Business in Vancouver's "How I Did It" feature asks business leaders to explain in their own words how they achieved a business goal in the face of significant entrepreneurial challenges. In this week's issue, Kyle Vucko, the 27-year-old CEO and co-founder of Vancouver-based online suit-retailer Indochino, describes how he and co-founder Heikal Gani were able to start as university students with a business plan and secure $18 million in financing from such investors as Yahoo's Jeff Mallett and NBA basketball star Steve Nash.
"I started the company when I was at the University of Victoria [UVic] in the business program. They have a mentorship program, so I used that and one of the program's co-ordinators, Robin Dyke, to help me identify really smart people who could be helpful as we were writing the business plan and coming up with the idea.
"[Robin's] job is to connect with students, and if there's a career path they're interested in or they want outside counselling, he'll connect them with people in the community to help them understand if this is a job they want to do, give career and life advice. So Robin was extremely helpful in connecting me to a whole series of professionals.
"We worked on the concept for a while, but we took our first round of funding when we launched the business and the site.
"In 2007, we raised a small amount of money from a group of local angels out of Victoria – mostly the senior leadership at a company called AbeBooks, a large online used-book seller.
"As we grew, I continued to stay close with the university. They've been very helpful along the way. They asked if they could help, and I said that I'd love to talk to Jeff [Mallett]. Jeff went to UVic and is very supportive of Victoria because that's where he's from originally. So someone from the business school connected me with Jeff.
"We had a phone call, he liked what we were up to and things evolved from there. He became an informal adviser and then an investor, formal adviser and chairman of the board.
"[We connected with Steve Nash] through Jeff. Jeff had a relationship with Steve and at one point had helped him with business-related stuff.
"He was keeping abreast of what we were doing. Steve's a stylish guy and also from Victoria, so the Victoria connection has been a consistent theme in where Indochino has come from.
"We had to look around for more people to invest in the company. That involved putting together a pitch deck and building a case and going around and talking to a series of investors. I was talking to folks in Canada, the Silicon Valley, in Seattle and other places, venture capital firms, and Madrona [Venture Partners] was the one that said yes.
"They were the initial investors in Amazon, among other things, so A-list venture capital partners with very applicable experience.
"Most recently, we raised a $13 million round with Highland Capital Partners out of Boston. They led the investment round with Lululemon, among other things.
"Financing has been part of our story since day one. We've just made it a habit of trying to find the best people to help grow the company to be a meaningful, large organization, and as a result, help guys get dressed and all that good stuff."
This article was originally published in Business in Vancouver earlier today.