Uncorking the Bottleneck

Brisk Synergies Helps Ease Municipal Traffic Woes

From surviving the daily commute to traversing hectic side streets, anyone who’s recently driven in Toronto or any other large metropolitan city understands the impact of traffic congestion. The sheer volume of cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians adds a whole new dimension to the word congestion.

And yet, despite the magnitude of the problem, municipalities are limited in their ability to truly understand and measure the flow of traffic through the urban core.  Even when they do collect traffic related data — for instance video footage of a troublesome intersection, cities do not have the time, human resources, or expertise to wade into the data and extract meaning. As a result, a significant amount of collected data — likely containing valuable answers to the problem at hand — sits unanalyzed.

Brisk Synergies
is on a mission to solve this challenge. The company, founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur Charles Chung and transportation engineer Luis Miranda-Moreno works with city planners and transportation authorities to transform traffic movement into knowledge, allowing cities to solve critical traffic flow issues, ease congestion and design and build innovative traffic pathways through urban spaces to better serve vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.Brisk Team Photo

“This is absolutely a big data issue,” says Charles Chung. “Municipalities all want to understand and improve traffic movement and provide safer transportation paths. The problem is they have too much data, and they don’t know what to do with it. Take for example video collected over a few weeks at a single intersection. It’s important, valuable information, but the answers lie somewhere within hours and hours and hours of footage that is difficult to store, wade through and interpret. Municipalities don’t have the resources or expertise to do this analysis. It is just operationally infeasible.”

Brisk Synergies’ traffic analysis platform is able to transform the infeasible to feasible. It takes video footage supplied by the city and using proprietary algorithms, conducts deep analysis the data to zero in on specific congestion challenges — for instance, spotting collision near-misses at a specific intersection. Brisk’s platform can not only spot those accidents that almost happened, it can calculate the probability and frequency of collisions with split-second accuracy.  It can also help cities spot troublesome traffic issues and find answers to those issues much faster. “It would take man-years of time for a city to review all this footage, and even then, because humans are performing the effort the findings would be highly inaccurate an
d subjective,” says Chung. “Conversely, Brisk can have raw results back to a city in a week, and a final report back in two.”

Even better, because Brisk Synergies analysis highlights incidents within video frames, transportation managers can call up the footage and review the scenario first hand

Since moving into the Accelerator Centre in 2014, Chung and the team have been busy building out their platform and taste testing various traffic analysis applications to find the areas of greatest pain for its prospective customers.

“Video analysis of troublesome intersections is definitely showing the greatest market traction and will be where we focus our attention going forward,” says Charles Chung. “It is not an easy problem for municipalities to solve themselves and it has a lot of pain associated with it. The understanding we are able to bring to the table delivers real value.” He points to one project in the Greater Toronto Area, where the city was able to use Brisk’s analysis to greatly improve traffic flow through a specific intersection.

Over the last year, Brisk Synergies received a huge boost courtesy of $30K in AC JumpStart funding, made available through FedDev Ontario. “What we do requires very heavy, specialized skillsaround deep analysis of data. AC JumpStart enabled us to bring in key personnel offering unique value to our customers. It really helped accelerate our focus,” says Chung. In addition, the AC JumpStart program allowed Brisk to access additional mentor hours.  “One of the biggest benefits coming out of the AC is the mentor guidance it provides. Mentors give you that real feedback that most people don’t have the heart to tell you. They understand business. Are familiar with the pain and challenges that affect startups. That sincere perspective is what makes the AC different from other incubator spaces out there.”

With a focused objective, Brisk Synergies is all about execution in 2017.  Says Charles Chung, “it took us a while to define the offering that would deliver the greatest value. With that clarity, we are now pulling together the troops to align sales, marketing and our R&D and take the company to the next level.”

Flying High: University of Waterloo drone startup Pegasus Aeronautics takes off with the help of AC JumpStart Funding

With applications in law enforcement, agriculture, retail, military and other sectors, the global commercial drone market is booming, with an estimated CAGR of 16.9% through to >$1.2B US by 2022.

For industrial applications, drones — flying unmanned robots — offer a significantly more affordable, nimble and safer alternative over traditional aircraft or helicopters. However there is one significant drawback. Drones, which are typically powered by lithium batteries, are limited in their flight time and range. With the added weight of sensors and cameras, the average industrial drone can only achieve about 15 minutes of fly time, including take off and landing.

This time constraint has proved to be a huge inhibitor for growth, explains Matthew McRoberts, CEO of Pegasus Aeronautics. “If you are doing a land survey or inspection of a wind turbine, the fact drones today have very limited air time really limits their usability.”

McRoberts and co-founders Joe Kinsella and John Biskey met in residence while studying engineering at University of Waterloo. Over the four years, the three collaborated on various school projects, and in fourth year, McRoberts and Kinsella teamed up for their final engineering capstone. The challenge they sought to tackle: a new solution to extend the range of drones.

“We always knew we wanted to do something that was drone related.  Drone range limitation is a well understood challenge within the industrial sector and one of the largest problems facing industrial drone manufacturers, so it was a logical choice,” explains Matt McRoberts.

Many other companies have sought to solve the problem in the past, but most solutions have focused around the battery itself, says McRoberts. “They’ve tried tweaking the battery. Automatic battery swapping. Recharging stations. Even solar power. But they basically are stepping around the primary source of the problem – the battery.”

McRoberts, Kinsella (Biskey joined the team after the initial capstone) decided to chart a different course with their engineering, setting out to create gas/electric (hybrid) powertrain alternative to the battery.

“We felt that a gas/electric hybrid system was the only and best way to solve the problem. But no one had done it before. First, it is very difficult to make gas engines run in the first place. And on top of that, we had to design power electronics that would be lightweight enough they can fit on something that can fly.”

Proving through the capstone that it was possible to create the envisioned powertrain, the team was encouraged by its faculty advisor to found a company to commercialize the technology and Pegasus Aeronautics was born.

Pegasus Product Shot
FedDev Ontario JumpStart funding, secured through the Accelerator Centre, provided the young company with a critical injection of capital to move forward. “AC JumpStart funding and mentorship was a real tipping point for our business,” says Matt McRoberts. “We were facing two paths post graduation. Leave our technology on the table, or pursue it as a business. AC JumpStart allowed us to take our project and turn it into a real commercial opportunity.”

Access to Accelerator Centre’s team of mentors, provided as part of the JumpStart funding program also provided to be instrumental to the founders. “The mentorship we received totally changed the way we thought about how we would structure business. The mentors — Kevin Hood (sales mentor) in particular urged us to do primary research to really understand our industry, our competitors. It gave us a huge edge on the competition. First, we learned that a universal powertrain would have widest appeal and allow us to partner with all industrial drone manufacturers. Second, we learned that ease of use was critical – researchers in the field are not engine experts. I can’t overstate the contribution Kevin made to our business.”

The team at Pegasus Aero are now readying to bring their final product to market. Over the next few months, they will be doing some field beta testing to collect final feedback, and have customers lined up anxious to get their hands on the company’s unique hybrid powertrain.

“Just to get the job done, field teams using drones today are lugging hundreds of pounds of batteries into the field and are spending $14,000 a year or more per platform in battery costs,” says McRoberts. “Our solution is so easy to use, a field worker can pull the drone out of the back, siphon gas from the truck and be up in the air for 8 times as long. Fortunately for us, marketing around those kinds of advantages is pretty much a no brainer. We help industrial drone manufacturers overcome a really big barrier. So when we explain what we do to folks in the industry, the response is “how soon can get our hands on it?”

The Accelerator Centre Announces 2nd Cohort of Startups into Their Newly Redesigned Incubation Program

Media Release

We are pleased to announce the companies that will comprise the second cohort of Phase One clients in our newly redesigned Accelerator Program.

The companies in our world-renowned incubation program are selected through a very competitive process and represent the best-of-the-best in technology and entrepreneurship in the region and around the world.

Companies joining the second cohort of Phase One are:

  • Travel wholesale – Quest Travel
  • Search engine optimizationTraffic is Currency
  • Nano Technology – NanoCNET
  • Lidar systems developmentSingle Quantum Systems
  • Veterinary technologyHealthy Pets
  • Mobile payment softwareFinserve
  • Health and safety software – Site Safety Solutions
  • Hockey technology – TheHockeyPro
  • Waste management/Public service technology – Eagle Vision Systems
  • Live global mapping program – Live Anywhere
  • Video game technology56 Studios

“I am always impressed by the wide variety of innovative and impactful ideas that these entrepreneurs bring to the table. I am pleased to welcome cohort two into the Accelerator Program and I am excited to see them build and scale successful, global businesses.”  – Paul Salvini, CEO, Accelerator Centre.

Phase One is the first of four phases within our recently restructured two-year incubation program. The program offers customized, milestone-based programming alongside the proven mentorship model we are best known for. At the end of the Phase Four, our clients graduate with confidence, knowing all areas of their business are ready for long-term success.

For more information on the companies in cohort two, our programming, or to learn how to apply for the next cohort contact:

Tabatha Laverty

Community Manager


JumpStart Success Story – Oneiric


Oneiric Scores Big Success in HockeyTech with Help from AC JumpStart

Take two ambitious but coachable founders, an innovative product and a heavy dollop of hard work and you get, Oneiric, one of Canada’s up and coming hockey tech success stories.

The brainchild of Wilfrid Laurier grad Emily Rudow, the inspiration for Oneiric’s innovative base layer pant grew out of her own hockey-playing experiences.

“I’ve been playing hockey for 20+ years and when I was a kid, I hated the long process of getting dressed and leaving games with bruises at the back of my leg from areas left exposed,” says Emily. “Shin pads were always sliding around all over the place, and there was definitely a need for more safety in equipment to protect players from harm — for instance blade lacerations.

“The idea for our base layer pant came to fruition in my fourth year New Venture creation class at Laurier while completing my Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Drawing on my playing experiences, I developed an enhanced base layer with features to address both dressing and safety challenges. For instance, our pant includes shin pad pockets that allow player dress quickly and more easily, while keeping shin pads more secure. We also added back of leg padding and a cut-resistant ankle to protect those vulnerable areas currently left unprotected by today’s hockey equipment.”

After hearing from her classmates, past coaches, and old hockey friends that the base layer pant was indeed a good idea, Emily decided to pursue the business opportunity post graduation.

While working at a marketing firm in downtown Toronto, she met Kayla Nezon, who eventually became her business partner and co-founder.

Since launching Oneiric’s base layer pant for youth in the Spring of 2016, Rudow and Nezon have been hustling big time to create exposure and open sales channels for their product. The two have competed in multiple pitch competitions, winning RIC Centre’s “Unlock Your Big Pitch,” GTAN|Start, and the Ignite Capital Award, and coming in as a runner up in the Fierce Founder’s Pitch Competition. They also were awarded $30,000 in JumpStart funding through the Accelerator Centre (AC), offering them access to the AC’s team of expert mentors. They have landed 17 retail store partnerships across Canada, and signed a vendor agreement with Source for Sports to distribute their product. They’ve been featured in the Waterloo Record, Canadian Business, the Globe and Mail, and the Financial Post. And, the year culminated with an appearance on CBC’s The Dragon’s Den, where the co-founders were offered deals from several Dragons.

In the face of all this success, the mentorship provided through the AC JumpStart program remains a stand-out for the Toronto-based Oneiric founders.

“The JumpStart program has helped our business tremendously,” says Emily Rudow. The funding helped to bring us to the next level by allowing us to assemble our first order of inventory and fuel marketing and awareness efforts. However, the coaching from the AC’s incredible mentors has provided us with the most benefit. The Accelerator Centre community is warm, supportive, and full of entrepreneurial spirit and it is fair to say that we wouldn’t be where we are today without the program and the mentors’ amazing support.

ACJumpStart is made possible by and investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and is delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

“We’ve achieved incredible traction with the help of our amazing mentors. If we could stay in the program forever, we would.” – Emily Rudow

Welcome to Startup U

The Accelerator Centre’s Unique Accountability-Based Programming Sets Startups on a Pathway to Long-term Business Success

Since it first opened its doors in 2006, the Accelerator Centre has continuously invested in its programming and mentorship, ensuring the young companies who enter through its doors receive the most current and world-class guidance when building their businesses.

“The Accelerator Centre’s main value proposition lies in the fact we provide a very hands-on, accountability driven approach to incubation over a two year period,” says Clinton Ball, Director, Client Programs & Initiatives at the Accelerator Centre. “Similar to an accelerator, we really look to be efficient and strategic in the way we deliver programming over set time periods, so that we, and our clients always have an end goal in mind.”

With a decade of experience under its belt and 55 graduates out the door the Accelerator Centre is now refining its programming and accountability structure, to embrace all generations of startups, breaking its proven model into four distinct accelerator phases.

“We want to assist companies at every stage from ideation through to scale up,” explains Ball. “The main differentiator of this program is that it sets out very clear objectives and goals for companies in each of the four phases, so there is built in accountability, and so startups clearly understand the value of participating in our program. On the flip side, this model holds the Accelerator Centre accountable as well.”

The breakdown of the program into four phases also dictates how the Accelerator Centre dedicates its resources. “Unlike the typical incubator, we have a paid mentorship program, with mentors serving as a “virtual executive team,” available on demand to clients,” explains Ball. “Our mentors are responsible for driving the programming alongside our client experience team with the client companies. In addition to that dedicated style of mentorship, we also have milestone and advisory board meetings for each of our clients, staged quarterly where we can examine the company’s progress.”

Where in the past, the program was focused on slightly more mature startups with solid business plans, the new four-phase acceleration program has been expanded to assist entrepreneurs with the early ideation phase. “For big ideas, in Phase One we provide a safe environment where entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs can determine if they have the organizational and financial competencies to make the business happen, and the market knowledge to assess problem/solution fit. It’s perfect for researchers, struggling start-ups, and corporate employees”

Market knowledge is acquired through primary and secondary market research, guided by the AC Pathfinder methodology, an Accelerator Centre-developed lean canvas and framework built upon Steven Blank’s principles. “At the end of the day, we and our clients need to know if this an idea that can make money,” says Ball. “We aim to cultivate sustainable revenue-generating companies through our program.”

Companies are stage-gated through the accelerator phases using a red light, yellow light, green light model. Not all progress. “After Phase One, we need to know if the product has a market, and if it is sizeable enough to allow the business to generate revenue organically or attract funding,” says Ball. “If those indicators of investment readiness and market are there, then the company proceeds forward into Phase Two.”

Like any university or college, each accelerator phase has a defined curriculum, which is mastered by clients over approximately two years – comparable to the duration of a typical graduate program. Each client is provided at the outset with an AC Program Guide, so as they progress they can benchmark themselves against the curriculum, against the experiences of the Accelerator Centre’s 50+ graduates, and the expectations of the Accelerator Centre’s mentors and advisory network. “From day one as a client, you can see what the expectation of a graduate looks like and work towards it,” says Ball.

Along with the new program refinements, the Accelerator Centre has implemented an extensive Advisory Network to supplement the knowledge and skills provided by the incubator’s seven core mentors. This provides clients with a range of viewpoints from industry experts, serial entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and those involved in venture capital.

In Phase Two to Four, companies focus on product market fit through to scalability. Phase Two curriculum addresses core aspects of growing a business, such as defining the entry market, organizational structure, long-term brand strategy, product strategy and sales process. In Phases Three to Four, companies are focused on constructing a repeatable sales model, expanding their management team, and exploring markets beyond their entry point – including foreign markets.

In the six months prior to graduation, the Accelerator Centre brings in Ernst and Young to prepare the exiting companies for going global, investment preparation, and understanding employee incentives. Companies also refine their management structure and brand proposition.

Graduates from the program are defined by clear criteria. They have a repeatable scalable business model, they are globally relevant or have plans for globalization, and have a monthly recurring revenue to stay bootstrapped or adversely are positioned to attract late seed stage or series A investment.

The Accelerator Centre’s graduate wall, displayed in the incubator’s main networking area clearly illustrates that the incubator has proven its ability to produce high calibre graduates. The Accelerator Centre’s 55 graduate companies now represent a portfolio of over $2B dollars and enjoy a long term success rate of >90%, which is actually the inverse of the rest of the startup world. Many graduates have recently raised significant rounds of investment (Axonify $27M, Intellijoint $11M, Clearpath $51M, KIK $50M, Miovision $30M). There have been several mergers and acquisitions, and several Accelerator Centre graduates appeared on the 2016 lists for Deloitte Fast 50 and the Profit 500.

“The main mandate of this program is to create real revenue generating companies that can produce real impact not only for our community, but also for the Canadian economy,” says Clinton Ball. “With the recent refinements of our program and model, we hope to continue this success, and produce more companies of this kind of calibre even faster than before.”