Jaison Dolvane

Founder of WishSlate

WishSlate is an e-commerce start-up focused on changing the way we gift. Inspired from personal experiences, Jaison founded WishSlate to help reduce anxiety, stress and waste in gifting. WishSlate’s mission is to increase the joy of gifting by providing a web & mobile platform that makes gift-giving more convenient.

Previously, Jaison was the co-founder and CEO of a publicly-traded, SaaS media & telecom company, Espial. Jaison led the company through initial financing rounds, various mergers and acquisitions, and a successful Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 2007 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Espial was acquired by Enghouse in 2019.
Jaison is a graduate of computer science from Carleton University, executive management at Harvard Business School (HBS) and held engineering roles at Nortel, Corel and Entrust. He is a member of the Young President’s Organization (YPO), a global leadership community of chief executives.

Where did the idea for WishSlate come from?

Over the years, I realized that I experience a certain amount of anxiety when it comes to giving gifts. Throughout the year, my wife would send me links to things that she liked. When it came time to buy something for her birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas, I found myself frantically searching for the links or not getting the product delivered on time.

I’d usually wait until the last minute, rush to find something, go over my budget and settle for a gift I was not completely sure she would like. I began to wonder whether my stress and feelings around gifting was unique to me. I started researching and found several studies from Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard that validated that this was indeed a problem that people implicitly face. I started talking to real people to further understand the problem, and after numerous interviews, had a list of several problems that I found interesting to tackle around gift-giving.

After the previous company I co-founded was acquired in early 2019, I founded WishSlate.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Get up, work out, have breakfast with the family, then off to work – we start with calls with our offshore Engineering team, so mornings are dedicated to product. The afternoons are a mix of growth initiatives and stepping back to analyze and think more strategically. This is what a well-planned day looks like, but more often than not – it is thrown off by various interruptions.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I specifically focus on making sure that I am constantly executing and stepping back to evaluate. I also like to brainstorm and generate ideas. Ideas are the dream, but until you execute, fail fast and measure outcomes – ideas are a dime a dozen. It is really easy for an idea to start and quickly get to our heads, however, when we break them down into the first small step and figure out how can execute on this. Doing things as quickly in small steps and then iterating is how we can live to see the idea come to life.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One really big trend, is the digitalization of everything. The first step on this is to digitalize what we did physically but utilizing AI to make this more intelligent. This can truly create productivity while getting things done more efficiently – this gets me really engaged.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Taking breaks, and stepping back to think and evaluate what and why we are doing. It really helps make me work smarter and become more effective.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Trust your gut, go with it and modify as you go. There have times when I have been swayed by other opinions and had to circle back to do what I felt was the right thing.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I am an introvert by nature and enjoy my alone time. Most people don’t agree since I’m always out there talking to everyone and reaching out to people, but I’ve had to train myself to do this.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone and everyone to get things done – this is the equivalent of cold calling, which has evolved to cold emailing, DM’ing and other communication forms. Be humble, thoughtful, persistent and do the hard work.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Being bold enough to think of an idea and execute on it. There are lots of times you think of ideas, but then don’t do anything about it. Most of my successes have come from quickly taking the next action and starting to execute on it.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In my last company, we gave up too much equity too soon. I’m not sure we ever overcame it, but we got a lot smarter on how to minimize dilution and time our funding rounds better.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

This is timely given the current situation of our volatile capital markets. I feel that the financial advisor model who we hire to invest our money, really have no accountability to deliver returns – they get paid either way. This I feel is ready for disruption and we have robo-advisors and various other models emerging, so it will be interesting to see how this changes.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought a trackball (yes, you heard that right). Given the amount of time I spend on my laptop and working from home has been a saviour for my wrists.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Evernote. I use it all day for most of my meetings and calls. I used to take notes in a notebook and still I miss this, but now keeping all my notes in Evernote makes it much easier. I can search and tag these notes, and it really helps me streamline my own workflow to stay productive.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Every entrepreneur should read Steve Blank’s, The Four Steps to the Epiphany – it is about developing your customer and getting really focused and deliberate about this.

What is your favorite quote?

“First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.” – from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross

Key Learnings:

• Work tirelessly to understand your customer (again and again)
• Don’t forget the basics and do the hard work
• Be smart about how and when you raise money
• Pick your investors wisely – they are your “partners”