Sensei Labs takes home first Canadian Comet Competition

Jay Goldman, CEO of Sensei Labs, at the Comet Competition in Toronto

After more than 150 entrants, and 15 finalists making their pitch “Dragon’s Den”-style in Toronto, hometown company Sensei Labs has been named Canada’s entrant to the 2020 Comet Competition.

Comet is a massive effort by Ingram Micro and Microsoft to find top new startups to bring to the channel. 

Sensei builds applications that connect operations into the data customers have on hand, aiming to help them make better decisions. CEO and co-founder Jay Goldman described the company’s product as “using big data to drive talent and projects forward,” including project and portfolio management, data and KPI management, and knowledge management.

“The technology of management hasn’t kept pace with the technology of business,” Goldman told the panel of judges in his pitch. “The way we manage our businesses and our projects haven’t changed all that much since the industrial revolution.”

That’s the problem Sensei aims to fix. Already, Goldman says the company has a lot of traction with large partners, particularly in the global consultancy and SI space. But he also sees “a very long tail in the channel” for the company.

“There are a lot of profiles of customers who could take advantage of what we do, and there are a lot of partners who are working with customers,” Goldman said.

Winning the Canadian instance of the Comet Competition certainly helps with its goal of reaching that audience. As a result of its win, the company will get $100,000 in go-to-market support from Ingram Micro Canada, and will also get a chance to make its case for $1 million (U.S.) in cash at Ingram Micro Cloud Summit next May in Miami. Goldman told ChannelBuzz.ca that he hopes the go-to-market support will help it fine-tune its offerings for managed service providers. The goal would be to help partners access its wares via the Ingram Micro Cloud marketplace in a more self-serve way, making it more attractive to smaller solution providers and the customers they serve.

“We’re helping our partners expand their revenue channels, which is always a good thing for them,” Goldman said. “And one of the big things we offer is the ability to make their relationships stickier over time, or we call them more vibrant. So instead of leaving behind a whole bunch of PowerPoint decks and Excel spreadsheets, they now leave behind an operational platform. So they’ve operationalized the client to perform better to execute better to have higher accountability.”

The top four finalists showed the coast-to-coast nature of the entrants into the Comet Competition. First runner-up as LoginRadius, a Vancouver-based provider of customer identity management software. The second runner up was Quebec-based Booxi, which offers Web-based appointment booking, and Calgary’s Wedge Networks, a security threat management company. 

Greg Onoprijenko, director of the cloud business for Ingram Micro Canada

Greg Onoprijenko, director of the cloud business for Ingram Micro Canada

Greg Onoprijenko, director of Ingram Micro Cloud Canada, praised the 15 finalists across the board for the quality of both presentation and innovation they brought to the competition.

“We were impressed across the board,” said Onoprijenko, one of nine judges for the Canadian competition.

Ultimately, he said that any number of contestants could have won the competition, but it was the presentation that put Sensei over the top.

“They showed up with a pitch that was right on point, and that was probably the biggest thing,” he said. “They’ve got some good experience, they’ve got a great solution, and they’ve got channel focus, which we liked.”

While Sensei takes home $100,000 in go-to-market funding from Ingram, and the other three top finalists take home $50,000 each in those kinds of supports from the distributor, it appears nobody is going home empty-handed. Bill Brandel, senior vice president and country chief executive for Ingram Micro Canada, called judging the competition “a career highlight,” and said he was committed to helping any or all of the 15 finalists who pitched to the judges reach the channel.

“You have the opportunity to make a heck of a lot of money with us going forward, and we’ll work together to drive your success,” Brandel said.

While this is the first time Ingram Micro Cloud has done the Comet Competition in Canada, it’s in its second run in several markets in the U.S. Onoprijenko said they’ll learn from the experience Stateside to make the program even better in surfacing ISVs and bringing them to the channel in the future. For example, he said that in some U.S. markets, this year, Comet is including a day of seminars and workshops designed to help the finalists get their channel plans together before the actual judging. He said it would make sense to bring that kind of format to next year’s Canadian Comet Competition, driving more value for everyone who enters.

Suzanne Gagliese, vice president of One Commercial Partner for Microsoft Canada, and a judge for the competition said she was impressed by the diversity of solutions presented, and praised the role Comet played in helping to find the channel stars of tomorrow.

“It’s going to take a lot of new solutions to come up with what our customers need and want,” she said. “This competition is about finding those solutions for today, tomorrow, and beyond.”

Joining her as Microsoft representation on the judging panel was Adam Nanjee, managing director of Microsoft for Startups, who called the program “another feather in Canada’s cap in terms of the trajectory of all things startups.”

All the judges talked about the number of solutions coming out of a relatively small market like Canada, showing that a showcase like Comet is very needed.

“We need to be doing more of this in the industry, and particularly in Canada, given our strength in startups,” said Gagliese.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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