April 7, 2021
6 minute

Introducing OneVest and Propra, our latest fintech portfolio companies

Inside Harvest

Before enjoying the harvest, you have to put in the work. It goes without saying that Harvest Builders has been diligently planting and nurturing the seeds of the Prairie’s emerging tech ecosystem over the past year. And we’re continuing to add to our crop.

This month, we’re thrilled to announce the addition of two new companies, OneVest and Propra, to our studio’s fintech portfolio. OneVest offers an end-to-end wealth management platform designed to create a more personalized, transparent, and inclusive investing experience for all Canadians, while Propra provides an end-to-end housing solution focused on improving the rental management process for both landlords and tenants. 

Both of these companies fit into Harvest’s synergetic fintech portfolio strategy that brings much-needed innovation and improvement to Canada’s financial sector. They’re a natural progression from building and scaling our first keystone venture, Neo Financial, a customer-centric digital banking experience. 

Since launching in 2019, the Neo team has:

  • Reached Series A funding just 15 months after founding
  • Grown their Prairie-based team from 50 employees to over 200 
  • Partnered with HBC to deliver the Hudson’s Bay MastercardⓇ - powered by Neo, opening the door to millions of customers
  • Partnered with hundreds of businesses across Canada, small and large, to power their customer loyalty and rewards programs

Our Harvest team has spent this past year working hand in hand with Neo. From providing growth marketing to recruitment services, we’ve taken the concept of “co-building” to successfully launch and scale one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies. 

With several lessons learned along the way as well as establishing best practices for venture building, our team can now apply even greater efficiencies and focus to our studio’s latest companies as we help shape Canada’s promising financial future.   

So why is Harvest so focused on co-building companies? And why is our studio portfolio focused on fintech? 

The motivation stems from my own journey as an entrepreneur building a company in the Canadian Prairies. My co-founders and I stuck to a disciplined playbook that allowed us to grow and sell SkipTheDishes. But along the way, we experienced first-hand the many gaps to growth that are prevalent to first-time founders - a lack of capital and a lack of affordable talent, made even more confusing by the many disjointed resources available to Canadian entrepreneurs. 

Today, my mission is to build more Prairie-based startups into global companies by bridging these gaps and applying Harvest’s playbook for launching and scaling companies. As Managing Director at Harvest, I focus on working within our studio’s Venture Builder Program as a builder and operator to put the right people and processes in place and build with the best technology using three strategic pillars:

  • Unearthing high-value market opportunities 
  • Cultivating the right talent and teams
  • Harnessing shared value

Pillar 1: Unearthing high-value market opportunities

The first pillar is about narrowing in on industries bogged down by significant inefficiencies. 

Consider Canada’s commercial banking industry. It is worth over $250 billion and growing faster than the overall economy. Our country has one of the most trusted and stable banking systems in the world, but this comes with a trade-off. 

High-risk aversion. 

Legacy banks and risk aversion enjoy a cozy relationship. Despite their efforts to barricade themselves in a lovenest and ignore the world, change keeps swirling outside their door. 

Consumers may love reliable financial institutions, but they have no love for $15 monthly fees and $3 ATM charges. Consumers appreciate a friendly face at the bank, but what they really appreciate is digital-first solutions that don’t force them to have to walk to the bank in the first place. The longer consumers remain neglected, the easier it becomes for outside players, whether they be from outside the country or outside the financial industry, to swoop in and give consumers the attention they crave. 

Identifying this market opportunity allowed us to launch and scale Neo Financial, where we’re reimagining banking by offering a better way to spend, save, and earn rewards. 

There’s a similar opportunity in the wealth management space. Canadians are sitting on $4.5 trillion in personal wealth (excluding real estate and assets held in defined contribution plans). Only $3.4 billion of this is allocated towards retail alternative investment products, including alternative mutual funds (think assets such as real estate, private equity, and even collectibles) even though there’s $10.3 trillion of alternative assets under management around the world. Additionally, first-time investors and experienced traders alike are demanding more inclusive, socially responsible ways to invest their money. This fertile ground in the wealth-building space prompted us to co-build OneVest*.

If you set your sights on real estate and the property management landscape, you’ll spot $45 billion in payments flowing from tenants to landlords each year with pieces of this going to leasing agents and property managers. That’s a lush opportunity to more efficiently manage and automate these payments, paperwork, and scheduling of property improvements to elevate the tenant experience to greater heights. 

This first pillar – identifying a massive market opportunity – is like a hundred-dollar bill lying on the floor. But it’s not enough to simply find that bill. You need to pick it up and find the right people to advise you on how to spend it wisely. This brings us to our second pillar. 

Pillar 2: Cultivating the right talent and teams 

If you wait until days before your harvest to start looking for help, that promising crop will never make it out of the ground. Similarly, if you wait until you’ve got a certain number of customers or a certain amount of revenue to start developing a talent strategy and pipeline, you’ll find yourself scrambling to find the right talent in time to meet critical milestones that can make or break an early-stage startup. 

With Neo, we focused on mapping out our product development and customer acquisition goals while creating a segmented talent acquisition strategy to make sure we had access to the best talent for everything from technology to finance to marketing. We also ensured we secured the leadership needed to put the processes and infrastructure in place to develop strategies and execute them effectively. As an internal company within Harvest’s studio, Neo gained access to Harvest’s resident experts as part of our Growth Program, who provided much-needed expertise in areas such as performance marketing, communications, and talent acquisition.

OneVest has the advantage of a strong foundation for building thanks to its founders, Jakob Pizzera and Nathan Di Lucca. They have extensive experience operating and scaling innovative companies across North America including Shopify, Kudos, Element AI, and Ritual. Meanwhile, we’re excited to get Propra off the ground by bringing in leaders with deep industry experience in real estate and property management as well as tech leaders from within our network who helped scale SkipTheDishes to hundreds of thousands of active customers. 

Both OneVest and Propra will have the added advantage of our Growth Program’s building and scaling resources across marketing, talent management, finance and fundraising. 

Pillar 3: Creating shared value through network effects

The most effective way to build a thriving tech ecosystem in Canada is to create shared value and accelerate growth through network effects. 

When we built SkipTheDishes, we generated network effects by partnering with thousands of restaurants. This approach paid dividends while building Neo where we continue to partner with small businesses and national brands across Canada. Our first enterprise partnership with an iconic Canadian retailer like Hudson’s Bay empowers millions of Canadians to experience a more rewarding financial future. 

As a result of these network effects, Neo Financial has enjoyed incredible growth and we anticipate the same growth for OneVest and Propra. After all, happy customers from Neo Financial create a steady stream of customers for new companies part of our studio’s fintech portfolio. 

Neo members will soon be able to grow their money even further thanks to OneVest’s innovative and affordable approach to wealth management, making a greater variety of investment assets accessible to all Canadians. 

Additionally, through Propra we’ll soon help more Canadians find their dream home or apartment, accelerate the leasing process, improve property maintenance, and can begin to reward tenants for positive behaviours. 

But here’s what’s more exciting: The companies’ successes extend beyond their own customer growth, P&Ls or valuations. They serve as a preview of what we hope to catalyze in the larger Canadian tech ecosystem. 

From one to many: a synergetic portfolio model

After SkipTheDishes, Neo Financial was proof that our approach wasn’t a one-shot strategy. It could be handed off to different companies, and that’s what we intend to do with it through our studio’s synergetic portfolio model. 

When entities work in synergy, their alignment and shared energy create value that goes beyond what they could have accomplished alone. This means co-building companies across the financial services value chain. If the commercial banking sector’s value is impressive, the value in the larger financial services sector is mindblowing, particularly in areas like wealth management, real estate, and insurance, where the same obstacles of risk aversion and well-capitalized legacy players are blockers.

But here’s the beauty of it all: overcoming these barriers gets easier for every new company. The preceding tech success stories pump out the kind of talent, attitudes, and expertise that understands the logic of what the next company wants to do. This is what Neo Financial, One Wealth, and Propra represent in Harvest’s fintech portfolio. They’re the first movers that’ll push the new ideas along, and it’s made it easier for us to re-apply our cohesive portfolio strategy into repeatable processes and new company launches within our venture builder studio. 

Looking beyond finance: a venture builder for every sector

While financial services is a big part of Canada’s economy, it isn’t the only part, which means this strategy we’ve been discussing has to be applied across other sectors. 

Globally recognized reliability and strong infrastructure are not exclusive to Canada’s financial sector. We’ve also got world-class talent and core infrastructure in healthcare, agriculture, and clean energy. It’s just a matter of ensuring these industry-specific renaissances happen in a way that benefits Canada’s economy. 

Our vision for Harvest is to be the country’s venture building first mover that spurs the growth of other venture builders, or “venture-building centres of excellence”, focused on developing the same synergetic portfolio model for all of our great industries, and welcoming more entrepreneurs and tech talent to the fold. 

The result? 

A Canada with strong trusted institutions for sectors that are essential to life such as finance, healthcare, energy, and agriculture. 

A Canada with strong, trusted institutions that keep pace with innovation, evolve and consistently deliver value. 

A Canada with a diversified economy that delivers prosperity and opportunities for generations to come. 

For more on Harvest's Venture Builder Program, click here.

*OneVest’s application for its registration will be submitted for, and is subject to regulatory approval prior to, commencing any registerable activity. For more information on OneVest, visit www.onevest.com

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