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Porter CEO talks Built in Kamloops, bringing his biz to the River City

Jonathan Natavio has spent the last year working out the kinks in the tech-enabled concierge platform, Porter, he launched in Vancouver in May of 2016. But he knows when he comes to Kamloops in July, it will be a whole new ball game.

Porter is the winner of the Built in Kamloops contest that aimed to attract an out-of-town startup to the city, offering up a six-month intensive business package that included $10,000 cash, office space and mentorship. The contest was launched by Kamloops Innovation in partnership with the City of Kamloops, Venture Kamloops, the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Kamloops.

Natavio will start his six-month residency next month and is welcoming the challenge of testing his platform in a new, much smaller market. It was exactly what attracted him to apply for the contest.

“For me, thinking about the future as we are expanding across Canada, there are a lot more cities the size of Kamloops than there are the size of Vancouver,” he said. “So it's really important for me to really understand how Porter will work in a much smaller city.”

Porter is a corporate-facing product that helps companies take care of menial, mundane day-to-day tasks by handling chores such as dog walking, delivery, grocery shopping and office furniture purchase and assembly. Natavio launched the business after spending a decade working in the Canadian eCommerce industry.

“We are an all encompassing one-stop-shop service for companies to make their lives a bit easier and hopefully help employees become more productive,” he said.

The company launched as a consumer-facing product but pivoted to focus on corporate offices over the last seven months. Natavio found the consumer market competitive and saturated, but saw opportunity and success in the corporate market.

Since adjusting its focus, Porter’s revenue has been growing 35% month over month. On the coast, Natavio has a 15-person head office team, plus around 100 porters — contractors and vendors that complete tasks. They’ve partnered with local rental, moving, cleaning and maintenance companies.

“With Vancouver, we’ve built a playbook here, we understand our operation model, we understand our sales pipeline, we understand our overall business model and how everything works and we’ve also built partnerships, which is important,” Natavio said.

“But, in a city like Kamloops, with 100,000 residents or less, we have no idea how that will play out.”

The next chapter does come with some challenges. The company has yet to partner with any service providers in Kamloops and Natavio has already realized some barriers. He’s considered seasonality as a factor that hasn’t come into play on the coast.

In Vancouver, Porter has also partnered with several car-sharing companies, but Kamloops is home to only one Zipcar.

“That already in itself is going to be a challenge, to figure out how we are going to build this business in a scalable way without having to buy vehicles, without having to spend money on assets,” he said.

The Porter CEO won’t be alone in he introduces the platform in a new city. As part of his winnings, he’ll receive mentorship through the Venture Acceleration Program and be paired with an entrepreneur-in-residence at Kamloops Innovation. He’ll also be joining a family of tech companies in the local startup community.

"It has been such an incredible experience and it's only been a week," Natavio said. "I'm very grateful to have won and excited to meet the people behind the scenes."

Natavio believes Kamloops will be the catalyst behind Porter expanding across Canada — and doesn’t plan on returning to Vancouver when his residency is complete. Once he learns how Porter will work here, he expects to expand into Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and so on. Kamloops will truly be the testing ground that will propel Porter’s future.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to really start the expansion process,” Natavio said. “It’s just a matter of learning over the next six months what will that look like and then from there, just a matter of scaling rapidly.”

KamloopsBCNow will be checking in with Natavio and his involvement with the local startup community over the next several months. Stay tuned for more updates.

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