Date company founded: 2015
Current number of employees: 5
What they do: International courier
With the recent explosion of e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Alibaba and hometown sweetheart Shopify, disruption has rippled through countless industries. And arguably no other industry has been more impacted than international shipping. You can now order practically anything from the comfort of your own couch – but not everything about the process of online shopping is as relaxing. Import duties and custom forms are still causing worldwide headaches. Thankfully, Ottawa-based start-up Flyta has a way to make that pain disappear.
Spunoff from a software development shop, Flyta is your one-stop shipping shop (try to say that 10 times fast!) I spoke with CEO Farhad Khan to find out more about this new business and his thoughts on the Ottawa ecosystem.
Say I don’t work in technology – explain to me what you do? The problem you solve?
International shipping has always been a pain for people. Big couriers are expensive, and the cheaper alternatives do not always come with tracking. Often times, packages are lost in certain parts of the world or the recipient gets a surprise Cash on Delivery bill (when payment is collected on delivery and not in advance) for import duties and brokerage when it reaches the destination.
To remove these pain points, we are building a solution that will make international shipping as simple as buying a cup of coffee! Primarily, the biggest barriers that prevent businesses from selling overseas are the uncertainty of import duties and filling out customs forms. So we automate these tasks in our courier software so they are done like magic. We also offer our clients affordable prices by using spare cargo space of bigger carriers to get the best rates. Now any e-commerce or retail stores that sell within the country can easily sell their products worldwide by shipping with Flyta.ca and use our API to display prices that include import duties and brokerage fees.
What was the light bulb moment that sparked the idea?
The idea for Flyta was born in our software development shop, Grype.ca. We have an operations centre in Dhaka, Bangladesh and often need to ship devices to and from the office. As you might guess, shipping from North America to Asia is very expensive. After talking to a lot of people, we found out that we were not the only ones. International shipping is indeed a pain, so we set out to solve the problem.
How has working with Invest Ottawa helped your business?
Entrepreneurs are addicted to building things and solving problems. When you add fuel to this addiction and channel the explosion towards positive growth, you grow the economy! That’s what Invest Ottawa did for us and the city.
Everyday we come to IO and something new happens. We run into other founders and just by bouncing ideas off, we come up with new ideas for our start-up. The mentors are extremely helpful as well. They helped us distil our ideas at various stages so we could avoid stepping on landmines.
Which resources in Ottawa have helped you grow and scale your business?
Ottawa has a very active start-up community and different resources and mentors have helped us at different stages of our businesses. Here in Ottawa, we have all the essential elements to build and test a start-up. It’s relatively easy to get IRAP grants and we have active incubators like Lead To Win, Startup Garage, Invest Ottawa and L-Spark who would go out of their way to help entrepreneurs. The Fresh Founder’s network in Ottawa and the Product Hunt community also helped us connect with influencers. Since Ottawa is a small city, you have to work hard to get early customers, but that means what you are selling has value and when you go to a bigger city like Toronto, the chances of gaining critical mass is much higher.
Which Ottawa companies excite you (Besides Shopify)?
There are countless success stories in Ottawa, but the ones that excite us most are ChangeJar, WorkshopX, GnowIt, Amazeballs, Wipebook, Gymtrack and Squanto. These start-ups introduced unique things to our daily lives that improve the way we do things.
What would be your advice to someone trying to start a business in Ottawa?
Get out of the building and network. Ottawa is known for its nasty winters so it’s very tempting to stay indoors, but it’s essential to make an effort to get out and network. Join a good incubator as early as you can and talk to a lot of mentors before you choose 1 or 2 that you are comfortable working with. Research your competitors well, be honest and know your place in the market.
Read more about Ottawa’s ecosystem here
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