Bringing Startups Together: Collaboration at the Hardware Innovation Lab

When we opened our Advanced Manufacturing and Hardware Innovation Lab in Kitchener, our vision was to create a space where hardware companies could learn and grow their businesses, together. Some great companies have move in and the space is now becoming a place where hardware and IoT companies can use their different expertise to collaborate and help each other.

A great example these unique collaboration opportunities is Kineris Inc. When Kineris, a medtech company and AC JumpStart recipient, began work on the first prototype of their knee wearable in February, it became a project for the whole floor. The plan was to 3D print the prototype but one component was a flexible band that would allow easy motion of the knee, but they had never 3D printed with flexible material. After attempting to make it themselves without success, Kineris recruited help from our partners MyShop and later, fellow AC client, InkSmith, to get the settings just right on the 3D printer to make the band. All three companies worked together on this piece and now Kineris’ prototype looks fantastic and is ready to be shown to clients and investors.

Some of these collisions are by design. Having met AC mentor Don Thompson at Innovation Guelph, AceAge, a pharmaceutical IoT company, decided to join the Accelerator Program and moved into Gaukel at the start of 2017. The first people they were introduced to was fellow AC company and Gaukel resident, InkSmith, a 3D printer company that provides a STEAM 3D printing platform for schools K-12.

Don knew that InkSmith would be the right people to help AceAge get their first batch of devices. InkSmith was contracted to make the devices and saved AceAge more than $20,000 in production costs. “Without the services of InkSmith, we simply would not have been able to perform at clinical study at the University of Toronto” said CEO Spencer Waugh.

The best collisions at Gaukel happen purely by accident. Since mid-January, Friday Happy Hours have become a staple event. At 4pm, the whole floor takes a break to celebrate another successful and productive week. It gives everyone a chance to unwind after working insane hours and brings all the companies together to get to know each other and talk shop. Often held in Alert Labs’ office, you’ll find George from Alert Labs sharing contacts that other companies may find useful, Ashank from XYZ Interactive giving technical advice, and Josh from MyShop explaining cool ways to build things (along with donning his latest shirt creation).
One night in March, after a particularly busy Happy Hour, the founders of AceAge and O2 Canada met for nearly three hours late on a Friday, discussing brand new markets for their respective products.

If you want to learn more about the Advanced Manufacturing and Hardware Innovation Lab and maybe even join us for a Happy Hour, please contact David Hussey at dhussey@acceleratorcentre.com.

Dibbzz Partners with Interac to Improve the Experience of Concert Goers

Imagine you are at a local concert venue, about to see your favourite artists preform. You’re excited to be there, but your seats are at the back of the venue. Not the best experience.

Before the show starts, you notice there are empty seats right in the front. You wonder if they are available and if they are, how do you make a purchase? What if there was a way to upgrade to those seats, in real time, right on your phone?

With Accelerator Centre client, Dibbzz’s, new mobile upgrade platform – you can do just that.

In 2016, Dibbzz founder Brennon D’Souza, came up with the idea to find a way to get concert goes and sports fans closer to the action. “I started with trying to use video to give fans the experience of being in the front row, but one day I thought….video is great, but what if I could really get them closer,” Brennon explains. From that pivot, Dibbzz was born.

The platform, which runs on text messages, allows venues to advertise empty seats to patrons before the show. Concert goers simply send a text message to “call dibbzz” on the open seats. Its a win-win for venues and customers alike – the venue gets extra revenue from the seats that would previously have been unsold and fans get a better experience.

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Dibbzz joined the Accelerator Centre in the fall of 2016 and quickly began to utilize the AC community to make connections within the market. “Through the AC’s CEO, Paul Salvini, we were able to connect with the Centre in the Square and partner with them to test our ideas,” Brennon recalls. “It was a great opportunity for us to get our foot in the door and get some real-world feedback on the service. That’s been incredibly valuable to us.”

Starting with Centre in the Square, Dibbzz has plans to expand into other arts venues and eventually being available to all performing arts centres, theaters, and sports venues around the world.

In May, Dibbzz participated in a collision day hosted by electronic payment giant, Interac. As a result of the day, they received a $15,000 cash prize to help them bring their platform to more venues. In addition to the capital, Interac is also providing Dibbzz with their resourses and mentorship in expertise to expand the product within the market.

The concert ticketing industry was worth 7.8B in 2016 with the sports venue market being another 75B. With up to 40% of venue seats being unsold, Dibbzz is positioned to transform the way fans experience their favourite shows and events and to help venues be more profitable along the way.

To learn more about Dibbzz, visit dibbzz.com

Accelerator Centre Celebrates the Breaking Ground on a New Building and in Clean Technologies

Today, with our partners from the Cora Group, the City of Waterloo, Sustainable Waterloo Region, University of Waterloo and Laurier, we proudly celebrated the groundbreaking on a new, innovative building within the R+T Park.

Evolv1, a 100,000 square foot facility located at 420 West Graham Way, is the first multi-tenanted building of its kind in Canada. With a focus on sustainability and the clean technologies, the building will be built with LEED Platinum principles and will operate with the goal of being net positive. Being net positive means the building generates more than enough energy to maintain heating, cooling, and power needs. The excess energy is then put back into the system through the provincial grid or used for other, on-site purposes like such as electric vehicle power stations (of which the building will have 14).

 

Continuing to foster innovation in the Waterloo tech community is central to the vision and mission of the Accelerator Centre. As a partner in the development of the Evolv1 space, we are proud to be leading the development and operation of a 15,000 square foot innovation space within the facility. 5,000 square feet in that innovation space will be home to Accelerator Centre client companies focused on Clean Tech and Smart Cities technology.

“Breaking ground on this building is a major milestone in the development of this vision. We are so grateful for the dedication of the Cora Group and all the partners that are bringing this idea to reality, says Sustainable Waterloo Region Executive Director, Tova Dadvidson says. “One part of the full vision for the building is the creation of an innovation space on the ground floor. This is a space that helps to foster the development of the clean economy that is already growing in Waterloo Region. The building, partnered with the activities and partners in the space, are together truly a local game changer.”

”The space will also be the centre of Canada’s premier clean tech cluster,” explains the AC’s Director of Client Experience and Special Projects, Emily Jackson. “It is intended to restore the Canadian clean economy to a position of global leadership. By providing all the necessary expertise, a collaborative environment, and specialized resources, the Innovation space will support the development of innovations in clean tech.”

Alongside anchor tenant, EY Canada, Accelerator Centre graduate Text Now will take a significant footprint within the building. CEO, Derek Ting, recognizes the unique opportunity to position his company within the innovative facility.

“Evolv1’s proximity to the University of Waterloo puts us right next to one of the most robust talent pipelines in the world,” he says. “We’re constantly looking for ways to attract and retain the very best talent and with our mission, our unique culture and now our plan to reside in one of the coolest work spaces in Waterloo, all of the pieces are coming together.”

With today’s ground breaking ceremony, construction has officially begun and the building first tenants are set to move in sometime in 2018.

Celebrating Innovation in Advanced Manufacturing, Hardware and IoT

Nearly a year ago, we reached an agreement with the City of Kitchener and partnered with ArtsBuild Ontario to bring our world-class programming and mentorship model to downtown Kitchener. The resulting space, the Advanced Manufacturing and Hardware Innovation Lab, accommodates the very specific needs of hardware and IoT companies. Over the next several weeks, we are highlighting the success of the space by featuring some of the incredible clients, projects, and collaborations taking place in the facility.

Located in Downtown Kitchener’s Innovation District, the Hardware Innovation Lab gives our clients access to the heart of the Waterloo Region’s tech community and serves as an artistic and cultural space. The partnership with ArtsBuild Ontario, an organization that supports local artists by giving them access to tools and training, allows for some amazing opportunities for collaboration and collision. It also makes the facility one of the premier spaces for supporting the Creative Industries in the Region of Waterloo.

The creation of a hardware specific facility came in response to our clients and their need for support and mentorship directly related to hardware. We also needed a space that allowed these clients to safely use the equipment they need to create their products. Risking setting off the fire alarms while trying to solder circuit boards in a carpeted meeting room isn’t a good idea for anyone!

In the Summer of 2016, Alert Labs became the first resident company and were soon joined by seven additional companies: Kineris, O2 Canada, AceAge, XYZ Interactive, InkSmith, Rapid Novor, and My Smart Cocoon. Along with resident clients, we also welcomed our amazing Makerspace partner, MyShop, to provide clients with access to specialized prototyping tools. We also reached a partnership with Inertia Engineering, a firm of product design and manufacturing experts, to provide programming and expertise, along with their amazing services, to the companies in house. As well, we brought in an in-house Product Development Mentor, Don Thompson. With these companies, partners, and individuals available to our clients, Gaukel has grown into an amazing place to work and create.

At the Advanced Manufacturing and Hardware Innovation Lab, we like to take the “Miss Frizzle approach” to innovation. We take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. The offices here are busy and noisy with the sounds of prototyping tools and stage rehearsals. Simply put, it is a space of makers and builders. If you can imagine needing something that breaks the mould of a normal office, a wet lab, an assembly room, a show case for your product – we’ll do our best to make it happen.

But our first year of success is only the beginning. We created a space that was everything our companies needed, but heading into year two we know there’s even more opportunity support and accelerate “messy companies.” If you’re interested in learning more about the facility or out programming feel free to email David at dhussey@acceleratorcentre.com. We’re always looking for new and interesting hardware companies and would love to help you take your company to the next level.

eleven-x Leads the Way in Canadian Smart City Connectivity

The last few months have been busy for Accelerator Centre client, eleven -x. The network operator, who launched Canada’s first carrier-grade low power wide area network built for IoT, has started a pilot project with the Region of Waterloo which is a North American first, expanded their network across Canada, and increased their role in the LoRa Alliance™.

Founded in 2014, the eleven-x network, built on  LoRaWAN™ open standard technology, offers private businesses, manufacturers, and public institutions the ability to connect to “things” remotely and collect data from them via inexpensive, low power devices.

In 2015, they joined the Accelerator Centre in order to leverage the mentoring and resources available to startups to help their business grow. “We came to the Accelerator Centre for the mentorship opportunities. We had a lot of great ideas in the beginning, but there wasn’t necessarily a market fit. The mentors helped us through that,” explains CEO and Co-founder Ryan Hickey.

New IoT Projects

A recent development with the Region of Waterloo will result in Canada’s first Smart City Water Monitoring project utilizing the LoRaWAN network. Currently, the Region collects data on its water supply through a manual series of data collections from over 700 wells. The delays in data collection limits the ability for the Region to make decisions on it’s important water supply. The implementation of low-cost monitoring devices connected to the eleven-x network allows for real-time data and automated event-driven alerts that have the potential to save time and money and provide better quality services to residents.

Expanded Network

As a response to the increasing demand for Smart City programs nationwide, eleven-x announced this week the expansion of their network to 22 markets covering 60% of Canada’s population. “Our coast-to-coast network expansion supports Smart City programs, enabling application and low-cost device connectivity to take IoT to another level and reinforces our leadership position. The list projects we are involved in continues to grow alongside the numerous organizations across Canada looking to reduce costs, increase productivity and enhance their service offerings.” says Chairman and Co-Founder Dan Mathers.

Leading the Way 

As leaders in the Canadian IoT space, eleven-x has also expanded their role within the LoRa Alliance, a global association of some of the world’s top companies which provides open standard technology for secure, low-cost, low power IoT connectivity,. The transition to the Contributor Member level will allow the Alliance to leverage eleven-x’s expertise to further innovation in the global IoT space.

The worldwide IoT market is expected to continue growing rapidly and is estimated to be valued at more than $10B by 2023. As the market expands, eleven-x will continue to innovate and lead the way in Canadian IoT connectivity solutions.

Media Release: The Accelerator Centre Announces Cohort 6 of their AC JumpStart Program

June 15, 2017

Waterloo Ontario – The Accelerator Centre is pleased to announce Cohort 6 of the AC JumpStart program. The program provides each recipient $30,000 in seed funding and $10,000 of mentorship.

56 Studios

Brothers DePaul

Eagle Vision Systems Inc.

EMAGIN Clean Technologies Inc.

Finservices Inc

Healthy Pets

Jobbee Technologies Corp

Load Army

NanoCnet

Oko Social

Quali Robotics

RascalTech

Serenity Bioworks Inc.

Site Safety Solutions Inc. REBAR Safety

Teal Software

The Hockey Pro

Traffic Is Currency

Vena Medical

Visa Run Inc. (Trade Name: Sherpa)

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About AC JumpStart

AC JumpStart is funded by FedDev Ontario and delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

The AC JumpStart program began in January 2015, with three cohorts of companies participating in the program in 2015, and two cohorts annually in subsequent years. Each cohort receives funding and mentorship over a 12-month period. Over the four year term, the program will support 180 companies. 

About the Accelerator Centre

Our world-renowned, four phase accelerator program was developed based on our proven methods and best practices from accelerators and incubators around the world. The program, combined with our proven mentorship model, gives you the resources and guidance you need to grow all areas of your business, get your product to market faster, increase sales, and scale.

For more information visit www.acceleratorcentre.com. 

About FedDev Ontario

FedDev Ontario delivers programs and services to help create, retain and grow businesses, cultivate partnerships and build strong communities. The Agency’s programming is designed to support a strong southern Ontario economy and position the region to compete globally.

For more information visit www.FedDevOntario.gc.ca.

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For more information contact:
Tabatha Laverty
Community Manager
tlaverty@acceleratorcentre.com

Are you the right person to lead your startup?

In our last post, Common Attributes of Successful Startup Founders, we discussed the importance of curiosity, courage, patience, and resilience for startup founders. But we also believe that being a CEO of a startup requires a little something extra.

This is hard for a lot of entrepreneurs to accept, but the reality is, not every startup founder makes a good CEO – in fact, many don’t.

In the early days, founders manage all aspects of the business: product development, marketing, HR, finance, you name it! We call this type of CEO the Chief Everything Officer. But at some point the CEO must make the transition to a true Chief Executive Officer and the skills that helped you build your business might not be the right skills to help scale your business to global success.

Accelerator Centre mentor, Jackie Lauer builds conversations about leadership into her coaching with Accelerator Program clients early on. “Startup founders should think about their leadership team the same way they think about developing their product – there should be a strategy and a plan,” she explains. “Founders can hold leadership positions within an organization without being the CEO. A founder will always be a founder but what you need in a CEO might change overtime.”

Vidyard CEO, Michael Litt, recalls his founding team’s transition to an executive team.

“In our case, there were three people, so there was no CEO. There’s people who write code, and there are people who do everything else. As you grow, your needs for individuals in hyper-focused roles grow in certain areas, like sales, marketing, operations, and finance.

As we continued to bring people into our business, my role modified to manage the output to those people so that I could truly become a CEO. That allows you to become the chief our your executives, represent their interests to the board, and represent the boards interests back to them. When I think of a “true CEO”, I think of the importance on focusing in innovation, culture, does our business have enough money in our bank account to sustain itself.”

So what qualities do you actually need to be a true CEO?

Along with the attributes that make a good entrepreneur in general (remember our last post!), a good CEO is a systems thinker, interested in looking at the business as a whole. They are able to separate themselves from the love affair with the product and focus on growth, something technical founders usually find quite challenging.

Also, the CEO’s leadership is essential in developing your company’s culture. The CEO should embody the vision and values of the organization and has to be interested in leading people towards that vision.  

What to do if you decide you are not the choice

First, congrats! It takes a true leader to know when to play their strengths and when to look for support. Take some time to mentally process your decision and communicate it to your team.

Secondly, remember that organizational leadership should be a strategy. If you don’t have the right skills, experience, or network to be the CEO, make a list of the skills, experience and network you DO need.  

Finally, find a mentor or recruiting pro to help you find the right person. Take your time and don’t let outside factors influence your choice. Hiring a CEO is a challenge and you want to make sure you get it right!

About the Authors

Clinton Ball is the Director of Client Programs and Initiatives at the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ontario.  As the co-founder of a small software company, Clinton can relate to those building out a technology company and is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs build and scale their companies. When he’s not designing or delivering Accelerator Centre Programming you can find Clinton reading up on the latest marketing, technology and entrepreneurship resources, exploring a new trail or coffee spot, or trying to get better at his swing on the golf course.

Tabatha Laverty is the Marketing and Community Manager at the Accelerator Centre. As a passionate storyteller and digital marketer, she has worked with entrepreneurs, not-for-profits, and public service agencies for 5 years – helping them develop content, share their stories, and build their brands. When she isn’t writing or meeting new entrepreneurs, you can find her spending time with her husband and 2 young children.

Common Attributes of Successful Startup Founders

Through our work at the Accelerator Centre, I’ve met hundreds of entrepreneurs. In those meetings, I often get asked what the Accelerator Centre looks for in a potential startup client. The answer always revolves around one thing: founder attributes – who is leading your team and do they have what it takes to make it in the long run?

Over the years, our team has gotten pretty good at spotting the founders that are the best fit for our programs and the ones most likely to succeed in the long-term. This isn’t because we have a crystal ball that tells us what ideas are great, where to find that magical unicorn, or who the next super-star CEO will be. It is because successful founders have many common traits.

There are no hard and fast rules, but in my experience, the most critical traits are the ones that are not always easy to spot – curiosity, patience, courage, and resilience.

I sat down with Larry Smith, Professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo, to discuss what personality traits make for a successful entrepreneur and how to practice and learn these skills if they don’t come naturally to you.

Curiosity – Curiosity is essential. It’s the trait that drives most founders to pursue entrepreneurship. They see a problem, they explore ways to fix it. The first idea doesn’t work? They explore the next and the next, until they find the solution.

Curiosity also extends to an openness to critique and criticism, and a willingness to learn. Whether it is from a mentor, co-founder, or your customer, great founders stay open to feedback and are prepared to take action on that feedback when appropriate.

Patience – I know…patience is not necessarily the most exciting trait you can practice, but it is critical. The stereotype we see in startup culture is usually evident in founders – charge full speed ahead, seize the moment, be restless and quick to action. But the truth is, starting a business can take time – a lot of time. The founders who fail to give their ideas time to produce results, through thoughtful action and patience, will ultimately become frustrated and fail. Larry describes the trait as one of the most difficult for founders to master.

Courage – Courage is the trait that is most recognized and respected in startup culture. It’s that special something that drives founders to take the risks that are necessary to push past the challenges and naysayers and lead their businesses to success. But courage isn’t just the drive to take risks. It’s also being ready to accept failure and knowing when to adjust, pivot, or scrap an idea altogether.

Resilience – What happens when you fail? With all that courage and all those risks, failure is almost guaranteed at some point. What really sets a great founder apart from the crowd is what happens after that learning experience. Great founders get up, dust off and try the next thing – until they get it right.

Resilience is another trait that doesn’t come naturally to people. Being an entrepreneur is difficult, stressful and often a lonely experience. We often don’t know how we will react to extreme stress until we are in it, but recognizing that the experience is normal and that failure is an important part of the process can help you develop the characteristic over time.

In our next post, we will be talking specifically about the attributes of a CEO and how good CEOs make the transition from a startup CEO (Chief Everything Officer) to a true Chief Executive Officer watch for “Are You the Right Person to Lead Your Startup?” soon!


About the Authors

Clinton Ball is the Director of Client Programs and Initiatives at the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ontario.  As the co-founder of a small software company, Clinton can relate to those building out a technology company and is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs build and scale their companies. When he’s not designing or delivering Accelerator Centre Programming you can find Clinton reading up on the latest marketing, technology and entrepreneurship resources, exploring a new trail or coffee spot, or trying to get better at his swing on the golf course.

 

 

Tabatha Laverty is the Marketing and Community Manager at the Accelerator Centre. As a passionate storyteller and digital marketer, she has worked with entrepreneurs, not-for-profits, and public service agencies for 5 years – helping them develop content, share their stories, and build their brands. When she isn’t writing or meeting new entrepreneurs, you can find her spending time with her husband and 2 young children.

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