Plum announced as 2015 43North Finalist

AC Graduate to compete for $1 million grand prize

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the 11 finalists for 43North, the world’s largest business idea competition, which included AC Graduate Plum. The finalists will now compete in front of a panel of expert judges on October 29 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo to win 43North’s top cash prize of $1 million, one of six $500,000 prizes, or four $250,000 prizes.

“This year, 43North attracted more than 11,000 registrants from 117 countries, all 50 U.S. states and nine of ten Canadian provinces, said  43North Board Chair Jordan Levy said. “Now these 11 talented finalists will pitch before a world class panel of judges for the chance to win the competition’s top prize of $1 million.”

The public is invited to attend the 43North finals pitches and awards ceremony on Thursday, October 29 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo. Tickets are free but registration is required at www.43north.org.

Supporters can also vote for Plum online to help them win this year’s People’s Choice Award. The finalist with the most votes via http://vote.43north.org on October 29 will receive an additional $10,000 on top of their $250,000, $500,000 or $1 million prize. 43North’s People’s Choice Award is sponsored by Larkin Development Group.

The 11 finalists for 2015 are:

 

Plum
Hometown: Waterloo, ON, Canada
Plum is a turnkey cloud software solution using modern behavioral science and predictive analytics to instantly identify high potential job applicants for success and fit. The results are scientifically matched up to an employer’s needs, for each role, creating an invaluable shortlist.

ACV Auctions
Hometown: Buffalo, NY, USA
ACV Auctions is a live wholesale marketplace for dealer-only automobile auctions. Conducted via a smartphone application, ACV Auctions creates liquidity for wholesale inventory (trade-ins and aged automobiles) 24-hours-a-day. An intuitive five-minute process of snapping pictures and drafting a vehicle description launches an auction to hundreds of registered buyers.

CoachMePlus
Hometown: Buffalo, NY, USA
CoachMePlus manages data that coaches and athletes use to optimize athletic performance. Athletic teams at all levels use the system to track athlete health, manage workouts, and improve game day readiness. Its NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA and NCAA clients illustrate its ability to support athletes, coaches and front office personnel.

Cytocybernetics
Hometown: North Tonawanda, NY, USA
Cytocybernetics has developed novel technology to improve drug safety screening. It will ensure that new drugs brought to market do not cause cardiac arrhythmias as a side effect. This technology will increase the speed and reliability with which pharmaceutical companies can navigate the FDA approval process for all new drugs.

Uma Bioseed 
Hometown: Ithaca, NY, USA
Uma Bioseed has developed a patented, enzyme-based, organic seed-treatment solution. This solution protects agricultural seeds from pathogens (virus, bacteria and fungus) both on and around the seed throughout the critical germination phase, enabling the possibility of significantly enhanced crop yields and greater food security.

CleanSlate
Hometown: Toronto, ON, Canada
The “CleanSlate” Ultra Violet (UV) system is a tabletop rapid device sanitizer for improved infection control. It sanitizes smartphones, tablets, glucometers, thermometers and a range of other portable electronics using UV light. Using RFID tags, the “CleanSlate” provides infection control staff with accurate compliance data on device sanitization reports.

Disease Diagnostic Group (DDG)
Hometown: Boston, MA, USA
DDG is focused on screening, tracking and diagnosing highly infectious diseases that benefit from ultra-low cost and rapid early-stage diagnosis, potentially saving millions. Its platform technology has yielded portable and reusable devices capable of quantitatively assessing diseases from a drop of blood—in one-minute—at ultra-low costs.

GetGems
Hometown – Tel Aviv, Israel
GetGems is the first digital currency startup to link mobile payments on the blockchain with a social networking platform. Unlike other messaging apps that offer payment functionality, GetGems reaches beyond those currently banked to those without a bank account or debit card. Blockchain technology enables this transfer of value.

Painless1099
Hometown: Richmond, VA, USA
Painless1099 opens “smart bank accounts” for freelance professionals to automate withholding, saving for, and paying state and federal taxes.

Qoints 
Hometown: Toronto, ON, Canada
Qoints aggregates digital marketing data. As less than 25 percent of brand marketers use data to justify decision making; Qoints helps brands and agencies evaluate the performance of their digital campaigns by comparing against industry benchmarks.

Voiceitt
Hometown: Jerusalem, Israel
Voiceitt’s product, Talkitt, aims to revolutionize the way people who have speech disabilities due to various motor, speech and language disabilities communicate, enabling them to use the most natural means there is, their own voice.

 

UHWK launches their wearable camera for athletes kickstarter

AC Client developing a unique camera for athletes

Today AC JumpStart Clients UHWK formally launched their Kickstarter campaign to develop a first of its kind camera made for athletes, aimed to help players and coaches amplify learning and highlight sharing.

“The problem with other wearable cameras on the market is they’re big, they’re bulky, and they’re not specifically designed to enhance athletes’ everyday game-play performance. In fact, they can impede performance,” say the company founders. “That’s why we’ve created the U-HWK Show camera made especially for athletes.”

The team has tested their camera across a wide array of sports and their hard work and insight into players desire for constant improvement is paying off as the campaign already has significant backing.

Take a look at the UHWK experience:

What’s Your Problem?

Collaborating to solve killer workplace problems

The Stratford Accelerator Centre, partnering with the University of Waterloo and Velocity, is excited to welcome Professor Larry Smith from UW Economics, to the Stratford campus on Wednesday, October 21 2015.

This must-see Velocity Alpha event: What’s Your Problem? is aimed at helping students and employees find and solve ‘killer’ problems in their workplaces. A UW pioneer in entrepreneurship and innovation, Smith has a keen interest in helping foster and build not only entrepreneurs but also entrepreneurial employees.  “Nobody is dealing with the issue of entrepreneurial employees,” says Smith.  “There’s a lot of activity on helping people start companies, justifiably, of course, and very little on helping people become entrepreneurial employees.”

The event, starting at 7pm, is happening on the University of Waterloo Stratford campus which houses the school’s digital media programs (Global Business and Digital Arts and the Masters of Digital Experience Innovation). Pizza and beverages will be provided!

Register here.

For more information contact Becka Borody (Manager, Operations at Stratford Accelerator Centre) at bborody@acceleratorcentre.com or (519) 275-3694

Innovation through collaboration: Miovision Partners with Ecopia Technology and Brisk Synergies

Accelerator Centre companies join forces

AC Graduate Miovision, a global leader in traffic systems technology, announced a new partnership with Ecopia Technologies and Brisk Synergies that will pioneer real-time visualizations of cities and transportation networks.

Today, cities have very little data on the performance of their transportation infrastructure, which makes it difficult to base sound investment decisions on it. When cities start new projects, they often map and model the traffic for that particular area, but after the project is completed, the data model is thrown out or becomes obsolete. Even if the city keeps the map and model, the data on which they were based quickly becomes outdated.

“Urban planners and transportation leaders need living, breathing visualizations of their cities to be able to plan for the future and adjust for short-term problems,” said Kurtis McBride, CEO and co-founder of Miovision. “This new partnership combines Miovision’s devices, Ecopia’s urban visualization technology and Brisk’s data analytics into a solution for any city that wants to have a real-time image of itself.”

Transportation Infrastructure Becoming the Backbone for Smart Cities

Gartner predicts the global transportation IT market will reach $151 billion by 2018[1], in part because of projects like this one, which will empower transportation professionals to improve the driving experience for everyone, through data and infrastructure. Instead of continuing to tear up roads and build big capital projects, transportation officials are increasingly looking for better data, monitoring and management of the infrastructure they already have. They are turning to modern, peripheral sensors and cameras and satellites to collect that data. That’s where companies like Miovision, Brisk and Ecopia come in.

Here’s how the solution will work:

Miovision’s Spectrum devices plug into traffic cabinets at intersections to connect intersections to the cloud. The Spectrum devices use wifi pinging between different locations to create unique anonymous identifiers for different vehicles, which Miovision feeds into Brisk’s analytics engine to determine the real-time flow of traffic. Then Ecopia generates highly detailed maps from satellite imagery to aid in the simulation of those traffic flow visualizations.

“This is truly a case where the sum is greater than the individual parts,” said Charles Chung, CEO of Brisk Synergies. “When we started to see the big picture of what we could accomplish together, it made sense to jump in and make it reality. The fact that all three of us are based in the same area and went through the Accelerator Centre makes it that much sweeter.”

The three companies are actively working on multiple pilot projects in North American cities, where leaders are embracing technology to improve transportation for residents and modernize the entire city.

“It’s one thing to talk about how our different technologies could work together in theory,” said Yuanming Shu, CEO and co-founder of Ecopia. “It’s quite another to create it for a real city, knowing that what we build will provide a useful tool for transportation planners and ultimately improve the lives of residents.”

All three companies are based in the Waterloo Region of Ontario, Canada, and each has been a member of the prestigious Accelerator Centre, located in the University of Waterloo Research & Technology Park. Miovision was one of the first graduates of the program and is excited to team up with more recent participants Brisk and Ecopia.

“Miovision always looks for innovative partners to complement our technology, and we’re especially proud to collaborate with other UW alums and teams who have gone through the Accelerator Centre,” McBride said. “This partnership helps us promote our vision to use intelligent transportation systems as a platform for new services that make life better.”

The partnership speaks to the strength of the ecosystem in the Waterloo Region.

“The best talent in the world is here taking on some of the most complex challenges and developing unique, creative solutions,” said Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre. “It’s a tremendous testament to what the Accelerator Centre seeks to do: develop strong companies that are committed to solving the toughest problems. I’m very proud of what these three companies have achieved so far, and I look forward seeing them flourish here in Waterloo.”

About Miovision Technologies

Miovision is a technology company that empowers transportation professionals, through data and infrastructure, to improve the transportation experience. With over 500 customers in 50 countries across the world, Miovision provides meaningful solutions to real challenges facing today’s traffic systems. For additional information about Miovision, visit www.miovision.com.

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[1] Forecast: Enterprise IT Spending for the Transportation Market, Worldwide, 2012-2018, 1Q14 Update,” Gartner, Venecia K. Liu & Rika Narisawa, 10 April 2014

In The Chat Continues to Adapt

by Peter Moreira

This article originally appeared on Entrevestor.com

John Huehn spent enough time in the customer service game to know that customers don’t like to be on hold.

That’s why he founded In The Chat, whose software lets customers contact companies through social media, chat or texting. It reduces costs for the companies and produces happier customers, he said.

_42R2221smweb“Consumers in general these days are sick and tired of waiting for customer service on the phone,” said Huehn, the CEO of In the Chat, speaking after presenting at the Waterloo Accelerator Centre Client Showase last week. “Ultimately, we make it possible to give customers the service they want so you make the customer happy while saving money.”

In the Chat is a social sales and service company powered by an advanced text analytics engine that reads, categorizes and delivers social media posts to their clients for action. The text analytics program in the product determines what type of query the client is asking and automatically sends the message to a specialist in the given area. It’s faster and less annoying that asking the customer to push numbers on the phone to get different departments.

Saying this feature makes the solution “entirely scalable”, Huehn said it is 58 percent more efficient to serve a client via text messaging than on the phone, and that In The Chat produces 20 percent savings over call centres.

The solution also includes a sales and service platform enables real-time consumer engagement via social media.

The story of In The Chat dates back to the days when Huehn worked in the call centre of a major Canadian telecom company, working his way up to vice-president. He believed the process of customer services could be improved by using new technology.

Five years ago, he and Chris Howlett, the former CTO in Residence at Communitech, launched In The Chat with the aim of “bringing emerging technologies into the call centre.”

They began with a product that allowed the customer to reach the company through social media, and then as text and chat became more popular with consumers they added new channels.

The company has grown to 21 people but still works out of the Accelerator Centre, where Huehn enjoys being the “old guy” among the young technological whizzes. Huehn declined to say how much money the company has raised, but did say it amounted to millions of dollars and includes investment from the Angel One Investor Network.

In The Chat has more than 10 enterprise clients and has produced significant double-digit annual revenue growth each year it’s been in operation.

Huehn expects the growth to continue because humanity continues to find new ways to communicate – from mail to telegraph to phone to email to social media to text to chat. And each advance keeps coming more quickly than the last.

“There will only be more channels that come along and they’re coming faster,” he said. “Companies will need a platform like ours that makes it easier for people to contact them.”

TrafficSoda: Beyond SEO

by Peter Moreira

This article originally appeared on Entrevestor.com

A beautiful website can sometimes sadden Jessica Chalk, especially if too few people visit it.

Chalk is the CEO of Waterloo-based TrafficSoda, which helps businesses drive traffic to their sites through a proprietary text analytics tool. TrafficSoda aims to help enterprise clients increase their rankings in global internet traffic, or help local businesses truly dominate the rankings in their city or region.

_42R2117smwebAnd the company says its method is far more effective than search engine optimization.

“I can’t stress this enough,” said Chalk in an interview after she presented at the Waterloo Accelerator Centre Client Showcase earlier this month. “There are so many businesses out there who spent tens of thousands of dollars on a beautiful website, and they have no idea how to get people to it. A website with no traffic is like placing a billboard in the middle of a desert.”

TrafficSoda gives online marketers the power to drive more organic, targeted web traffic to their site. The system interacts with online audiences across thousands of channels, through value-driven conversations and comprehensive analytics.

Rather than relying on common SEO strategies, TrafficSoda uses machine learning to identify who its users are talking to and then to develop channels to make sure those parties visit the user’s site. The process, said Chalk, is not to make assumption about who the audience might be but to go out and identify who the business is communicating with.

The company also says that its unique approach to scalable lead generation allows online marketers to bring the users more actionable sales leads than other methods.

In the interview, Chalk mentioned several times that too many businesses have been burned by SEO so her company has to explain to clients how it is different.

The story of TrafficSoda dates back about two-and-a-half years when Chalk, a Wilfrid Laurier University business grad, was an employee of another startup that worked in the Accelerator Centre. The company hired a consultant named Rob Farnham, an expert in the internet with 17 years of experience, to help it get more online traffic. Chalk and Farnham decided the process was so good that they should form their own company.

They did, and raised some seed funding in 2013. Soon they had their own startup working out of the Accelerator Centre, and they are now considering raising an A Round to finance further growth.

The TrafficSoda team has now grown to eight people, and the company may soon have to leave the Accelerator Centre because it will need more room.

“I went from employee to employer here, so from a personal development standpoint it’s been incredible,” said Chalk. “I don’t want to leave this place but we’re running out of space.”

FTD Highrise’s Client List Grows

samrobot

by Peter Moreira

This article originally appeared on Entrevestor.com

Filip Sobotka believes the coming six months will be critical for his company FTD Highrise Inspection, as he secures a partner with the proper drone and gauges the best way to grow in Toronto’s condo market.

Working on his own for most of the past eight years, Sobotka has built up FTD into a company whose automated systems can inspect the exterior of a building to detect potential leaks or other problems. With sales rising, he is now in the process of securing a partnership with a drone operator that can conduct the inspections allowing Sobotka to focus on sales and product development. He will soon have to decide whether to seek financing, and it so what type and how much her should try to raise.

“Scalability’s not going to be a problem because we’re morphing into a software company,” said Sobotka in an interview. “The big thing for me now is to find the right partner … and build the software in such a way that it can handle so much data.”

Sobotka began FTD when he had a summer job with his father’s caulking company and noticed the difficulty engineers have inspecting the exterior of mid- and high-rise buildings. They essentially are lowered from the roof for a visual inspection, and then they extrapolate on what they can observe in their field of vision to draw conclusions on the state of the building.

Sobotka had a revelation one day when he saw and engineer tape a smartphone to a broomstick so he could reach around a corner and get a photo. He knew there was an opportunity for an automated solution.

His first iteration was a robotic device that would scale the exterior of a building, photographing every inch of it so all every problem could be detected and followed up on. Then drones became prevalent in many industries, so FTD now uses drones to inspect the whole building.

“It doesn’t matter where the problem is, we’ll find it,” he said. “You won’t have any surprises in terms of cracks turning into leaks.”

Having scanned 30 buildings in total, the company recently hit $40,000 in monthly revenue for the first time. Sobotka has found customers among condo boards, engineering firms and developers in the Greater Toronto Area. He’s winning repeat customers as some condo boards are now asking him to plan to do a follow-on scan in three years. And he’s also gaining traction with developers because FTD can scan a whole building and find any problems before the tradespeople have left the site.

FTD Highrise operates out of the Waterloo Accelerator Centre, and Sobotka was one of the presenters at the centre’s recent Client Showcase. Now he is focusing on finding the proper partner to carry out the scans, assess the market and decide on a funding strategy.

The opportunity is huge, he said, because the owners and developers of buildings want the peace of mind to know that there will be regular, complete scans of their structures to prevent problems.

“We’re becoming the standard of care for buildings in a way,” said Sobotka. “In five years, there’s no way you aren’t scanning all the buildings all the time.”

Sociavore Preps for January Relaunch

Thusenth

by Peter Moreira

This article originally appeared on Entrevestor.com

When Sociavore launches its new platform in January, it plans to have a product whose ease of use and strategic advantages will attract restaurateurs across North America.

Originally launched under the name MyLocal, Sociavore is a marketing and customer relationship management tool designed specifically for the restaurant industry. The goal, as the company’s tagline says, is to fill restaurant seats with happy customers.

“It helps to bridge the gap between offline and online and takes that restaurant experience that they spend so much money creating and puts it online,” said Founder and CEO Thusenth Dhavaloganathan said in an interview Monday at the Waterloo Accelerator Centre, where his team works.

Dhavaloganathan’s parents own a restaurant and he grew up surrounded by the restaurant trade. So he understands the business and the time constraints involved, and he has designed Sociavore to address the particular challenges of the industry.

He understand that owner-operators don’t have time or expertise to do make multiple social media posts and update their websites. So the site from the outset has let them just send out an email and the content automatically gets posted on Facebook, Twitter and the restaurant website.

The idea is that everything in the restaurant can easily be posted – the menus, the specials, photos of the food during preparation and once it’s ready to be served. And once the viewing public sees the posted, Sociavore allows them to book a reservation at the restaurant, as well as review it afterward.

Dhavaloganathan and two co-founders (who he eventually bought out) launched the initial product in 2013 with about 20 clients. The takeup was strong enough that Dhavaloganathan left his job with BlackBerry to work full time on his startup.

Today, the company has 120 to 130 clients, mainly in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Revenues have doubled in the past year and the company (with a staff of three full-time and one part-time) pretty well breaks even. Sociavore has never raised capital, and the team will assess whether it needs funding based on the success of the new platform.

Dhavaloganathan plans to launch the new company website with the Sociavore name on Monday, and will then launch the new platform in the new year.

The rollout of the new platform will concentrate strongly on Toronto. When they make a sales call, Dhavaloganathan and his colleague try to have the several components of the restaurant’s website and social media posts already uploaded on the platform. It makes for a more impressive sales pitch. But the company also hopes to reduce its cost of customer acquisition with the new platform so the personal sales call won’t be needed.

“That’s what the new platform is all about,” said Dhavaloganathan. “It will auto-generate the whole thing and we don’t have to get involved.”

He added that the ease of use should allow the company to scale across the country.

“If we can crack Toronto, we should be able to crack New York and Los Angeles and Montreal and Vancouver.”

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