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Investing in Innovation with Manjit Minhas

Manjit Minhas
Manjit Minhas

Manjit Minhas is a Canadian entrepreneur, television personality, and venture capitalist, perhaps best known for her seat on Dragons’ Den. Mediaplanet asked Minhas for her tips, tricks, and expert insight on Canadian innovation.

Mediaplanet: What does Canadian innovation mean to you, and why is it important?

Manjit Minhas: Innovation is work that delivers new goods to new customers in new markets, and does it in a way that radically improves the profitability equation. Creativity is thinking of something new. Innovation is the implementation of something new. 

Canadian innovation is important to me because Canadians create and implement with uniquely Canadian values that balance people, profit, and the planet in everything that they do.

Spend your start-up cash wisely, but don’t be afraid to invest in good people and quality products.

When looking to invest in new ventures, what are some of the most important indicators you look for?

Dynamic market opportunity, a team’s execution capability, commercial traction, and the X factor.

  • Dynamic market: How big is the addressable market that your company is looking to serve? “Big” is defined in terms of not just today, but the future as well.
  • Team’s execution capability: I keenly look into why your team is well-positioned to build and execute a plan and become a market leader.
  • Commercial traction: An important way to de-risk an investment opportunity is to show investors that you’re not just all talk but have already begun taking action to build the business. Demonstrating that the market is already engaging with your product and providing useful feedback will set your start-up apart from many others that are still sitting in the laboratory.
  • The X factor: There’s always a clicking moment that happens between me and a founder that plays into the investment decision. I want to like the entrepreneur and to want to work with them for a long time to come.

What are some of the more innovative ideas that you’ve been pitched recently?

Lots of exciting new ideas in the recycling and reusing of plastics to make everything from jackets to bags. Also, many new health-related devices and apps. 

From your experiences as a Dragon, what do you see as the most common mistake entrepreneurs make?

There are two mindsets I often tend to see among new entrepreneurs: either that “you have to spend money to make money,” or “I’ll spend the bare minimum until I have some decent cash flow.” 

Both of these attitudes, when taken to the extreme, can be harmful. Spend your start-up cash wisely, but don’t be afraid to invest in good people and quality products. This will bode well for you in the long term.

Other common mistakes are thinking you have no direct competitors, making hiring decisions based on cost, not setting attainable goals, not thinking about marketing, and having too-small margins.

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