UW startup helps businesses get off the ground

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Technological breakthroughs are providing online managing tools for a wide range of abilities in a rapidly evolving business world. 

Zebu, Waterloo-based company, provides a web-based platform for management tools with simplicity and security in mind.

“One thing about the product that is very beneficial for businesses is that we are kind of creating a place in your house that’s fireproof, let’s say a fireproof safe. And you’re storing all your critical information there so if the house ever burned down, you at least know that that important information is safe,” Jesse David, Zebu’s Chief Executive Officer, said.

Zebu offers a range of business management tools—including communication, scheduling, and file management—which they say are usually exclusively available to profitable companies. 

Zebu offers these exclusive tools at a much more accessible price. 

A small business often requires managers to focus more on managing the business rather than growing it. 

Zebu provides a modern take on the traditional ERP system—enterprise resource planning system. 

Its modular approach to delivering ERP related services, ideally creates an affordable alternative to the fully-packaged ERP plans for small businesses.  

“We like to compare it to the Build-a-Bear Workshop, where you build your own bear. In our system, you will build your ERP.  We would not be forcing you to pay for tools you don’t need, “ David said. 

But David states that Zebu’s affordable module-based tools are not their only business concern.  When initially designing their available tools, Zebu said they considered the security of user data, who would have access to it, and if Zebu would have access to that information at all. 

Their quest for information security began with a look at how businesses had already integrated privacy settings into their software. “We were sure that other companies would have solved this issue of accessing consumer information. And what we found was that not only do companies not care about protecting user information against themselves, they actively seek it,” David said. It was a big realization for the company at the time, David says. 

During a time where data invasions by companies was not amongst front-and-center media stories as it is today, Zebu decided security would be a central principle to base their services upon. 

But creating a potentially cutting edge platform for businesses was not an easy process. David and two other international students at UW started Zebu while the other students worked on the development side of the project, David worked on the business model, design and prototyping.

“The biggest struggle [for me was] having to learn everything on the go. I had no experience in project management, no experience in design, no experience in QA very little experience coding in the real world.  And that was always a thing, having to constantly learn and adjust on the job,” David said.

While launching Zebu as a startup requires a lot of patience and hard work, David encourages students to always consider starting their own business.

“[Starting a business] is something that everybody should always consider, especially if they have an idea that they really believe in. I very much believe that the more startups, the more ideas, solutions that people try out, the better it will be for everyone. It brings a lot of creativity and innovation,” he said.

David notes  that the City of Waterloo has many available avenues and resources for starting businesses today such as incubators and launch pads, of which Velocity is a well known one in Waterloo.

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