Making the workspace more joyful—Justin Cuaresma | Founder Files E3

Have you ever wondered what is it like to be a tech startup founder and bring an idea to life?

Founder Files is a series of conversations with founders in the earliest days of their entrepreneurial journey hosted by Antler Canada. Guests are founders of our portfolio companies and founders in residence, currently building the next big ventures. Learn about their experiences of finding a co-founder, idea validation and product-market fit.

In the third episode of Antler Canada's Founder Files, Elif Hiz interviews Justin Cuaresma, a founder in residence in our third residency. Justin is a Software Developer turned entrepreneur. He believes that the future of work is joyful. He bootstrapped CrowdParty, the “Netflix of workplace games,” and is now working on Delightful, a platform made for employees to foster deeper relationships through shared hobbies and interests!  In this video, we’ll dive into Justin's experience at Antler so far and his learnings from the first 7 weeks of the program.

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Toronto is Antler’s first location in Canada. Since launching in 2022, our team in Canada has supported over 100 founders who are creating the next generation of startups.

Meet Justin

“Joyful” Justin Cuaresma comes from a background of HR in tech, and strives to live up to his name; make future work just a little bit more joyful. Having launched the likes of CrowdParty, a platform for playing games in groups virtually or in person, his mission is to reintroduce connection and enjoyment to workplaces and the culture of many companies.

The Right Time To Start a Business

Justin covers his resignation process, which began in 2019, that he took on to pursue his ambition of creating something of his own. With the uncertainty of the pandemic arriving in 2020, he chose to follow his lifelong dream and go down the entrepreneurial path. His risk, however, was not made on a whim; he chose to resign in pandemic times confidently knowing that his “worst case scenario” would be a return to the industry and work life. 

“If I were to die, this year, like in 2020, would I be happy in the management track for this company, or would I be happier taking the leap and trying to fulfill my dreams?”

Making The Difficult Decisions

Justin highlights the necessary entrepreneurial skill of adaptability. He begins with an explanation of his startup, Crowd Party, being bootstrapped, and pivoting to a lifestyle business at his partner’s suggestion. Balancing this with contract consulting work, he was faced with a difficult decision; should he enjoy traveling the world with a comfortable salary given his contract work, or should he join forces with Antler, who he had noticed a while back?

“The former approach of just traveling the world was the easier path. I get a nice comfortable salary, I get to travel. But I like taking the difficult path.”

With the difficult decision made, he speaks about his original pitches to Antler, and talks about his mission to solve “joy, love, and death”. With an initial idea of “death technology” and then an idea of a dating app, he began to refine and modify his ideas until he narrowed down the problem he wanted to solve–lacking human connection. He focused on adults in the workplace context, helping create a sense of community and belonging.

“Long story short, it went from death to love to now workplace love.”

Types of Entrepreneurs and Vision

Justin highlights his take on the concept of entrepreneurship, and specifies that there are two kinds: the “business-savvy sort”, who drive their motivation from markets and market gaps, and the “artist” entrepreneurs, who create from a place of passion and personal values. Justin continues on to discuss how he perceives the future of technology, and how it is set to be more “human-centric” moving forward, and created to bridge the gaps in human connection. 

“If I’m gonna be working on a company for 5-7 years, I gotta be waking up feeling really passionate about this project.”

Expectations and Highlight With Antler

Justin equates his initial expectations for his experience with Antler as “putting some of the most creative, genius minds together, and locking them in a room to see what comes of it.”. He goes on to express that in an indirect way, his thought experiment was exactly what Antler accomplished for him. Connecting him with an “MBA bootcamp” environment helped him gain skills that he, as an engineer by trade, did not previously have the opportunity to learn. Moreover, direct communication with industry professionals in a fireside chat setting proved to bring forth some incredibly valuable insight.

Justin also recalls a specific anecdote where he wanted to solve “love” in a group setting with other individuals from drastically different backgrounds. He felt inspired by seeing unique and completely differentiated ways of thinking from himself, and took particular note of how effective his group members were at applying their own expertise to solving abstract and broad ideas.

“As an entrepreneur, I think, you have to come into a program like this with an open mind.”

He speaks of feeling his own perspectives change as he learns, emphasizing the value of being open minded over and above all, declaring that one of the biggest assets of having a pool of entrepreneurs is the fact that there is diversity in their skills and experiences. 

Next Steps and Words of Wisdom

“At the end of the day, you get what you make out of the program.”

Justin confidently states that he left Antler with a startup that he has every intention of continuing on with. He discusses having a strong sense of purpose, and feeling confident and taking decisive steps forward towards achieving necessary funding. He also mentions having a strong sense of personal involvement from an entrepreneur, specifying that at Antler, business owners need to be committed to their ideas and passions. He ends the episode with a message of encouragement.

“At the end of the day, if you’re a founder? This is your business, your brainchild. You have to do everything in your capacity to execute on that. Even if it sometimes seems like the universe is against you. That shouldn’t stop people from really executing their gift to the world. That’s what a startup is; the founder’s gift to the world.”

Watch the full interview on YouTube.

If you want to become a startup founder, find the perfect co-founder and create impactful companies to shape the future, apply now and begin your Antler journey.

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