Dibbzz Partners with Interac to Improve the Experience of Concert Goers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about Dibbzz, visit dibbzz.com

Freeze Frame: AC JumpStart Funding Fuels Vidhub’s Market Expansion

According to eMarketer, there were more than 77 million millennial digital video viewerso in 2015, representing 92% of all US millennial Internet users. Video is the preferred communication platform for this demographic, used for everything from entertainment, to personal communication. It is also increasingly being used for online learning, as more educators turn to video as a simple and intuitive way to better engage learners.

Shub Sengupta and Adam Zmenak are co-founders of Vidhub, a simple to use video review and collaboration tool. The two met back in 2013 at a 24 hour startup event hosted by Communitech, and felt that instant chemistry that happens when two entrepreneurs are destined to work together.  “I think we placed second or third in that competition. But more importantly, we knew we worked really well together as a team,” says Shub.

Shub, a video producer by trade, was quickly able put a new business idea on the table for the team to tackle — a platform that would allow clients to provide better, more accurate feedback to video production teams. He explains, “the video production process is not particularly collaborative. Producers typically need to set up and share footage using a video sharing platform such as YouTube or Vimeo. Then clients provide feedback via email, identifying the changes they want – for instance, I’d like to edit this section out, around five minutes into the video. But the process of collaboration is slow and it is usually really inaccurate. To give good feedback, you need to zero in on a precise second, and frame. So often, there’s a lot of back and forth between the producer and the client to get clarification. This slows down the editing time, affects both the video company and the client and often drives up costs and pushes out deadlines.”

Shub describes his brainchild, Vidhub as ‘SoundCloud comment meets Google Docs for video.’ Simply put, it lets people discuss videos online just as you would in person. Video is uploaded to Vidhub directly or from any video platform (Vimeo, YouTube, Dropbox are all supported). Everyone on the team is automatically notified, and is invited to comment. When a person begins typing a comment, the video is paused so the information can be tagged to a frame and specific time. Everyone can see all comments and can collaborate. Comments can also be exported to a PDF, subtitle or text file. A visual heat map running underneath the video allows people to view footage uninterrupted, but exposes where comments are located in each frame.

Initially, the Vidhub team focused its attention on the video production world – a market they knew well and understood. After building a solid footing, with customers using the product around the world, they are now expanding into the higher education market. “Video is now heavily used by faculty for online and blended learning, and we began getting inquiries from professors, who wanted to encourage student participation and improve learner engagement,” says Shub.

A focus on the education sector also demands more commitment from the two co-founders, who until recently have run their startup in parallel with freelance work. “We’re beginning now to gear up for buying cycles in schools leading into the fall of 2017. The education market is more hands on, and takes more focus and effort. It is a market that makes very big decisions, but not often. So we felt it was time for us to go full time on this venture.”

The move to full time has also allowed Shub and Adam to take more full advantage of the programming and mentorship offered through the Accelerator Centre to allow them take the business to the next level. The company also landed $30,000 in AC JumpStart funding, made possible through FedDev Ontario, which provided the critical fuel for growth. “It was the JumpStart funding that enabled us to finally go full time on our venture,” says Shub. “We had enough revenue to validate but not quite enough to pay the bills. JumpStart made up the difference.”

Inksmith’s STEAM+ Education Solutions for 3D Printing are Empowering Canadian Kids to Tackle Big Ideas

From businesses, to manufacturers, to everyday hobbyists 3D printing offers an accessible, safe and cost effective way to bring designs off the page and into life. Desktop 3D printing is igniting a new wave of innovation in the education sector, where 3D printing presents an incredible opportunity for STEAM based learning opportunities that span virtually every discipline from K-12 and beyond.

Jeremy Hedges and his team are capitalizing on that goldmine of opportunity with their company InkSmith. A University of Laurier grad, Jeremy initially founded InkSmith a couple of years ago to improve the sustainability of 3D printing feedstock. But like many startups, he found himself pivoting the company toward the education market after realizing the untapped opportunity for learning presented by the 3D technologies he represented.

“I estimate only 20% of Canadian schools today have access to 3D printers, but in the next few years they’re going to become a standard tool in every classroom and library,” says Jeremy. “It’s a real blue sky market and a powerful legacy to be a part of empowering future generations to tackle the world’s biggest problems!

Jeremy, the son of a teacher, is quick to point out that this isn’t a story about 3D printer hardware. “At the end of the day, the 3D printer is just the tool. InkSmith is an edtech company focused on inspiring kids and teachers to use STEAM-based learning technologies in the classroom. We don’t want to throw a 3D printer into the school and hope it works. We want to enable STEAM programming with a turnkey solution for education that provides professional development, curriculum based course projects, 3D printers, materials, the technical support and everything else they need to make it happen.”

Jeremy, the son of a teacher and Wilfrid Laurier University grad, spent his formative years leading community and youth programs. “I was always looking to make an impact,” he confesses. With 3D printing, he saw a cool niche where he could build a company and at the same time empower kids not just to learn about the world’s problems, but to become the innovators that solve them as well.

“With 3D printing and modelling technologies, we can get kids learning environmental science to design their own aquaponics system, or build 3D printed catapults to test physics theories. There are so many applications for learning engineering principles, mathematics principles, and even the arts,” he explains, noting that Inksmith is working currently with the Stratford Festival to use 3D printing for prop making, and to construct mini stage replicas to understand and test how props move, and how actors use the physical space.

One of the most exciting developments for Inksmith in the last year has been a budding partnership with the York Region District School Board. The company and school board have jointly applied for a funding grant to pilot the Inksmith solution into dozens of schools. Should the grant funding get approved, this project will serve as the pilot test for the federal government and provincial education ministries to invest in Canada wide deployment. In anticipation of a successful application, Jeremy is building out his team and beefing up the company’s academic credentials. A recently posted job description for teachers to help Inksmith develop course materials brought in 20 highly qualified applicants in a single day.

Inksmith, a client of the Waterloo Accelerator Centre’s Hardware Innovation Lab at 44 Gaukel, was able to tap into $30,000 in AC Jumpstart funding through FedDev Ontario to build out its vision.

“JumpStart is a great program and it was super valuable to have access to mentors and call us on bad ideas says. It gave us the time to prototype and build a business model that works. Because of the ACJumpStart funding, we were able to really research and understand the market and hire our first employees to build out our product and sales. As a result, we’re at the leading edge of this industry and are the only company in Canada providing this kind of solution. I can confidently say we wouldn’t be here at all without ACJumpStart.” – Jeremy Hedges

FindBob Helps Canadian Financial Advisors Grow and Protect their Practices

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Roland Chan is a matchmaker of an entirely different kind. Rather than pairing up lonely hearts, Chan, a serial entrepreneur, technologist and financial advisor, is seeking to help other financial advisors working in the financial services and insurance world find the right match for their book of business with his company FindBob.

“Financial advisors in Canada today are responsible for managing over $1 trillion in wealth. At the average age of 59, many themselves are nearing retirement age, and yet, for all the retirement counsel they give others, more than 80% of financial advisors have no succession plan of their own,” says Chan.

Chan understands the financial service industry very well. He grew up in the business, so to speak. His father established his own successful financial services and insurance practice 26 years ago, and was joined by his son in the business in 2008.

“I began my career as a software architect, but after stepping into the financial services industry to help my father I grew to love the industry and the millions of dollars it puts back into the community and the economy,” says Roland Chan. “There are some terrific people working in the business who have committed their lives to their clients and to educating the public on the best way to build savings and protect wealth.”

Chan also knows too well the consequences of poor succession planning.

“Around the same time I joined the family practice, we had an advisor who had been with the firm for 15 or 16 years pass away suddenly.  He didn’t have a continuity plan to protect his book of business. In financial services, both the firm and the individual own a percentage of recurring revenue flowing in from clients. Because there was no succession plan in place, it took me over a year to transfer the value from that book of business to our advisor’s widow. And unfortunately, by that time, close to 50% of its value had eroded, due to clients moving on and/or or other agents poaching his business.”

It is a story that Chan has heard repeated over and over again through his work in the industry, and as VP of Advocis, the Financial Advisor’s Association of Canada’s, Toronto Chapter. He also learned why advisors were so reluctant to plan for their own future. “Most advisors don’t participate in succession planning not because they expect to live forever, but rather they can’t find an adequate partner, or find the whole process too daunting.  Their firms want to support and encourage them to do so, yet they lack effective and scaleable processes.”

Realizing there was an unmet need for a more effective solution to aid advisors with succession, he decided it was time to put his decades of technology experience to work to build FindBob, a unique marketplace that pairs advisors looking to scale back or retire, with others in the industry (ideally in the same firm) who are looking to enter the industry or expand.

FindBob’s platform has strongly resonated with the financial advisory community. Since becoming a client of the Accelerator Centre in 2015, Roland Chan’s venture has achieved steady market traction. The company is on the brink of closing its fourth Canadian enterprise client, and now represents the largest insurance practices in the country and the second largest trade association for investment and insurance advisors. “We provide real value to these firms,” says Chan. “We help them protect their existing assets, generate new revenue, recruit new talent and meet their fiduciary responsibility to clients. Currently, FindBob is the only platform focused on on assisting financial institutions with internal transitions. Our marketplace is allowing advisors to discover opportunities within their own firm and connect with others seeking to buy, sell, merge or find a successor. “If you are able to move a block of business internally within a single financial institution that achieves the best outcome for advisors, for industry and for client.

To fuel its next stage expansion, FindBob was able to tap into $30,000 in AC JumpStart funding, made possible through FedDev Ontario.

“Obviously getting an injection of non-dilutive money is tremendously helpful,” says Roland Chan. “It allowed me the freedom to hire a person devoted to customer success, a role that creates real value for the company and for our clients.  Thanks to the AC we added a critical non-technical hire, and now Sylvia is our point person on many enterprise engagements.” – Roland Chan

Based in Toronto, Chan travels the Toronto-Waterloo corridor as often as possible to also connect with the Accelerator Centre’s team of mentors.

“From Kevin Elop, who sends me a five page email response to my question; to Kevin Hood who has saved me from jumping off a cliff on 3 or 4 occasions; to Bob Rushby and Steve Fyke who always offers poignant technology and design advice; to Jackie Lauer’s hiring expertise; to Ellyn Winters, who has forced me to focus on inbound marketing and PR – areas that are decidedly not in my comfort area; the mentors have helped me look at my business from many different points of view.” – Roland Chan

ACJumpStart is made possible by and investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and is delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.


Uncorking the Bottleneck

Brisk Synergies Helps Ease Municipal Traffic Woes

From surviving the daily commute to traversing hectic side streets, anyone who’s recently driven in Toronto or any other large metropolitan city understands the impact of traffic congestion. The sheer volume of cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians adds a whole new dimension to the word congestion.

And yet, despite the magnitude of the problem, municipalities are limited in their ability to truly understand and measure the flow of traffic through the urban core.  Even when they do collect traffic related data — for instance video footage of a troublesome intersection, cities do not have the time, human resources, or expertise to wade into the data and extract meaning. As a result, a significant amount of collected data — likely containing valuable answers to the problem at hand — sits unanalyzed.

Brisk Synergies
is on a mission to solve this challenge. The company, founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur Charles Chung and transportation engineer Luis Miranda-Moreno works with city planners and transportation authorities to transform traffic movement into knowledge, allowing cities to solve critical traffic flow issues, ease congestion and design and build innovative traffic pathways through urban spaces to better serve vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.Brisk Team Photo

“This is absolutely a big data issue,” says Charles Chung. “Municipalities all want to understand and improve traffic movement and provide safer transportation paths. The problem is they have too much data, and they don’t know what to do with it. Take for example video collected over a few weeks at a single intersection. It’s important, valuable information, but the answers lie somewhere within hours and hours and hours of footage that is difficult to store, wade through and interpret. Municipalities don’t have the resources or expertise to do this analysis. It is just operationally infeasible.”

Brisk Synergies’ traffic analysis platform is able to transform the infeasible to feasible. It takes video footage supplied by the city and using proprietary algorithms, conducts deep analysis the data to zero in on specific congestion challenges — for instance, spotting collision near-misses at a specific intersection. Brisk’s platform can not only spot those accidents that almost happened, it can calculate the probability and frequency of collisions with split-second accuracy.  It can also help cities spot troublesome traffic issues and find answers to those issues much faster. “It would take man-years of time for a city to review all this footage, and even then, because humans are performing the effort the findings would be highly inaccurate an
d subjective,” says Chung. “Conversely, Brisk can have raw results back to a city in a week, and a final report back in two.”

Even better, because Brisk Synergies analysis highlights incidents within video frames, transportation managers can call up the footage and review the scenario first hand

Since moving into the Accelerator Centre in 2014, Chung and the team have been busy building out their platform and taste testing various traffic analysis applications to find the areas of greatest pain for its prospective customers.

“Video analysis of troublesome intersBrisk Quoteections is definitely showing the greatest market traction and will be where we focus our attention going forward,” says Charles Chung. “It is not an easy problem for municipalities to solve themselves and it has a lot of pain associated with it. The understanding we are able to bring to the table delivers real value.” He points to one project in the Greater Toronto Area, where the city was able to use Brisk’s analysis to greatly improve traffic flow through a specific intersection.

Over the last year, Brisk Synergies received a huge boost courtesy of $30K in AC JumpStart funding, made available through FedDev Ontario. “What we do requires very heavy, specialized skillsaround deep analysis of data. AC JumpStart enabled us to bring in key personnel offering unique value to our customers. It really helped accelerate our focus,” says Chung. In addition, the AC JumpStart program allowed Brisk to access additional mentor hours.  “One of the biggest benefits coming out of the AC is the mentor guidance it provides. Mentors give you that real feedback that most people don’t have the heart to tell you. They understand business. Are familiar with the pain and challenges that affect startups. That sincere perspective is what makes the AC different from other incubator spaces out there.”

With a focused objective, Brisk Synergies is all about execution in 2017.  Says Charles Chung, “it took us a while to define the offering that would deliver the greatest value. With that clarity, we are now pulling together the troops to align sales, marketing and our R&D and take the company to the next level.”