SmartHippo – Chowhound for Mortgages

SmartHippo, based in Montreal, has had quite an exciting week. In addition to launching a new version of the site, a US mortgage search engine and comparison community, at Finovate San Fransisco, George Favvas SmartHippo’s CEO has managed to bring together a fantastic advisory board. Board members include Lori Collins, former Senior Vice President and General Manager for LendingTree Exchange; Bill Rice, CEO of Kaleidico; and Toronto’s very own John Philip Green, Founder and CTO of LearnHub.

SmartHippo is an interesting startup launching a product into a market in turmoil. Interest rates are all over the map, housing prices are deflating, and homeowners are nervous. While there is possibly going to be less action in the mortgage business while the market finds it’s bearings, it may be just the time to bring together a community to ferret out the best mortgage rates. was acquired by Experian in 2005 for more than $330M. has a market cap of $986M. And is being spun off by IAC. Mortgage origination pays. SmartHippo’s main challenge now is building a community. He is on the right track by “not letting the business model get in the way of business.”

“LendingTree and LowerMyBills are pure lead generation plays that match the consumer with the banks that pay the most for the lead (not the ones with the best rates). Bankrate lets banks advertise ‘bait and switch’ rates.” While like its competitors SmartHippo makes money with mortgage application origination, their approach is much more transparent: finding and rating mortgage rates and banks is driven in large part by user reports. Transparency works. It is probably only a matter of time before SmartHippo has to deal with a stampede of smart borrowers.

Check out SmartHippo’s StartupIndex profile. – Free our data, free the community

Tonight at StartupCamp Toronto we are launching, an open, community-managed and free startup tracking database for the Canadian startup community. This is Version 1, and we will be putting a lot of work in to it in the next few weeks and months.

When we began tracking startups here on Startupnorth, there was no other decent source of publicly accessible coverage of startup activity in Canada. In the last year we have tracked over 100 startups, investments and events related to the startup community. While this blog has kept us up to date on a lot of what is going on, we are still only covering a small fraction of what is really going on.

Why are we doing this?

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what is going on in our own city. We get to hear about new startups, rumors of the latest deals are always flying around and we have some idea of who the best entrepreneurs are, but the truth is you don’t have to travel very far until things become less obvious. From Vancouver to Victoria, Toronto to Waterloo, Ottawa to Montreal, Halifax to Moncton, we can make a very short trip but still not know who’s who and what’s new.

By tracking startup activity nationally we can start to build more awareness of which startups are worth watching, we can also quickly find out which Investors are doing deals and which ones are less active. The “Wheat from the Chaff” as they say.

This is also an opportunity to find out the truth about the Canadian Startup community. Is it dead or alive? We can either put grand claims to rest, or we can light a fire under them.

A lot of startup activity and almost all of the funding activity in Canada is actively tracked. These databases are closed off from the public and charge access fees nearing $10,000 (that is seed funding for some companies!). They also offer no value back to the very community that needs this data the most. Startups and Investors, who are the basis of the data being captured, either have to pay the subscription fee or live without the data.

We believe that this data should be free and that it is a liability if startups and Investors do not have a clear and concise place to access this information. We are betting that our open, accessible and equal approach will bring more value to more people, and that is something we think is worth doing.

So please, head over to and make sure your startup has a profile. We will be adding new features, such as ratings, email subscriptions and commenting in the short term, and we want your help in building this as it grows.

Founders & Funders Toronto – June 4, 2008

Jevon MacDonald and I are please to announce the second Toronto Founders & Funders dinner on June 4, 2008.


What: Founders & Funders Toronto
Founders & Funders is a private, invite only social event. Founders and Funders is dedicated: to helping Canadian entrepreneurs to meet each other; meet potential funders: angel, VC or other money sources; to have fun; and see how we can help each other create the NEXT BIG successful company.
When: Wednesday, June 4, 2008 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM

The inaugural Toronto event sold out. And we’re expecting this event to reach capacity very quickly.

We are limited to 100 seats. The fee for the dinner is $100 which will include drinks and dinner.  This is a private networking event and we are selecting the audience to ensure a quality group of attendees. And to provide the best chance to network together.

How do I get an Invite?

If you would like to attend the dinner, please fill out the following form and let us know who you are.

We will be contacting those invited with details on the registration and attendance details for the dinner in the coming weeks.

Special Guest  – Dan’l LewinDan'l Lewin

We’re incredibly lucky to have Dan’l Lewin scheduled to be in attendance (Dan’l is the Corporate Vice-President, Strategic and Emerging Business Development for Microsoft). Check out GigaOM’s interview with Dan’l where he talks candidly about his role in Microsoft and how Microsoft works with other emerging technology companies.

Dan’l Lewin is corporate vice president of Strategic and Emerging Business Development, responsible for managing worldwide strategic business relationships with venture capitalists and emerging venture-capital-backed businesses, as well as managing the business relationship with leading global industry partners such as SUN, Adobe, Intuit and BEA to ensure their applications interoperate with and run well on the Microsoft platform – for the benefit of the companies’ common customers. Lewin is based at Microsoft’s Mountain View, Calif. campus.

A 25-year Silicon Valley veteran, Lewin was most recently CEO of Aurigin Systems Inc., an enterprise software company focused on intellectual property asset management. He also spent 18 years as an executive, leading sales and marketing divisions for companies including Apple Computer Corp., NeXT Inc. and GO Corporation. In addition, Lewin has served as a consultant for emerging companies, venture capital firms and corporate joint ventures.

Lewin holds an A.B. in politics from Princeton University.


We’re working with a number of great organizations to sponsor the event.

If you would like to sponsor this event or other Founders & Funders events across Canada please feel free to contact David Crow or Jevon MacDonald.