Calgary startup spotlight: CAD Crowd

By: Lloyed Lobo

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As Alberta companies deal with shortage of engineering talent over the next several years, new and unconventional methods of getting work done will become increasingly popular.

One Calgary startup in particular, CAD Crowd, is addressing this huge market by providing companies with instant access to freelance drafters, designers and engineers from around the world via crowdsourcing. If you’re unfamiliar, crowdsourcing is the concept of outsourcing tasks to a large and distributed group of people.

You simply post bulk drafting work as a contest on CAD Crowd, freelancers submit a sample design for the project, and you engage the designer with the best sample to complete the rest of the work. CAD Crowd also enables you to set a budget, eliminating cost overruns and time consuming Requests For Proposals. Additionally, you get to select from multiple submissions, creating a level of comfort before committing to work with a particular designer.

We recently talked to the founder, MacKenzie Brown to learn more.

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How did you come up with the idea for your startup? Was there an “ah-ha” moment?

A looming labour shortage was the catalyst for the launch of CAD Crowd. In 2015, there will be a shortage of 50,000 engineers and CAD technologists. A large part of the shortage will be in Calgary where the labour market is already tight.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Working as a founder is always an adventure. Each day I wear several hats, including product development, marketing, and business development, while managing staff in four different countries.

Are there any key individuals outside of your organization that have been of great help to your startup?

Tridyne Projects Corp., Murray Montgomery (CFO, Touchstone Oil & Gas), Francesco Mele (Director, Kern Partners), Noranne Dickin (Western Management Consultants) and Deborah Close (VP Tervita) have helped with the business as well as my development as a professional. Also, TEC Edmonton and Innovate Calgary have been huge help.

What’s new with your startup that we can share?

Since our re-launch last March, our userbase has grown to over 850 CAD experts and we’ve hosted over 60 projects.

Personally, do you think it is more difficult to raise capital or find the right talent?

Raising capital. With the right amount of capital, paying for the right talent becomes easier.

What has contributed to your success to this point?

Always test a market before spending any money on developing a product. With market testing, you have to often pre-sell to your target market and use the funds to pay for development costs.

Assign a maximum budget of 30% for development and 70% for marketing. The startup world is replete with great products that no one has heard of and inferior products that have taken a majority of the market share.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can use services like oDesk to hire freelance software developers provided you are able to manage them properly.

What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship? 

I couldn’t see another path. I feel anyone can become an entrepreneur in his or her spare time; it doesn’t need to be a full-time job from day one. Now is the perfect time to get started!

What are your thoughts on Calgary’s startup community? 

The Calgary community has a lot of interesting ideas and smart people. A big strength is the number of great networking events.

The community’s main weakness is consistent with all markets outside of major tech hubs – a majority of the founders want to sell their company rather than build a global business with a strong cash flow and/or focus on an IPO. Over the past few years, I’ve seen several founders sell their companies, then struggle to repeat the success of their previous startup.

Facebook turned down eleven buyout offers over seven years before their massive IPO last year. In Calgary, I’d like to see a greater focus on building companies, rather than aiming for the quick flip.

What’s your ask right now? What do you and your startup need?

We’re looking to build partnerships with companies that sell complementary products/services to our target clients in Alberta i.e. fabricators, producers and architectural companies. If you’re interested, please drop me a line at

Lloyed Lobo covers Calgary’s tech startup community.  He is a Partner at Boast Capital and a Board Member at Startup Calgary.

This interview was originally published by Startup Calgary, a non-profit organization focused on cultivating the tech startup community in Calgary. For more information, visit

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