When Teja Edara Arrived from Hyderabad, India, at the Sauder MBA program, he already had a successful
In 2009, in Hyderabad, he formed Green Ads, with the
aim of providing eco-friendly mobile outdoor advertising in
the fourth-largest city in India using tricycles as advertising
platforms. By the time he sold the company to an investor,
he had grown it to 250 part-time employees and 25 full-time
staff. But he learned some painful lessons.
“I was 21 and I just didn't have
the experience and insights to scale the
business properly,” says Edara. “I made
many good decisions, and the business was
a success, but I also made poor ones, too,
that hurt our finances.
“I decided it would be best for our
employees if I sold the company and gained
more experience elsewhere.”
After a stint in the Mumbai office of
CapGemini, a consultancy, he decided to
pursue a Sauder MBA—though not before
co-founding another start-up in India
that sells organic mangos using a digital
marketplace, a growing business that Edara
still co-owns and advises.
When he arrived in Vancouver
in August 2014 to begin studies
he had the germ of an idea for a
new start-up. Justgreet would be
a greeting card company where
customers could order and send
physical greeting cards, designed
by Vancouver artists, to anyone in
Canada and the US for a flat rate
of $5, with local brands paying for
space on the card.
His problem was that he knew
nothing of the Canadian market or even the
Vancouver business environment.
“I started looking for people who could
advise me informally,” says Edara. “I really
did not know where to turn, but I had
heard of Praveen Varshney, and knew of all
the support he and his family have given
Sauder. So I took a chance in November
2014, contacted him through LinkedIn, and
asked if he would meet me.”
Recalls Varshney: “Of course I said
yes.” A Sauder graduate, and major
investor in technology, real estate and
mining, Varshney has often met young
entrepreneurs for a “walk ‘n’ talk” to advise,
give guidance or a contact. “And Teja
immediately struck me as a passionate,
hungry, hard-working entrepreneur with an
Varshney came onto Justgreet as an
informal advisor to Edara, a role formalized
a few months later when he became an
investor in the business.
Fraser Hall is another Vancouver seed
investor and graduate of Sauder, who
is also an informal advisor to Justgreet.
According to Hall, it is no accident there
is such interconnectivity between the
Sauder entrepreneur program, students,
recent grads and the Vancouver venture
capital/angel investor community.
“Vancouver is generally referred to as a
small market city and in many respects it is,
however, when it comes to entrepreneurs
we have a deep bench,” says Hall. “For
the Sauder community, there is a sense of
acknowledgement and trust that brings us
together and help to cut through the noise.”
“I like investing, and so does Praveen,”
continues Hall. “And we investors don’t
feel like we are competitors. When we
work with entrepreneurs, the relationship
extends beyond capital to include both
expertise and network. A combination that
I hope extends the founding teams’ runway.
It is a very collaborative space. We are just
trying to help each other. Both Praveen and
I mentor a lot of start-ups that we have
nothing to do with—we just want to see the
Edara also approached newer Sauder
MBA graduates to mentor him, including
Mark Proudfoot and Jay Rhind who,
coincidentally, were also being mentored
by Fraser Hall. The two entrepreneurs
had met in Sauder’s Innovation and
Entrepreneurship track and turned their
class project into their first start-up.
“By design, the MBA programs have a
lot of group work,” says Rhind. “You quickly
identify who you want to do group work
with. Within the first few months,
Mark and I realized that we worked
very well together, and we have very
“Jay and I were classmates,” says
Proudfoot, now COO of Justgreet. “I made
a decision I wanted to do a start-up and
figured I should partner with the smartest
person in the room. And I saw some of his
presentations and decided Jay was it.”
Both turned to Paul Cubbon, lecturer
and leader of the entrepreneurship track
at Sauder, for advice on who could mentor
them. Since they were developing a real
estate crowdfunding platform, Cubbon
circled them back to Fraser Hall,
whose investments include real
estate development, for consultation.
The project failed, though Rhind
notes it was good that it did so
quickly and taught them they wanted
to work together. They moved
onto another start-up together as
employees #4 and #5.
But Proudfoot was intrigued by
Teja Edara’s Justgreet concept and,
after Praveen Varshney’s investment, joined
as COO and co-founder.
“Teja came to Jay and me asking for
advice about his financing and model, and
to let us know what he was up to. I had no
expectation of becoming super involved.
But I really liked him. He is one of those
guys who has tons of hustle and an attitude
that success is inevitable.
“At the time, I was working with an
incredibly complicated financial technology
start-up that was going to take a really
long time to get to market,” says Proudfoot.
“Justgreet is just the total opposite of that. I
loved Teja’s concept, and its simplicity, and
how quick we could get it out to the market
and try it out. We liked how scalable it
is. And it was easy for me to see how he
could make it work. More importantly, I
saw Teja needed a partner, and we have
complementary skills. So it all just made
sense to go work with him.
This article by Allan Jenkins originally appeared on the Fall 2015 issue of Viewpoints magazine.