Deal Maker

Ken Bautista has his hand in a little bit of everything – and a deal with a major entertainment player in the works

By Duncan Kinney

This series will explore how entrepreneurs get funding, make contacts and close their deals, all by tracking homegrown techie Ken Bautista


When you’re exploring the world of dealmaking, it helps to have a bit of a B-movie background. Consider, for instance, actor Bruce Campbell’s advice:

“If you have it, you don’t need it.
If you need it, you don’t have it.
If you have it, you need more of it.
If you have more of it, you don’t need less of it.
You need it, to get it.
And you certainly need it to get more of it…
The point is, if you’ve had never had any of it.
People just seem to know.”

For would-be entrepreneurs, getting it – whatever it is – can seem like a vicious circle. You don’t have experience so you can’t raise money. You can’t raise money because you don’t have experience.

This is where Ken Bautista comes in. Bautista is the CEO of SeekYourOwnProof, also known as the Central Institute of Exploration. CIE is a subscription-based online community that also features real-world educational activities. Aimed at tweens, it uses the gaming model to educate school-age children on science and history.

By tracking Bautista as he schmoozes in L.A., meets execs in New York and jump-starts opportunities back home in Alberta, we’ll explore how exactly the deal gets made. But first, let’s meet the man.

The enthusiasm Bautista brings to projects is infectious. The man is one of the busiest people in Alberta, but he’s always smiling. And he’s also an assiduous networker. (Just check his LinkedIn profile. He has so many connections, the business-focused social network merely throws up its hands and says 500+.)

Bautista doesn’t mind a full calendar either. He’s been the president of Digital Alberta (an advocacy group for digital media) and he’s bringing three TEDx events to the public in 2010. That’s not to mention a gig as founding chair of artsScene Edmonton, an arts-business facilitator, and his role as the figure behind Startup Edmonton, an accelerator and seed fund.

Bautista recently raised $1M in venture capital, combined with over $600,000 in seed financing from the TELUS Innovation Fund, Telefilm Canada New Media Fund and personal investments. He’s also closed a long-term deal with a major US media company. (We’ll have more details to share in coming issues of Deal Maker.)

The specialty of Bautista’s team lay in creative compelling characters and stories. But, like most online startups, the challenge would be reaching a critical mass of users. So their approach was to find a key distribution and brand partner in the US whose network and reach could be leveraged.

Bautista suggests not being intimidated if you have a product worth talking about. The US deal happened because of a “cold email” sent to a brand manager. Bautista got a call back from the brand manager a few minutes later asking, “Do I know you?” Not exactly, but the manager thought CIE was a great fit and ended up connecting him with key decision makers.

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