ACORN Cryotech Take Their Dream to JLABS with the Help of AC JumpStart

ACORN Cryotech co-founder, Steven ten Holder, spent his childhood as a self described introvert. As a teen, he found himself deeply interested in the literature and research of the great bio-scientists of our time and was fascinated with the science behind human life and how we die. His early interests inspired him to start ACORN Cryotech and dedicate his life to studying and creating new ways to preserve, sustain, and help improve human life.

ACORN, an at home cryopreservation service, is the first of its kind. The service has created an easy, non-invasive kit to help people freeze and preserve their young, healthy cells, which can then be utilized in life and healthspan extending technologies.

Gene therapies, organ regeneration, and stem-cell technology are predicted to completely change the future of healthcare and the ACORN team is proud to be leading the way in both the development of those technologies and the future of a cell-based, health conscious society.

So why cryotech?

As a genetic engineering student at the University of Waterloo, Steven knew the value of cell preservation and wanted to figure out the best methods for doing so. Much the way blood banks store and preserve blood cell donations by freezing them before transfusions, Steven had the idea of testing this preservation method with other cell samples such as urine, cheek, and hair cells. He was excited to test his theory of preserving other cells at different temperatures and for different periods of time, however, he wasn’t able to complete the project with the resources he had access to but he knew this was an experiment he wanted to try going forward. Eventually, Steven was able to get his hands on the right equipment to test cryopreservation (a cell freezing process typically −80 °C using solid carbon dioxide or −196 °C using liquid nitrogen). This allowed him the ability to discover that other types of cells can in fact be frozen, preserved, and utilized for health research and other life extending technologies that are under development and resulted in to the development of ACORN and his dedication to the genetic cryopreservation of human cells to improve and extend human life.

 

Today, ACORN Cryotech resides at Velocity and has secured funding and support from investors and science partners as well as from  YC Fellowship, Communitech, Creative Destruction Lab. In 2016, ACORN also received a $30,000 grant and $10,000 in mentorship through AC JumpStart.

In addition to the funding, Steven was blown away by the value of the mentorship:

“As a science-based company, I went into those mentorship meetings open-minded, but not really understanding how marketing could help us as we developed prototypes and did our research – but I admit, it changed everything. Learning about sales and marketing and how to reframe our approach helped us to source materials, equipment, build our prototype, reach out to folks, get investors  and continue to elevate our entire business. The mentors have experience and are willing to work with your specific business to unveil how they can best guide and help us. It has been such a pleasure working with them, and we are grateful.”

After completing the AC JumpStart program the Acorn team were able to build a prototype, get a group of beta-testers, secured valuable investments, and are bringing on new staff, making  them a team of five. They are now preparing for a move to Toronto to work out of the Johnson & Johnson Innovation space called JLABS.

Although they are headed to Toronto, one thing is clear, their hearts will always be in the Waterloo tech ecosystem “Without this region and programs like AC JumpStart,” Steven reflects “my dream wouldn’t have happened, and our company would not be where it is today – simple as that.”

Stay tuned for more on Acorn as they prepare for the product launch in 2018.

AC JumpStart 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,  Laurier, and the University of Waterloo.

Big Science Out Of A Small Lab

Originally published in the Record
KITCHENER — In the lab at Rapid Novor, a molecular scientist lays bare the microscopic-building blocks of antibodies that are increasingly used in the fight against cancer, diagnostics and new medicines.

Rapid Novor, a startup that went through the Accelerator Centre in the David Johnston Research and Technology Park, is now based at 44 Gaukel St. in downtown Kitchener. Specializing in what’s called protein sequencing, the six-member team is among a small, but growing, number of biotech startups in the region.

The human body produces antibodies to fight diseases and infections. Antibodies are made of protein. And protein is made of amino-acids — the building blocks of human life.

There about 20 common types of amino acids. Rapid Novor has combined its software with the latest in laboratory equipment and, after investing a million dollars to open the lab, it can quickly determine which amino acids make up an antibody. Just as importantly, it discovers the order, or sequence, of those amino acids, which are long, chain-shaped molecules.

That information is used to make drugs, diagnose diseases and treat cancer, said Zac McDonald, a molecular scientist and biochemist at Rapid Novor.

“That’s why the interest in it is so high because there is a lot of potential for using antibodies in cancer treatment,” said McDonald.

The antibodies can direct drugs to the right targets or block certain pathways associated with cancer.

“It is a huge, multibillion market,” said McDonald, who emigrated from South Africa in April to join the startup in downtown Kitchener.

The lab where McDonald works is the first of its kind in this region, and among the few anywhere that has the equipment for what is called next-generation-protein sequencing.

Traditionally, that would take up to two months to do Rapid Novor can do in one week. It is because of the latest equipment in mass spectrometry lab coupled with the algorithm developed by one of the startup’s co-founders — Dr. Bah Ma, the president and chief scientist at Rapid Novor. Ma is also a professor at the University of Waterloo.
Gene sequencing is not new. Using a sample of saliva, there are companies that sequence the genes in your DNA to see what diseases or conditions you are likely to develop during your lifetime, or where your ancestors are from. That’s called genomics.

Protein molecules are made up of long chains of amino acids. Identifying the different parts of that chain, and the correct order of those parts, is called proteomics. Rapid Novor has the first proteomics-grade lab in this region.

It April 2015 Ma, a professor at the Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, was ready to commercialize his algorithms that automated a key part of this scientific field. The sophisticated machines analyze the protein samples, identifying the amino acids and producing huge amounts of information.

In the past it would take a scientist up to two months to sort all of that information. Ma’s algorithm does that automatically and quickly. Rapid Novor can have results for clients, which include big and small pharmaceutical companies, in three weeks. For a special fee it can be done in as little as one week.

In the past year, it has completed the protein sequence for 120 antibodies.

Mingjie Xie, a co-founder and chief executive officer, said there are tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of pieces that make up a protein sequence. The antibody samples that arrive in the lab are in a solution and, at 200 micrograms, are invisible.

After adding enzymes, shaking, spinning and heating a sample, the antibody is broken into its different parts, and ready for analysis in a mass spectrometer machine. That information, coupled with the startup’s algorithms, puts this small lab at the cutting edge.

“This technology is fairly new,” said Xie. “To be able to use it in commercial settings, this is very new service.”

Meet Charles Chung, CEO and Founder, Brisk Synergies

Originally Published in WATCH  – a publication of the David Johnston R+T Park

WATCH: How did your startup journey begin?

CHARLES: Brisk Synergies isn’t my first startup. My first was a tough learning experience. I think it’s important to do a first startup because it primes your brain, it makes you realize a lot which is a big help. One thing I’ve found over my time as an entrepreneur is that there’s a lot of value in working with a partner. This time with Brisk Synergies I have a partner in Montreal and an office there, so I go back and forth a lot. Having a co-founder to bounce ideas off of makes it easier to make calculated decisions instead of going with your gut feeling. I think in that aspect it’s really important.

WATCH: CAQWhere did the idea for Brisk Synergies come from?

CHARLES: My co-founder is a professor at McGill. We were friends years ago and finally met up again, just a few years ago for a beer. He began telling me about his research which focuses on traffic. He’s using data analytics to reduce congestion, save lives, reduce accidents — I thought it was fascinating. Just a very exciting space to be in. He was equally fascinated by my background, which is focused on technology commercialization. That’s how we got started.

WATCH: Two skills sets that found each other?

CHARLES: Yes, and we were able to build on a pretty long friendship too. I think that helps a lot because you have to fall back on that along the journey. You bring together different perspectives and it’s nice to have more than just business to fall back on — it’s important. To some degree, being co-founders is like a marriage.

WATCH: What is life like in the R+T park for a startup?

CHARLES: My company is based out of the Accelerator Centre in the R+T Park and it’s a really good place for tapping into the startup ecosystem. Our company will grow from here. Entrepreneurship is a really lonely journey. Having connections and the peers who are growing up together is really helpful. You feel like you’re not the only crazy guy. Being part of the AC provides a lot of reassurance.

WATCH: What drew you to the Accelerator Centre to found your startup?

CHARLES: My first startup was on the West Coast. I’m from Singapore and have lived all over. I primarily chose Waterloo because of my family, my wife. However, the AC right is definitely a place to be to tap into our area’s startup ecosystem. I feel that there’s a common team among all the peers.

WATCH: Waterloo offers a lot for startups, but are there still areas for improvement?

CHARLES: From working in different ecosystems I’ve found that Waterloo Region, in general, has a lot of experience to offer. There are a lot of companies that are doing some cool shit here. However, I see an opportunity for improvement in the way that sharing happens. I would like to see us doing a better job at connecting startups with established, proven business leaders. There’s a lot of experience to be shared. I feel that it could be a better integrated where there is an ecosystem where the communication is open. I feel that as an individual company you really need to go hunt and look but the networking is not as natural. Companies need to remember where they came from.

WATCH: Brisk is focused on smart cities technology, providing intelligence to improve transportation systems. That work has presented you with the opportunity to work with other AC graduates – can you update us?

CHARLES: Yes, we are closely working with Miovision, one of the AC’s first grads. Together we are building technology to visualize cities and their transportation networks. We want to understand how traffic is moving across cities to assist with urban planning and to help cities monitor traffic pattern changes and understand where there are different issues on the road. This partnership has resulted in quite a number of deployments across numerous cities, mostly thanks to Miovision’s existing network of contacts, so we have a good level of data coming in from various cities to help us with the development of the solution. Hopefully, in the coming months, we will be able to package up the solution and launch it with beta users to obtain real feedback. So the project is on track.

WATCH: What’s next for Brisk Synergies?

CHARLES: A lot. We are busy rolling out new technologies and new solutions. We are always looking for new ways to help cities understand vulnerabilities on the road. Our message is resonating really well with the whole concept of Smart Cities. There is a lot of interest among municipalities in new infrastructures, cameras, and to being able to look at how traffic is moving and the associated risks. Cities around the world are embracing technology for this purpose. For instance, Sweden has introduced Vision Zero, a concept which focuses on reducing death on the roads and dangerous collisions. The whole industry is going through major disruption right now. Everywhere practitioners and cities are opening themselves up and looking beyond just road construction. They are realizing there’s to solving the traffic problems we face than simply fixing the road constantly. They want to figure out what information we can get from the roads. I think it’s an exciting time to be in the transportation technology space.

Media Release: The Accelerator Centre Relaunches Startup Visa Program

Waterloo (Ontario), CANADA, July 17, 2017

The Accelerator Centre (AC) is pleased to announce the relaunch of its Startup Visa Program. As an approved business incubator for Canada’s premier international entrepreneur recruitment program, the AC has become one of a select group of certified technology incubators who can endorse foreign entrepreneurs and help them establish their businesses in Canada.

Canada’s Startup Visa Program, which is the first of its kind worldwide, was originally launched in 2014 and was relaunched in April of 2017 with the government’s renewed focus on attracting international talent through the Global Skills Strategy and building Canada’s reputation as a leader in technology and innovation. The program provides permanent residency to innovative startup entrepreneurs who want to build companies in Canada that can create new jobs, spur economic growth and compete on a global scale.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship knows no geographic boundaries,” says Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre.  “The Accelerator Centre is recognized worldwide for its programming and mentorship. As a certified member of Canada’s Startup Visa Program, we can leverage our world class programming to help more entrepreneurs develop businesses that inspire global leadership.”

Entrepreneurs that are accepted into the Startup Visa Program through the AC will locate their businesses within one of the accelerator’s four locations in the Toronto Waterloo Corridor and will participate in the AC’s world renowned Accelerator Program to ensure they have the best chance at sustaining global success.

Applications for the Accelerator Centre Startup Visa Program open July 17, 2017.

Learn more about Start-up Visa Program, visit our website.

About the Accelerator Centre

The Accelerator Centre® (AC) is dedicated to building and commercializing technology start-ups. The AC provides an essential combination of mentorship, educational programming, professional office space, networking, and access to funding, with a goal of building successful companies. Over a two year period, we help entrepreneurs move from startup to scale, accelerate their time to market, and attract customers, investment, and revenue.

Since 2006, the Accelerator Centre has developed and nurtured over 200 early-stage technology start-ups, creating 2100+ new jobs, and generating more than $550 million in revenue. The 55 companies have graduated from the Accelerator Program represent some of the biggest named in the Canadian technology ecosystem.

For further information, please contact:
Tabatha Laverty
Community Manager
Accelerator Centre
tlaverty@acceleratorcentre.com

 

SSIMWAVE Focuses on Viewer Experience and Delivers a New Gold Standard in Video Monitoring and Optimization for Broadcasters

We’ve all tried to watch our favourite movie, TV series, or live event and become frustrated by the video or sound quality, the placement of ads, or the loading speed. For viewers, the experience is annoying, disappointing, and probably results in them giving up and moving on to another source of video, but, for broadcasters, studios, and video delivery services, it could mean lost revenue.

That’s where SSIMWAVE comes in. For the first time in history, the company provides the media and entertainment industry with a solution based on real-time viewer intelligence to deliver the ultimate viewer experience – from the camera to the screen. The technology starts with the most accurate and complete video quality measure ever built. By accurately modeling and measuring human viewers’ quality-of-experience (QoE), video broadcasters can take full advantage of digital efficiencies to architect encoding and stream optimization to meet or exceed consumer expectations.

SSIMWAVE’s end-to-end products are in market with leading broadcasters, production studios, and telecom companies and they are delivering real results. SSIMWAVE software allows these companies to utilize viewer intelligence data to accurately predict viewer experience and create a consistent and common reference point for video quality – something the industry has never seen before. That means companies can eliminate the trial and error process when it comes to testing infrastructure and delivery methods and can ensure a consistent viewer experience regardless of what device or platform the video is being delivered on.  The result is that viewers get the best possible experience and broadcasters can create efficiencies and make guarantees to content producers and consumers on the quality of the viewer experience for any screen anywhere.

The company, founded by University of Waterloo professor Zhou Wang and PhDs Abdul Rehman and Kai Zeng, is the result of 25 years of research and development. Impressively, the technology is built on SSIMPLUS, the next generation algorithm based on Professor Wang’s breakthrough structural similarity (SSIM) algorithm that won an Engineering Emmy Award last year for its impact to the TV industry over the last decade and which has resulted in almost 40,000 academic citations – far more than any other work in the space.

In 2013, the University of Waterloo provided the SSIMWAVE team with funding to get their project off the ground. That injection of capital helped them build the product. Once they were ready to begin selling into the market Gary Brock, Director of Strategic Initiatives, introduced the SSIMWAVE team to the Accelerator Centre (AC).

In 2015, they joined the Accelerator Program and immediately began utilizing the mentorship available to them. “Both Kevin Hood and Kevin Elop were very helpful to us, ” CEO and Co-founder Abdul Rehman recalls. “When we started, we were engineers. We had no business experience. Working with the mentors gave us the confidence to grow our business knowing that whatever challenges we ran into, someone at the AC would be there to help us put the pieces of the puzzle together. They gave us the confidence to be successful.”

In June of this year, SSIMWAVE relocated to a new office space to accommodate their rapidly growing staff, including the addition of an experienced executive team including Dianne Mercer for sales, Saj Jamal for marketing and Steve McCartney as President to oversee business development, operations and strategic growth. The AC’s flexible programming means that even though they are no longer located at the AC facility, they can continue to utilize the mentorship until they graduate from the program. “One of our biggest priorities now is building our team up to be ready to grow and scale rapidly,” Abdul says. “Now, the mentors can advise not only our founding team, but our new staff members as well to help them excel in their own roles.”

Over the next few years, SSIMWAVE is expected to continue to grow rapidly and become the international, gold standard for measuring video quality. “We look forward to seeing SSIMWAVE in the credits of every movie or TV series made,” Abdul says. “We’re actively putting the pieces in place and we are ready.”

Engineers for Hope Bring Clean Water and Sanitation Facilities to Underprivileged Communities

20 million people in Bangladesh drink from contaminated water sources and 2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to sanitation facilities. What began as a student group, comprised of six University of Waterloo students, has turned into a social innovation powerhouse that promises to bring clean water and proper sanitation facilities to those people.

In June of this year, the Accelerator Centre welcomed, Engineers for Hope (EFH) to our headquarters facility in Waterloo so they could continue combining their passion for helping others with their technical skills to improve lives around the world.

Starting with their first project in Khuskshia, Bangladesh in late 2016, EFH works to install hand pumps that deliver water to under served communities and establish infrastructure that supports proper sanitation facilities.

EFH completed its first project in Khukshia, Bangladesh between September 2016 to December 2016, where the organization installed eight hand pumps in order to give the rural village’s residents access to clean water.

CEO and Co-founder Nirbhay Singh started the organization with co-founders Rumman Rahman, Adnan Abu Atiya, Tariq Hasan, Shihab Saadeldeen, and Youssef Zaki after witnessing the impact of poverty and lack of access to clean water in India as a child. “We want work together for the betterment of these people,” Nirbhay explains. “This feeling is better than having a job,” Rumman adds. “It’s the satisfaction that you can make a difference. Now that we have a platform to do so, we want to take full advantage of it.”


While at the Accelerator Centre, EFH is accessing mentorship and expertise from the in-house mentor team as well as specialist in the not-for-profit space to help them plan and execute on future projects. “It’s been really great in terms of connecting with people, networking , and getting mentorship,” said Nirbhay. “They know what they are doing and they are experts in providing guidance.”

In addition to bringing clean water and sanitation infrastructure, EFH is focused on sustainability. “We want to make sure that whatever we do in the rural community, it’s sustainable,” said Nirbhay. “Our infrastructure is built by locals and maintained by locals.”

EFH is currently planning for their next project, also located in India. The project is estimated to begin later in 2017.

For more information on EFH visit:
http://www.engineersforhope.com/

Turn Your Brand Stories Into Sales

We’ve covered the importance of brand development for startups and the role of storytelling in connecting with potential customers. Now we are going to turn it around and talk content marketing – how to turn your stories into sales.

The term “content” covers a lot of bases. It can be anything from a blog post, an ebook, a video, a case study, the list goes on and on. Developing a content strategy means figuring out how to deliver just the right amount of content to your prospective customers in just the right place, at just the right time.

For today’s consumers, with high expectation and short attention spans, getting content right is critical part building a business.

We sat down with Milestone Integrated Marketing Partner, Stacy Barr to learn how he feels about content marketing and how he recommends his client implement content into their overall strategy.

Clinton: How important do you feel is content generation for a business?

Stacy: Crucial. We live in a world of click bait, top 5 lists and such.  We are consuming content on an ongoing basis. Our appetite for content is increasing but the depth of the level which we want to engage with each piece of content is decreasing. No one wants to read a twenty-page white paper. What we are focusing on right now is a lot of content generation that is focused on quick two minute, three minute, four minute reads.  You get the story, you get the idea and then you’re out.

The days of twenty page white papers, fifteen page brochures and just shoving it down people’s throat at the start of their purchase journey or when they are just getting interested, are not only dead, they should have been dead a long time ago.

Clinton: Let’s talk about that.  In a digital journey it is probably not a good idea to try to bank on someone just reading your white paper and becoming a qualified lead, interested in your brand or your product.  So should startups design their content strategy and change what they deliver along the sales journey.

Stacy B:  The great thing about content is that it applies differently to different levels of the purchase chain. For example, If I just met you, I would never start telling you my most intimate details of who I am. I’d start at a high level. It’s the same as if you are trying to sell something to somebody.  At the top level of that purchase funnel, tell stories, give them that sixty second pitch. If they are interested take them on a journey, start feeding them specific content that matches their interest.  When I’m ready to purchase, the content you are going to give me is going to be different from when you’re just trying to get my interest, because my engagement with you as a brand is going to be totally different.

Also, if you are a young brand and you’re trying to get traction you don’t always have to create your own content but you can utilize existing content to go back and communicate your point of view. You can comment in an interesting, engaging way which starts to create conversations.  

Clinton: If I am a startup founder and I want to utilize existing content  or create my own, what’s most important

Stacy: I think personality is a key part of it. Look at Elon Musk, so, some of his ideas are absolutely, completely out there but he has a personality, he has an approach.  He’s trying to change the world and it makes him interesting. The last thing anybody in the world wants is a young startup, creating another white paper, another webinar, another boring approach, right?  Intrigue me, interest me, take your story and put a spin on it.  

Clinton B: That’s great. How about measuring success. I think a lot of start-ups spend a whole lot of time on gaining twitter followers but they’re not going into a sales funnel, they’re not becoming advocates or ambassadors. What’s the value in that?

Stacy B:  Nothing, right?  We have a lot of our clients who have in previous years focused on exactly that, those metrics of success; this idea that simply having followers on twitter or Facebook is a metric of success. But is it? With new algorithms, your followers may not even see your posts – especially on social platforms where advertising is their key revenue generator.

The problem is that even with SEO hopefully getting someone to your website.  You only get one chance to make a first impression. You’d better make sure it’s good, because that person has taken the time and energy and you could be a qualified lead or a qualified prospect.

I worked with a brand that had hundreds of thousands of followers and their sales were tanking.  Their followers only joined the social media channel to get a coupon. After that they didn’t care, so they were deaf to the message They didn’t even see it.  They joined to grab a coupon, they haven’t engaged with you since  

Clinton B: So, it comes down to your engagement?

Stacy:  Absolutely. An engagement for purpose.  At the end of the day we are all in business to promote our product or our service, so at the end of the day if you are not leading your followers  towards a sale, or an ongoing relationship that leads to continued sales, it’s probably a wasted opportunity.

Tech and The Arts at 44 Gaukel

When we opened our Hardware and Advanced Manufacturing Lab almost a year ago, we wanted to build a place where the Arts, technology, and broader community could come together and support each other. Expanding our operations into the Kitchener downtown core allowed us to have a deeper impact in the Waterloo Region beyond supporting tech startups and companies. Being located in the core of downtown comes with unique opportunities to work with organizations that strive to improve the everyday well-being of youth and underprivileged groups and we’ve welcomed the opportunity to expand our impact on the community through the programs in the building.

One of the core mandates when opening the facility was to create an Arts and Tech collision space. Partnering with ArtsBuild Ontario meant that the floor would be inhabited not only by hardware and IoT startups, but also arts organizations and freelancers. ArtsBuild Ontario also facilitates a rehearsal space, which has seen more than 700 booked hours since we opened our doors officially in the September of 2016.

Along with the internal Arts & Culture community within the building, we’ve also connected with the larger Arts community in the Waterloo Region. We partnered with ArtShine/Arts4All, a local organization that provides Arts programs to groups that might not normally be able to afford them, to create a brand-new gallery space in the building. The O Gallery @ 44, opened on May 25th, 2017 with more than 150 pieces of art from students, refugees, and freelance artists. The gallery opening was an incredible success and brought hundreds of people through the space to showcase the work being done here by both the arts and technology communities.


In addition to the partnerships we’ve formed with the arts community, the Accelerator Centre has also developed a strong connection with the charity organizations House of Friendship and Junior Achievers. The House of Friendship held their February team meeting in the Lounge at Gaukel and then had a full tour of the space where they were able to learn more about both the technologies being developed here and the arts community. Some of the AC companies even have begun discussions with the House of Friendship to help volunteer at some of their summer camps and events. Junior Achievers will be holding their summer camps at the facility in July and August and working with resident company InkSmith.

Expanding our operations into the Kitchener downtown core has allowed us to have a deeper impact in the Waterloo Region beyond supporting tech startups and companies. At 44 Gaukel, we’ve taken the opportunity to better support hardware, IoT and advanced manufacturing startups, and used it to connect with the Arts, as well as work with local charities and NGOs. If you’re interested in learning more about the organizations we mentioned or to donate to their causes, please check out their websites:

ArtShine/Arts4All

House of Friendship

Junior Achievers

As well, if you’d like to know more about how to rent the rehearsal or classroom space, check out Space Finder Waterloo Region or contact Eilidh Fisher at eilidh@artsbuildontario.com.

3 Steps to Building an Authentic Startup Brand

As a startup founder, you know you need to develop a brand, but do you really understand what that means?

What exactly is brand? If you are like most people, you probably thought “logo” or maybe the words ‘reputation” or “target market” came to mind.

Brand, at least a good brand, is EVERYTHING. Mission, logo, messaging, stories, customer descriptions, employee’s, reputation, sales – all of it. Good branding encompasses everything that increases the value of your startup, inspires your team, and helps you get new customers.

Often times, entrepreneurs struggle to define themselves and carve out a brand in a space that might be new territory or worse overcrowded.

We spent some time with Milestone Integrated Marketing Partner, Stacy Barr, to discover what it takes to build an authentic brand as a startup company.

Prioritize Defining Who You Are Over Your Logo Design

Far too often, companies make logo design their number 1 brand priority. While logo design and defining your visual identity is important (and fun), it’s not a make or break element of your brand.

“Let me start with the biggest mistake a lot of companies make, Stacy explains. “The biggest mistake that a lot of companies make is they say, ‘The first thing I need to work on is my logo.’ No. That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do. I don’t care what your logo looks like. Do we think Budweiser’s logo is great?  I don’t know.  Do you think Coors Light, looks great?  What about IBM?  It doesn’t matter. Get a logo done as inexpensively and with the best quality that you can, but the first to focus on is to figure out who you are and find your voice.

To start defining who you are as a company, ask yourself:

  • What problem does your product solve
  • Who are your competitors (Don’t say “No one”. You have them. Think harder.)
  • What makes your product unique
  • Who are your customers – How do they speak, live, make purchasing decisions, etc.
  • Why would they choose your solution over another option

Learn to Tell Stories

Storytelling is essential for every brand – even B2B brands. Stories evoke emotion, emotion moves people to action, and people make purchasing decisions (not corporations). Whether it is for developing key messages or pitching a sale directly to a customer, learning to incorporate stories into your brand will strengthen it.

“I love the fact that you bring up storytelling because it’s absolutely crucial,” says Stacy. You’ve probably seen people say ‘I’m a B2B company so I speak this way because I speak to CEO’s or CIO’s’ or ‘I’m a B2C company and I speak this way because I speak to Mum’s or Kid’s or Dads’

But the problem with that is it puts people into these buckets. I’ve been in presentations with CEO’s and CIO’s and CFO’s and they are just people as well. Tell a good story. Speak human to human.”

Build Credibility Through Advocacy

So you’ve defined who you are and you have developed a bank of stories that support your message, now you need to help your customers trust you and your brand. With increased access to information, customers are increasingly aware of when they are being marketed to and are reluctant to make purchasing decisions based off of marketing campaigns alone. They are increasingly looking online for reviews from people who have already used the product. It’s important to find brand advocates early on, get their testimony, and use that to build early trust with the brand.

“We know that consumers are very wary of marketing. They can filter very easily. Even though they recognize that a lot of social media and Google reviews have been taken over by professionals, the idea of testimonial, of having someone else tell you something still carries weight,” Stacy explains. “It says ‘Look, someone else had tried it, someone else has tested it, someone else has gone through the process, that someone also thinks that it’s a great idea.’ It adds a ton of credibility.

With these pieces in place, you’ll be well on your way to building a strong brand for your startup that will resonate with your audience and be able to grow as your company does. 

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