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Hi SAAS NORTH Community,
With the 6th annual PitchFest Applications Open, we took the time to connect with last year’s winner.
Pitch competitions are great for the prizes, but they are even better for the exposure and name recognition.
When Ingrid Polini entered the AWS PitchFest 2021 at SAAS NORTH, she had built a solid foundation for her company, SafetyDocs, and was looking to grow. She won the competition—and the $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes that came along with it.
The real win, however, wasn’t just the monetary value; it was the network she gained. A year later, her AWS PitchFest win is still paying dividends.
In a Q&A with SAAS NORTH, Ingrid shared more about the SafetyDocs story and how AWS PitchFest helped her grow the business beyond cash and prizes.
Co-Founder/Producer, SAAS NORTH Conference Editor, SAAS NORTH NOW
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DAVE: HOW DID YOU FOUND SAFETYDOCS AND WHAT DOES THE PLATFORM DO?
Ingrid: The idea for SafetyDocs actually came from my mother.
After 25 years of working in permits consulting, she noticed all large companies still use Excel to manage their documents. But there are easily thousands of lines in the file—one client had to wait 15 minutes every time they tried to open the spreadsheet because of slow load times—so she knew there was an opportunity.
I had worked in multiple different large enterprises for years before moving into tech and I knew the general idea of how to build technology products. I helped my mom build the first iteration of SafetyDocs and we ran it on the side for the first year. After it began to take off, I left my full time job to focus on growing the business.
Today, our core platform is helping companies manage and control permits or compliance documentation for their physical facilities. This could mean manufacturers with plants, property management companies, or any other company that maintains physical business units.
The Navigator helps you find and connect with the technical expertise and sector-based knowledge you need to take your SaaS development to the next level. It’s free to use, and includes hundreds of researchers in labs all across Canada!
DAVE: WHAT STAGE WAS THE BUSINESS AT WHEN YOU APPLIED FOR AWS PITCHFEST AT SAAS NORTH?
Ingrid: I founded the company in my native Brazil and we exclusively focused on large enterprise customers. Our first customer was one of the largest lab providers in Brazil.
But when I moved to Canada to start SafetyDocs operations in 2019, I didn’t have a huge network and the business wasn’t growing at the same rate we did in Brazil. I’d just gone through the LATAM Startups Accelerator, got a work visa while I applied for permanent residency through the Startup Visa program, and then did the Google Accelerator.
PitchFest was an opportunity for me to hopefully gain more name recognition in the Canadian market, so we applied in 2021. It was one of many pitch competitions I entered in 2021, but it was the first time I pitched in-person and in English, since the previous competitions were all virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .
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DAVE: HOW DID AWS PITCHFEST AT SAAS NORTH HELP SAFETYDOCS?
Ingrid: PitchFest gave a great spotlight to our brand in a way the other pitch competitions didn’t. The name recognition led to a few amazing benefits:
Brand awareness: Being in the competition meant pitching in front of VCs, operators, and other exclusive members of the tech community. That helped get the SafetyDocs brand out in a way I could never have done alone.
Being recognized: I live in Victoria, BC, but people from SAAS NORTH recognize me in Toronto, Vancouver, and other tech hubs across Canada. It has really helped with networking overall.
Sales: When people recognize me or the SafetyDocs brand, it helps start sales conversations. In our case, those connections led to actual revenue alongside our other growth channels.
Partnerships: A lot of people have reached out to me to start reseller or co-marketing partnerships. I’m working through those conversations now.
When you’re born and raised in Canada, you have the chance to build these networks through university or your family. But if you’re an immigrant—or don’t have access to university or family networks for any reason—you have to start from scratch. That was my situation, and PitchFest became a launchpad for my network and brand in Canada.
DAVE: WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR SAFETYDOCS?
Ingrid: Our focus is on both sales and product evolution.
In sales, I’m working on continued growth with enterprise customers. We’re negotiating multiple enterprise contracts in both Brazil and Canada right now. Being bootstrapped, we’ve had to focus on revenue growth whenever possible, and have seen a 40%-50% jump in revenue this past year.
In product, we’re releasing version three of our platform in the next few months. The core changes are making our platform easier to use for customers with operations in multiple countries regardless of scale. For example, a mining company might have small operations in multiple countries, meaning they need different compliance and record keeping to a large manufacturing company that’s entirely domestic.
DAVE: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH OTHER FOUNDERS THINKING OF APPLYING TO AWS PITCHFEST AT SAAS NORTH?
Ingrid: If you’re a SaaS platform, apply for PitchFest.
I mentor entrepreneurs through the Waterloo Accelerator program, and I always share the same advice when it comes to pitching: explain it like you would to a five year old. When you get too passionate about your own idea, you may not be able to explain it clearly. Work on your pitch to make it not just appealing to people but pitch in a way that entices them to ask more about the product or to ask how they could move forward with you.
On top of pitch details, I recommend every founder work on public speaking skills. In particular, you want to seem informed and confident, but approachable. You don’t need to be Steve Jobs—very few people can pull this off.
Apply for PitchFest 2022 for a chance to win $115,000 in cash and in-kind prizes