Written by Andrew Seale

Nothing ignites a little entrepreneurial fire quite like picking dead animals out of pools. At least that’s what spurred Max Materne’s journey.

“In university I worked as a pool technician over the summer,” he says. “I decided I did not want to do that ever again, I wanted to be the guy calling the shots rather than doing the dirty work.”

And he did. Post-pool cleaning, he launched his own paint franchise, working long hours but enjoying every minute of being his own boss. As he progressed through his degree in psychology, which he was studying at Queen’s University, he felt the pull of entrepreneurship and decided to test out a graduate diploma in business. Coincidentally, that summer while in school, Venture for Canada, a not-for-profit that recruits, trains and supports recent graduates to work at startups, was running its first cohort training session across the hall.

“I wondered what the heck these people were doing (but) I didn't think about it too much during that summer,” says Materne. But as Venture for Canada geared up for its second cohort, it again slipped onto Materne’s radar. He applied and was accepted.

“It's an amazing experience – getting connected with startups, meeting founders and people doing the hiring for these smaller companies,” he says. “Those weeks were so formative for the group as a whole… everyone has become friends.”

Before the end of training, Materne ended up finding a job at Fiix, a platform which helps users hire on-demand mechanics.

“I was speaking with a friend of mine, another fellow, and he’d been interviewing with Fiix,” he says. The role didn’t fit what his friend was after but he made the intro for Materne and it ended up leading to a job. “Venture for Canada helps to open the doors (you get to know) people personally and can rely on them to introduce you to people.”

Fiix has proven to be a perfect conduit for his entrepreneurial ambition.

“I wanted to do sales because I recognize that a lot of founders and a lot of people who start companies later on need to have a solid basis in sales… right now I’m just really liking working at Fiix, I’m learning a ton,” he says. “If I want to start a company someday I know I need to have experience working in a startup – Fiix is a start and a middle for my journey.”

It also allowed him to return to Toronto, a city he was raised in but had left at 18 to study in Kingston and pursue an exchange in Hong Kong.

“I wanted to come back and really dive into the community here,” he says. “The ecosystem here in terms of startups is quite tight-knit, you could almost peg every startup into a one or two kilometre radius along Spadina – there's just so much going on in that one little area.”

Photos: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)