) for less than a year and it has created so many opportunities and opened so many doors," he said. "It really has. Any time an opportunity comes up, people tell you about it."

Joelle Foster, in charge of Futurpreneur Canada's operations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nunavut, has been one of the sponsors of RampUp Weekends since the semi-annual events began in 2012.

She said not only are there better, more sophisticated pitches at the RampUp events now but there is a growing appreciation from participants about the community resources that are available. It also means more young entrepreneurs are eligible for — and worthy of — Futurpreneur Canada startup loans.

"I think they have more confidence," Foster said. "There is a community we did not have before. It was building back then (two years ago). Now there are things in place. People feel if they start a business they will not be doing it alone."

She said she's funding almost all the top winners of the RampUp events and many ideas are blossoming into growing businesses.

One of them, Permission Click, recently was named Most Promising Startup of the Year, by the National Angel Capital Organization.

The digital permission slips and payments collection for schools has been on a tear, signing up schools and school divisions and powerful distribution partners throughout Canada and the U.S.

It was an idea hatched, like Cattle Track was, during a frenzied weekend of entrepreneurial energy.

 

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Martin Cash.

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