Written By Deena Douara
It seems every third business these days is a “TripAdvisor of X.”
And there’s very good reason for that — it works.
Thyagi DeLanerolle and Judy Escobar should know: they worked as sales professionals in IT for more than 20 years between them, and saw firsthand the inefficiencies of seeking out new IT service firms.
Through speaking with hundreds of businesses, DeLanerolle recognized there was difficulty in finding trusted service providers. “If there was a mechanism to filter some of the noise, it would be extremely beneficial in terms of vendor sourcing,” says DeLanerolle. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a TripAdvisor for IT services?” she thought.
DeLanerolle says customers complained about getting the runaround, seeking references, not being called back, unsure of who to turn to for certain tasks and were ultimately extremely frustrated.
Escobar — her company’s service provider — was hearing the same. “It was very prominent. It was clear that businesses struggled with the procurement process. They found it convoluted and at times, intimidating.”
Their business solution, BizXPro, automates the request-for-quotes process by reaching multiple vetted providers at once.
“We don’t let any vendor waltz right into the platform,” explains DeLanerolle. BixXPro checks references and collects ratings after project completion. They check for credit and Better Business Bureau standings, and have firms abide by BizXPro’s own service agreement. The service is free for users and connections are made within two business days.
Major vendor categories include data connectivity, cloud services, managed IT services, security, phone, and backup services. In all, the tool assists with over 30 IT service categories.
“It’s something that’s required for all businesses,” says Escobar, even companies with in-house IT staff, who can be under-resourced or lacking in subject expertise. “We feel it’s going to change how IT procurement is done.”
The co-founders say they took advantage of Toronto’s wealth of resources to get their business started.
“Toronto’s a fantastic city to start a business. There’s so much support for entrepreneurs,” says DeLanerolle. “We have so much access to incubators and spaces.”
“You feel very welcomed and supported here,” adds Escobar. “Everyone seems very willing to help and to educate.”
They’ve received “tremendous” support through the University of Toronto’s Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab, helping to connect them to an advisor, to workspace and resources, to collaboration tools and finally, to key connections like Founder Institute and Microsoft’s BizSpark.
They also credit support from the City of Toronto, Communitech, TechTO, Startup Grind and other meetups for helping shape their business in one way or another.
Even before the formal training and support, were personal heroes and inspirational family members.
Both parents immigrated when the pair were young — DeLanerolle ’s parents from Sri Lanka and Escobar’s from Cuba.
Escobar says she’s always admired entrepreneurs including her uncles who own a stonemason company, and her grandmother, who encouraged them. Her grandmother loaned her sons her entire savings in order to help them automate their work through the purchase of a forklift. “That was pivotal because it allowed them to ramp up and take on more homes and ultimately build the business they have 12 years later.”
Escobar says those lessons of hard work, taking risks and making smart investments have stuck with her. “I love that you could build something and it’s dynamic.… To me that’s very exciting.”
DeLanerolle’s story is a little different. Growing up in a poorer neighbourhood, she was determined to make a good income and her father instilled in her a hard work ethic. “Whatever you do, try to do your best at it.” After high school, she earned a financial services diploma while also getting into student government – eventually becoming executive director of the College Student Alliance. “That role was pivotal because I knew I could run an organization,” she says. “I doubled revenues in one year … and doubled membership.”
With the drive they’ve exhibited throughout their careers, they foresee BizXPro eventually becoming a global solutions provider in vendor sourcing, with IT being just the first step.
As DeLanerolle puts it, “it’s important to always be looking ahead.”
“I’m happy with life so far, but you’re never satisfied; the beautiful thing about life is that you’re constantly learning.”