To reflect the evolution of its business model, Swapskis is changing its name to Vendeve.
The Halifax startup began last year with the mission of helping women barter their skills with one another, so they could build up resumés and networks and eventually charge real cash for their services. Last summer, Founder and CEO Katelyn Bourgoin realized a better way to generate revenue for the business would be to be a cash-based market place for women’s services.
So she and her four colleagues changed the business model to allow more cash-based transactions. But the fact that the word “swap” was in the company name confused the business message to potential investors and the broader community.
Bourgoin has consulted a range of advisers, including Vicki Saunders, the Toronto-based founder of the entrepreneurial advice agency SheEO, and they recommended a rebranding and new business focus.
“They were all saying the same thing, which was that, ‘You are more than just skill swapping but the way you’re telling the story is holding you back,’ and they were right,” said Bourgoin in an interview.
The launch of Vendeve comes with a new focus for the business, as well as a geographic expansion.
The company will still focus on women in the service industry, and there will still be a skill-swapping service available on the site. But the focus will place much more emphasis on allowing service providers to make sure that they fill every billable hour that they’re at work. It’s the best business strategy for the customer, and it allows Vendeve to generate greater revenue than the swapping model, said Bourgoin.
Up to now, Swapskis has launched only in its home market of Halifax, but this week it will launch in Sydney, N.S., Edmonton, Toronto and Calgary. Bourgoin has found a local champion in each city who will help the company to grow there.
“We've got 1,250 [users], which represents about 3 percent of the addressable market in Halifax,” said Bourgoin. “We're working with a number of ambassadors to help rapidly grow the community when the new app launches.”
The business has been growing, and Bourgoin recently brought on Calee Blanchart as COO. The company has been taking advantage of a range of mentoring opportunities, working in the Volta startup house, graduating from the Launch36 accelerator and attending Toon Nagtegaal’s NextPhase course.
Vendeve is now working on raising about $400,000 in equity financing, which it would combine with funding from government bodies for a total raise of about $750,000. Bourgoin has been in talks with Innovacorp, and will travel to Toronto on Thursday to meet with potential investors.