Eight years ago, FreshWorks was created by two immigrant founders who came to Canada with a mountain of student loan debt and the beginnings of an entrepreneurial adventure. Six weeks ago, FreshWorks and its 100+ person team joined forces with EY Canada.
As Co-Founder and CEO, Sam Mod, put it -- “It truly feels like we have realized a Canadian dream.”
FreshWorks is a Victoria-headquartered, award-winning technology consulting firm that boasts a client and partner list featuring Fortune 500 companies as well as some of B.C.’s largest private and public sector organizations. The key to the company’s success may be its diverse and wide-ranging team, which includes staff from 22 countries that speak a combined 33 languages. And now with this new merger, the FreshWorks team will gain a national presence and an opportunity to establish themselves as the country’s premier digital agency.
We sat down with FreshWorks’ Co-Founder and CEO, Sam Mod, to discuss the company’s humble beginnings, ‘Day 1 Mentality’, and exciting new future.
Tell us about FreshWorks.
Sam: FreshWorks Studio (now EY Design Studio since July 2022) is an award winning, full life cycle, design and development agency. We’ve worked with partners ranging from startups, government and public sector to Fortune 500 companies to identify business requirements, uncover challenges, and research user expectations in order to deliver solutions that provide real value.
Through service design, UI/UX design, mobile apps and web development, we provide tailored consulting services that address unique challenges for both public and private sector organizations. We help to modernize business models and create long-term value for stakeholders by crafting remarkable digital experiences.
We have built a reputable brand in the market, particularly in healthcare and government sectors. Some of our most notable work includes the role we played in Western Canada’s response to COVID-19, supporting the design and build of apps like BC’s Vaccine Card Verifier and Espriby by TELUS Health, in addition to leading the Capital Assets Planning System modernization for the BC Ministry of Education. Now, by joining EY Design Studio, we will broaden our reach with businesses from coast-to-coast and deepen our public sector focus to help accelerate Canada’s digital future.
Why did you start the company?
Sam: Rohit and I came to Canada in 2012/13 with a big student loan to pursue our MBA at University of Victoria. As immigrants, our first order of business was to familiarize ourselves with the environment and network in order to get a job so we can start paying off the loan and living our lives. In the process of doing that, we realized there’s an opportunity for us to leverage our app development experience and embark on an entrepreneurial adventure. Through several ups and downs, we maintained our belief and persevered through a lot of tough times and bootstrapped this company. We just didn’t want to fail as entrepreneurs so even though some of our initial ideas flopped, we continued to pivot and achieved success with FreshWorks.
Congratulations on joining forces with EY Canada. How does it feel?
Sam: We’re happy to have found an organization so closely aligned with our culture, purpose and vision—putting people at the centre to deliver exceptional experiences for our team, clients and the people interacting with the technology we help to create.
Our 105+ diverse team representing 22 countries and speaking 32 languages will join the strong 50+ EY Design Studio team—a group of specialized service design experts that work with human-centered methodologies and cutting-edge tools to create transformative digital experiences. I’m so excited for our team to also get the opportunity to work with such a reputed people-focused firm and develop their skills further with various learning opportunities available to them such as an EY Tech MBA.
It truly feels like we have realized a Canadian dream. It's an honor to have gotten a chance to lead FreshWorks and credit the amazing team for all the success. I hope our story inspires the next generation of immigrants ,employers, workers, entrepreneurs and students in Canada and across the globe to challenge the ‘business as usual’ mindset and embark on an entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial journey with patience, hard work, persistence and a lot of self-belief.
FreshWorks has received several hiring grants from Innovate BC. Can you tell us how the funding helped your company?
Sam: When you are starting up a company, every dollar and penny matters. Amazon has a very famous Day 1 Mentality where the company treats every day like it’s the first day of their new startup. We lived by that mantra—we wanted to hire engineers, project managers, designers etc. but since we were bootstrapping this company, we didn’t have the funding to do that. It was a chicken and egg problem—we wanted more projects and clients so we could have cash flow and we needed a team so we could get more work. That’s where the hiring grants from Innovate BC came to the rescue and supported us in hiring developers and designers, which allowed us to take a few more risks and grow our team.
You’ve also participated in our mentorship program. What are some of the challenges you faced while commercializing your product and what impact did our program have?
Sam: One of the biggest challenges we faced earlier on was a lack of access to funding and resources. We came to Canada with no network, funding and support—that means we had to literally start our life from scratch. It was highly imperative for us to get mentorship and guidance in the early days to get the lay of the land and connect with the right folks in the community who can guide us in the right direction. The program allowed us to broaden our perspective and network with people who helped us with mentorship and advice.
What’s next for FreshWorks? Are there any updates on the horizon?
Sam: As the FreshWorks journey takes this new direction with us joining forces with EY, we want to share our sincere gratitude to everyone who helped us create this magic. EY approached us and chose to join forces as they saw something special in our DNA. We will surely be fusing the DNA together as our values are so aligned. We value diversity in all its forms. Building a team of diverse thinkers with both different and complementary skill sets is challenging. We are both constantly executing on our true diversity goal, which is building a place where user-centered professionals from different backgrounds and experiences are not only welcomed, but also thrive.
Rohit, Shaun, and I will join as partners and along with our team, we will embark on this new journey with the same destination and a new mission: to work towards building a better working world. Joining EY Design Studio provides the complementary skills and capabilities that allow us to pursue the vision we’ve always had as becoming Canada’s premiere digital agency. Simply put, we’re stronger together.
Is your organization looking to expand your talent pool while breaking down the barriers faced by underrepresented populations? We partnered with Tech and People Network (TAP Network) to give you access to their Diversity and Inclusion Resource HUB.