Op-ed: A lesson for COVID-19? How the dot-com bubble burst saved my startup

Editor's Note

Measures aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic are profoundly altering the business environment for many companies. Nick Quain – the vice-president of venture development at Invest Ottawa – recently reflected on how an earlier economic shock permanently changed the trajectory of his startup and shared the lessons that still apply in 2020.

In the summer of 2001, I was on a roll.

Although the dot-com bubble was beginning to burst, my fledgling startup, CellWand, had just run a successful pilot of our new #TAXI service with Rogers, and we were inking a long-term contract with Canada’s largest wireless carrier. This included a six-figure revenue guarantee, and it was the first deal of its kind for an automated service using voice recognition. Skeptics of our model in the wireless industry started to reconsider, and long conversations with investors were finally getting real. Our team was exuberant, marked by high fives with friends & family.

Founders crave these moments and that feeling. I was walking on air.

That August, we signed a seven-figure term sheet with an NYC-based seed investor with experience in backing B2C companies – something Canada lacked.  Suddenly, our vision of hiring a CTO and building out our marketing team was more than hypothetical. I had been at this for over a year without being paid. While I rarely spoke about the idea of actually getting a salary, I thought about this more than I cared to admit.

Due diligence concluded, and everything was set for our financial closing on September 30th.

And then 9/11 happened.

Read the full op-ed on Invest Ottawa’s website.