Choosing the Startup Life: Thoughts from a C-Suite Entrepreneur
Erin Flood serves as COO of Fredericton’s HotSpot Parking. A New Brunswick native, Flood spent several years with her family in Toronto before returning to Atlantic Canada. It was that return home that helped further spark her interest in entrepreneurship, and a desire to help launch a new business.
Flood and CEO Phillip Curley have taken HotSpot from a mobile parking startup to a company diving into the ‘Big Data’ pool alongside major partners. Erin spoke to ONB about the company’s Pattern of Life Big Data Project, read that interview here.
The conversation didn’t end there, however. What follows is part two of our conversation, where Erin gives her thoughts on entrepreneurship in New Brunswick.
ONB: You lived in Toronto for several years, what brought you back home?
Flood: We moved back when I was 13. My father owns T4G; we made the move to Toronto for a few years to help get that company going. The intention was always to bring the business back to New Brunswick. I spent my summers here though, and have always considered myself a New Brunswicker.
ONB: You could work anywhere, so why the startup life? What made you go that route?
Flood: The desire to go that route has been there since a young age. My father has always been a serial entrepreneur; whether it’s commercializing a product or launching a business. He has always encouraged my brothers and I to create, really gearing us towards that same entrepreneurial lifestyle.
Coming back to New Brunswick was a huge catalyst. There was so much going on here in the entrepreneurial community; it was really becoming a startup hub. I worked for a non-profit here for a couple of years and kept tabs on the startup scene and what new businesses were springing up.
I was always asking my father to get me any extra tickets he had for local innovation events or conferences. I attended the 2013 KIRA Awards and that’s where I met our CEO Phillip Curley. I think they put us at the same table because we were both just two young kids.
Phillip could sell anything, and he sold me pretty fast on his parking idea. It wasn’t something I’d ever put previous thought into, but it was exciting. I started with HotSpot shortly after.
The main reason for choosing a startup over a well-established company, however, would be the learning growth— both personally and professionally—that you get working at a startup. It’s an unmatched experience that no learning institution can quite give you.
ONB: Would you say New Brunswick is a good place to launch a business?
Flood: It’s more than good. We have a real advantage being in a small community where we’re more tightly knit. People here are so close to us, and they’re so willing to help us with growth. We too often downplay the amount of smart, talented people we have in New Brunswick; we’re too humble. We’re creating some ground-breaking products here and getting them out to market. I think it’s an exciting place for a young entrepreneur.
ONB: In our last interview you commented on ONB, any other notable support players?
Flood: Ignite Fredericton/Planet Hatch has been a great one, we were part of their first cohort. Propel ICT is another great program we’ve leveraged. I’ve also taken courses with Atlantic Growth Solutions. We mapped out that entire ecosystem and found where we could fit with each player. At this point we’ve tapped into just about all of them which we are extremely grateful for.
ONB: You attended TechWomen Canada in San Francisco. What were your big takeaways from that?
Flood: The biggest was realizing that New Brunswick is not far off from San Francisco when you look at the knowledge base in both regions. What I wanted to achieve in California was helping the people there understand the type of companies and products that are coming out of New Brunswick. That experience only convinced me further that this region has some of the best resources and mentors in the world.
ONB: How do you keep yourself and the HotSpot team motivated?
Flood: Lately we have our office dog, Doc; we have dubbed him our Chief Happiness Officer. Doc is actually a huge motivator on a daily basis. The therapeutic Medical Alert Service Dogs group is doing great things with these awesome animals. In a startup you do deal with that mental health aspect, it can be stressful sometimes. Having a dog around is actually very comforting for us all.
To keep each other motivated we try to stay on the same page, always checking with each other to make sure the vision is still in focus. We make sure we’re still passionate about the company’s goals, but also bring each other back down to earth. Learning not to internalize work issues and not take ourselves too seriously are also things we need to keep top-of-mind. It’s that team focus that holds the fabric of the company together.
ONB: What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Flood: You have to first recognize that it’s not an easy job. Media has a done a great job of building up this fluffy expectation of what it’s like to work in a startup, which is very misleading in my opinion. You think images of ping pong tables and beanbag chairs, and that’s simply not realistic.
It’s about having stamina, and recognizing that it is not easy. It’s about embracing failure rather than walking away. You’re going to face failure regularly, and it’s going to make you a stronger businessperson. It’s going to help you learn. The startup experience is the best business education you could ask for.
Learn more about HotSpot here.
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