Deb Krizmanich spent many years working within large companies and international organizations, so she has experienced firsthand the discord and disorganization often found in such places.
It was through her stint with Ottawa-based non-profit Digital Opportunity Trust that she learned first-hand the difficulties of bringing disparate people in different parts of the world onto the same page.
But it wasn’t until she got sick that she decided to do something about it. Having contracted the H1N1 virus, she was at home with nothing to do but nurse her fever. She began researching online tools that could help different-minded people collaborate, but couldn’t find anything useful.
That’s when she decided to found Powernoodle, an online software provider that would help people discover common ground so that they could make better decisions. The day her fever broke, she went to the bank and got a loan. “I don’t do sick well,” she jokes.
Powernoodle, the next company in our week-long series on the startups of Stratford, Ont., has grown considerably since 2010. The company has nine employees and has attracted undisclosed funding from angel investors in Stratford and nearby Waterloo, Krizmanich says.
The key to Powernoodle’s cloud-based software is an element of anonymity. A team leader or executive can set up a series of virtual activities, some of which participants can do individually at their own pace, and some that are done in real-time as a team.
The leader can pose a question or problem to the group, such as how their company might succeed in a new market. Participants can choose to voice their input whenever they like and don’t have to identify themselves while doing so.
It’s sort of like the discussions that happen in a news outlet’s reader comment section – at their worst, they can devolve into name-calling and trolling, but they can also provoke honest observations and suggestions.
It’s a good way to overcome rank issues within an organization, and also personality types, egos, cultural differences and even age divisions.
“They each bring pearls to the conversation, but they’re so trapped by who they are and what era they come from that they don’t hear each other,” Krizmanich says. “It’s redesigning our decision-making process and it gives people a true voice.”
Subscribers to the platform so far have included insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher Group, the U.S. Catholic Diocese, St. Mary’s Hospital in nearby Kitchener, Ont., and the state of Alaska.
The various clients have used Powernoodle for everything from budget problem solving to developing best practices.
Their varied locations also speaks to how Stratford startups are positioning themselves, Krizmanich says. Being in a small town, they don’t have the luxury of focusing only locally – they have to think globally by necessity. “We can sell virtually everything we produce locally.”
Stratford’s advanced infrastructure makes that possible, but also allows residents to continue enjoying small-town life, a big attraction for many entrepreneurs.
The town also has the added bonus of its cultural institution, the annual theatre festival, which carries its own benefits.
“We have more four- and five-star restaurants here than we do traffic lights,” Krizmanich says.
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