Margaret Cichosz and Ignacio Mongrell, alumni of the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program, recently competed as finalists at the National Business and Technology Conference (NBTC) with their startup, Apartmint.
Apartmint streamlines the rental process by offering one integrated platform for finding and listing rentals, screening tenants, and transacting rent.
This was this first year that we attended NBTC with Apartmint and the two-day conference was a busy, but great experience. On day one, we set up our booth to showcase Apartmint. Almost instantly, attendees started approaching us - not just for the free candy - but because they loved our idea! With the vast majority of students coming from London, Waterloo and Toronto, they all wanted to know when we would release our platform.
It was exciting to hear the overwhelmingly positive responses and the demand for our platform at a conference with over 300 attendees. For us, from that moment on, the conference was no longer about whether or not we won the competition; by now all that mattered was that we were receiving validation from our customers.
The entrepreneurship competition
As participants in the entrepreneurship competition, we had to pitch at 9 a.m. on day two to a panel of judges. We had practiced all week, but at the last minute we decided to change our pitch. We stayed up all night long practicing the new script.
No matter how many times we present in front of students, colleagues, friends or family, it’s always a bit nerve wracking! The first 30 seconds is always the hardest. As soon as we saw the judges nodding in agreement during our presentation, we felt more relaxed. The questions the judges asked were not surprising, since we were prepared to answer these kinds of questions. As soon as we were done, the judges came out of the room to talk to us about our platform and connect us with experienced professionals in our field.
We spent the next few hours going through our pitch again, so that we would be ready to pitch if we made it into the final round of the competition. Pitching in front of 300 people is a little intimidating, so we practiced and practiced!
At last, the time came for the final round. We heard the drumroll, and our logo was displayed on the screen. We went up to the stage as nervous wrecks! After we pitched, the Q&A with the judges was a bit more difficult than the first round of questions, but we were happy with how we answered the questions and wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Although we did not win the competition, we left stronger than we were two days earlier. Now, we have customer validation, demand, and interest from the many different stakeholders we met throughout the weekend. For us, that was the best feeling.
We were also happy that our co-op student, Tian Zhu, was able to experience what it’s like to attend competitions and conferences to raise money for a startup.
Up next for Apartmint: Digifest
After NBTC, we learned that we are finalists in the Digifest competition! On May 10, 2014, we will be competing in downtown Toronto again with a three minute pitch.
We're also excited to announce that in a few weeks, the Apartmint app will be released in the Apple Store, having recently received approved. We’ve hired a co-op student for the summer term and will be looking to bring on experienced developers as we roll out our desktop and mobile platforms.
Stay tuned for more exciting news from Apartmint!
About Margaret & Ignacio
Margaret Cichosz-Grzyb, MBET '12, grew up in an entrepreneurial environment within her parents' real estate business. At Apartmint, Margaret leads business development, strategic planning, and communications.
Margaret is currently the coordinator for the Conrad Centre's Bridging Entrepreneurs to Students (BETS) program.
Ignacio Mongrell, MBET '12, was born in Uruguay, where he worked as a marketing consultant and head of the selection process at INGENIO, a business incubator.
Ignacio currently works at the Accelerator Centre, where he is responsible for intake for the Accelerator Program and manages JumpStart, a FedDev grant. Ignacio previously wrote a blog inviting MBETs into the Accelerator Centre community.
Margaret and Ignacio co-founded Apartmint with fellow MBET alum Davy Chiu in 2013.