Inside the Accelerator — Okanii

The Catalyst Cyber Accelerator is the first cybersecurity-focused commercial accelerator in Canada. Headquartered at the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst at Ryerson University, the Accelerator offers technical, strategic advice, mentorship and business resources to cybersecurity businesses that are ready to become national and international competitors.

In August, the Accelerator launched its third cohort with five innovative Canadian cybersecurity businesses. In this series of articles, we’ll be talking to the entrepreneurs behind each business about the Accelerator experience.

Aiming to represent the future of money, Okanii offers a secure, scalable and networked digital token/coin-based electronic cash payment platform. This payment processing system promises an intuitive, simple, and easy to understand user interface, a high-strength cryptography-based security model, the convenience of mobile transactions, and unmatched consumer privacy. The company seeks to combine the best attributes of both cash and electronic transactions to address key problems in the payments industry, helping consumers, merchants, financial institutions, and payment service providers.

We spoke with Grant Colhoun, CEO of Okanii, about his journey from a corporate career to entrepreneurship, and how Okanii could become “the internet of value.”

What is Okanii and what problem does it solve?

We basically digitized the cash model and eliminated all of the problems in moving money/value around for all parties. We digitize value. Whether it’s the 181 fiat currencies in the world, or stocks, bonds, derivatives, commodities in the capital market space, or whether it’s fractionalizing anything such asreal estate or cash flow or any other form of value — we’ve built a platform that allows the people to white-label it to tokenize any form of value on the cash-model basis. They’re able to mint, store, transfer, clear or settle any value, instantly and securely, at virtually no cost at global scale — and do all those asset types on one single platform.

We originally set out to solve all the problems in the payment space, but because of the problem set that we identified, that tweaked our architecture to a certain structure. Then when we ended up building that architecture, we realized that it has much more applicability than just payments. I say this as humbly as I can — it potentially has the ability to be the internet of value. Just like what the internet does for data, we do it for value. Moving any type of value across any use case — instantly, securely and at no cost.

Grant Colhoun, CEO of Okanii

Where does the name “Okanii” come from?

“Kane” is a Japanese word for “money” or “small coin” or “change.” “Okane” is the polite way to say “money” in Japanese. Obviously, we can’t trademark a country’s use of the word “money,” so we decided to drop the e and add two i’s. Phonetically, it sounds the same, and we actually use the two i’s in our logo because they represent two people — there are always two parties in a transaction. It’s two i’s and then we put a circle around it, because that’s either a globe or a coin. Then we put four little corners, because that’s the four corners of the world, and we do want to go global-scale with this.

What was your own personal entrepreneurial journey?

Personally, I’m someone who has unquenchable curiosity. I’m a data hog, so I like to know as much as I can about everything. Secondly, I just have a serious authority complex — I don’t like being told what to do. I think if you have those two characteristics, then you’ll find that the corporate world might not be the best choice for you. Even though I had an awesome career at Nortel and did well in investment banking, I just wanted to do my own thing. The genesis of Okanii was really: “We’re here for 80 years. That’s it.” I do think that if you have the ability to do something, and can tackle a big problem and try to make a positive impact in the world — that’s a good thing to do with your 80 years. It’s that simple.

What support has the Accelerator been able to provide?

The Accelerator has been absolutely fantastic for us. I think we’re getting double or triple value out of it. I think they’ve done a phenomenal course for everyone, but for us, we’re getting extra value because the timing is perfect. While we’ve been building our product, obviously we couldn’t demo our product, so everything was slideware and brochureware and what have you. When you’re in that mode and are selling a product that you can’t deliver yet, you feel like you have to not only sell the technical benefits and features, but you have to prove yourself as best you can… on slides. That’s great at that stage, but you’re selling the technical benefits of your solution, and the end customer really doesn’t care. What they care about is: “What’s the benefit to me?”

Now we’re at the point where we’re putting our platform in a pilot mode, and we’re really pivoting from being on the defensive, trying to prove, “Hey, we’ve built something really cool,” to now saying, “Hey, it’s up and running, we’re just going to pull the metrics, and we don’t need to prove anything, we’re just going to show you.” That’s a different positioning statement to be in.

So, from the Accelerator standpoint, being able to get access to people that are experts in marketing, in branding, in messaging, in pricing, business models — that has huge value to us. And then, from the IT technical/cybersecurity side, they have experts in all levels of cybersecurity. Having another external set of eyeballs look at our stuff has huge value, and it’s perfect timing for us. I couldn’t be happier, let’s just put it that way.

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Toronto Metropolitan University’s national centre for Cybersecurity training, acceleration, applied R&D, and public education

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Paula Fletcher

Paula Fletcher

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