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Happly.AI nets $250K in inaugural season of The Drive Group's pitch competition

The company was announced the winner during a YouTube reality show premiere on July 12.

Happly.AI nets $250K in inaugural season of The Drive Group's pitch competition
Happly.AI CEO Thierry Lindor and chief product officer Sean Muir collected the top prize and a $250,000 cheque for The Drive Group Inc.'s 250 Competition. THE DRIVE GROUP PHOTO

The Drive Group Inc. has announced Happly.AI the winner of its $250,000 pitch competition – The Drive 250.

Co-founded by Black entrepreneur and CEO Thierry Lindor, chief product officer Sean Muir and chief technology officer Dinesh Pushparajah, the company has helped distribute millions of dollars in non-dilutive funding – 92 per cent of which has gone to women or BIPOC businesses.

“We’re excited about the doors that are going to open with you guys on board. There’s going to be many Drive Group 250 (competitions), but nobody could ever take away that Happly won the first one, so this is awesome,” Lindor said in a video interview following the win.

Happly.AI is a tech platform that helps marginalized entrepreneurs access funding from investors and provides opportunities for business owners. They were announced the winner during a YouTube reality show premiere on July 12 (see above).

The three-month competition was rigorous, organizers say. Businesses from across the country applied and presented their case and why they deserved to win.

Applications were selected up until April 1 and semi-finalists were named on April 14. From there, participants competed in several weekly challenges to determine the victor.

The Drive Group Inc. founder Trivelle Simpson said the chance to help startup entrepreneurs and provide them with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with capital funding and mentorship was something he had to pursue.

“There comes a time when you got to bet on a founder, you got to bet on an idea. You got to bet on somebody who's addicted to what they're doing, and then you create products that will change the world,” Simpson told CTV in February when the contest was announced.

Simpson, from Brampton, Ont. created The Drive Group in 2016 with just $1,500 in tax refund money and has since expanded through increasing investments in derivatives, financial markets, real estate, and other areas. Today, the venture capital and real estate development firm is a multi-million outfit with clients and partners nationwide.

Two other businesses rounded out the Top 3 finalists: Rentproof, a company which helps those underserved build their credit to enhance their financial future, and Cherry Health, a networking platform that assists physicians connect to communities that need them.

Despite not landing the top prize, Cherry Health received capital to close its funding round. Meanwhile, Simpson and Husty Financial CEO and founder Tefari Bailey pledged an investment once the business reached $25,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR), and promised mentorship and development support to build out Rentproof’s team.

Trailblazers for entrepreneurs

Lindor began his career in real estate but gravitated toward the technology sector with the launch of his media company, Influence Orb. The company aims to bridge the gap between companies and influencers.

Since then, he has worked Nobel Peace Prize laureates Malala and former U.S. vice president Al Gore on various initiatives. In 2019, he earned the Black Tech Matters Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year award and, in the same year, was honoured at the United Nations as one of the Global Top 100 under 40 most influential people of African descent.

In 2021, Lindor co-founded the Federation of African Canadian Economics (FACE), which raised $330 million with the federal government and the private sector to support Black Canadian entrepreneurs.

In 2022, Lindor was named valedictorian of the Next AI and HEC Accelerator, and his company won the 2022 TOP Venture award from BMO and the DMZ AMEX award. And in 2023, Lindor and his team won first place at the University of Toronto BCC National competition.

Furthermore, he launched Colors Of COVID, a platform that collects race-based data to help track the impact of the pandemic on marginalized communities.

Meanwhile, Muir previously served as creative director at Zum Rails in Montreal and was a partner in the Colors of COVID with Lindor. He is the creative director and partner at Influence Orb too.

And Pushparajah, a developer with more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry, is also making an impact. He’s worked as a software engineer and tech officer for several companies and heads the department at Happly.AI.

“The ultimate message we’re proud of is that people who look like us and come from where we come from can also win $250,000 from amazing investors and create jobs,” Lindor said in a video interview following the win.

“We’re going to create Canadian, high-paying jobs.”