From Founding Symend to Top 40 Under 40
Symend Co-founders Hanif Joshaghani and Tiffany Kaminsky named to Avenue Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
Avenue Magazine is Calgary’s premier city lifestyle magazine. Since 1998, Top 40 Under 40 has celebrated the best and brightest in the city by showcasing the diversity of opportunities and achievements happening in Calgary.
Symend Co-founders Hanif Joshaghani and Tiffany Kaminsky, who were named to the Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2020 on October 28, 2020, spotted a massive problem that, as of late, affects more people that they could have ever imagined. That problem is a lack of empathy for consumers who are behind on their bills.
Life happens and there are countless reasons why people get behind, but the negative impact of debt on an individual or family is always significant and only worsens over time. A bad credit score makes it increasingly challenging to access services, like internet and mobility, and can remove opportunities to borrow money for larger purchases like a car or a home. These restrictions create barriers by reducing the affordability of both big and small purchases, making it increasingly difficult to get ahead and save for the future.
With a shared passion for solving this problem, a passionate and powerful team and a dedicated support network behind it, the vision for Symend started to come to life. This is Symend’s founding story.
The Why: Hanif Joshaghani
While Tiffany has always been dedicated to ensuring that her work has a strong social why, Hanif’s focus was elsewhere as he worked to meet the immediate needs of his family. As a child, Hanif grew up in refugee camps and immigrated to Canada at the age of 13 where his family lived in poverty for most of his childhood. To this day, he still feels the lasting anxiety when he receives bills or calls from 1-800 numbers because of the trauma the collections process caused him and his family.
As an adult, Hanif’s main priority was to ensure that his family had what they needed to live comfortably. After going to school for economics and mathematics, Hanif spent ten years as an investment banker and embarked on various entrepreneurial pursuits. Once he was at a point in his life where his family was taken care of, he found himself seeking more meaning in the work he was doing.
The Why: Tiffany Kaminsky
As a young adult, Tiffany ran into trouble with her first credit card and saw the impact of collections. The experience highlighted the lack of financial literacy in schools and lasting impact on a person’s financial and mental well-being. Tiffany believed that taking an empathic approach to the way we educate and empower vulnerable populations, like youth, could have a massive impact on the lives of consumers and make their financial futures much brighter.
Before teaming up with Hanif to launch Symend, Tiffany was a marketing and strategy consultant across a variety of industries and held a leadership role at TinyEYE Therapy Services, an innovative leader in children’s online speech and occupational therapy services. Tiffany consulted for several of Hanif’s ventures and they had a great working relationship but, despite his best efforts, Tiffany wasn’t willing to start a venture with Hanif until she felt there was a strong social why to drive positive change.
Coming Together to Launch Symend As Hanif began to find himself wanting more from his entrepreneurial pursuits and shared his childhood frustration with collections with a friend, they insisted that this was the problem he needed to solve. The next step was to build a business that could save more people from the terrible outcomes that come with debt and bad credit that both founders experienced first-hand. With a strong social why in check, Hanif and Tiffany came together to launch Symend in Calgary in 2016.
The Early Engine Behind Symend
It didn’t take long to see that the vision was truly shared by so many. It is often said that entrepreneurship can be lonely, but the Symend family rallied around the vision with fierce dedication.
It’s often said in startups that your first round of funding is for friends, families and fools because it’s those with a fearless belief in the founders’ vision that will open their hearts and wallets to the possibilities in the early days. The first steps of Symend were taken because of those who helped Hanif and Tiffany close their first raise of $1-million CAD. This raise helped Symend get the first version of the product off the ground, thanks to the support of the members of a Calgary-based development team, DuckLabs – one of which remains on the Symend team as Vice President of Development.
While some bought into the vision right away, recruiting for the team wasn’t always easy. The next round of hires took an extra level of gumption – let’s just say that running shoes, a wandering fork at dinner and the occasional serenade was part of what it took to seal the deal. The early members of the team set the foundation for success by wearing every hat needed to deliver Symend’s first enterprise client, which was an extraordinary and extremely heavy lift.
Building a Passionate Team
Symend has built a powerful team that believes in the vision of transforming the science of customer engagement on a global scale. From an initial team of around 15 to over 200 people today, every Symender has channeled their inner founder by owning the potential of Symend. The vision is bold, but the team leads with empathy every step of the way.
Many people have taken a chance on Symend, and the leadership team is no exception. With a highly complex product, the team needed a visionary CTO who could roll up their sleeves and dive in. That is exactly what Hanif and Tiffany found in Dean Skelton, previously CTO and interim CEO at Payload, who joined Symend in March of 2018.
In the early days many seasoned leaders took a chance on Symend – including Symend’s Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), Jay McMullan, previously Senior Vice President of Sales at Ericsson, and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Aly Khan Musani, who initially helped Symend in year one.
The current executive team includes experienced technology leaders from other Calgary success stories, like Benevity, and global leaders, like Salesforce, that continue to elevate Symend to the next level of growth. Joining a scaling tech company is far from easy – most roles are net new to the company and many things need to be built from the ground up. New Symenders are coming on board each month and every person is helping make the impossible, possible. By the end of 2020, the team will have grown by five times.
Solving a Problem While Creating Value
For many enterprises, debt collection has historically been perceived as a risk management and financial problem. Symend is changing the narrative by helping both the customer and the client achieve positive outcomes. Symend strives to educate consumers about the detrimental effects that debt can have on their financial and mental well-being and empowers them to act. On the client side, Symend helps world-class brands increase positive engagement and build stronger, long-term relationships with their customers through all stages of the financial journey – especially when they need it most.
Symend’s telecommunications and financial services clients achieve exceptional results using state of the art behavioral science and technology to engage at-risk customers with empathy. By demonstrating a true understanding of the customers and their unique struggles, customers engage more, and clients achieve better outcomes.