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Vena Solutions’ Beaming Toronto Bread Factory

Vena Solutions’ three co-founders dreamed up the idea for a financial software company in a Starbucks in 2011.

Their vision was simple: Excel will always be a vital tool for financial information and performance management, and there should be software that makes the spreadsheets even more valuable for businesses.

That’s exactly what Don Mal, Rishi Grover, and George Papayiannis set out to do. It was that principle, along with decades of combined experience, which turned Vena Solutions into the fastest growing company in corporate performance management.

With their cloud-based corporate performance management solutions, Vena helps medium and large-sized companies handle budgeting, planning and revenue forecasting. The software integrates with Excel, combining the mainstay tool with advanced analytics and a centralized database to monitor workflow and reporting.

Today, the Toronto-based company has more than 200 employees and 33 partners across four continents. They have nearly 400 clients around the world in industries ranging from financial services to energy to retail—including Marks & Spencer, White Castle, and Street Capital.

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Vena’s main space is flanked by V-shaped beams–a serendipitous coincidence.

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In 2017, Vena moved into their new Liberty Village space in the former Canada Bread Factory, a building constructed in the 1890s. Vena embraced the space’s history and maintained the building’s quirks. 

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Co-founder and CTO George Papayiannis was hands-on in almost every aspect of the office, wearing the hat of a virtual architect during the design and re-construction by KAVE and Harrington and Associates. Papayiannis is a driving force behind the company’s culture and made sure the space reflected Vena’s values.

Work

Walking into the expansive 27,000-square-foot office space, features from the bread making days are evident. Starting with the unfinished, original walls in the main office area where wall sconces showcase decades of original paint layers.

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Floor-hockey, anyone?

Three 6×4-foot canvases spray painted by Vena’s team hang around the office, serving as a nod to both the building’s past and the future of the company. Repurposed materials from the original bakery were also incorporated into the new design, including lighting fixtures and heavy sliding industrial doors.

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The brick-and-beam office has soaring 25-foot ceilings, polished concrete floors, and 20-foot windows pouring natural light into the two-floor space. All employees work in the same room—from interns to the C-level executives.

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Each desk pod cultivates their own green box, growing whatever they choose–as long as it’s legal.

“From the character and emotion the building evokes, to the variety of board rooms and informal meeting spaces, we designed every detail to give our growing team an inspiring place to do what they love.” — George Papayiannis, cofounder and CTO

Collaborative breakout spaces serve all meeting needs, from two-person phone booths for privacy and conference calls to meeting rooms that can seat 15 people.

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Vena Solutions Toronto Office Killer Spaces-12Meeting rooms are named after notable city streets and neighborhoods. The largest rooms bear the name of Toronto hoods like Liberty Village and Cabbagetown, whereas the smaller break out and telephone rooms are named after streets like King and Spadina.

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Food

The mezzanine and its cafeteria-style tables double as a venue for learning opportunities and a spot to bunker down and grab a bite. 

The office has two fully stocked kitchens complete with breakfast staples including bagels and spreads, freshly brewed coffee and fresh fruit and veggies. On Wednesdays, the team passes around popsicles, and on Fridays after five, the beer is flowing.

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Culture

The space was designed with company core values in mind from freedom and self-discipline to leading with passion and by example. These values are featured prominently on the walls with quotes of inspiration, like Stay Calm and Make the Tough Decisions.

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“All too often companies try to buy their way to a new corporate culture through their office space. For us, we let the building, the brick and beam architecture and the unpainted walls speak for themselves. We let the character of our people and the values they embody define us.” — George Papayiannis

Since the move, Vena’s executive and talent teams have launched two new company initiatives. The social and charity committees were started to help Vena proactively plan company-wide social events, extracurriculars and charitable campaigns. Some initiatives already rolled out include office teams for soccer, softball and ultimate frisbee, as well as Movember and Chum Christmas Wish.

As for perks, employees can tap into a subsidized membership at the GoodLife gym, a five-minute walk from the office. To rinse off post-workout, two in-office showers and 10 unisex washrooms are open to all staff.

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Education

Vena is a high-growth company where there’s always an opportunity for learning. The company offers an educational assistance program in addition to certifications and professional development activities. The program is open to all full-time employees. Throughout the year, Vena hosts cross-departmental lunch and learns and internal expert-led seminars.

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When Vena moved into their new space, they also rolled out monthly town halls to update staff on milestones and company plans. Every quarter, they open the floor for questions in an “ask me anything” style Q&A with the leadership team.

Fun

Nothing gets the party started at Vena quite like its official house band: the Grid Unlocked. Members hailing from across the company joined musical forces to create a classic rock band that features vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, keyboard, sax, bass and drums. Fronted by their rockstar CEO Don Mal, the band practices twice a week after work before taking the stage at the town halls.

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Whether you’re in the band or a solo artist, musically inclined staff can rock out in a dedicated jamming space.  If you’re a bit tone deaf, you can always hit one of the ping pong tables or pull out a board game in the cafeteria.

The company-wide meetings feature musical performances and wrap up with social activities from Sumo wrestling to gladiator jousting.

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Most departments also host social outings every few months that see the teams heading to baseball games, ax throwing, and even indoor skydiving.

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When staffers need a break from spreadsheets, the space offers two spectacular patios to help balance the proverbial books.

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Photos by Matt Odynski

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