Launch Academy Member Spokal Wins Dragon's Den

The newly-branded Spokal team (nee netlek), Alexandra Skey, Chris Hrica and Chris Mack, received their well wishes from fellow Launch Academy members before heading to the Dragon's Den Summit. A few hours later they were returning to the co-working space that they share with fellow entrepreneurs with a story of pitch success. The Spokal team was content, saying that "it was a fantastic week as we tapped some of the top minds on how we can grow Spokal," but thoughts of what's next is likely never far from their minds.

The Origins of Spokal

Spokal is a story of accomplishment that is a direct result of motivation to succeed, helping others to do the same, and earning opportunities. Their namesake product is an inbound marketing platform for small business owners to market their products or services online. Chris Mack, the founder and CEO of Spokal, has not exactly followed the path of least resistance to starting his own company. He left an overrated university program, did door-to-door sales in Australia, learned programming from books, and nearly purchased an integration company in Victoria. As a whole, his background seems to have prepared him well for the entrepreneurial uphill battle he was about to undertake.

Spokal Ignites in Launch Academy

After months of working from a home office on his company netlek, which was later called Spokal, Mack needed a change of scenery. After attending the opening night of the Launch Academy space he decided to take the plunge on the co-working space with an undecided future. It was here that he secured a $50,000 grant from the government and met his partner-in-crime and co-founder: Alexandra Skey. Skey is practically the embodiment of the Launch Academy mantra "Get Sh!t Done". Her background in acting and debating is evident when she's commanding a presence at the front of a room.

Together, Skey and Mack impressed at the Launch Academy Demo Day, even though Skey was hired a mere 5 days before, and earned themselves the opportunity to attend a trip to Seattle with the GrowLab cohort companies. While in Seattle, Mack was able to meet a professional hero, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz, chat with a Forbes reporter, and watch up-and-coming entrepreneurs pitch to investors.

When they returned to Vancouver Mack and Skey, along with technical hire Chris Hrica, had the validation that they needed to continue their upward trajectory. The company was showcased at the Launch @ Grow party in a room of 1,000 entrepreneurs, investors, and scored their first paying customer. They also presented at Freelance Camp 2012 before coming across a call for submissions to the Dragon's Den Summit pitch competition in a local newspaper.

Spokal in the Dragon's Den

A looming deadline did not deter them and the team had submitted a video for consideration to pitch to the dragons within 24 hours. With the voting help of their fellow Launch Academy members, Spokal were pitching to dragons Bruce Croxon, Jim Treliving, and local entrepreneur Danny Robinson. Robinson, an honourary Vancouver dragon, was impressed with what he heard, saying that "they had traction, passion and I understood the problem they were trying to solve." Harnessing Skey's usual excitement and Mack's knowledge of the product and market, it came as no surprise to the people of Launch Academy that Spokal had won "the golden ticket": a chance to appear on season 8 of Dragon's Den.

What's Next?

Season 8 of Dragon's Den is a long way off in startup time but Mack is relieved because, with exposure to an estimated audience of 2.3 million viewers, the extra time "works in terms of product infrastructure and business development." From now until then I'm sure you will find Chris Mack, Alexandra Skey and Chris Hrica working hard to bring their inbound marketing platform to small business owners.

On behalf of Launch Academy and its members, we want to wish Spokal the best of luck in everything that they do. Not that they need luck because it's clear that they make their own.

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Launch Academy is a collaborative co-working space in the heart of downtown Vancouver that offers mentorship, alternative education program, and connections to tech startup players.