Why Invest Ottawa is launching Peer Groups 

Aug 15, 2019
5 mins | 850 words
By: Nick Quain

Nick Quain

For those who have walked the path, entrepreneurship can be a harrowing journey. As the old adage goes, it’s like jumping out of an airplane and building a parachute on the way down.  

Building a business is stressful and, at times, incredibly lonely.

Emerging from this dilemma is something called “peer groups.” A business peer group is akin to an advisory board only it’s made up of fellow entrepreneurs and business owners all striving to build their businesses. Group members learn best practices, help solve each other’s problems and provide general business guidance, all in a group setting. 

At any stage along their journey, entrepreneurs (even a collective of early-stagers) have a tremendous amount of experience to share. And while formal peer groups from the likes of TEC, EO, and others aptly fill the void, these organizations focus on supporting entrepreneurs that are already well established. Typically, firms need to be tracking upwards of $1M in revenue to qualify for peer groups. Qualifiers make sense in some ways, as these firms are more stable and the entrepreneurs can afford to pay a monthly fee, which is typically in the $500-$1,000 range, depending on the organization. But this has left an early-stage void for entrepreneurs just getting their business off the ground 

For a company that generates less than $500k in revenue annually, business founders may have grown their company enough to pay themselves a fair wage (or maybe not). Either way, peer groups are out of reach.

And, at the same time, the reality is getting to first $1 million in revenue is tough. Likely, getting to the first $1 million in revenue is the toughest $1 million climb out there. Put blatantly, those who are in this position are the entrepreneurs in need of the most support. 

Enter Invest Ottawa’s new peer groups.  

Recognizing the void in the marketplace, and given our mandate to support entrepreneurship in Ottawa, Invest Ottawa is launching early-stage peer groups for business owners. These group meetings will happen ten times per year per group at Bayview Yards, will be managed by one of our early-stage business advisors, and will include up to six hours per year of one-to-one time with a business coach.  

As someone who built my company from the ground up, I can tell you that starting a company from scratch is a lot more exciting and in some ways easier than managing a company through growth stages.

As someone who built my company from the ground up, I can tell you that starting a company from scratch is a lot more exciting and in some ways easier than managing a company through growth stages. The early enthusiasm and energy help you clear a lot of hurdles through straight-up vigour. But settling in for the long grind of running a company is different.

According to a recent study by the Canadian Mental Health Association, supported by BDC, 62% of entrepreneurs feel depressed at least once a week, with 46% claiming that mental health issues interfere with their work. Their report titled Going it Alone: The mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs in Canada, also concluded that more than half of all entrepreneurs feel inadequate, while those whose enterprises are in the growth or early stages are even more likely to experience stress and mental health concerns.

Being a part of a peer group can be an incredible resource for development and supportThrough this network, entrepreneurs access practical advice, collective mentorship, and create a community to be leaned on.

My thirteen years with TEC were instrumental in helping me instill processes, best practices and strategies that not only helped my company succeed but helped make me much more efficient in focusing on my strengths. It also taught me a lot about myself in terms of the type of leader, manager and person I am, and what it is like to work with yours truly.  

So if you or someone you know are running an early-stage business – in tech or non-tech – here are a few reasons to consider learning more about Invest Ottawa’s new Peer Groups: 

  • Connect with other successful business leaders in Eastern Ontario
  • Gain perspectives, test assumptions and learn best practices in a safe, judgment-free environment
  • Team together with accomplished business leaders help solve each other’s most pressing issues 
  • Get confidential peer feedback on your business or challenges
  • Be held accountable by your peers and group facilitator
  • Be inspired and motivated

For my part, along the way, I’ve also made some amazing life-long friends, some of whom I’ve been in a peer group with for ten years or more. This list includes the likes of my coach Carlos Foxand fellow TEC members Jason Flick, Mike Gerbis, Sean LundyMargo CrawfordDave McIlhaggaNaomi Morisawa De Koven, Francis Moran, and Jeff Horne, to name a few. 

If interested, please check out our webpage at investottawa.ca/io-peer-groups/ to learn a bit more, and don’t be shy about connecting with me at nquain@investottawa.ca to discuss further. You can even connect with one of our business advisors for a free consultation on your business and determining whether you might be a good fit. 

"Introducing the IO Entrepreneurship Peer Groups, Starting in 2019. I'm Interested." A picture of five fists fist-bumping in a circle.


Author’s bio:

Nick Quain is the Vice President of Venture Develop at Invest Ottawa. Through his role, Nick leads all programming and support for startups, early-stage and growth companies alike, while supporting Ottawa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole. Under Nick’s leadership, Invest Ottawa launched the IO Accelerator in 2018, the IO Pre-Accelerator Program and now Peer Groups. Previously at CellWand, Nick was co-founder and CEO, where he drove all development, strategy and execution while pioneering the use of abbreviated dialling codes in North America with the award-winning #TAXI (Pound Taxi) service and subsequently in the mobile transportation space, with The Ride app. Highlights of Nick’s accomplishments include raising several million in capital, closing industry-first deals with every major wireless carrier in North America and architecting a marketing strategy that has created #TAXI as a national brand used over 16 million times while propelling CellWand to millions in revenue and profitability.

Nick also works as a CEO in Residence and Executive Mentor at Telfer School of Management and has served as a guest lecturer, business pitch judge and panel member at various business and entrepreneurial conferences and events. Nick graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Ottawa in 1993. In 2009, Nick received the Young Achievers Alumni Award from the Telfer School of Management. In 2003, he was named to the Ottawa Business Journal’s Top Forty Under 40 and was a judge for the same award for ten years.

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