#NEXTFounderChats: Neda Ghazi

Neda pitching her venture, Comfable, at Prototype Day.

Tell us a bit about you and your venture! What was your inspiration for creating Comfable?

Comfable is a dynamic and innovative tech company dedicated to promoting health, comfort, and sustainability. In other words, we’re all about helping people interact with the environment in a healthy and sustainable way. My co-founder and I both have PhDs and completed our postdoctoral work in the field of sustainability, and we have vast experience analyzing urban climate. We started Comfable so that we could translate the results of our academic research into products that benefit society. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a weather parameter with a profound impact on human health, and this inspired the creation of our most recent product, QSun. It tracks UV exposure and delivers personalized sun safety tips.

If you had $1 million to start Comfable again, what would you do differently?

In the early design stages of QSun, we were swimming with ideas surrounding the product. However, due to resource constraints, we left some of our early ideas out of our product, which we’re now incorporating into our second generation product. If we were given $1 million to start again, we would incorporate all of our ideas into the first generation. We would also dedicate more resources to the business development, including spending more on market research to get to know our customers better and securing more strategic partnerships. Overall, our time to market would decrease, and we would manufacture our product in a larger volume.

What would you say was the most influential factor in Comfable’s success thus far?

We’re really grateful for the support from the entrepreneurship community in Toronto and the surrounding area. We have access to a great network of like-minded individuals and experts in various fields through MaRS and University of Toronto programs. We’re lucky to have participated in many entrepreneurship programs — especially Next Canada’s Next Founders program — which have helped me to mature my company and develop new skills. We’ve also received financial support from FedDev and IRAP which helped us to accelerate our R&D endeavors. And of course, I have a great partner. We’ve been working together for more than 10 years since university, and we really complement each other. Our team is made up of many diverse individuals which makes day-to-day problem solving that much easier.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as a founder?

I wish I would have started earlier. It can be easy to get hung up on the details and get distracted by trying to make the best small decisions possible. Sometimes it’s better to reach a compromise and try to work quickly while making the best decision that you can give a particular timeline.

Who would you most like to have dinner with?

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and women’s rights activist. I really got to know who Sheryl was after reading the letter she published about her late husband explaining her grief and challenges after losing him and describing how she would come back to life and work. I look up to Sheryl a lot — she is one of the most successful women in tech and I’m inspired by the work that she does to empower women.

What influenced you to take the leap into entrepreneurship?

After completing my Ph.D. and postdoctoral studies, I was full of ideas to create a better world. I figured that launching into entrepreneurship would be the best way to transfer the results of my academic research into products that everyone can benefit from. Co-founding my company has allowed me to do just that; every day I’m able to see my research making an impact on society.

What are 3 books, blogs or newsletters you recommend for aspiring entrepreneurs?

What do you think is the most important innovation of your lifetime?

Smartphones, undoubtedly. Believe it or not, the number of people who own a phone exceeds the number of people who own a toothbrush! This just shows how smartphones have penetrated human life. Many, if not most, businesses operate depending on smartphones. I would be lost without mine.

Did you ever deal with contention from anyone around you (eg. family) concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?

My husband is my business partner and also my biggest supporter. My parents support me, however, if they lived in Toronto and saw that I work 60+ hours a week, they might ask me to revise my entrepreneurial journey.

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