The EY G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013: Canada

Key insight: Weighing the cost of finance

Dr. Alan Ulsifer, President and CEO, FYIdoctors, Canada

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FYIdoctors was set up as a provider of eye care services in Calgary, Canada, and has expanded to become the country’s largest independent eye care product and service provider.

Dr. Alan Ulsifer has faced a series of funding challenges in fulfilling a vision of developing a vertically integrated eye care business with a modern, robotic distribution center, with finance being one of the significant challenges.

Early on, the team thought it had secured a bank loan but then found the conditions of the deal dramatically changed at the last minute, forcing them to start from scratch with a new institution. Private equity offered to invest, but the investment came at too high a price, and the deal would have changed the whole value proposition. “The valuation did not work at all for us,” says Ulsifer. “Control was also a big issue: we just felt the terms being offered would be too restrictive.”

The team had to dig deep to make the most of the resources it had — and it reached out to get help from the optometrists who were actually being acquired. “We had to use everything we had to get to the starting line,” says Ulsifer. “It was risky, personally — but digging deep and maintaining control at the early stages gave us crucial freedom and independence, and that’s been key to our success.”

Ulsifer believes Canada provides a good environment for entrepreneurs compared to most countries, but he argues that more could be done to help other start-ups overcome the funding hurdle. “It would be great to see more resources available for entrepreneurs, especially with respect to sources of funding. Many young entrepreneurs are not well versed in raising capital, and this is often the biggest single obstacle in turning a great opportunity into reality.”