Toronto startup caters to clients like BeaverTails and Real Property Management.
EZee Assist wants to make it easier for franchise and hub-and-spoke businesses to share internal, often critical, but difficult-to-access operational knowledge.
Founded earlier this year, the Toronto-based software startup has secured $1.85 million CAD in previously unannounced pre-seed funding to tackle this problem with the help of generative artificial intelligence (AI).
After securing its first six pilots within a couple of months, EZee Assist has since converted three into paying customers, developed its full beta product, and is now in the process of launching its platform across more than 175 franchisees, including BeaverTails Canada, Real Property Management, Spray-Net, Fresh Burger, and EverLine Coatings and Services.
“We’re this invisible platform that’s an intermediary that gives you the information that you need.”
In an exclusive interview with BetaKit, EZee Assist co-founder and CEO Raphael Rajan noted that franchise businesses typically see a great deal of employee attrition and require lots of knowledge transfer. This information is typically delivered from franchisors to franchisees via content like manuals, policies, recipes, and training materials. At the same time, he said, it can be tough to make this knowledge easily available to all of the parties that need it.
“The challenge today is if you look at any one franchise brand, they typically have on average three to five platforms where they’re storing content that franchisees need to access,” said Rajan, adding that finding it can be cumbersome and time-intensive.
Enter EZee Assist, which hopes to change this with its AI-powered knowledge-sharing platform. Rajan said that recent advances in generative AI and large language models made it possible for EZee Assist to reframe this issue. “If we could make it as simple as sending a text message and getting an answer for whatever you’re looking for, would you care about how it’s organized? The answer is typically no.”
EZee Assist secured $150,000 from Antler in April after participating in its third Canadian cohort. The startup added another $1.35 million in pre-seed funding, also through a simple agreement for future equity (SAFE), in July.
That most recent amount was provided by N49P Ventures, 10VC, Hustle Fund, franchising veteran Dan Monaghan, Dr. Chen Fong, Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) founder Ajay Agrawal, and entrepreneur-turned-investor Jenny Yang, with follow-on support from Antler.
According to Rajan, EZee Assist’s software reduces the support burden on franchisors and corporate offices with no added work required by integrating with existing tools, while ensuring that content is “just a message away” for people who need them. Serving as a virtual AI assistant, EZee Assist searches through internal company materials across various platforms and formats to give users instant and precise answers to a variety of different queries.
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“Ask questions on SMS or WhatsApp or email, and we’re this invisible platform that’s an intermediary that gives you the information that you need,” said Rajan.
Rajan, who previously worked in the consulting space on strategy and tech transformation at firms like KPMG, Deloitte, and PwC, founded EZee Assist earlier this year alongside COO Shray Mehra, CTO Gabe Cadamuro, and CPO Jason Kealey.
Mehra was previously an early employee with CDL, where he most recently served as the managing director of CDL-Toronto before helping set up Antler’s operations in Canada. At CDL and Antler, two “hub-and-spoke-like models,” Mehra told BetaKit that he saw the problem EZee Assist is trying to address firsthand.
“I was both at the creating end and receiving end,” said Mehra. “The frustrations are similar on both sides — a lot of good content gets created but [it is] hardly ever accessed, and on the other end, finding relevant information in a timely manner is difficult. Efficiencies are lost as wheels are often reinvented and are risky as every wheel has different specifications, almost always different from the corporate standards.”
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Before joining EZee Assist, Cadamuro worked on core relevance with Microsoft Bing, completed a PhD in machine learning (ML), and served as a senior ML engineer at Atlas AI. He told BetaKit that the latter experience in particular gave him the technical background to help get EZee Assist off the ground.
After coming on board, the opportunity soon became apparent to Cadamuro. “In the first few weeks, I saw the immediate, almost visceral, reaction of some of the first customers we approached, and I quickly realized this was an idea with real potential,” he added.
With Kealey, the trio added someone with industry experience — he had already launched, scaled, and exited a self-funded franchise tech business called FranchiseBlast.
The strength of this team was part of what attracted N49P. “We decided to invest in EZee Assist due to a combination of world-class technical and business team, demonstrated ability to execute, and a large market hidden in plain sight,” N49P partner Alex Norman told BetaKit.
“We decided to invest in EZee Assist due to a combination of world-class technical and business team, demonstrated ability to execute, and a large market hidden in plain sight.”
Norman described EZee Assist’s market opportunity as “larger than it looks like” at first glance, noting that “almost any service or retailer can be a franchise.” To date, Rajan said that EZee Assist has seen traction in the food service, field services, and property management industries.
For his part, Norman sees room for EZee Assist to use the rails it is building to support more than just information retrieval and knowledge access.
“As with most startups, the question is if EZee Assist builds meaningful distribution, can they utilize their unique entry point of using natural language to aid with other pain points in the franchising value chain?”
Today, EZee Assist gives franchisors visibility into what types of questions franchisees are asking at scale, where its materials are and are not working, where they should invest their content creation resources, as well as which franchisees require more attention and support.
In the future, Mehra believes that EZee Assist could help train staff, provide business intelligence, and perform other simple tasks either on command or automatically.
“While helping franchisees [and franchisors] make sense of their documentation is a very important first step, I feel it is just the start of the story for us,” said Cadamuro.