GRIT - Ed.05 - Magazine - Page 13
By Shelby Yee; Co-founder & CEO, RockMass Technologies; Next Founders, 2018
rowing up I never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. I’ve always been open-minded and
enjoyed working on projects to help improve
things around me, but I never sought out entrepreneurship on purpose. It was really a case of being in the
right place at the right time. Now, I can’t imagine a different career journey for myself.
While I was studying at Queen’s University I met two
researchers who had invented an automated approach
to geotechnical mapping. Having mapped previously
as a geotechnical engineer, I knew how time-consuming and tedious it was. I started looking into what the
industry’s standard practices were across mining and
tunneling and found that most were still mapping with
a pen and paper. I knew this new technology could save
time and deliver a lot of value for mining operations.
My co-founder, Matt, and I dove in right away. I drove
to mines across northern Ontario to learn and validate
our assumptions and applied for every possible grant
and pitch competition. After about a year we looked up
and said, “We really have something going for us now,
we’ve started a startup”.
Mining is often vilified, but it shouldn’t be. According
to Wood Mackenzie, $1.7 trillion must be invested into
mining in the next 15 years for the West to be able to
secure sufficient volumes of raw materials to pursue the
green energy transition in the timescales envisaged.
Meeting the needs of this green future requires more base metals. Extracting those metals in an affordable
and sustainable way will take the best
of human ingenuity and innovation.
Shelby is the co-founder
and CEO of RockMass, an
industrial tech startup that
makes mining faster and
safer through digital data
“MINING IS OFTEN VILIFIED,
BUT IT SHOULDN’T BE.”
Many Canadians don’t realize that we are world leaders in this field. I see a massive opportunity for new
technologies to revolutionize this industry while helping the world bring new clean technologies to market.
ADVICE FOR FOUNDERS WHO ARE LOOKING TO
The path to commercialization can be long and lonely.
It’s an ultra marathon. On multiple occasions it’s easy to
throw up your hands and say you can’t do it anymore.
Surrounding yourself with mentors and friends that can
support you and help problem solve is critical. There
is always a creative solution that can be found to any
problem. Maintaining optimism and belief that there is
an answer has been essential.
On a more tactical level, it’s important to clearly define your MVP,
try to validate the highest risk items
first, and save intricate design for
last. Work with industry partners
in any capacity that you can and
ask for help. People will remember
you and those people can quickly
become your number one paying
customer who is impressed by the
leaps and bounds you’ve made from
a concept to a tangible product.
Lastly, carve out time to do what
you love. Taking breaks is essential,
be proactive about this or else work
will inevitably take over!
THE ROLE OF ACCELERATORS
There’s a saying that you’re the
average of the five people you spend
the most time with. Accelerators
give you the opportunity to expand
how you think and how you can
grow your business by virtue of surrounding yourself with exceptional
founders and mentors. I’m grateful
for the Queen’s Innovation Centre’s
Summer Initiative, which exposed
me to entrepreneurship during my
undergrad; Hax, the world’s largest
hardware accelerator, who played
a pivotal role in our company; and
NEXT, where I met some of my clos-
est founder friends that I’ve leaned
on and learned from many times.
Recently I had a sales call with
three female engineers and geologists followed by a vendor selection call with two female managers
on my team. The previous week we
translated our sales materials into
Hindi, Spanish and Portuguese at a
moment’s notice to fulfill the needs
of customers across the globe. Personally, I am excited about seeing
our team, product, and company
grow to change the face of mining.