Skip to main content

Silicon Valley's capital city San Jose, California as seen in this aerial photo is undergoing an urban development revolution calculated to keep it as the thriving heart of a region renowned for technological innovation.The city is working to reverse a trend in which promising startups take root in suburbs and neighboring cities such as Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino -- the homes of Google, Yahoo and Apple respectively. Districts brimming with high-density housing are now blossoming near downtown office towers. There are 32,000 units in or near the city center and "enterprise incubation centers" have sprung up to nurture start-ups in the areas of software, bioscience, environment and market access.

HELENE LABRIET-GROSS/AFP/Getty Images

The idea for Checkfront – a booking and e-commerce platform for businesses to market, manage and sell their services online – started with my partner Grant Jurgeneit's experience guiding tours in Whistler B.C., and was furthered by our own frustrations when trying to book family vacations online. We moonlighted throughout the beta, but the response from the marketplace made us realize we would need more resources to meet the demand for our solution.

By the time we launched Checkfront in 2009, e-commerce was big business and booking a hotel, flight or even restaurant online was no longer a novelty. But when it came to booking a tour, renting a boat, or an accommodation from an independent operator, you were often left with an e-mail form, voice mail or the dreaded fax machine. Worse yet, businesses often lacked the proper tools for effectively managing their offline and online bookings and instead were left with a mess of spread-sheets, calendars or antiquated software. We knew there was an opportunity to change how scheduling was done.

We were preparing to launch Checkfront in late May of 2010 and received a last-minute call from the Trade Commissioner in San Francisco with an invitation to attend 48 Hours in the Valley. Despite being completely overwhelmed, we knew this was an opportunity not to be missed.

Story continues below advertisement

I arrived in San Francisco 72 hours after launching version 1.0 of Checkfront. Without any pre-conceived expectations, I was there simply to soak up as much information as I could, meet as many contacts as possible and then return to Vancouver Island and pick up where I left off. But this event would end up directly changing our business model and help point us to success.

The event kicked off in Palo Alto, at the offices of Picaboo and Uptake (two Canadian success stories). Picaboo co-founder and co-CEO Howard Field discussed the struggles of launching his first startup and making that leap to the Valley. I recall his story about reaching the bottom of his line of credit and framing his bank receipt for inspiration. I really wished I had saved mine.

The mentoring sessions were also motivating. They allowed us to pitch our ideas and get honest, open feedback from some of Canada's most successful entrepreneurs. We had two 45-minute sessions with each mentor, but I could have talked to them all day long. We had great advice from Austin Hill (Bumptop Angel, iNovia, Akoha) and Rob Piovensan & Marilyn Mersereau of Cisco. You don't come by that sort of advice easily.

The evening networking events were probably the most interesting. The range of companies attending were pretty diverse. I'm still in touch with several of the entrepreneurs I met at 48 Hours in the Valley, and enjoy seeing them meet their goals.

Since then, Checkfront has hit several important milestones. We went on to win Emerging Technology Company of the Year by VIATeC this summer. Our customer base has increased by 350 per cent since last December and our merchants have to date completed over $28-million (US) in online bookings.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Jason Morehouse is the co-founder and CTO of Checkfront, an online booking system for Activity, Tour and Accommodation businesses. You can reach him on Twitter @jasonmorehouse and @checkfront.

Story continues below advertisement

Grant Jurgeneit is the co-founder and CEO of Checkfront. Grant can be reached @jurgeneit or http://ca.linkedin.com/in/grantjurgeneit

This is the fourth in a four-part series on 48 Hours In The Valley, and how it helps Canadian tech companies in the short- and long-term.

Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

Our free weekly small-business newsletter is now available. Every Friday a team of editors selects the top picks from our blog posts, features, multimedia and columnists, and delivers them to your inbox. If you have registered for The Globe's website, you can sign up here. Click on the Small Business Briefing checkbox and hit 'save changes.' If you need to register for the site, click here.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.