What The Tech Episode 45: “Level the playing field” with Ilya Brotzky of VanHack

on May 9, 2024

Getting into the startup game isn’t something you should pursue if you just want to have a founder title. 

When you’re first getting your business off the ground, there are going to be significant struggles at the onset—including potentially having to juggle a day job or side gig while you chip away at building your dream. 

But as Ilya Brotzky, CEO of VanHack, explains, there are plenty of excuses that founders can make for why their startup dreams might not pan out as planned. But if you stick to it and take advantage of the many resources available—from mentors to R&D tax credits—that can help fund your innovation without immediately handing over equity, your path to success will become a lot clearer. 

At VanHack, Ilya and his team are on a mission to create a borderless world for tech talent by connecting the world’s top software engineering, design, and digital marketing talent with some of the leading innovating businesses in North America. With more than 450,000 members from over 100 countries, VanHack is the largest workforce that is ready to relocate in the world, truly walking the walk when it comes to “connecting cultures through code.”

Along with helping companies grow through on-demand staffing, Ilya is also a force in both the Vancouver, BC and broader Canadian innovation ecosystem. I know I caught up with Ilya at my first Collision Conference in Toronto last summer, but he’s been working with our team at Boast for years to help VanHack bring their game-changing solutions to reality. 

He’s on an incredible mission, and has the network behind him to make it work. We pick his brains about his journey through the startup space, what it takes to succeed in today’s market, and tips for any founders launching tech in 2024.

Startup life isn’t for the faint of heart

As Ilya explains, getting into the startup game isn’t for those who “just want to be cool.” It may seem glamorous or exciting from the outside, but you really need to have passion—and be willing to keep a day job or side gig at the beginning—to see your new product or solution through to commercialization.

This includes not waiting around for investors to swoop in and fund your mission from the start. Founders really need to seek out non-dilutive avenues of funding at the early stage so that they can retain equity in the business.

The benefit here is twofold: On the one hand, founders are able to retain control of their business as the mission evolves. If they’re tapping into non-dilutive funding programs like SR&ED in Canada, they’re also demonstrating to future investors that they are savvy with seeking maximum return on investment. This will instill confidence that when it is time to seek equity investment, founders can be trusted to stretch each dollar further.

Watch the full interview with Ilya here on Boast’s Youtube, and reach out to a tax expert at Boast today to learn more about maximizing innovation through R&D tax credits.

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