Espresso Capital was excited to be involved with the 2nd annual Canadian Spotlight Awards hosted by Razor and Kari Suleman and benefiting Next Canada. This year, eight companies were honored and recognized as a Canadian Centurian ($100+ exit) or Unicorn ($1B valuations).

See below a recap of the event and mark your calendars for next year!


Toronto, ON, October 3, 2016 — Espresso Capital Ltd. (“Espresso”) is pleased to announce the addition of Caterina Papadakos as Director, Western Canada to its Vancouver team.

Espresso is a leading provider of growth capital to the Canadian technology sector. Since its inception in 2009, Espresso has funded over 200 companies across the country.

As Director, Western Canada, Caterina will be responsible for leading Espresso’s business development activities in the region and managing existing client and partner relationships. “Espresso is a recognized and respected brand in the Canadian technology ecosystem” says Caterina. “I am excited to join a team with a proven track record of providing clients innovative and timely funding solutions to support their growth objectives.”

Before joining Espresso, Caterina held the role of Director, Technology and Innovation at BMO, leading the bank’s technology sector coverage in the Vancouver market. Caterina’s experience also includes roles with Trade and Invest BC where she worked with companies to develop their export development and foreign investment strategies focused on Europe, India and the Americas.

“Caterina will be a great addition to the Espresso team” says Alkarim Jivraj, Espresso’s CEO. “She shares our passion for helping entrepreneurs find the right funding solutions for their businesses, and adding value beyond capital.”

For more information please contact:

Alkarim Jivraj, CEO
Espresso Capital Ltd.

About Espresso Capital Ltd.

Espresso was founded in 2009 to provide innovative financing solutions to early and expansion stage technology companies. We have provided over $130 million in loans to over 200 companies since inception. Our financing solutions bridge the gap between equity and traditional sources of debt financing. We’re proud to provide fast, fairly priced and user-friendly growth capital to help entrepreneurs and investors reach their strategic and financial objectives.


Espresso Capital Katie Paterson

We are excited to introduce you to our newest member of the Espresso Capital team: Katie Paterson, who has returned to Canada after five years in Silicon Valley. Katie will be leading marketing at Espresso Capital and be an active part of the tech community.

To learn more about Katie and her background, we sat down for an Espresso Roasting (well more like an interview actually!) to ask her some questions and introduce her to the Espresso Capital community.


Tell us about your experience before joining Espresso. Have you been in marketing for your whole career?

I’m not your traditional marketer. By education, I’m an engineer. I began my career as a manufacturing engineer working on the automotive production floor but saw an opportunity to use my process driven and mathematical education in a different way. As I started my marketing career, the business was changing with the induction of social media and the evolution of digital and analytics. This was a launching point and an exciting opportunity to apply my engineering background in a creative way. I discovered my blended skills were a perfect fit for startup SaaS B2B companies that needed lean and process-driven thinking marketers to drive their business with minimal budgets. I developed my skills as a B2B marketer for SaaS startups in the HR and marketing sectors in Canada and the U.S., before moving back to Toronto and joining the Espresso Capital family.

Why the decision to join Espresso Capital?

Joining Espresso Capital will let me give back to the growing tech community that took a chance on me when I shifted careers from engineering to marketing. I’m excited about how much the Canadian tech ecosystem has expanded since I moved to San Francisco five years ago. I believe Canada can play a global role if we continue to find ways to support early and expansion stage companies. Working with Espresso Capital, I plan to be an active player in ensuring companies in Canada know about their financing options and can attract the funds needed to drive growth at home and abroad.

What are your goals? What are your short-term priorities?

I’m focused on two key areas: community building and education. It’s important to listen to your customer: be it a company founder looking for financing, or an investor who wants to participate in the tech ecosystem. In my experience, being active within the community is the best way to listen and be part of the conversation. Communities provide feedback, challenges are shared, and marketers can understand their customers. They also deliver opportunities to help people learn new skills and gather knowledge.

Now that you’re back in Canada, what’s your take on the startup scene?

I’m pleasantly surprised by the tech sector’s growth over the past five years. But I feel the Canadian startup scene has a PR problem versus our US counterparts. While I was in San Francisco, I heard little about Canadian successes, which led me to believe there weren’t any. Clearly, this is not the case! I think our humble Canadian nature gets the better of us because we don’t share our homegrown successes on a global scale. In Silicon Valley, they are not shy to shout from the rooftops; it’s time we in the north start shouting too. Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate.

Any thoughts about how startups should approach marketing?

For any growing company, budgets are tight and need to be focused on driving a high-quality product that solves a problem. This leaves very little for marketing. As a result, you need to exploit cheap and cheerful options. For example, there is a lot you can do with social media without spending a dime and still make an impact. It is important to build an online community and create a plan to grow with a meaningful and consistent engagement strategy. Marketing opportunities also need to be leveraged throughout your customer journey. You need to ask yourself how can your product drive leads? I’ll leave you to think about that.

So, to wrap things up. What is your caffeinated beverage of choice?

I am a tea drinker, have been since I was a child. There is always a freshly steeped cup of David’s Tea on my desk and I drink 5 to 6 cups a day!

If you have questions about how you can help jump-start your company’s growth, brand awareness or build a community around your product or service, you can contact Katie at katie@archive.espressocapital.com or @katiepaterson on Twitter.


OUTSIDEIQ gets creative to raise Growth Capital

One of the realities facing many Canadian startups is the challenge to attract growth capital, particularly to develop leading-edge technology. This was a fact of life for Toronto-based OutsideIQ, which spent several years developing technology that uses artificial intelligence and cognitive computing to automate due diligence reports for large financial institutions and insurance companies.

Looking for Alternative Growth Capital

Dan Adamson, OutsideIQ’s founder and CEO, said the lack of capital from Canadian investors meant R&D was fueled in three ways: tapping into angel networks, accessing venture debt, and leveraging financing from the federal government’s FedDev program. OutsideIQ’s approach to raising capital saw it embrace angels and venture debt at the same time. It worked with the Angel One Investor Network, one of the most active angel groups in Canada, and Espresso Capital, the leading provider of venture debt to startups. Adamson said dealing with Angel One and Espresso not only provided OutsideIQ with much-needed capital but also allowed it to qualify for funding from the FedDev program. “Part of the FedDev requirement is that we needed an organization behind us that was approved and accredited by the federal program” he said.

“The angel network worked because we could show we had enough money from Espresso. Espresso worked because we could leverage the Angel One network. It was a nice synergistic loop.”
– Dan Adamson, Founder & CEO @ OutsideIQ

Adamson said the mix of angel investors and venture debt succeeded because Angel One and Espresso recognized the strengths that both sides brought to the table. “Espresso and Angel One realized the quality folks involved, and they have become trusted partners. Another benefit in working with Espresso” Adamson said, is having a business relationship that delivers valuable insight. He said Alkarim Jivraj, Espresso’s president and CEO, has provided valuable feedback and advice because he has a combination of operational, startup and financing experience.

“OutsideIQ is typical of many Espresso customers. A super smart team that has developed and validated a disruptive technology. It has attracted initial funding and pioneering customers, but it is not quite ready for prime time venture capital. That’s where Espresso comes in, providing, the funding needed to scale revenue and traction necessary for a Series A or B [as the case may be].”

– Alkarim Jivraj, CEO @ Espresso Capital

Fueled by capital from Angel One and Espresso Capital to develop its technology, OutsideIQ was able to raise a $7-million series A round last year.

Venture Debt Plays a Key Role

While the company plans to raise additional capital this year, Adamson said venture debt will continue to play a key role in OutsideIQ’s financing activity. “When you are looking at a company growing at a certain rate, it is healthy to have a certain amount of debt and not have further dilution in raising capital as straight equity” he said. Debt is often the smart way to go, and Espresso has been helpful in helping us structure our financing. OutsideIQ is a great example of how fast-growing companies can leverage a combination of equity and debt financing to successfully drive product development and attract customers, while minimizing dilution for shareholders and setting the foundation for the next milestone financing.


January 10, 2016

Espresso is pleased to announce the launch of Fund V, significantly expanding the recurring revenue (SaaS) financing program we pioneered over three years ago. The new fund aims to capitalize on the growing demand from North American technology companies for venture debt. The fund also extends our working capital solutions beyond tax credit financing to include receivable and contract financing.

Since 2009, Espresso has provided over 200 technology companies with fast, fairly priced and user-friendly risk capital. Please contact us to learn more about Espresso’s innovative funding solutions.


We sat down with Karen Grant, Director, Angel One Investor Network, to talk about the key trends impacting angel investors and the opportunities and challenges facing angels in today’s investing environment.

Is this a good time to be an angel investor?

I think it’s a great time to be an angel investor. The start-up environment is very active and there are so many government programs that work well with angel investors across the country. The angel’s investment is augmented by government funds so the company has more working capital, and it’s not dilutive. It helps de-risk their investment, which is all any angel is looking for.

What’s important for angels these days?

One of the biggest issues within the angel community is how you exit your investments, and how you exit well. A lot of people are putting together fairly sizeable portfolios of angel investments. And how many significant Canadian exits have there been? It’s important to find  other ways to help investors see a return, and move on to do more investing.

Are there more angels around?

Without a doubt, I think we are definitely seeing more of them because there are more formal angel groups forming across the country. They have always been there but they’ve been less structured and not as visible.  With the formation of more formal angel groups, and federal and provincial government programs to bring them front and centre, angel investors are becoming more accessible for start-ups and are coming to represent a more prominent source of capital in the ecosystem.

What are the benefits of being part of an angel group?

Operating independently, you have access to your particular clique. But if one of your group does not get approached, there are deals that you miss, and a lot of that depends on where you are geographically located.  The structured groups create a channel for angels; that is what joining an angel group does. It creates a channel for your interest. We have 90 people in our group with a wide range of expertise – that is a large network to attract and evaluate deals.

Are there more new angels?

Yes. There are more first timers coming into angel groups.  Five, eight years ago when the approach was you invested with your small group of people you knew and trusted, and the angel community as a whole was less visible, I just don’t think there were as many newcomers to the practice. From the viewpoint of start-ups, it has been a huge boom – you just need to look at the dollars. Not too long ago, it was hard to find angel investors for a startup company. Going to a VC with a startup idea was ridiculous, and trying to find someone with enough money to support your wild idea was hazardous work. Now you can put together a due diligence data room on Dropbox, and then you can go out and apply to 13 angel groups within an easy drive of downtown Toronto. That is a big change. And the founders don’t even have to do all that work. In our group, 70% of investments are syndicated with other groups, so we do the work for them.

Are there any challenges facing the angel ecosystem?

One of the problems in Canada with the angel community is that most of the angels are mature. It is different in the U.S., particularly Silicon Valley and New York. In Canada, specifically Ontario, a large portion of the angels are more mature. When you hit 60-years-old and you have eight companies in your portfolio, it may take 14 years to see a return. The problem with this picture is succession planning, and what to do with your portfolio has become top of mind for more mature members of angel groups.

Jim Estill, for example, has a phenomenal personal portfolio of angel investments. He is now admitting to more than 150. Here is what he has been telling people – his average hold period is 14 years. You often hear people talk about investment periods of five to seven years but that is from a VC’s perspective. If an angel gets involved in a seed round deal, it may take as many as five to seven years before the company attracts the attention of VCs. The VC investment period adds another five to seven years, which is 14 years. One guy in my group has been involved in a company since 2008, and he’s still holding the investment.

Looking ahead, are you optimistic for the continued role of angels?

Absolutely. I think angels will continue to play a key role in the ecosystem, not only by providing much needed capital at early – and critical – stages in a company’s growth, but also by providing mentorship and guidance to founders as they build their businesses. Their numbers are growing but what we need to see is more younger angels involved in supporting the tech ecosystem. Angels will often be the first partners on a company’s long and successful journey from idea to exit – and that is an exciting role to play.

Blog post by Mark Evans, Author and Marketing Consultant at ME Consulting.


January 7, 2016
When Nancy Peterson, Founder and CEO of home renovation contractor marketplace HomeStars, approached Espresso Capital for venture debt, she refused to take “no” for an answer.

Espresso reviewed the opportunity but declined to invest. Notwithstanding, Peterson convinced Espresso CEO Alkarim Jivraj to become an advisor to HomeStars.

“I was thinking about making structural changes to the team,” she said. “Not knowing Alkarim well but based on the questions he asked, I felt he had the expertise to provide valuable guidance to us, so I went out on a limb to see if he would be willing to join our advisory board.”

Jivraj’s first piece of advice to Peterson was to hire an experienced SaaS CFO to help the company better understand its unit performance metrics. This led to HomeStars hiring Steve Wilson, who has played a key role in retooling the company’s sales coverage model, revamping its financial reporting, improving cash flow management, and ultimately helping HomeStars to get to a stronger financial footing.

Four months after their initial meeting, HomeStars had demonstrated enough progress to convince the Espresso team to provide funding to support HomeStar’s ambitious plans.

The financing was completed in less than a month. The company explored other options, including VCs and bank financing, but ultimately selected Espresso because it could move quickly, the terms were more flexible and did not involve dilution for shareholders, and equally as important, Espresso had proven its capacity to add value beyond just financing.

While HomeStars received much-needed capital from Espresso to grow their business, Peterson said Espresso has also become a strategic partner: “They meet a lot of companies and are constantly connecting the dots, and so have been very helpful in making strategic introductions. They’re also very knowledgeable about what makes companies valuable, and in particular have a deep understanding of SaaS businesses at the operational level.”

Peterson says Espresso has helped HomeStars think like a software company and positioned it for strong growth going forward. “We now have a strong foundation, are profitable, and still growing at a double-digit rate. Working with Espresso was a big jump for us.”

Blog post by Mark Evans, Author and Marketing Consultant at ME Consulting.


“Churn” is too vague a word to be useful when talking about growing your SaaS business. You need more context to understand what someone means: revenue or customer churn? Billed monthly or annually? Gross churn, or net of upgrades? And which of the 43 ways is it being measured?

When it comes to improving churn, the same holds true. You want to unpack the type of churn that’s causing you grief, and then solve for that specific kind of churn. In my five years running SaaS businesses, I’ve learned that:

There are four types of churn

  • Onboarding
  • Product
  • Credit card
  • Champion

Your approach to reduce your churn will be different depending on the type. Below, I’ll describe the four kinds of churn, the metrics to pay attention to, and a few tactics to address each kind.

1. Onboarding Churn

This happens when your customer doesn’t have a first good experience and thus decides your product isn’t for them. Another way of describing this is that your customer doesn’t have the “a-ha” moment — the moment where they understand how your product will solve their problem.

Who Owns This

Your customer success and product teams play a major role here. They need to understand what value your customers expect from your app, and help them get it as soon possible (this measure is called “time-to-value” in the customer success world). Product can always make the onboarding experience tighter, but customer success may need to step in with training, webinars, phone check-ins, lifecycle emails, etc. for those that don’t see value after signing up.

Key Metrics

– At-risk users. You’ll want to determine how to measure your app’s “a-ha” moment (see how we did it at my last SaaS company here). You can figure this out by looking at what your current customers did in your app that your churned customers didn’t do.

Once you know these “a-ha” metrics, your product team should change your onboarding flow to increase the likelihood that customers will have an “a-ha” moment soon after signing up. And customer success will want to keep a close eye on who hasn’t gotten value after signup (at-risk users) and proactively reach out to help them get to the “a-ha” moment.

– Trial-to-paid conversion. This is the ultimate indicator that a customer values your service: what percentage of signups end up paying you?

– 30 or 60 day churn. Even after customers pay you, the risk that they churn in the first couple of months is higher. Measuring churn in the first 30 or 60 days after a customer starts paying you will help you understand and overcome the obstacles they face that prevent them from using the tool regularly. Is your service easy to integrate into their workflow? Can they drive adoption internally? Does it solve their problem? Do customers need more training, more material to socialize your app internally, or better product hooks to drive adoption?

Once you uncover which customers are leaving in the first couple of months after signing up and understand why, you’ll be in a better position to fix your onboarding churn.

2. Product Churn

This happens when the product doesn’t appear to solve the problem that the customer needs solved. This is fatal if not resolved: high product churn usually means you’re not in a good market with a product that can satisfy the needs of that market (e.g. you don’t have product-market fit).

This churn can happen for a variety of reasons, things like a bad product, or the wrong customer for the product, or a price that’s too high.

Who Owns This

Product, Marketing, and Customer Success typically play roles in reducing this churn. Marketing needs to bring the right customers to your site. Product, Marketing, and Sales need to make sure plans are segmented correctly and pricing is appropriate. Customer Success needs to understand who your at-risk customers are, and have a process in place to help them.

And most importantly, Product needs to understand the core customer problems and build a solution that elegantly solves them.

Key metrics

– Engagement. What are the key activities that a customer should do to get ongoing value from your product? And what are the activities they should do to engage deeper and make it more valuable to them? These are your key leading indicators of churn. It’s key that customer success is on top of these metrics to understand who’s at risk.

– 30+ or 60+ day churn. Once a customer gets over the post-sales, high-churn hump (usually 30 to 60 days; at the last SaaS company I founded it was 61 days), you want to keep an eye on this figure and make sure it stays low.

If it creeps higher than you like, try looking at 60+ day churn on a cohort basis by signup date, marketing channel, pricing plan, amount paid, feature usage, and cancellation reason. You’ll likely find some clues as to how to bring it down.

3. Credit card churn

If you take credit cards, this kind of churn occurs due to failed payments and expired cards. Roughly 3% of your customers’ cards will expire every month, which means 36% of payments may fail per year just due to expiring cards. This doesn’t include cards that fail due to other reasons (card over limit, card number changed, etc).

Who Owns This

This is usually a product or revenue team function. You can reduce this by sending emails out when payments fail (called dunning emails). You can build this in-house or through a 3rd party SaaS app. Another way to attack this is using a “card updater” service that’s offered by many credit card gateways. It ensures a customer’s card will continue to work even if the physical card gets replaced by the bank (due to expiration or theft, for example). A phone call to the customer is also incredibly helpful to save a customer with a failed credit card.

Key Metrics

Since credit card churn is immediate (in the case of a failed payment) or possible to see coming (in the case of an expiring card), most of these metrics help you understand and anticipate the impact on your cash flow.

– Expiring dollars. How many dollars are expiring in the next 30-60-90 days? How will this impact your ability to spend over the next 90 days?

– Failed dollars. How many dollars are currently in a failed state? These are dollars you’ll lose unless a customer updates their card.

– Time to recover. How long does it typically take to recover a failed payment? When can you be reasonably sure to get the money back, or kiss it goodbye?

– Dollar recovery percentage. Of all your dollars that go into a failed payment state, what percentage do you recover?

4. Champion churn

Your customer champion or economic buyer leaves, and the new one wants to use a different solution. The best way to handle this is to build other “mini champions” as your customers. This is especially important if switching costs are low.

Who Owns This

Customer Success or your Account Reps can help prevent this kind of churn. One of the best ways to do this is to ask your economic buyer which other people use your software (so you can thank them). Then, send those people a gift – fruit basket, bottle of whiskey, Starbucks gift card, etc. This can help inoculate you against the “cleaning house” that occurs when a new economic buyer comes in and wants to boot you — a (now very popular) vendor with useful software — in favour of someone else.

Key Metrics

There aren’t really; keeping on top of champions is a matter of regular contact from your Customer Success team or account managers. Keeping on top of LinkedIn is also helpful, though if you’re hearing about your champion leaving via LinkedIn you’re probably behind the curve already.

Understand, then attack

Since “churn” can mean different things to different people, I have found the above framework useful for putting churn into the right context. For example, these two examples both describe “churn”, but are very different in how to diagnose and solve the problem: we’re losing $20K MRR per month and we think it’s due to product churn vs. we’re losing 100 customers per month and we think it’s due to onboarding churn.

Once you understand which of the four types of churn is losing your business the most money, your team can focus on solving the right problem to make sure you get the best bang for your buck.

Blog post by Kareem Mayan, Principal at TheChurnGuys.

This article originally appeared as a guest post on the Predictable Revenue blog.

Writer’s note: Thanks to Arif Bandali and Ryan Stocker for reading drafts of this, and to Hiten Shah for helping me understand key components of this framework.


I’m pleased to share some exciting news about our expansion plans.

Since Espresso Capital was launched six years ago, we are proud to have provided fast, fairly priced and user-friendly risk capital to more than 200 early and expansion stage technology companies in Canada.

This is an exciting time for the Canadian technology sector. Coast to coast, we’re seeing a new generation of companies developing world-class technologies with the potential to be global market leaders. As one of the most active providers of venture debt in Canada, we’re privileged to support this community of entrepreneurs and investors.

It’s against this backdrop that I’m pleased to announce that my senior management team and I have acquired majority ownership in Espresso. We have also secured financing to support the next phase of the company’s growth, which includes an ambitious technology investment program and the launch of a new, evergreen fund.

At the same time, Enio Lazzer has joined our team as COO/CFO and Will Hutchins as Managing Director. Espresso co-founder Gary Yurkovich and outgoing CFO Chris Hill will continue to be actively involved in the business. Gary has become Executive Chairman, while Chris is Chairman of our Credit Committee.

This is a time of rapid innovation in financial services as ‘fintech’ firms leverage technology and sophisticated analytics to disrupt existing business models and provide novel solutions to previously underserved markets.

We believe that ‘fintech’ innovation will dramatically reshape small business lending, and we are fully committed to be at the forefront of technology driven change as it relates to our category. Earlier this year, we launched an online loan application portal to make it easier for our clients to share information with us. Over the next twelve months we will be rolling out additional innovations relating to loan underwriting, documentation, servicing and monitoring.

Of course, it’s not just about technology. Our goal is to further improve on our capacity to deliver fast, fairly priced, user-friendly risk capital to our clients, and to better manage risk for our investors.

Our proposed Espresso Capital Fund V will build upon the innovative financing solutions that Espresso has become known for. In 2009, our business was created to bridge finance SR&ED tax credits. Since then, we have expanded our tax credit financing to include a wide variety of accrued tax credits as well as other government incentive programs, and also launched recurring revenue financing. With the launch of Fund V we look forward to further bridging the gap between bank financing and equity with new working capital and growth financing products. Finally, Fund V will be our first RRSP eligible fund, and the first to be distributed by registered dealers. For details, see the definitive fund documents for Fund V which should be available shortly.

As we enter this new chapter, we believe Espresso is well positioned to be the leading provider of venture debt to the Canadian technology sector. If you would like to learn more about our plans or explore financing options, please get in touch.


Book Cover Amazon

Storytelling has quickly emerged as one of the hottest marketing buzzwords.

As someone who spent 15 years spinning tales on broadcast television, I welcome the hype. Five years ago I set out to use storytelling techniques to help corporate clients craft their message. It felt novel back then. Stories offered a way to cut through all that marketing noise.

Mark Evans’ Storytelling for Startups is a “how to” guide for founders and other start-up executives on how to create stories that pave a path to success.

A former technology reporter for The Financial Post, Evans delivers the goods in a refreshingly straightforward manner, without any needless hype. The book evolved out of his experience in helping dozens of startups acquire the skills needed to engage investors and customers in today’s rich media environment.

According to Evans, “Storytelling is more important than ever. Companies that tell great stories, win. Company’s that don’t, lose.” In addition to drawing from his personal experience as a consultant, Evans highlights the best storytelling practices from Steve Jobs, Dropbox, MailChimp and numerous other case studies.

Evans doesn’t sugarcoat the process. He asks the tough questions right off the bat: “Why does your organization exist?“ Admittedly, this self-examination is often difficult, time consuming, and rarely unanimous. But agreeing on an internal story is necessary before one can share it with the world. Evans spends a considerable amount of time discussing ways in which startups can land on a message that resonates.

Honesty is also paramount when discussing potential outcomes. “For storytelling to work, there has to be a well defined plan with clear goals – be it brand awareness, media coverage, website traffic, partnership, leads or sales.”

Evans steers clear of prescribing one-size fits all solutions. He intelligently guides the reader through a maze of platforms – old media, social media, video, web, email, blogs, infographics – you name it, the book has a chapter on it.

Evans reminds the reader to never lose sight of their audience. “Effective storytelling happens by having insights into your audience. What stories do they like to hear?” Companies tell the story, but the story is always about their customers. Their needs. Their feelings. Why else would the customer care? The book also offers different methods to measure audience engagement and includes a useful list of online tools specializing in analytics.

Unlike some marketing gurus, Evans is very much a realist. He understands startups cannot possibly master all of the platforms available to them. It’s one thing to embrace storytelling. It’s another thing to find one’s voice and hit it out of the park. Success will definitely require practice. This book is a great way to get started.

Marco Bresba is a branding, storytelling and social media strategist. Espresso Capital is one of his clients. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.