As director of the Halifax Startup Grind event series, Oleg Yefimov organizes monthly events to connect entrepreneurs and to get them to help each other.
Startup Grind was founded in Silicon Valley in California in 2010. It partnered with Google for Entrepreneurs to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs through monthly events. These events feature successful local founders and investors who speak about their experiences in forming their companies.
Yefimov started the Halifax chapter in March 2015, after emigrating from Tel Aviv, Israel, a year earlier.
“It’s all about helping,” Yefimov says. “If you go to any other event and you just hang out there and everybody pitches at you, that’s not the idea at Startup Grind. At Startup Grind, instead of pitching, you come and ask ‘how can I help you today?’ and that’s a completely different attitude.”
At each event, Yefimov places three placards in the front of the room, often on either side of the speakers. They list the three values of Startup Grind: make friends, not connections; help others, not yourself; and give, not take.
This spirit of generosity is common among other entrepreneur groups in Halifax. Volta Labs, another startup incubator in Halifax, offers office space, tools and partnerships to its members, for example.
“We offer different types of programs and different types of benefits, but I think the overhanging theme is that we’re all focused on helping entrepreneurs do what it is they want to do,” says Josh Gallant, marketing assistant at Volta.
“What we love to do is support the tech startup community in the Maritimes because at this point, it’s going big time,” Gallant says.
Big time, indeed. Earlier this year, the federal government invested $250,000 in Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship in support of its programs. The Nova Scotia government dedicated $40 million to Innovacorp’s fund for Nova Scotia startups.
Yefimov holds these irregular events in different locations every time, setting them up mostly on his own.
The most recent Startup Grind event took place at City Hall on Nov. 17. Halifax Mayor Mike Savage was interviewed by Yefimov and answered questions from the attendees about technology, the city and community involvement.
Savage also spoke about the importance of initiatives like Startup Grind.
“I think they’re very important,” Savage said. “I think anything that brings people together, it serves two purposes: it helps the individual [and] also helps the community. I think you have to go out and create those opportunities where people have a chance to come together and talk about things that makes us all better.”
Yefimov is confident that since its beginning, the Halifax chapter of Startup Grind has made a difference in the community.
“So many people came back to me saying that they found something that they were looking for – either found a job or found an employee,” says Yefimov. “So it is definitely making a difference and the more people attend these events, the more opportunities they have to help each other.”