Written by Vibhu Gairola
Six years ago, when Janice Diner was launching marketing tech company Horizn, her path looked optimistic: she’d been part of the pioneering Facebook Canada team, an advisor at MaRS Discovery District, and a judge at the Cannes Advertising Lions. Up to that point, it had never mattered that she was a woman. “I had a full-blown ego and I had no concept of ‘ceilings,’” Diner says. “And then, trying to set up my own company, I ran into the female problem of fundraising and smashed right into that ceiling.”
It might be better documented today, but the sexism that presents barriers to female entrepreneurs wasn’t as loudly discussed back then. Diner, however, could usually feel it in the room. “When you are or have been successful, you know what a winning room smells like,” says Diner, founding partner and CEO of the company, which helps clients accelerate market adoption by assisting with knowledge adoption.
“It was clear I wasn’t going to win in those rooms, so I turned around and just walked in another direction,” she says. Diner dropped the pursuit of investors entirely and started seeking out clients who would appreciate Horizn’s services instead, particularly in the fintech market.
In doing so, Diner waved aside plenty of the popular myths within the entrepreneurial space. “I’m surprised at the talk around ‘get profitable later’ and ‘it’s not about the money,’ because how do you not ask for money for your services?” Diner says. “A lot of the startup rhetoric is just that: rhetoric.”
Horizn gained momentum once clients realized its value as a knowledge platform teaching client employees and customers how to use their latest in-house digital improvements. Horizn essentially became an onboarding specialist, improving companies’ adoption of new technologies and rate of innovation.
“We call it a knowledge platform, not a learning platform, because we think knowledge is also part of marketing,” Diner says. “It’s the way you have to run today; you have to help people understand what you’re doing.”
Currenty, most of Horizn’s clients are based in the United States, but the business is headquartered in Toronto.
Diner believes in building up the local entrepreneurial scene, especially for women, as much as she can. She is a Board Member of SheEO and an active participant in the local women in tech space.
“I didn’t have too many women role models; just a generation before me, most of the women weren’t working, or in prominent positions,” Diner says.
Her advice to entrepreneurs is to stay focused on what matters. Media attention and the appearance of being trendy can help your success, she notes, but “that stuff doesn’t run the business, you do.” If all else fails, there’s only one rule: get clients and make money.
“It’s a marathon that requires grit and determination,” Diner says, “but you just have to live it.”
Photo Credit: Rebecca Tisdelle