This #NationalIndigenousPeoplesDay, we're recognizing Indigenous innovators in B.C.
Technology has the potential to remove barriers and improve access to vital information and services. However, access to this technology and the digital literacy to use it can create an inequality gap for marginalized groups.
OneFeather, an Indigenous technology company, is solving these challenges by offering secure digital sovereign identity and data solutions for Indigenous Peoples. The company’s flagship product provides more than 240 Indigenous Nations with access to digital voting, payments, and status card service solutions -- all from one single login.
OneFeather has been serving First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples across Canada since 2014. Over the last eight years, the company has significantly expanded its reach and impact and now manages more than 370,000 memberships on its platform. Their successful and inclusive approach to company building has also grabbed the attention of public and private backers, with Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, Varshney Capital, and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) among the notable investors in the Indigenous tech company.
We sat down with OneFeather’s CEO and Founder, Lawrence Lewis, to discuss how OneFeather got its start and how they’re serving Indigenous communities across the country.
Tell us about OneFeather. What do you do and why did you start the company?
Lawrence: OneFeather is a digital Indigenous ecosystem serving Indigenous communities across Canada. Our core assets -- Indigenous sovereign identity verification and authentication -- provide multiple solutions including digital voting, status card services and dedicated banking and payment technologies.
OneFeather was created to build modern digital solutions to lift our people up. To create modern solutions that remove all current barriers which -- either by accident or design -- continue to marginalize, isolate, or oppress Indigenous peoples in Canada.
I’ve been working in Aboriginal governance for over 25 years, so creating OneFeather in 2014 was the most logical step to continue in my line of work of reconciliation and empowering our communities as a proud member of the We Wai Kai Nation.
How is your company helping Indigenous communities in British Columbia?
Lawrence: We continuously take on feedback and make improvements based on what our users tell us. In 2021 alone, we did over 300 voting events that included over 37,000 people who voted electronically. For one Land Code election, we had 78% of the community vote digitally!
We’ve also had really positive comments about how efficient and fast Status Card delivery has been and how our support team follow ups have led to great customer experiences.
Removing barriers such as geography, time, money, health and political issues means we're redefining the whole digital experience for accessibility -- all from an Indigenous perspective.
OneFeather participated in a number of programs delivered by Innovate BC including the Venture Acceleration Program, ScaleUp, and talent programs. Can you tell us how the programs and funding helped you?
Lawrence: All three of the programs have been an integral part of our growth and helped us build a sustainable business model that is community-driven and offers expert advice. We couldn’t have done it without them!
We’re also grateful to investors and partners including Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, BlocPal, Varshney Capital and Humanitas, whose missions align with ours in contributing to an improved well-being of life for Indigenous Peoples.
Tell us about how your company has grown since the last time we spoke?
Lawrence: We now have thousands of wallet app users to date and we’re supporting 240+ First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities with over 370,000 memberships managed.
Just this month, we launched our Status Card Renewals for Dependents to further support First Nation families. We’re the first in Canada to provide this as an online service!
What are some of the challenges you faced while commercializing your technology and how did you overcome them?
Lawrence: Raising capital and ensuring through this process that OneFeather remained an Indigenous Owned company. As we launch assets and execute our business model, we want to remain true to our purpose and values of building solutions through an Indigenous lens and through our shared, lived experience by Indigenous people for Indigenous people.
As we moved through the commercialization, we stayed focused on our values and principles. We pressed forward and trusted that the work we were undertaking was relevant and would be enthusiastically embraced. You can’t predict all variables, so at some point you just have to trust in your vision, mission and the people who make up your company.
What’s next for OneFeather? Are there any updates on the horizon?
Lawrence: We’ll soon be launching our PAY card which provides GST and HST exemption at point of sale (POS). We’ll also be facilitating Per Capita Distributions (PCD) direct payments for our users and establishing partnerships that will provide Status Card Renewal as a kiosk service, so it’ll be even more convenient for folks!
If you’re a B.C.-based tech company that’s looking for mentorship and education to take your business idea further, check out our Venture Acceleration Program (VAP) which is delivered by our network for partners across the province.