When HelpSeeker started, it was just a two-person team with a vision to connect people to valuable services on a hassle-free app. Now, they’ve received $2.5 million in federal funding and have plans to expand beyond Canada by next year. And that’s only the beginning.
HelpSeeker offers a slate of digital solutions for complex social issues, including the Help Navigation App that connects people to 250,000+ social services across Canada and growing. The app is available in 21 languages, with more being introduced in future upgrades. In 2020, HelpSeeker also launched a Wellbeing Screener, to support those who don’t know what they might need and from there, suggest best matches for social services to access.
Co-founders Travis and Alina were both from the social sector; Alina was an executive and social science researcher, Travis was a teacher and school administrator.
“I saw an opportunity for social enterprise to be applied to technology and to social change.”
HelpSeeker participated in business training at Momentum in their first year of operations, as they knew that they wanted to solidify the social enterprise aspect of their business. When Alina saw advertising for business training at Momentum for established companies, she was hooked.
“There is nothing really like this [training] out there, for a start-up company that is also a social enterprise,” Alina says.
“[Momentum training] gave us a pretty solid overview of what the principle of social enterprises are and connecting with other folks that were doing startup work. It was a bit of a learning community, with different social entrepreneurs,” she says.
The program also assisted Alina and Travis to get connected to the entrepreneurial ecosystem – including financing. A connection to ATB Financial resulted in a low-interest loan that was essential to the startup.
“That was the big thing because, in that first year, we had so much lag between when we delivered on product and when payments come in, all while trying to hire and ramp up product, marketing, and sales,” Alina adds.
Three years later, HelpSeeker has grown exponentially and organically. The company currently serves more than 2000 communities connecting people with local social profit agencies, using technology.
Alina and Travis are driven by their values and it’s at the core of what HelpSeeker does. Alina has lived experience as a refugee from Romania and youth homelessness in Canada – this is one of the reasons both are so committed to proving you can build with technology and social innovation with purpose, and business concepts without compromising on commitment and action on Reconciliation, inclusion, equity and diversity as core values.
“The other value – we always laugh about it – but we strive for balance, because work life balance is not a thing right now, for any of us in a startup environment. But the balance of perspectives, the balance of profit versus purpose – that’s another really key piece. We want to be sustainable, but we also want to drive with the social first,” Alina states.
The future is bright for the company. With a pipeline of 10 new products coming out over the next year and poised to hit 1 million interactions for 2022 on the Help Navigation App – HelpSeeker is likely to continue growing beyond their 53 current headcount. They also have plans to expand their reach outside of Canada.
“We want to make sure that we put Canada on the map as a social tech innovation hub and we want HelpSeeker to be part of that story. We want to show the world that this is a new way of doing business with a social purpose. You don’t have to make a choice and you don’t have to compromise values to do well and do good. Personally, that’s how I can contribute back to Canada for its investment in me as a newcomer.”