What’s Life? Media partners with THEMUSEUM for the first ever Life Asks Community Conversation and Pop-Up

 

What’s Life? is a story-telling media startup, focused on creating and capturing compelling content online and in real spaces. They just created a first of its kind, local-global Digital Pop-Up and partnered up with downtown Kitchener’s THEMUSEUM for their current Model Citizen Exhibition.

“Our Pop-Up and Platform is called Life AsksTM and our aim is to ask people compelling and sometimes disruptive questions about life so we can share micro stories of our real life experiences and why they matter,” says CEO Dave Marmen. “Because of fake news, and many other issues, we are entering a new era of authenticity where people are wanting authentic exchanges and a new kind of conversation.”

This is why the What’s Life? team is also launching a novel, experimental Life AsksTM Community Conversation on November 8th from 7 to 9 pm as part of THEMUSEUEM’s Dialogue Series. It’s where digital meets analog to discuss important questions in the form of open and spontaneous micro-cafe-conversations. “We are inviting everyone who cares about community and good conversation to attend. Different micro cafes are hosted by people from the region who have a burning question to pose the community, which makes it really fun and engaging, as well as relevant to people’s lives in the Kitchener-Waterloo region” says Marmen.

Here’s what can guests expect

“Show up, grab a drink, pick conversations of your choice, move around, and engage in a fun, real-time, hosted discussion with a group of like-minded and diverse people from the local community. We’re expecting artists, adventurers, entrepreneurs (some serial), techies, University students, recent grads, philosophers, networkers, and local thought leaders.

It’s new. It’s different. We want to spark creative connections between people and ideas, life experiences and future possibilities. The Pop-Up Conversation is an opportunity to identify and share what matters most to you. After all, our conversations shape our lives and our communities.

Admission: Pay What You Can (PWYC), with a suggested donation of $10.
More Information: http://www.themuseum.ca/events/life-asks-community-conversations/

Get Your Voice Heard

The Life Asks™ Digital Pop-Up is ever evolving and has a 3-month run at THEMUSEUM.  It combines low tech and high tech. There are compelling video interviews with members of the millennial generation showcasing their insights, dreams and real experiences. One section is dedicated to inspiring quotes from local thought leaders and sponsors of the Pop-Up, including the Accelerator Centre.  Visitors can capture their own micro stories related to their lives, insights, and dreams through a curated digital experience using text and video recording. The recording pod allows them to record their answers to 3 disruptive questions – one relating directly to their engagement with the Model Citizen exhibition as a whole.

Another exciting feature is a Wishing Wall for community members of all ages and backgrounds to write their answers to key questions, such as “What One Good would you like to DO or SEE happen in your community?” More than 300 answers are currently displayed on colourful hand-written cards and more keep going up every day.

What’s Life?’s goal is to capture content across platforms that will showcase our community, what people love about it, and how we want to improve it, together. It provides an opportunity to interact digitally as well as socially, together with friends and family, thus creating important linkages between real world and digital interactions. Dave Marmen adds, “These are important conversations that we want to help facilitate in the KW region to make a difference in the way we live, do business, launch innovative projects and interact together in the community. We are excited THEMUSEUM has chosen us as a digital partner to engage the community this way.”

Bringing Clarity to Cybersecurity for Small and Medium Enterprises

In today’s hyperconnected world, running a business is more difficult than ever. In addition to traditional challenges, we now have to contend with cybersecurity threats to sensitive data such as customer information and company intellectual property. Any compromise of this data could close a business down. Every day, the media features many stories of individuals and companies who have been hacked or otherwise compromised.  There are existing cybersecurity options available, but they are generally out of reach for SMEs due to cost and complexity.

“The timing is really good. People are more aware and want to know more. There is a general awareness of the risks while operating a business in today’s digital landscape, and more people are open and interested in protecting themselves.”

-Kathryn Vandenberg

zabu is a cybersecurity company building user-focused tools for small to medium sized companies.  They are developing an easy to understand automated assessment which takes human and technology factors into account to create a composite cyberrisk score, similar to a credit score.  This score empowers executives to visualize, understand, and reduce their company’s cyberrisk exposure, making cybersecurity accessible and relevant to everyone.

“The Accelerator Centre has helped us form a strong foundation for our business.  The expertise, perspective and support from our mentors and from the program itself have allowed us to achieve far more than we could have on our own, especially in this short period of time.”

Kathryn Vandenberg

zabu co-founders Kathryn and Derek not only had complementary business skillsets, they also had a passion for simplifying complex issues such as cyberrisk exposure and helping people make better decisions. They recognized that small and medium businesses were not being served by the existing costly and complex cybersecurity tools, and created zabu to focus specifically on that market.

What’s next

zabu is continuing to develop the product and looking forward to launching a closed field test in January of 2018, and is still accepting companies that would like to participate.

“We are passionate about providing clarity and empowering business owners to take control of their cybersecurity.”

– Derek Wong

Learn more about the Accelerator Centre and Phase One of the Accelerator Program on our website.

Monarch Clothing: Providing Dignity, Comfort and Confidence to Residents in Long Term Care Facilities

Monarch is nothing short of an inspirational story.

Kristine Goulet’s journey toward creating Monarch, an innovative clothing solution specially designed for individuals who require assistance dressing, began with a desire to help her own mother. Kristine experienced the role of caregiver while tending to her mother who lived with Alzheimer’s disease over a period of five years in various long term care homes. Kristine witnessed firsthand the challenges and health risks (pressure sores, physical injury, etc.) associated with dressing someone with declining physical and cognitive abilities. Determined to find a better solution, she envisioned an easier to use, fashion-conscious adaptive clothing line; one that would provide comfort and dignity to her mother while being dressed and one that would also honour her mother’s love of fashion.

Just two weeks after the passing of Kristine’s beloved mother, the passion project that had commenced a year prior gained even more momentum and eventually became the company we now call Monarch.

As a Doctor of Chiropractic, Kristine, combined her knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics with the personal experience of a caregiver and became heavily invested in the design of a new dressing solution. During the first year of building the business, she reached out regularly to her long time friend, previous work colleague and successful entrepreneur Patricia Quinn to provide expertise pertaining to the development of a start-up business. The ladies laugh as Kristine recalls that conversation, “I remember telling Pat that I would have to eventually pay her for all that free consulting on Monarch and she responded saying that I could never afford her!”  Patricia, with a solid background in business development and entrepreneurship knew that Kristine was onto something not only meaningful, but extremely important for the care industry. Pat also had a family member diagnosed with dementia in 2016, so she was personally motivated to join the cause. Pat and Kristine became business partners and have a great business relationship and drive to build something to help other families, caregivers and care recipients.

When it came to designing adaptive clothing for people with declining health or mobility issues, it first required an understanding the issue from all angles, which meant doing research, conducting interviews and focus groups with professional caregivers, families and care recipients. With current available clothing designs, they still require substantial physical effort and body manipulation to dress someone which causes a great amount of stress for everyone involved. Common issues encountered with current designs are such things as bulky fasteners like Velcro that are poorly positioned, excess fabric bunching in the back, bare skin being exposed, all of which can contribute to causing pressure injuries. In addition, the fashion designs and colours need refreshing.

Taking all of this into consideration, the ladies knew they had learn the complexities of the garment industry and connect with the right designers, suppliers and manufacturers to begin designing and creating clothing as a solution to address all of these current issues. That is where the Accelerator Centre provided immense value. Pat recalls, The Accelerator Centre really helped us to gain access to the resources and support we needed to do our research and to start looking at things like our IP and the manufacturing process, while building our products to begin testing.”  The conclusion of the Market Validation phase of the Accelerator Centre Program included a pitch contest where Monarch was proud to be presented with the “Most Innovative” award. The ladies have now created their first line of tops for women and are in design working on a line of pants. Men’s apparel is soon to follow.

Their clothing is styled in American Classic which is timeless, classy and very colourful (as research revealed that older generations are attracted to colours over the monochromatic trends as seen among younger generations and current fashion trends). The tops are a 2 piece garment with a technical base layer that is built for comfort, wicks away moisture and has 4-way stretch making it easy to maneuver. It has been engineered integrating “Poka Yoke” aka: mistake – proofing or making it impossible to put it on wrong. This is created with a system of fasteners that have been strategically placed. In addition, if a resident soils themselves or needs to change, the 2nd or top fashionable layer can be quickly and comfortably changed. This clothing system was engineered to be put on a care recipient lying in bed by rolling him/her on their side only once versus up to 4 times required to put current clothing on.

The current designs have been tested with families and care workers and have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. The benefits are clear and far reaching. The care recipient’s dressing experience is enhanced, family members are relieved knowing their loved one is comfortable and looks dignified, and the care workers feel more satisfaction knowing they are able to help their care recipient more easily and with less stress.

Kristine and Pat recognize that this idea came from the want to help those with Alzheimer’s, but recognize that it can help others who are living with many different health conditions and status such as MS, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, severe arthritis, post surgical, mobility issues and general declining health. They have found the community to be very supportive because there is an overwhelming amount of people who are directly affected by or know someone who is affected by the serious health condition of a loved one that wants and deserves to be dressed properly.

Today, Monarch is a team of 6 including two interns from Ryerson University. They are working hard on completing more prototypes, designing more styles of tops and pants, testing in long term care homes, and building out their social media content and contacts.  They are excited to start selling the adaptive clothing designs early 2018.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more or would like to invest in this dressing solution for someone you love, feel free to reach out anytime at: https://monarchclothes.com/contact/

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.

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.

 

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

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.

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.”

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