Innovation is Not Just for Entrepreneurs. How Large Corporations Can Foster Innovation Too.

Too often, we associate innovation and industry disruption with startups – entrepreneurs with bootstrapped funds and big ideas. Startup culture is trendy, it’s sexy and for many up and coming engineers, designers, and business people, the idea of working in a “corporate” environment is not at all inspiring.

But the truth is, many of the most innovative, impactful ideas that have inspired startup founders to create innovative businesses were actually born out of large, corporate environments. The way we see it, industry has two choices: build a culture that fosters, encourages, and supports innovation and reap the benefits on their culture, talent retention, and profit margins or, resist change, fight against the expectations of their customers, and fall behind.

While the bureaucracy and risk aversion of traditional industry can stifle new ideas, it is possible for large corporations to build a culture that fosters innovation and for startups to maintain the “startup mentality” as they grow.

We asked Jana Levene, Business Development for Area120 at Google how she feels the tech giant creates a culture that not only supports but actively encourages innovation and how they’ve built startup culture into the Google identity.



How must organizations be structured in order to bring ideas through the pipeline?

Jana: At Google, we give employees the freedom to spend X% of their time on non-core job-related thinking – fresh ideas emerge when you’re given a chance to lift your head up and breathe.

It’s also critical to create an environment that accepts and even embraces failure and the learnings that come with it. Human behaviour is largely driven by incentives – so if you reward both success and timely failure, you will encourage employees to think big, get creative and take the necessary risks.

What are the essential ‘ingredients’ of a good innovation team?

Jana: The curiosity to ask a lot of questions and the guts to jump in and do something different, particularly when you’re an underdog.

Is it necessary for spin off companies to run like a start-up in a large organization in order to be effective?

Jana: Balancing the needs of your startup and the larger organization is key – cut out the overhead as much as you can to get your product out the door quickly, but do the necessary due diligence on the level of risk and complexity you are exposing the larger organization to.

Is it necessary to market innovation initiatives separately outside of the large organization?

Jana: It depends on your startup’s objectives and the level of risk you are exposing the larger organization to. Sometimes you can impact more users more meaningfully if you leverage the larger organization’s brand. Sometimes the larger organization’s brand introduces unnecessary complexity.

What’s the biggest barrier to success in innovating in large companies?

Jana: Overhead – decks, trackers, unecessary approvals processes and introducing too many cooks.

What kind of ideas are considered innovative at Google? Are they always big ideas or is there room for incremental innovation?

Jana: Innovation is a continuum. You can make incremental improvements to an existing product, you can launch a revolutionary product and you can do everything in between. All forms of innovation are important. If you want to do something transformative though, you should aim for a 10X improvement, as opposed to a 10% improvement.

Can you be financially conservative and still be innovative?

Jana: Scrappiness is key – resources need to be earned by demonstrating impact first. The fewer resources you have, the more creative you need to be in determining how to do more with less and the more effective you need to be at identifying and prioritizing what is truly important. When resources are scarce, the true entrepreneurs emerge.

What role does research and intellectual property play in your business?

Jana: Research is key, particularly in the ideation phase – ideas need to be vetted. It’s easy to fall into the trap of coming up with a cool idea that either doesn’t solve an actual problem, or doesn’t solve a big enough problem ie. you need to be able to impact at least millions of users.

Intellectual property is critical in protecting the idea and the company as you turn the idea into a product, then a business. But not all products need to be proprietary – sometimes you can have more impact on users and the ecosystem if you open source and encourage others to innovate with you. It’s important to stay focused on your product’s mission and be flexible about which mechanisms you use to get closer to achieving that mission.

Is the R&D budget a good reflection of the attention to innovation?

Jana: Money spent is not a proxy for success. The question is what you are doing both differently and impactfully per dollar spent.

How do you measure your return on investment (ROI) in Innovation?
Jana: You should look at ROI on innovation using a number of lenses. From a user standpoint, look at engagement metrics. From a business standpoint, look at your bottom line. From a mission standpoint, look at whether you’ve made the world a radically better place.

What’s your favorite example of innovation in a large company in the past 5 years?

Jana: SpaceX’s reusable rocket. Elon Musk believes this will enable the cost of access to space to be reduced by up to 100X. I can’t think of an example that better highlights the importance of both curiosity and guts in driving innovation. Revolutionizing access to space means getting closer to understanding humanity’s key unanswered question…what is life?


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 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.

LIIV Builds a Privacy Oriented Social Network for Men in Developing and Socially Conservative Countries

Technology allows us to connect with other people at the touch of a button, all over the world. There are mobile apps today that allow us to easily connect with others, whether we want to strike up conversation, create meaningful friendship or meet a potential love interest. It has become so normative, that we may not even stop to consider that it isn’t as easy as “swiping right” in other parts of the world or more socially conservative communities. Furthermore, the fact that almost 80% of the world’s population still live in developing countries, drove the two founders to help effect change. Kirk and Chad, with cultural roots in Canada and the Caribbean respectfully, understand the challenges that individuals face in developing or more socially conservative countries, especially for those in the LGBTQA+ community.

Inspired by the limitations individuals face due to lack of control and privacy while trying to connect with others online, they decided to create a privacy oriented social network for men that gives users more control of the online chat and dating experience. The app was named LIIV in the hope that users worldwide would be inspired to live on their own terms. For many people, particularly gay men, in these developing or conservative countries being public about one’s sexuality may result in ostracization or even physical harm. LIIV provides a safer, more privacy oriented platform that allows users to express themselves and socialize with greater peace of mind.

What makes LIIV different

Many mainstream apps simply allow users to connect with each other without much focus on privacy and user control. Furthermore, they allow for integration with publicly shared information like Facebook, Instagram, or even the ability to share screenshot captures or messages from a chat conversation. LIIV’s unique suite of safety and privacy features include screenshot blocking, location faking, disappearing messages, unsend messages, app cloaking and more. Privacy is of the utmost importance and the founders Kirk and Chad have gone through great lengths to ensure that users feel comfortable and in control when using the app.

More than just an app for social good, the founders have identified proven monetization strategies for their business, already in use in the industry at large. These include premium subscriptions, advertising, e-commerce, licensing of key features to noncompeting firms via API packages, as well as the white labeling of the app for different use cases / industries that experience similar privacy and security concerns (law and medicine among them).

Building of the App

Kirk and Chad knew that they wanted to build the app in Canada for a few reasons. They wanted to become a part of the tech ecosystem in Kitchener-Waterloo, wanted to leverage the resources, talent and community here and they wanted to build the best app possible with developers of various cultural backgrounds and perspectives. Recently, and with the assistance of the Accelerator Centre, Kirk received permanent residence through the Canadian Government’s Startup Visa Program, so the team could continue to grow in Canada. They mostly bootstrapped the building of the app, and were able to secure funding with the AC Jumpstart program and hire local developers to help them build a secure, private and intuitive app experience for their users.

How AC Jumpstart Helped

LIIV went from conception to a developed app within the span of 10 months. Chad remarks, “AC Jumpstart allowed us the funds to secure talent and resources to build our app and quickly. We worked very hard with our team to make this happen and now we are proud to see LIIV in the app store, with users from areas such as: the Caribbean, Middle East, Asia and Canada. The vast majority of our users thus far have downloaded the app organically and we are receiving positive feedback. We are excited and motivated to take that feedback and continue development of an app that is truly helping the LGBTQA+ community.”

 

The LIIV team is very passionate about their cause to create technology that allows men to connect with other men safely and securely, regardless of beliefs, geographic location, values, community, etc. “No one should ever feel shamed or sheltered from making meaningful connection with others- we want to enable and empower men in developing and socially conservative areas”.

LIIV has also teamed up with a local Non-Profit called, Rainbow Railroad to giveback and collaborate on this project. The goal is to spread awareness, increase visibility and use the tech platform for good, and the Rainbow Railroad partnership has given mutual, invaluable collaboration in that respect. LIIV hopes to connect with other non-profits and passionate communities as they grow to spread the word and giveback.

“AC Jumpstart truly gave us the ability to build the interface of the app with which our users connect on. Looking at development, design and operating costs to build a robust app with the security/ privacy functionalities required, makes it a lengthy engagement without proper resources, team members and skill sets to build it. AC Jumpstart expedited everything with both monetary value, valuable networks of developers/coders for hire, the mentors who helped us and much more. We now have a team of four, our app is in the app store, we are getting great reviews and feedback and new users everyday.”

What is Next?

The LIIV team is now looking to secure seed funding to continue working with Canadian talent to develop new features, to build the highly sought after IOS version of the app and to expand their presence into Central, South and East Asia for interested users. Meanwhile they are appreciative of the progress made so far, they understand that the journey has only just begun, and are buoyed by the opportunity to positively impact the lives of tens of millions of men worldwide.

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.

Penta Medical Changes the Healthcare Game with Wearable Technology, Helios

Alexa Roeper is the driving force behind an innovative medical science product called Penta Medical. She has a background in biomedical science, is an avid horseback rider, and an athlete. It was a personal injury after horseback riding that inspired her to look into alternative healing methods, which ultimately led to the creation of her company.

Alexa experienced an injury years ago that was predicted to take her months to recover. Being an active and motivated (or self proclaimed, impatient) athlete ready to jump back in, she began thinking of all the other people that must experience this frustration with limited options available to expedite the healing process. That is when Alexa began exploring ideas to help not only herself heal faster, but others as well. The result was a serious fascination with the science of infrared therapies and how to innovate and build on that existing service to offer a more convenient, fast and mobile way to help those with muscular and or skeletal injuries heal faster.

 

 

Wearable Medical Technology! How Does It Work?

As a business owner, athlete and young professional, Alexa understands how busy life can be, to the point where it can interfere with getting proper healthcare, especially after experiencing sport related injuries. Many athletes, both amateur and professional, can experience lingering effects from previous injuries, so Penta developed a wearable product called Helios.

Helios delivers infrared therapy, a widely adopted method used at physiotherapy clinics, to the areas of injury or pain. The current prototype, operates much like an adjustable armband, that can be worn directly on the injured area, which then helps accelerate patients’ recovery. Helios is a way to effortlessly treat injuries and pain management from the comfort of your home (or anywhere you find yourself in a day). It is light, mobile and therefore patients can go about their day, and while doing so, “speed healing”, on their terms and within their schedule. Alexa shares, “Our goal with this technology is to make healthcare easily accessible and mobile, like many of our lives in this digital, fast paced world.”

How Did They Do It?

Alexa and co-founder Daniel Choi have been working hard and over the last year have accomplished a great deal. Penta, which got it’s start in the Velocity Science Program has also been a part of the Fierce Founders program, has pitched and secured 250K in investments, and is a part of the Accelerator Centre’s AC Jumpstart program.

Penta’s AC Jumpstart Experience

We asked Alexa what she and her team got out of the AC Jumpstart experience and this is what she had to share,

“AC Jumpstart has been instrumental in our company’s growth. Through funding and resources we were able to build the prototype of our wearable tech, Helios with a digital app which allows for health and injury-healing tracking. I love the transparency with which the AC communicates with each of their AC Jumpstart clients. We are all a big family and know exactly what to expect of the experience.

Additionally, the mentorship has been so helpful. Each mentor truly cares about you and your company’s growth. I love how each of them have gone above and beyond to help us on our journey. We were able to secure funding, set up speaking engagements and get some valuable press including a story in the Globe and Mail, all thanks to their help and guidance. I love this program, can’t say enough about that, haha!”

Penta is currently teaming up with various sports teams and a couple clinics in the Kitchener-Waterloo region to test out the new wearable product/app Helios, track the progress and experiences multiple patients have with various injuries to continue improving and building wearable products that help to heal those on the go!

Penta’s mission is to change the future of healthcare, one wearable at a time!

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.

AceAge Lands Strategic Agreement with Centric Health

Originally published on centrichealth.ca

Centric Health Announces Strategic Agreement for Innovative Medication Delivery Appliance

Aug 9, 2017

— Unique healthcare device transforms prescription medicine compliance and adherence —

TORONTO, Aug. 9, 2017 /CNW/ – Centric Health Corporation (“Centric Health” or “the Company”) (TSX: CHH), Canada’s leading diversified healthcare company, today announced that it has signed a strategic distribution and supply agreement and a strategic investment with AceAge Inc. (“AceAge”) for its “Karie” home-based automated drug delivery appliance.

Feel safe that your loved ones are taking their medicines correctly: Karie is an innovative technology appliance that simplifies and monitors the administration of multiple medications, improving compliance and reducing adverse drug complications. Its easy-to-load cartridge uses a multi-dose medicine package, like that produced by Centric Health. (CNW Group/Centric Health Corporation).

Designed for individuals taking multiple medications, particularly seniors living independently or without full-time care, Karie is an innovative device that makes it simple to follow complex medication regimes by automatically delivering prescription drugs, in the correct dosage and at the right time. The medication comes pre-organized in an easy-to-load cartridge and the patient’s medication schedule is also stored. Karie goes off like an alarm clock when it’s time for each dose and provides a visual and audio alert. It can also be set to automatically notify a family member or caregiver if a dose is ever missed.

“With about 70 percent of all seniors taking five or more drugs per day and improper medication compliance being a leading cause of visits to the ER and hospital admissions for seniors, Karie is an ideal solution that is completely aligned with Centric’s focus on delivering the highest levels of patient care,” said David Cutler, President and Chief Executive Officer of Centric Health. “The device is completely compatible with our automated dispensing and packaging systems and we see many opportunities for placement with seniors in our contracted retirement homes where it will improve safety and provide peace-of-mind to caregivers.” It is estimated that up to 10% of all hospital admissions are due to adverse drug reactions.

A personal solution that will benefit many
A family member of AceAge’s CEO, Spencer Waugh, was the inspiration behind Karie’s creation. After watching them be admitted to a hospital eight times in one year because they could not keep their drugs organized, Spencer sought a better solution to ensure that medication could be more easily managed. Karie incorporates both ease of use and advanced monitoring and connectivity. It uses a simple, single-load action cartridge and delivers medication with the push of just one button. It also incorporates facial recognition which ensures the safety of the user and protects others, network connectivity using TELUS’ cellular IoT network and is Bluetooth-enabled to connect to other health monitoring devices. Click here to see a video demonstration of Karie. Expected pricing will be an initial cost of $150 and $60 per month thereafter.

The appliance is in its second phase of testing in a clinical trial at the University of Toronto; AceAge is beginning production with delivery expected in spring 2018. In addition to serving the needs of seniors, Karie is an effective solution for anyone managing multiple medications and for clinical researchers conducting drug trials.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see something that we’ve been working on for so long become a reality,” said Spencer Waugh, CEO of AceAge “As we are scaling up to build and deploy thousands of devices, we see Karie as the central fixture of the connected health home.”

Terms of the agreement
Centric Health has signed a strategic distribution and supply agreement with AceAge for the device in Canada and has made a strategic investment. The cash investment of $2 million will be made in two tranches, in exchange for a 20 percent ownership interest and subscription of 20 percent of AceAge’s common shares on a fully diluted basis. Centric will have the option to acquire an additional 10 percent at a predetermined premium to its initial investment. David Cutler will have a seat on AceAge’s Board of Directors for the period that Centric remains a shareholder.

“As one of the largest providers of pharmacy services to seniors in Canada, Centric was a natural partner to work with as we launch Karie in markets across the country and internationally,” added Mr. Waugh. “With Centric we will be able to have a positive impact on many seniors, helping them to live healthy, independent lives.”

About Centric Health
Centric Health’s vision is to be Canada’s most respected and recognized provider in the independent healthcare sectors in which it operates, world renowned for delivering the highest levels of quality care and outcomes, innovative solutions and value to patients, clients and stakeholders. To this end, Centric Health primarily focuses on two core healthcare businesses:

The Specialty Pharmacy division is a “Patient First” model composed of a growing national network of fulfilment centres that deliver high-volume solutions for the cost effective supply of chronic medication and other specialty clinical care services, serving more than 29,000 residents in over 425 seniors communities (long term care facilities, retirement homes and assisted living facilities) nationally. The Specialty Pharmacy division also provides pharmaceutical dispensing services for employees insured by corporate health plans.

The Surgical & Medical Centres division is Canada’s largest independent surgical provider operating five facilities across four provinces. It serves a diversified customer base with private paid non-insured surgeries and diagnostics, government outsourcing of insured surgeries and diagnostics and other procedures funded by third-party payors (including Workers Compensation) and is the proud owner of Canada’s first Centre of Excellence in Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
With national networks of facilities in each of its businesses, deep knowledge and experience of healthcare delivery and extensive, trusted relationships with payers, physicians, and government agencies, the Company is uniquely positioned to address current and future healthcare needs in growing markets as the Canadian healthcare industry goes through a major transformation over the medium to long term. www.centrichealth.ca

About AceAge – www.aceage.com
AceAge Inc. is a healthcare technology company, creating beautiful and intuitive products to ease the aging process. Launching in spring 2018, Karie will be AceAge’s first commercially available product, making medication management as simple as possible. Outfitted with a front facing camera, and Bluetooth connectivity, AceAge plans for Karie to become the central fixture of the connected health home. For more information and to register for updates on Karie please visit www.kariehealth.com.

SOURCE Centric Health Corporation

For further information: David Cutler, Chief Executive Officer, Centric Health Corporation, 416-619-9401, david.cutler@centrichealth.ca; Craig MacPhail, Investor Relations, NATIONAL Equicom, 416-586-1938, cmacphail@national.ca; Spencer Waugh, Chief Executive Officer, AceAge Inc., 289-400-0811, spencer@aceage.com

O2 Canada Helps BC Fire Fighters and Residents Breathe Safely Again

No doubt, you’ve heard about the current wild fire crisis in British Columbia. With an estimated 150 fires currently burning across the province and over 14,000 residents being evacuated, its a national news story that has touched lives across the county.  When Waterloo startup, O2 Canada, heard about the hundreds of rescuers and fire fighters risking their lives and thousands of residents suffering, they hopped on a flight to deliver 250 of their air filtration masks to those who needed them most.

Although the product was not scheduled to be released until August 26th, co-founders Peter Whitby and Rich Szasz knew that the fires would result in poor air quality and their innovative technology could help those left in the wake of the tragedy. Coordinating with the Canadian Red Cross, O2 Canada rushed their first run of masks to BC – before they even had time to complete the packaging. “We knew we could make a difference, but we needed to get masks out there ASAP,” Peter recalls. “The packaging wasn’t done yet so we simply packaged them in zipper bags with a few extra filters so we could get them out there quickly.”

Due to the smoke and debris, the air quality in areas surrounding the fires is poor. The haze makes it difficult to breathe, particularity for those with asthma or other health problems. The technology in O2 Canada’s mask uses an electrostatic filter to remove the pollution so the wearer can breath the air without suffering the ill effects. “We created this company to help people. We really wanted to focus on getting masks to those who need it most. When we decided to go, we didn’t really know what that would look like, but we knew we had to be there.” Peter says.

The company is documenting their trip to BC and sharing it on Facebook with the hopes to get their message out to as many people in the province as possible. In their third episode in the series, they share their visits with helicopter pilots, firefighters, and everyday people who have seen the effects the poor air quality has on their health. One woman, cried as she shared her story. “I’m low income. I can’t afford to get a respirator, and I don’t have the resources to have my medical {insurance} cover something like that. My kids go to daycare right across the way and I have to walk them to daycare everyday. Just going across the street and back, I am having asthma attacks,” she says.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Rich says. “Meeting those kids who have to walk to school in all that pollution. When that little girl goes outside, she just coughs. It breaks my heart.”

What’s next for O2 Canada

After they return to Waterloo, their work is not done. In addition to preparing for their planned global launch, O2 has used their trip to identify the next milestone on their roadmap.  “We need to get back to work,” Rich says. ‘We need to make a kids mask and get them shipped out here.”

O2 Canada is a resident startup at Accelerator Centre’s Advanced Manufacturing and Hardware Innovation Lab in Kitchener Ontario.

 

Chillwall Launches Events Discovery Platform Worldwide to Reconnect the Digitally Isolated

Michael Campanelli, co-founder and visionary behind Chillwall, the “world’s event network” was inspired to create a platform that encourages people, specifically, millennials to reconnect in real space, effortlessly.

Millennials are the most connected generation, however, research reveals that they are paradoxically the most isolated. All those connections, friends and likes online are great, but we are still experiencing disconnect and are not as fulfilled without meaningful, face-to-face socialization and connection. Michael believes that technology can be used to bring us back to each other, and Chillwall was created to do just that,

“Technology, as powerful and wonderful as it is, has also isolated many people. We want to see the power of technology used to bring people back together. So we built a tool that will aid in an effortless connection in the real world. We view ourselves as the social butler, helping users discover local events near them they never new to search for in two clicks or less, anywhere in the world.”

How does Chillwall work?

Chillwall is a personal Machine Learning Discovery network that enables individuals to search for local events based on interests, type and location. The platform is powered by an advanced learning recommendation algorithm which learns what a user’s specific preferences are over time and starts to recommend events for them wherever they are searching from in the world. All activity and searches are private to each user unless, for example, they decide to invite a friend to go to an event or share what event they plan to attend. Users can share those interests with friends, calendar it and find their way to the event using GPS — all in two clicks.

Michael explains, “today’s online society craves simplicity and our mentality is less is more, so we have made the user interface and experience simple and easy to use, in two clicks or less.”
It is perfect for young working professionals who want to meet people, those who just moved to a new city, travelers, and the list goes on!

Michael and the Chillwall team received the AC JumpStart grant this year, and with the help of funding and mentorship, Chillwall was able to advance from a beta program with 2000+ cities to choose from, to a full, global launch which happened just last week (July 2017).

Michael explained how the funding, mentorship, validation and growth that came out of the AC Jumpstart Program allowed the team to build out the platform. The team is thrilled to see young people get a lot of value out of it, and the feedback inspires them to keep making it better and better.

“We want to bring people back together, and make it easy for anyone, anywhere, to connect and know there are always interesting, meaningful things for them to do, with old and new friends.”

After the launch last week, Michael and the team are excited to move forward with expanding the platform with new features, guest bloggers and much more! The platform is currently available on web and IOS. https://chillwall.com/

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, Laurier, and the University of Waterloo.

A Startup’s Journey: One-on-One with Ruth Casselman from Alert Labs

As you come up the stairs of 44 Gaukel Street to the Accelerator Centre’s Advanced Manufacturing and Hardware Innovation Lab and head down the main hall to the back of the building, you’ll find the office of Alert Labs. Now utilizing two suites for office space and another room for testing, they are one of the fastest growing companies in the Accelerator Program and are on track to becoming one of the next big tech companies in the Waterloo Region.

The Product

Alert Labs builds cellular based sensors that help protect homeowners and businesses from water damage by sending them alerts about leaks, floods, and abnormal water use. They also track use by the minute to help customers conserve water and save money. Their Flowie water sensor straps on to existing water meters and analyzes water use, highlights costs and compares consumption versus averages. It also sends alerts via email, text or an app about running left running, temperature, humidity and power outages. Their Floodie companion sensor can installed anywhere in a home where water could cause damage. It sends instant flood alerts when it comes in to contact with water.

They are selling their devices to a variety of different groups, including homeowners, landlords, property managers, restoration companies, insurance companies and municipalities. Alert Labs has partnered with the City of Guelph to offer residents an instant rebate on a Flowie water sensor kit, as part of the city’s water efficiency strategy. They recently announced that Intact Ventures, a division of Intact Financial Corporation, is a strategic investor in the company.

 

How they got started

In early 2015, founders Ruth Casselman, George, Tsintzouras, and Kevin Wright found themselves ready to begin their own venture. “The timing just came along…it was the right time for us to go out on our own,” Ruth recalls. The trio came to the table with more than 30 years of experience working in high technology. Ruth had just recently left BlackBerry, and Kevin and George had come from Christie Digital.

They considered a number of ideas, but they kept coming back to home utilities monitoring. All three founders are property managers and water usage was something that they all struggled with. On one occasion, a renter called George while he was travelling in China to tell him that a leak had turned into a full-blown flood. They looked for tools they could use to try and prevent this but what was available was complicated to install and was simply too expensive to warrant doing at their properties. That’s when they decided to create their own solution and Alert Labs was born.

Once they decided it was time to move out of their home office, they found the Accelerator Program. For Alert Labs, there were a number of reasons to join the program, but at the core of their decision was the mentorship. “We are very lucky to live in a community where there’s a lot of support for [starting a tech company],” Ruth says.

“Access to experienced business professionals who could guide us and advise us can take weeks and weeks out of a process.”

In additional to the mentorship and resources available through the Accelerator Program, Alert Labs also received the AC JumpStart grant that provided them with $30,000 in seed capital and an additional $10,000 in mentorship. “The $30,000 we received felt like all the money in the world… it allowed us to do what we needed to do.”

Alert Labs began working out of the ACs Reactor facility, but it quickly became clear that there were challenges with building their hardware company in the space. “The Reactor space is a very lovely finished office space with carpets and desks that they don’t like burn holes in from soldering irons… the AC folks realized that maybe that space wasn’t ideal for us or for hardware companies.” As the plans for Alert Labs’ devices started becoming real physical products, they needed a space where they would be able to do the “messy” work required.

This situation was confirmation for the Accelerator Centre there was a need for a space and specialized resources for hardware and IoT companies. Working in partnership with the City of Kitchener and ArtsBuild Ontario, the AC opened the Advanced Manufacturing and Hardware Innovation Lab with Alert Labs at its first tenant.

“The space at Gaukel was absolutely what we needed. We love being in downtown Kitchener, there is a great tech vibe down here. Specifically, this space has the mix between Arts and Tech, which is something that when you’re really immersed in the technology world, you sometimes forget that there’s other folks with different focuses and having that mix right here in our building is a very vibrant and motivating environment.”

The Future

Now, after more than a year of working out of the space, Alert Labs has hit some major milestones. They have grown to a team of 18 with plans to grow to 25 before the end of the year. They have brought two products to market with more coming in the next six months. “We try to recognize all of the milestones, even if they’re small because as a startup, a lot of things are very hard. The first time we sent out a large shipment as a team, that was a big deal and we had champagne that day.”

Alert Labs launched its first devices in February and now has Flowie and Floodie sensors deployed across Canada and the US and they are on track to become one of the AC’s grads and will join the likes of Miovision, Ecopia, KiK, and Clearpath Robotics on the Grad wall at ACHQ.

“When we started as a tiny little company of three people two and a half years ago, we looked at that wall in the Accelerator Centre and we looked at all the logos up there and thought ‘someday we could be on that wall’ and it really seemed like an imaginary thing. Having the recognition by an organization like the Accelerator Centre that’s saying you’ve done a good job is like the gold star.”

For more information on Alert Labs, check out their website at alertlabs.com or message them at hello@alertlabs.com. If you’re interested in learning more about the Accelerator Centre’s Advanced Manufacturing and Hardware Innovation Lab or want information on the joining AC contact info@acceleratorcentre.com

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