Illustration of people holding phones with COVID images on screens

#8: Ontario-based businesses and the innovation born as a result of COVID-19

The Spark: Tell us about Minetell. What do you do? 
Michael Hartley, founder and CEO: Minetell was founded in 2017, and it’s a risk and performance data company that helps organizations in complex industries such as mining to minimize their exposure to unacceptable levels of environmental and social governance (ESG) risks. As a technology company, we provide an enterprise SaaS risk-management platform that analyzes large quantities of data to determine how well controls that mitigate those risks are performing in real-time. Our goal is to provide our partners with insight to help businesses become safer, more sustainable and resilient by reducing catastrophic ESG events; building trust with community partners; and enhancing the systems that contribute to an organization’s longevity. With this information, decision-makers will be able to pinpoint which controls are not meeting standards so they can be addressed before an incident occurs. Our platform is being used by leading mining companies globally, and we are expanding into manufacturing, oil and gas and other industries that have complex operations. 
The Spark: What was Minetell doing prior to March 2020? 
MH: As a risk and data performance company, our priority is to help 
businesses turn ESG risk data into a competitive advantage. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our team was focused on rolling out our enterprise risk-management platform to partners in the mining sector. Our platform was used at several locations globally and we were on track to expand our SaaS platform to other sectors such as oil and gas, utilities, and manufacturing. 
The Spark: Why did you decide to pivot and when did you decide your business could change course? 
MH: We had to make a pivot due to COVID-19. When the pandemic began, our team came together and asked ourselves, ‘How can we help?’ We knew we were in a position to bring unique insight to combat the introduction and spread of the highly infectious virus and help keep people safe and healthy at work. We spoke to several people who were worried about the risk of contracting COVID-19 and were unsure about how safe and healthy their workplaces were. We decided to take our enterprise risk-management platform and create modules that were focused on COVID-19 screening and control monitoring. We added a medical doctor to our advisory team and consulted guidelines by the World Health Organization and other health organizations to ensure our solution is aligned with best practices. Our team spent time learning about preventative measures and started to build modules that could help reduce the risk of having COVID-19 introduced into workplaces. We are constantly updating our platform to make sure it is in line with global guidelines and we work closely with our clients to ensure the platform is delivering the information they need. Our goal is to help create safer workplaces for everyone. Since launching our COVID-19 platform earlier this year, our partners have completed more than 20,000 daily screenings. 
“The most important thing we learned from pivoting is that it is easy to change your focus if your company has a defined purpose.”
 The Spark: What have you learned from pivoting? 
MH: The most important thing we learned from pivoting is that it is easy to change your focus if your company has a defined purpose. While we shifted our focus, our goal remained to help our partners reduce exposure to unacceptable risks. We didn’t start producing masks, face shields or components for ventilators. That’s not what we do. We simply asked ourselves, how can we use our team’s skills and expertise to help. Two weeks later, we were up and running with our COVID-19 platform.  
Another big lesson we learned is that we need to better empathize with purchasing decision-makers. People are dealing with a lot right now and are often working on things completely outside of their comfort zones. Luckily, we’re from this world so we get it. We understand that two things have happened to people — their bandwidths have narrowed and their horizons have shortened. Both of these are critical when making purchasing decisions for an organization. Being empathetic to that has helped.
We have redoubled our efforts to make procurement, deployment and the use of the Minetell COVID-19 platform frictionless. Internally, it has been an excellent exercise for us to challenge our assumptions about our processes and product and to ask basic questions like, ‘Do our customers care about that?’ ‘Why do we think that is important?’ ‘How does this help get reliable and actionable information into the hands of decision-makers?’ Answering these questions helped us make many improvements to our platform and process. For example, we streamlined our deployment process and can remotely deploy our COVID-19 platform to any- sized organization in as little as three days down from two months. We also simplified our pricing structure to make it easier for organizations to choose plans that work best for them. We will continue with these exercises and hope this will help us work with more clients in the future when their horizons and bandwidths allow them to see the value we offer. 
The Spark: What has business been like since making the change?
MH: Uptake has been swift. We have multiplied our sales by an order of magnitude. Beyond that we are most happy with what we have been able to learn from those early deployments. We can see a longer and wider path for a scalable product across multiple sectors. We’ve got a lot of runway left. 
In Ontario alone, there are more than 3,400 medium and large-sized businesses in sectors we support. If we extrapolate that out across Canada and North America, we are looking at more than 100,000 businesses who could benefit from partnering with Minetell, as companies look to find better ways to safely reopen and remain open. Also, our clients see the potential to do much more with Minetell than manage COVID-19. While COVID-19 is certainly top of mind, organizations, in the longer-term, need risk exposure and control performance data for other environmental and social governance risks. We’ve created a platform that makes it painless for companies to add modules to help monitor and analyze other material risks. We are in a perfect position to help them expand their capacities to deliver useful information to internal decision-makers and external stakeholders. People realize that data is going to win the day and we are well placed to help them make that pivot, similar to what we have done as well.
Illustration of people holding phones with COVID images on screens

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