Written by Andrew Seale
For the past few Fridays Vuk Magdelinic, CEO and founder of Overbond, a digital bond issuance platform, has been bringing in fellow entrepreneurs to share their experience with the startup’s team.
“Just last Friday we had Johnathan (Nightingale) from Hubba, before that we had Farhan Thawar, former CTO of Pivotal… startup executives from different areas that are in the ecosystem that come over lunch and share their ideas and point of view,” he explains. “These are very prominent Toronto startup ecosystem people and we're fortunate to have them around.”
In a lot of ways, the speaker series sits nicely within the transparent spirit of Toronto’s startup ecosystem as a whole, a candidness that initially seemed foreign to Magdelinic given his background both on the trading floor for CIBC and as a manager of global banking and capital markets at PwC.
“Coming from the capital markets corporate environment I was genuinely impressed with the openness to share insight and information that exists amongst the city’s startup and entrepreneurship communities,” he says. “It’s almost a culture (built around) helping each other… which I think is really wonderful.”
And within that culture, Overbond has thrived. Initially launched out of the MaRS FinTech cluster and Communitech, the platform connects bond market participants – from corporate and government dealers to dealers and investors – and offers a cloud-based solution to simplify dealer-issuer communications and collect analytics.
“(It’s essentially) a digital investment banker that helps corporations or governments raise money in the bond market,” he says.
The company has grown to 30 employees since it launched in December 2015.
“We've been able to raise what’s considered the largest seed for an early stage startup ever in Canada – $7.5 million,” says Magdelinic. “We've had an amazing run… it was definitely not easy but I think the Toronto ecosystem and the support network I’ve alluded to helped us along the way.”
He’s also turned to the communities that make up the Toronto Founder Institute, Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone and Full Stack Toronto to navigate the myriad challenges early stage companies often face.
“They helped in contextualizing and really having an outlet where you can draw ideas from,” says Magdelinic. “I’m not a believer in a grand source, in ‘one answer solves all your problems’ it’s just continuous involvement and having a tuned ear to hear all the small initiatives or bits and pieces that you can apply to your businesses along the way.”
Recently, after an innovation mission to Israel to learn more about the startup ecosystem there, Magdelinic found himself reflecting on his role in growing Toronto’s reputation as a world class city for startups.
“They pride themselves on moving fast and you can see that speed of decision-making and vision (and) on the other hand its also learning from each other,” says Magdelinic.
Cities, he says, play a vital role in fostering that growth and innovation. But so does collaboration between the startups. That’s where Magdelinic fits in.
“I’m seeing it and feeling it (here), participating in that culture,” he says. “People helped me and I feel I should reciprocate.”