There has been a push over the last year or two towards improving hard skills like coding, digital literacy and leadership of both aspiring and current entrepreneurs. There are government programs, workshops from business leaders and more. But those programs, as great as they are, seem to help those who want to start a business rather than those who are well on their way.
Futurpreneur and Intuit realized this disconnect and recently unveiled a brand new partnership to support young entrepreneurs. Their vision is to utilize the skills both organizations bring to the table—Intuit’s ability to handle the financials for a business, and Futurpreneur’s savvy for mentorship and financing—to empower a young founder through every portion of their journey.
Jeff Cates is the president of Intuit Canada, and often at the heart of partnerships like this is a question or a problem that needs solving.
“50 per cent of businesses don’t make it past their fifth anniversary. What can we do to solve that?” Cates asks.
“There’s a lot of programs around helping to get you started with a business, but not a lot to help keep you going,” he explains. “Often times, it’s better to focus further down the funnel then at the top of the funnel. We need to ask, ‘What do we need to do for those who are actually starting to be successful?’ That’s going to yield a better result than trying to get people to start more businesses.”
Making it Real
A formal partnership between Futurpreneur and Intuit has been a long time coming. Though the two organizations began working together over five years ago, this is the first time they have come together to really share resources and help achieve a common goal.
Intuit is the creator of their flagship software QuickBooks, a platform that allows founders and payments experts to get a better hold of what their financials look like. Users can access and control everything from payroll to taxes, saving dozens of hours a month that they can better use growing their business in more personal ways.
Futurpreneur is an organization that has been around for 22 years and they work with entrepreneurs age 18-39 to aid them in starting and growing their own business. They work with all sorts of industries and focus on three key areas: financing, mentorship and tools/resources.
The connection between the two organizations is self-evident: both work to empower founders and guide them down the road of starting a business. The partnership almost came to be through an entirely natural path.
“Our partnership evolved so organically, and at one point we realized we should do something concrete,” says Karen Greve Young, the CEO of Futurpreneur. Young took over the role six months ago after previously serving as a VP at MaRS, so she was well-prepared to work with budding young entrepreneurs.
“Often in the case of these innovation partnerships, you’re so aligned and things are really happening organically, and finally something happens. You realize if you just formalize something, you can reach your shared goal in enabling entrepreneurs.”
Futurpreneur has helped over 12,000 young entrepreneurs so far, including big names in the Canadian tech world like SkipTheDishes, Elastic Path and Knixwear. These may be companies Futurpreneur has helped mentor, or even given very early-stage loans to. In fact, Knixwear has only taken money from Futurpreneur throughout their entire rise to e-commerce fame, and now the company is bringing in over $35 million in revenue each year.
The basics of the partnership work like this: Intuit is offering a core program around financial management skills to Futurpreneur members. The program soft-launched at the beginning of October 2018 and is now in full swing. Members can access e-books covering things like cash flow, or more complicated topics surrounding financing and taxes.
“We’re scaling out financial management skills across all the Futurpreneur organizations because they have reach and influence into a lot of incubators and accelerators,” says Cates. “The more we can work with them on core curriculum, not only will they teach it but they can amplify those skills as well.”
Cates breaks it down like this: In order to get people to actually take the time to build financial management skills, they need a catalyst. Futurpreneur is servicing lending to early-stage businesses. When an entrepreneur gets a loan, they need to learn about statements, which means they need to get an accountant. That leads them to use Intuit QuickBooks.
“Cates sees that the Intuit product, like QuickBooks, is an extraordinary tool for small companies just getting off the ground,” says Young. “These small companies won’t have a finance team–the founder is the finance team. Intuit knows they need to meet these entrepreneurs where they live.”
Follow the Data
The best outcome for both Futurpreneur and Intuit is two-sided. On one hand, both organizations would be ecstatic if their partnership led to more successful small businesses, or as Young describes, “having a young person start a business that enables them to be their own employer and potentially employ other people in the community they want to live in.” That is one picture of success.
Another outcome is one that lies further down the road. Cates wants to use this kind of partnership to really determine what kind of factors lead to success in young businesses. If they can predict that sort of thing, they can use those guidelines to scale businesses more quickly and effectively.
“The more we work with organizations like Futurpreneur and ask what data would enable you to lend better to early-stage businesses and to play a bigger role in guiding those businesses, that is great work to be a part of,” says Cates.
“My ultimate dream is a drivers-ed program,” he goes on to say. “If you can take a core curriculum and some hands-on work that yields better outcomes—and prove that—other big organizations like banks will see that that business is more likely to be successful, so they’re more likely to give them more capital or better lending rates. That way, we can create a national movement.”
That kind of thinking might not be too far off. Futurpreneur already partners with every major Canadian bank, so this kind of backed-by-data financial skills program could become a reality. For now. Intuit and Futurpreneur will continue to work together and empower every young founder that comes through their doors.
“Our partners aren’t looking at entrepreneurs as someone to exploit,” says Young. “They’re looking at them as someone to support and as the future of Canada. They aren’t just cutting cheques—we don’t work with anyone who just cuts us a cheque. Everyone we work with is a true partner where each try to work together and add value to an entrepreneurs’ journey.”
Techvibes is the official Media Partner of Intuit Quickbooks Connect.