Fellow Profile — Mike Gill

University: McMaster University

Major: Integrated Science & Mathematics

Startup: CareGuide

City: Toronto

Hometown: Vancouver

What does your startup do?

CareGuide is a suite of online services designed to help families and individuals find great care providers. We aim to remove the stress and uncertainty that many feel when seeking services for loved ones, at a far more affordable price than traditional agencies.

You can check out our marketplaces here!

Describe a typical day at your startup: (role, day-to-day)

As Marketing Coordinator I oversee a number of CareGuide’s paid channels.

Each morning, I spend time analyzing the prior day’s numbers, in order to understand any inconsistencies in our week-over-week and year-over-year trajectories.

From there, I dedicate my time to whichever projects or channels I expect to have the largest impact on CareGuide’s overall growth.

This could be building out a new SEM campaign for one of our sites, honing models to help optimize our spend, rolling out landing pages to lift conversion, or exploring a promising new channel.

Outside of individual work, collaborative problem solving is a huge part of my day. Our marketing team meets weekly to strategize around larger goals, and I lead CareGuide’s Culture Team: a group dedicated to ensuring everyone at CareGuide has a fulfilling personal and professional trajectory within the company.

What do you love about working at a startup? (What are the benefits of working at a startup?)

A whole lot.

A huge thing for me is trust. When CareGuide first hired me, I had zero background in marketing — but the team trusted my ability to develop new skills and learn from my mistakes. I still feel this everyday, and don’t think I could be learning more anywhere else.

What’s a social issue that you are particularly passionate about?

I have a complicated relationship with education.

On the one hand, I believe the sector is crucial to social progress. We need to be able to digest nuance, think critically, empathize, and appreciate historical context in order to move forward.

At the same time, there is so much wrong with our current system.

In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to write for groups like the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and People for Education, who do important work pushing for systems-level change.

Currently, I’m working on a project called ThriveHere, which aims to address one problem within post-secondary education: the 15% drop-out rate seen in first year university students.

We provide evidence-based, end-to-end transition support for students entering university, and we’re currently hiring a staff team! If you go to Western, you should check it out here.

What’s your favorite book?

Winter — Sometimes A Great Notion

Spring: John Steinbeck — Cannery Row

Summer: Walt Whitman — Leaves of Grass

Fall: Ben Horowitz — The Hard Thing About Hard Thing

If you could tell your third year university student self one piece of advice, it would be to….

Worry about how you want to work, and who you want to work with, rather than which field you want to work in.

Also, make sure to articulate just how grateful you are for the people in your life, and all the support they offer.

What is the best part of being a Venture for Canada Fellow?

The other fellows, without a doubt. They’ve introduced me to new opportunities, new skills, and new ways of thinking. In many ways, they’ve made Toronto home.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career?

Short term:

Learn a whole lot from brilliant people + have a measurable impact on a company that solves real problems

Long term:

Build a new model for post-secondary education, which ensures access to all and produces citizens, not employees or encyclopediae.

Why should someone apply to Venture for Canada?

Because you are absolutely capable of having an impact, not just on this country, but on the world.

The skills, mindset, and community fostered through Venture for Canada will help you achieve that impact.

What is the most important skill you gained as a fellow?

I think each fellow has taught me something different, which is part of the program’s beauty.

Charlie Feng taught me what it means to ask an excellent question;

Jonah Hetherington taught me how to tell a story;

Ben Winn showed me that one can be both patient and ambitious;

Julia Grandfield helped me recognize the value of being vulnerable;

Dan Code-McNeil taught me how to think for the business;

Jeanette Stock taught me how to give a killer handshake;

and the list goes on.

What cause are you most passionate about?

Across Canada, 60,000 first year students drop-out every year, costing governments over $2 billion annually, while exacerbating income and education inequity across the country.

I think it’s a pretty important problem to fix, and I’m hoping ThriveHere can play some small role in fixing it.

What qualities do you need to succeed in a startup?

The most valuable thing you can do in any start-up is go all the way from identifying a problem to implementing a solution. If you can get comfortable doing this quickly, while learning from your mistakes, you’ll add a whole lot of value.

Describe your most memorable experience as a fellow.

I remember first reading the biographies of other fellows, and feeling immensely inadequate. Getting to know the people behind the impressive resumes was eye-opening, and a whole lot of fun.

All our heroes are human — which I find deeply reassuring.

What advice can you offer to future fellows?

Make time for people outside of work. The learning that happens and the relationships you build will pay dividends in the long run.

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