Our Top 3 Tips for Designing Hardware Products with Safety, Testing, and Compliance in Mind

Innovating in highly regulated industries, like health care, clean tech, and finance can be difficult, particularly if you are creating a hardware product. Costs and access to experienced resources are common roadblocks that may result in startups consciously choosing to not test for safety and compliance – and that choice has significant consequences in the long run.

In the first session of our Accelerate DFx series, founders from successful startups Intellijoint and Alert Labs joined product development industry experts from Swift Labs, Wistron, and TUV SUD to share their experience with working in highly regulated industries to help startup founders plan, prepare, and design products with testing and compliance in mind.

These top three tips from our experts will get you started on the right foot.

 

AC Product Development Mentor, Don Thompson

1. Plan carefully
Developing hardware is complex and there are many opportunities for things to go wrong. Far too often, startups run out of money before they complete their testing and are tempted to skip or cut back on the process. Proper planning can prevent this problem and help mitigate risks along the way.

Consider how you will produce and test at scale, how you will implement new product versions, and how production delays will impact your business. Pre-scan your components so you know your high risk areas, use pre- certified parts when possible, and plan to fail so you can allocate budget to address problems as they arise.


2. Know your audience

It may seem like a marketing buzz term, but knowing your audience is also important when looking to get a product through compliance testing. Understanding what a successful test looks like, who will be looking at your documentation, and what they will be doing with that documentation will help move testing forward faster – saving time and money.

3. Get help from an expert
There are many options out there for consultants and firms that can provide advice and guidance for designing your product with compliance in mind. Use them to supplement your own knowledge and understanding of your product and customer. The expense of a consultant may seem high but having an expert on board who can help you anticipate and navigate problems will ultimately save you from making costly mistakes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to experts for their advice. Many will offer their feedback and general advice free of charge.

Want to learn more about DFx methodologies. Join us on October 18th for a session with Kurtis McBride on design for Manufacturing, Assembly and Costs.

Bridesmade: Empowering Women with a New Approach to the Bridesmaid Dress

Mallory Mckewen, like many young women, started noticing a big frustration when it came to wedding seasons and being a bridesmaid: dresses.

It is the pinnacle of the wedding, the aesthetic of the bride, groom and their respective wedding parties. However, when it comes to bridesmaid dresses, the challenge is the hassle of inevitable alterations and costs, not to mention the fact that oftentimes the dress is only worn once! Having that same (or similar) dress fit each bridesmaid properly so everyone feels and looks good is important, but it becomes a costly and tumultuous adventure for everyone involved.  Having gone through this frustration herself and with friends expressing the same thoughts, Mallory knew there had to be a way to make this easier and more cost-effective for women everywhere.

That is when the company, BridesMade was created.

A New Approach to Bridesmaid Dresses

Mallory wanted to create a business that gives women the option to rent-a-dress, rather than buy the dress out-right. The biggest issue, especially for twenty-something women who are often involved in several weddings a year, is the cost. A dress typically costs $300- $400 dollars and more after alterations. On top of that, the dress is realistically only worn that one time. Mallory was determined to make the lives of twenty-something women easier and to fulfill her promise to customers, to keep the costs low.

But with all the different sizes and alterations required to make a dress fit just right… it still ended up being quite costly, and with the rental option, it meant future alterations once again. She knew there had to be another way. After a ton of research, tests, trial and error, and feedback, the company decided to make a pivot in the business model to offer a better solution to bridesmaids.

A New Approach: The Affordable and Adjustable Dress

This business model pivot meant taking a new, innovative approach to the current pricey bridesmaid industry. Mallory decided the only way to create a rentable, reusable and cost effective dress for bridesmaids, would mean creating an original line of adjustable dresses.

This change for the business was an uneasy but necessary one to make as Mallory recalls, “I was nervous, being that I don’t have a background in fashion – but from a finance and numbers perspective, I knew this was the answer to solve the current frustrations, so we decided to go all in with both feet.” That change lead to a system and a product line that not only works and helps customers from a cost standpoint, but delights bridal parties in how stress free and easy it is.

The company uses software which records all dress orders, measurements, colours, styles, costs, etc. They in turn use data to show women what dress styles and colours are recommended based on their sizes and requests. Once all the data is collected from the bridesmaids, the product is sent to production and delivered with ample time before the big day. Mallory explains the choice they give their clients,

“We give women the choice to rent or buy the dresses too. It is easy to rent and reuse, because the dresses are adjustable, keeping costs low for everyone involved. Some women opt to buy because with an adjustable dress, it can be used again and again for multiple occasions. Either way, we are happy because we created a system and product that helps women and makes their lives and those special occasions easier to plan for. Without that dress-stress, it leaves more space to genuinely enjoy their time and celebrate the occasion. That makes what we do worth it!”

When making that business model pivot, Mallory had to establish relationships with factories and manufacturers who could construct and make these dresses. During that time, she also brought on a partner to help scale the business, COO, Kaleah Baker of Calgary. A year ago, they had more demand than they could supply and knew that with the new idea for adjustable dresses, they were on to something big, but needed support. That is where the AC Jumpstart program came into the picture.

AC Jumpstart = Game Changer

Mallory recalls how BridesMade joined the program at the most optimal time. With the capital they were able to establish key manufacturer relationships, to create their first line of dresses, which allowed them to backfill orders, work more weddings and test out the product with ideal clients.

“The mentorship was so helpful. When we started this business, we never imagined that we would end up creating lines of dresses. To set up those types of key relationships with fashion experts, manufacturers and production companies who could make the dresses adjustable in the ways our data said was required, was something we learned how to do with the help of valuable mentorship. Before Jumpstart we had officially worked with one wedding party. Over the course of the last summer, we have now successfully serviced 50-60 weddings with 100% satisfaction in our customer feedback. It’s only up from here.”

Both capital and the invaluable mentorship empowered BridesMade to make the key partnerships to create the product and deliver exactly what their clients were asking for.

What is Next for BridesMade?

Moving forward, BridesMade is planning for the launch of a new collection of dresses this December.

Thus far, BridesMade has been working weddings primarily in Southern Ontario. In 2018, BridesMade is expanding to provide dresses to weddings all across Canada. They are continuing to build out their software, new dress lines and scaling up their capacity to service weddings across Canada and beyond. Mallory and her Co-Founder are overjoyed at the journey they have had thus far and are excited to move forward and continue on with the upwards momentum and growth.

Design Sprints: Why Your Startup Needs One

The term “design sprint” seems to the buzzword of 2017 in the tech world. Everyone from startups to large corporations is talking about how to apply design thinking methodologies to validate ideas and move projects forward quickly. If you are like most people, you are probably thinking “what is a design sprint anyway?” Let’s unpack the hype and find out how this process can help you.

In it’s simplest form, a design sprint is the process of solving a problem by ensuring you have generated multiple ideas, considered each one carefully and prioritized your customer.

The process was inspired by IDEO’s Design Thinking philosophy and developed by Google Ventures (GV). IDEO, defined which steps were important for the design process to be successful and GV developed a five day routine to structure their implementation.

Recognizing the lack of accessible and affordable design talent for startups, the Accelerator Centre began running these sprints in 2017 through its Startup Studio program. Startup Studio sprints guide startups through a condensed, one day version of a GV Sprint to collaboratively develop solutions to marketing and design challenges.

Sprint processes don’t use any technology, but instead rely on the magic of sticky notes, markers, paper, whiteboards, conversation and most importantly quite space to reflect on ideas. A sprint rapidly brings entrepreneurs through cycle of generating ideas individually, sharing them with the team, and having constructive conversations to discover the most effective design solution. The combination of an entrepreneur’s passion for their product and customers and the designers expertise and creativity creates an environment where strategic solutions are developed to help the company better serve  future customers.

Our Startup Studio designers are students from the University of Waterloo’s Stratford Campus studying Global Business and Digital Arts and are led by experienced Accelerator Centre staff. The team’s wide range of skills in marketing, UX & UI design, video, entrepreneurship and branding prepare them to tackle the projects sent their way.

Book and sprint and let us help you solve your big marketing, design or brand challenges. 

Curiato Builds Biomedical Technology Solution for Wound Care Management

Co-Founder of Curiato, Moazam Khan, is in the business of helping healthcare institutions provide better care to their patients. Curiato’s mission is to help healthcare institutions who are dissatisfied with outdated, complex and manual ways of wound care management with innovative biomedical technology.

Hack-a-thon Inspires the Creation of Curiato

Believe it or not, the focus on wound care management came after an experience attending a “Hack4Health” hack-a-thon in 2015. Moazam and co-founders Zied Etleb and Matthew Sefati were curious to understand the current challenges in the healthcare system and how they might use their skills in biomedical sciences and technology to help.

One healthcare issue in particular opened Moazam’s eyes when he had the opportunity to hear from many healthcare professionals and patients at the hack-a-thon. Something that came up over and over again was the issue of wound care management and bedsores. Bedsores — also called pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers — are injuries to skin and underlying tissue resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin. Bedsores most often develop on skin that covers bony areas of the body, such as the heels, ankles, hips and tailbone.

Patients with limited mobility end up laying for extended periods of time creating pressure on certain areas of the skin, resulting in bedsores which can be pretty detrimental to one’s overall state of health and costly to the medical institution as a whole.

Curiato made sure to spend their time properly understanding the issue from all angles so they could build a system-based solution which would alleviate healthcare professionals and assist them (rather than creating more work) which would tackle the very real problem that patient’s are experiencing. “Creating a band-aid solution is just not an option for us, this is something that affects a lot of lives and in some cases, when palliative care comes into play, it can make an immense difference in quality of life and comfort. This is something we take seriously and are determined to make a real difference in for health care institutions, care providers and patients.”

The Solution: The Ceylon System

The solution that Moazam, Zied and Matthew began building is called the Ceylon System. The Ceylon System is a combination of a smart biological mat and patient management interface that provides monitoring of biological factors of high acuity patients, aimed towards decreasing nurse fatigue, and simplifying communication between care staff and providers. Bridging the intersection of IoT and artificial intelligence, this intuitive system has a built in monitor that can sense when a patient is at risk of developing a bedsore and when a patient needs to be moved to avoid that from happening. The Curiato founders strongly believe that the interaction and interpretation with the data is more important than the data itself.

1 bedsore can mean more hospital costs, transfer of care, re-admittance to a long-term facility, etc which in the end costs medical institutions money, time and effort. To prevent 1 bedsore could make a big difference not only to the institution, but to the staff and the patient’s.

Once they had a better understanding of why bedsores form and how this problem occurs, through 8 months of research and 2 months of interviewing healthcare professionals, they were ready to begin producing the system.

Since joining the AC Jumpstart Program, the team at Curiato was able to make some big leaps forward. Moazam said the money and mentorship was instrumental in helping with product development costs, connecting with the right talent, networking, testing, forming a corporate structure, securing business relationships and partnerships and now preparing for two pilot programs in Waterloo and Toronto for 2018.

What’s Next?

Right now, the team is focused on growing the team and preparing for the pilot programs for 2018. They are looking for engineers, data scientists and a clinical advisor board. To learn more or talk directly to the team visit: http://curiato.com/

 

Accelerator Centre Announces 56th and 57th Graduates from the Accelerator Program

Waterloo (Ontario), CANADA, September 6, 2017 – The Accelerator Centre (AC) is pleased to announce its newest graduates of the Accelerator Program. The graduation of SSIMWAVE and FindBob Ltd. mark the 56th and 57th successful graduation from the AC’s world renowned Accelerator Program.

“SSIMWAVE and FindBob both represent the tremendous impact that entrepreneurs can have on their respective industries. They are the reason why programs like ours exist – to support entrepreneurs so they can tackle big problems and deliver big impact.” – Paul Salvini, CEO, Accelerator Centre

 

SSIMWAVE

At the forefront of Viewer Intelligence™, SSIMWAVE™ is built on an Engineering Emmy® Award-winning algorithm. SSIMWAVE is defining the future of video delivery with the most accurate measure of how humans perceive video. With SSIMWAVE technology, video distributors, networks and studios can keep up with the explosive growth of video and deliver the ultimate viewing experience™ to consumers on any screen, anywhere.

Our customers include major players in the media, entertainment and MVPD (Multichannel Video Programming Distributor) industries and our state-of-the-art products provide the most optimal way to measure, control and optimize live and file-based video.

We’re a growing team of engineers, video scientists, product and business experts. Our diverse team is driven to advance the business of video.

FindBob Ltd.

FindBob helps insurance and financial institutions encourage better transition behaviour so they can protect the value of their most precious asset – their book of business.  FindBob was founded by Roland Chan, a former enterprise software architect and successor to a mid-sized insurance and investment practice in Toronto, after witnessing firsthand the impact lack of continuity planning can have on the industry, advisors, firms and especially consumers.  Thanks to the support of the AC, FindBob is now serving some of the largest insurance and mutual fund companies in Canada and is focusing its efforts on its US expansion plans.

About the Accelerator Centre

The Accelerator Centre is an award winning startup accelerator/incubator dedicated to building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive technology firms, commercializing advanced research  emerging from academic institutions, and enabling corporations to pursue innovative initiatives. Our flagship, Accelerator Program offers a 2 year, milestone based program and one-on-one mentorship that is proven to help startups grow faster.

For further information, please contact:

Tabatha Laverty
Marketing and Community Manager
Accelerator Centre
tlaverty@acceleartorcentre.com

 

 

3 Areas of Focus for Fostering Innovation in Growing Organizations

Last week, we heard from Jana Levene on how Google continues to support innovation and the importance of corporations finding a way to be create and implement new ideas – big and small.

Now, we are going to share 3 practical areas that growing organizations can focus on to shift their innovation strategies from reactive risk management to proactive leadership and continuing to support an entrepreneurial mindset. To reinforce some these areas Clinton Ball spoke with Loren Padelford, ‎VP & General Manager – Shopify Plus to discover ways to pursue innovation effectively:

Make sure your org structure isn’t in the way

Organizational structure and red tape is probably the number one reason innovative ideas die in growing organizations. How many layers of management does a frontline employee need to get through before they can share, develop, and implement an idea? Are their ideas met with a “yes” attitude or do risk, budget, and middle management stand in the way. Empower staff, below the C-suite, to pursue new ideas and accept risk without being micromanaged from above.   

What’s the biggest barrier to success in innovating in large companies?
“Bureaucracy. Too many people trying to protect the downside. Companies get risk averse when they achieve success, when they should become more risk oriented.”

How must organizations be structured in order to bring ideas through the pipeline?
“Flat – The fewer number of layers of approval the better. Decision making needs to be as close to the front line as possible. Managers tend to get in the way of innovation.”  

Is it necessary to run like a start-up in a large organization in order to be effective?
“I believe it is critical to think like a start-up. Be nimble, take risks, don’t get married to any idea, be willing to change strategy. Its thinking like a small company which matters, you may not be able to run like one.” 

Develop a space for new ideas

As a leader, do you regularly check in with your team to survey for new ideas? Do your staff know who to talk to if they have an idea? If not, it’s worth formalizing a time and place to talk about innovation with your team. Google dedicates a certain percentage of their staff’s time to working on new projects, others have quarterly “brainstorming” meetings or digital “suggestion boxes” for new ideas. Make creating this space a priority and commit the organization to following up on good ideas. (See point 1)

What’s the best way to build a buzz about innovation initiatives?
“Talk about them a lot. Talk about what is working, and what isn’t. Talk about what it will do for customers.” 

Create a culture that supports those ideas

After you’ve removed the barriers to collecting new ideas, you need to make sure your staff feel comfortable sharing those ideas. Innovation often cost money and usually comes with risk. Does your management team operate proactively and embrace the risk or do they shy away and fight to maintain the status quo so they don’t risk ‘failure” and being seen by the boss as not meeting business objectives?

Often the key to an innovative culture lives with middle management. Leaders can say they want new ideas, but if those ideas are met with negativity, skepticism, and fear managers will pass that message down. Actively seek, support and reward innovation and your team will deliver the ideas.

How do you bring new ideas through to implementation in large organizations? One key lesson.
“There needs to be a very strong stakeholder who is willing to fight the fights that will come with implementing anything new. People/orgs resist change, to get something done, you need someone with the will to move it forward.”

Incremental innovation- is it a mix of small and large initiatives?
”Yes, you have to be taking a lot of risks, placing a lot of bets of all sizes. Most will fail, but that is ok. You only need a small fraction to be home runs to make a huge impact.” 

Running like a start-up and thinking like a start-up are two different things. Embracing an entrepreneurial mindset, one focused on a continual strategy around  innovation is key. Embracing failure is a must, and a key component of staying relevant in a competitive environment. When organizations grow they need to retain a culture that understands and embraces bringing innovation through the pipleline from idea to implementation.

As new technologies continue to disrupt industries, it is becoming more and more important for large companies to embrace change through innovation. With a few shifts in thinking and leadership style, they can begin to lead that change. Whether it is through incremental improvements to products or business processes, or the creation of entirely new spin off companies, growing corporations can arm themselves for success by having a focus on supporting and fostering intrapreneurship.

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.

Introducing Startup Studio: Affordable Marketing and Design Services for Startups

On a daily basis, startups prove that small is mighty. Your team’s concentration of brainpower and ability to pivot is what makes mighty corporations shake. The flip side of having a small team is that you have to make tough decisions regarding which skills you will curate for your team. Here in Waterloo Region, most teams focus their skills in business, engineering and computer science, often leaving a gap in marketing and design.

To close this gap, the AC has partnered with the University of Waterloo – Stratford and CDMN to create a marketing and design agency within the AC and provide marketing and design services to startups at an affordable price.

Lead by experienced AC staff, we’ve brought in third and fourth year students to become the studio’s first designers. They’ve brought with them a background of marketing, UX & UI design, video editing and branding.

Collaborations with the Startup Studio take two forms:

  1. One day design sprints. Sprints are all about helping companies zero in on a problem and discovering a solution to that problem in one day. Through the sprint process, they develop strategic solutions ranging from digital product and web design to establishing the startup’s brand and corresponding marketing campaigns. Clients walks away with wireframes they can use to implement the solutions.
  2. Implementation. After going through the sprint process clients have the choice to implement the design with their own designer or to hire the Startup Studio to complete the project. From building websites, cutting together videos, creating print and digital marketing collateral – the studio has built a large portfolio of work.

After a successful pilot through the summer, we are happy to bring this service to our clients and to open it up to the local startup community as a whole. 

Visit the Startup Studio page to learn more or book your design sprint.

We’re Hiring! Administrative Assistant: 14 Month Contract

Please read application instructions carefully. Only applications sent through the portal linked at the bottom of the job description will be considered.

JOB DESCRIPTION 

The Accelerator Centre is a dynamic and innovative work environment that provides employees opportunity for growth and development. We pay competitively as a not for profit in the incubator sector. We offer a flexible work environment that is focused on aligning individual strengths and passion, with the needs of our clients. One of the most exciting aspects of working at the Accelerator Center is exposure to leading edge technology and an inspiring and progressive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Reporting to the Program & Executive Administrator the Administrative Assistant is the “executive of first impressions” and the face of the AC to all resident companies, stakeholders and visitors. This position will play a critical role in ensuring that front reception, and our facilities (meeting rooms, common areas and client spaces) are maintained with a World-Class approach and attitude.  Other responsibilities include supporting program administration, events, and one-to-many programming sessions.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES

Guest Services:

  • Manage first impressions – reception duties, greet guests, direct visitors and respond to client company needs and inquires.
  • Assist clients, staff and visitors with meeting room requests including, but not limited to; setting up calendar bookings, confirming facility availability, correcting booking conflicts, room transfers, A/V set up, arranging catering and facility rental orders delivery and set up.
  • Maintain visitor management software and host list.
  • Triage facility and client requests and provide direction or assistance for incoming inquiries.
  • Assist with coordination of internal/social committee activities, supporting community organizations and charitable opportunities.
  • Be the Chief Everything Officer (CEO), find opportunity in every task and support the company and team.

Client Experience

  • Manage first impressions – direct visitors and respond to client company needs and inquires
  • Monitor client movements within the facility including preparation of space, suite signage and access/security passes
  • Coordinate one-to-many programming days including calendars/RSVP, catering, greeting & supporting guest speakers and technical needs
  • Support the client companies from onboarding through to program completion including engagement with mentors
  • Make programming and event recommendations to Director, Programs and Initiatives based on observations and client conversations
  • Manage the administrative aspects of the Accelerator Centre JumpStart Program and Startup Visa Program

Administrative:

  • Assist with the administration of internal process and procedures.
  • Assist with the management of client and stakeholder contact information
  • Manage and reconcile petty cash and complete bi-weekly cheque deposits
  • Assist with the organization of the electronic filing system
  • Process mail, courier and packages for all resident companies and tenants. Notify external parties of their shipments
  • Route phone calls to corresponding parties including staff and clients
  • Maintain meeting rooms and common areas and manage all aspects of the networking area
  • Monitor and stock community supplies in the kitchen, meeting rooms and copier room
  • Provide assistance with tours of facility to prospective clients, guests and industry partners
  • Oversee vendor relationships with suppliers for janitorial, office supplies, security, IT and service providers to provide continual support for clients
  • Assist with events – communications, RSVP lists, food & beverage and technical needs as required
  • Order supplies for staff requirements. Office supplies, food & drinks, IT requirements, etc
  • Troubleshoot photocopier, A/V and IT issues for staff and clients

DESIRED SKILLS & EXPERIENCE

  • At least 5 years of administrative experience
  • Post-secondary education/related experience in administration, reception, operations, or related disciplines
  • Conducts business with a professional, upbeat attitude, leading by example with a positive team attitude in all aspects
  • Strong commitment to providing exceptional customer experiences for clients, visitors and industry partners
  • Clear verbal and written communication skills
  • Assertive, confident and thrives under pressure
  • Excellent organizational, trouble-shooting, and interpersonal skills

COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
The Accelerator Centre is committed to fostering a diverse community that is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs from all backgrounds.

A full range of perspectives, lifestyles, and passions are key to creating the inclusive, entrepreneurial environment that is necessary to help our clients build and scale globally competitive companies. Diversity and inclusion at the Accelerator Centre means we are dedicated to the elimination of discrimination, in all its forms, at all levels of our organization and in our programming.

We welcome applications from qualified candidates of all backgrounds regardless of age, physical ability, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. We will provide any requested accommodation to candidates with disabilities throughout the recruitment process. If you require assistance, please contact info@acceleratorcentre.com noting the job title in the subject line of the email.

APPLY 

Please submit applications, including a resume and cover letter, via the link below. Applications close September 15th at 5pm. Only applications submitted through the link below will be considered.

We appreciate all applications, however, only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted. No phone calls, please.

http://bit.ly/2gCXI8z

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.

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