Alert Labs Announces Intact Ventures as a Strategic Investor

Originally published by Alert Labs

KITCHENER, ONTARIO, April 19, 2017 – Alert Labs Inc., designer of easy-to-install, cellular-connected home protection technology, is thrilled to announce an investment by Intact Ventures, the strategic venture arm of Intact Financial Corporation, Canada’s largest provider of property and casualty insurance. BDC Capital, Garage Capital, Hedgewood Inc., and several angel and private investors have also invested in Alert Labs in order to accelerate marketing activities and scale business operations.

In 2015, Canadian insurance companies spent approximately $2.6 billion repairing homes due to water damage. In the USA, 45 per cent of the $41.2 billion in home insurance claims were due to water damage and freezing pipes. In the next 5 years, it’s expected that North American insurers will spend over $100 billion to repair water damage in customers’ homes. Alert Labs is committed to helping the insurance industry reduce preventable expenditures.

“This represents Intact Ventures’ first investment in Canada. It’s exciting to support a company like Alert Labs that is developing technology that will help protect homeowners and mitigate risk,” says Karim Hirji, Senior Vice President, Intact Ventures, “We appreciate the importance of providing homeowners and businesses with innovative solutions that are easy to use, cost effective and reliable. The value of this type of technology will continue to grow as we adapt to climate change.”

Alert Labs’ Flowie water sensor and Floodie companion sensor work together to protect homes from flood damage, and to provide minute-by-minute water use information. This allows Alert Labs’ analytics engine to identify leaks from the municipal water supply, like a leaky toilet or malfunctioning furnace humidifier, and to share insight into water conservation opportunities. Homeowners receive email and mobile alerts for floods, leaks, high or continual water use, and power outages. Alert Labs’ sensors are cellular-connected with a built-in battery backup, which means they don’t rely on WiFi and will continue to operate during an ice storm or power outage. Flowie also reports basement temperature and humidity which gives early warning about environments with higher potential for mould or freezing pipes.

“It is inspiring to have Canada’s leading insurance company believe in our vision and goals, and we’re grateful for the financial support of our investors. This will ultimately enable us to share our products with more customers,” says George Tsintzouras, CEO of Alert Labs. “We’ve designed our sensors with our customer’s experience as the top priority. Our sensors are as easy to install as a watch or a Fitbit – everyone can do it with no tools or professional installers.”

Alert Labs also recently announced a program with the City of Guelph, Ontario. As the largest city in Canada that relies solely on groundwater for its water source, Guelph is promoting Alert Labs’ Flowie Water Sensor Kit as a tool to drive water conservation, and is offering a rebate to its residents for purchasing Alert Labs’ leak and flood protection solution.

Sources:
http://assets.ibc.ca/Documents/Facts%20Book/Facts_Book/2016/Facts-Book-2016.pdf
https://www.cia-ica.ca/docs/default-source/2014/214020e.pdf
http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/homeowners-and-renters-insurance

About Alert Labs Inc.
Alert Labs is an IoT technology company based in Kitchener, Ontario. They were the $100,000 winners at Communitech’s Rev Demo day in November 2016. Alert Labs builds affordable monitoring solutions for residential and commercial property owners. Alert Labs’ simple-to-deploy sensors can be placed on water meters, sump pumps, near toilets and other appliances to detect water leaks, floods, power issues, abnormal temperatures, and other events. Customers receive real-time alerts and insightful data analytics via SMS, email, and the Alert Labs app. Visit www.alertlabs.com.

Knowledgehook raises $1-million round to close math education gap

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Innovative platform using real-time student data to improve teacher instruction is backed by Steve Case, Sayan Navaratnam and John Abele.

WATERLOO, Ont. (Dec. 7, 2016) — Knowledgehook, whose software teachers throughout North America are using to tailor their support of individual students, has secured $1.25 million in financing to fund the platform’s expansion into global markets.

The round was led by Sayan Navaratnam of Aadya Capital and CEO of Connex Telecommunications and also includes investors Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, and John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific.

“Knowledgehook has a novel solution to a global problem,” Navaratnam says. “I believe this technology will be defining for the edtech space, paving the way for how a data-driven approach to teaching can help kids all over the world do better in math.”

Research suggests that throughout Canada and the United States, student’s math skills are lagging. Knowledgehook software surfaces what concepts they’re struggling with, identifies why and suggests how teachers can support them.

The company’s platform is popular among teachers in more than 75% of Ontario school boards and in more than 300 school districts in the U.S. In 2016, Knowledgehook software made more than 6,000 recommendations on how best teachers could close gaps it identified in their students’ learning.

Knowledgehook received early encouragement from investor Steve Case, who in May 2016 was one of three Google Demo Day judges to present the company with the annual, audience- selected Google’s Game Changer Award.

Knowledgehook, which this year was named BNN’s Top Disruptor, has expansion plans to other markets including the United Kingdom and Australia.

Knowledgehook, founded in 2014, is grateful for the support of mentors from Communitech’s Rev and the Accelerator Centre’s AC JumpStart programs, and for funding delivered by Ontario Centres for Excellence (OCE).

Media contact: Katie Rook | katie@katierook.com | (416)995-7749

About Aadya:
Aadya Capital invests and partners with highly select early stage companies, helping them to create, position and execute on their development. Aadya coaches companies, infuses them with operational efficiencies and surrounds them with resources for success.

How a new wave of startups are bringing law enforcement into the digital age

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At home and abroad, Canadian companies like HealthIM are using new technologies to help police forces solve cold cases and deal with 21st century threats

When Alexandra Brown set out to create a tool that would show people what they might look like when they get older, she never expected to receive a call from the police.

She wasn’t in any sort of trouble—rather, the police wanted to learn more about her software.

How 5G mobile data will enable the next generation of VR, autonomous cars and more
Unlike novelty smartphone apps that use simple algorithms to morph users’ features into different shapes and permutations, Brown’s AprilAge relies on a database housing thousands of scanned images of real faces to predict future appearances based on age, gender, ethnicity and lifestyle.

For law enforcement officials, it has proven to be a helpful tool in the search for suspects and missing persons involved in cold cases.

“You need the image to be realistic and believable,” Brown says. AprilAge assures police officers the image they’re looking at is “a statistically significant result.”

Founded in 2010, the Toronto-based company’s first customer in blue was the forensic services branch of the South Australia Police. These days, Brown primarily targets health and wellness providers, who use the software to show patients the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, but she continues to sign up police forces in the United States, Poland, Ecuador and Turkey.

AprilAge is just one example of law enforcement agencies’ newfound appetite for technology and innovation, observers say. While the industry is known for its stodginess and traditionalism, a growing number of police forces are discovering that startups can help make their lives easier.

“Where there is a problem with paperwork or something like that, it can really make a lot of sense for a private firm to step in and provide assistance,” says Christopher Parsons, managing director of the Telecom Transparency Project at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.

Several opportunity-driven Canadian startups—including HealthIM and Labforge, both based in Kitchener, Ont.—are rising to the challenge.

HealthIM, started in 2014 by University of Waterloo students Daniel MacKenzie and Daniel Pearson Hirdes, makes software that improves how police respond to situations involving mentally unstable individuals.

Police don’t currently have any tools for dealing with such circumstances, MacKenzie says. Officers typically apprehend people they suspect might need help and then take those individuals to a hospital for assessment. The process can take hours and involve a lot of paperwork, only to result in the individuals’ eventual release. This happens about 60% of the time, he adds.

HealthIM’s tool is installed directly in police car computers. Officers fill out a patient profile and send it to a hospital. Medical staff can then prepare an assessment and provide police with a preliminary report before they arrive at the hospital.

The system provides benefits to police, medical staff and detained individuals.

“If you’re not stuck under police guard in a hospital for hours, that just helps make everyone’s life better,” MacKenzie says.

HealthIM won $25,000 in funding last fall from the University of Waterloo’s Velocity accelerator hub and a further $60,000 from the school’s AC JumpStart program earlier this year. Unlike AprilAge, the company is specifically targeting police departments and has signed up two so far in Ontario, in Brantford and London.

MacKenzie credits HealthIM adviser Ron Hoffman, a former mental health training co-ordinator for the Ontario Police College, with landing the deals. Once he gathered everyone at the table, the company found police to be eager customers.

“They are more progressive than I thought in terms of innovation and tech,” MacKenzie says. “They’re always looking for solutions to make their lives easier.”

Apply for AC JumpStart Funding at acjumpstart.com

Labforge, founded in 2014, has also brought in advisers with law enforcement and security backgrounds to open doors. Clint Robinson, former head of government relations with BlackBerry, is helping the company showcase its technology with police and military forces.

Labforge is working on systems that incorporate drones, wearable sensors and smart cameras to give security forces “situational awareness” or a better idea of what’s happening around their personnel in the field.

How digital finance startups are rewriting the rules of saving and borrowing
Currently, when police officers enter a building, they often don’t know what they’re getting into. A system that identifies and differentiates friendly individuals from unfriendly ones can potentially save lives.

“[When you enter a building,] you don’t know where the good guys are or where the bad guys are. Technically, the whole place is a hostile environment,” says co-founder Yassir Rizwan. “If you can put trackers on your guys, then the story changes.”

Labforge’s smart cameras can also identify details officers might otherwise miss. They can, for example, spot licence plates of stolen cars or missing children via image recognition. The company is currently talking to several law enforcement agencies about potential trials, Rizwan says.

Despite the opportunities, security-oriented startups face a number of challenges. Chief among them are privacy concerns and the public’s ill ease with law enforcement using advanced technology to gather data on their whereabouts. Startups dealing in the space would do well to be as open about their technologies as possible, says Citizen Lab’s Parsons.

Often, it’s enforcement agencies and not the companies themselves that are engendering public distrust. Police may be enthusiastic about adopting new technology, but they’re usually not as forthcoming in disclosing how it’s being used, he adds.

It’s incumbent on the firms, then, to push their customers toward improved transparency as well.

“They’re trying to sell into an aspect of government that is very, very secretive, which isn’t very helpful for the public’s trust in law and order,” Parsons says. “That can boomerang back on companies.”

If both businesses and law enforcement give prompt, upfront disclosure of what technology is being used and in what manner, it will make it easier for startups to do business and help ease people’s concerns, says Tamir Israel, a staff lawyer with the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

“You do need to deal with the friction upfront, kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid,” Israel says.

Meet the first cohort of Phase One

AC Built to Scale - Website

We’re pleased to announce the first cohort of the newly developed Phase One program.

“I am very excited to welcome these new companies into this incredible new program.  We’re looking forward to helping them build and scale truly innovative global businesses.” says Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre. “It was an extremely competitive process to select these companies from the wide spectrum of applications we received, but I am proud to have this group of very talented, high-potential entrepreneurs in our first cohort.”

Companies joining the first cohort of Phase One are

  • Green-tech chemical processing company Advanced Chemical Technologies
  • Healthcare software company Aspire
  • Online marketplace Backpacker College
  • Collaboration software developers Care Connector
  • Neuroscience platform DeepSubconscious
  • Collaborative Marketing Technology iGotPro
  • Hardware solution for trucking Industrial Cyber Sensing
  • Word of mouth marketing App InstAppDeals
  • Privacy-centric social platform LiiV
  • Biomedical technology engineers MechanoSight
  • Digital psychology resource centre PsyAlive
  • Facial recognition software Vocord
  • ViewCommerce developer WEcord
  • IT and Integrated Communications Specialists Xenium

Phase One is the first of four phases within our recently restructured two-year incubation program. Customized to the needs of each company, the program offers a unique combination of expert sessions and peer-to-peer learning, blended with the traditional mentorship the incubator is well-known for.

Phase One concludes with Presentation Day; an open house event where companies present to a panel of experts and business leaders who determine whether a business is ready to enter the second phase of the program. Companies successfully entering Phase Two are automatically considered for up to $40,000 in funding and mentorship through the AC JumpStart program.

Minister Chagger Announces Latest AC JumpStart Program Cohorts

On July 20, 2016 the AC welcomed the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism and Member of Parliament for Waterloo, to give a keynote address to the newest cohort of JumpStart recipients at the AC Spark event. The event highlighted some of the brightest entrepreneurial prospects in the Waterloo Region, and provided the Minister with an opportunity to announce the third and fourth cohorts of the AC JumpStart program.

Companies like Find Bob, Thalo, InkSmith, Emmetros, Lani and others gathered in the networking area of the AC to showcase their technologies and compete for “investment dollars” from the crowd to win cash prizes sponsored by Cushman & WakefieldHorizon Solutions won first prize, followed by NFC Authority and What’s Life. More information can be found from the press release from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario here.
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Quick Facts About AC JumpStart

  • The Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, established in 2006 as a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to building and commercializing technology start-ups, has assisted more than 300 early-stage companies in the Waterloo region.
  • In January 2015, FedDev Ontario provided a non-repayable contribution of $8 million, through the Investing in Business Innovation initiative, to expand the AC JumpStart program. FedDev Ontario’s funding will leverage $5.4 million from not-for-profit and private sector partners.
  • Through this project, the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo is expecting to help 180 high-potential businesses grow, which will result in the creation of an estimated 700 jobs. This will help diversify businesses in the region by boosting technology companies in fields like cloud computing, clean technology and financial technology.
  • In 2013, FedDev Ontario also provided the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo with $945,000 to pilot the AC JumpStart program, which assisted 30 start-up companies. These companies have created 212 new jobs in the Waterloo region, generated $3.9 million in combined revenue, and are expected to raise $5 million in private investment.

Knowledgehook named BNN’s Top Disruptor of Season 3

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TORONTO, Ont. (June 2, 2016) – Knowledgehook was today named Top Disruptor of BNN’s original series about tech innovators, The Disruptors.

Knowledgehook, a software company that analyzes the academic performance of math students in real-time play to recommend alternative teaching practices, was one of 38 companies to this season pitch their business concept to hosts Bruce Croxton and Amber Kanwar.

“We’ve been watching The Disruptors since founding Knowledgehook in 2014 and following many of the companies they report on,” CEO Travis Ratnam says. “We’re excited and humbled by this acknowledgement.”

Startups profiled on each segment of BNN’s The Disruptors, a weekly, half-hour program that airs at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, compete each season for the Top Disruptor title.

Following tonight’s appearance, Knowledgehook will be given the opportunity to pitch Croxton’s investment company, Round 13.

Winning the Top Disruptor title comes less than a month since Knowledgehook received Google’s Game Changer Award at the tech giant’s annual Demo Day in Silicon Valley.

To date, more than 6,000 Ontario math teachers have begun zeroing in on each students’ key misunderstandings after reviewing predictive insights which Knowledgehook software generates.

Early results from Knowledgehook suggest that at least 1 in 6 Ontario students in Grade 9 Applied Math are struggling to understand ratios. Knowledgehook unpacks their misunderstanding and suggests how teachers can address it.

The finding, which echoes those of Ontario’s 2015 standardized tests, is based on analysis of more than 2,400 anonymized users between September and April 2016, accurate to within 95% confidence, and a margin of error of 2.5%.

Knowledgehook was founded by Travis Ratnam, Lambo Jayapalan, Arthur Lui and James Francis.

The team is grateful for the support of mentors from Communitech’s Rev and the Accelerator Centre’s AC JumpStart programs.

AC Client Knowledgehook wins Google’s Game Changer Award at 2016 Demo Day

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Photo credit Peter Lee, Waterloo Region Record staff

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (May 4, 2016) — Canadian edtech startup Knowledgehook today received Google’s Game Changer Award at the tech giant’s annual Demo Day in Silicon Valley.

Travis Ratnam and James Francis were among the co-founders of 11 new tech companies invited to Silicon Valley to pitch today to a room full of top investors, venture capitalists and judges.

“We’re thrilled and grateful to have shared the stage with so many talented and passionate entrepreneurs,” Travis says. “The support we’ve received today will be pivotal to our mission of helping students all over the world build their math skills.”

Knowledgehook, based in Waterloo, Ont. has developed software that analyzes the academic performance of math students in real-time play to recommend to educators alternative teaching practices.

A popular exam prep tool among the 5,000 teachers in Canada and the United States who use it, Knowledgehook software unpacks students’ misunderstanding and suggests how teachers can address it.

Since September 2015, 12 Ontario school boards have been reviewing predictive insights the software generates for each student to help teachers adapt their lessons for optimal learning.

For example, early results from Knowledgehook suggest that at least 1 in 6 Ontario students in Grade 9 Applied Math are struggling to understand ratios. The finding, which echoes those of Ontario’s 2015 standardized tests, is based on analysis of more than 2,400 anonymized users between September and April 2016, accurate to within 95% confidence, and a margin of error of 2.5%.

“We’re optimistic that the accuracy and timeliness of Knowledgehook’s insights will advance school boards in their efforts to improve students’ academic performance,” Travis says.

To be selected to participate in Google’s annual Demo Day, startups must be legally incorporated and headquartered in the United States, Canada or Mexico and be actively raising a Series A round of between $1- and 4-million.

Knowledgehook was founded in 2014 by Travis Ratnam, Lambo Jayapalan, Arthur Lui and James Francis.

The team is grateful for the support of mentors from Communitech’s Rev and the Accelerator Centres’ AC JumpStartprograms, and, for recent funding delivered by Ontario Centres for Excellence (OCE).

Racing the Dream

How AC Client HH Development is making Formula 1 Racing into a data driven sport

J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, wrote, “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” For some this might seem like a flight of fancy. For others, like Andrew Hall, Director at HH Development, it’s a way of life.

He’s been fascinated by motorsports since he was a child. Now, through his company’s acceptance into the Accelerator Centre in September, 2015, his day job is his dream job.

HH Development currently has two business models. The first, HH Timing, provides endurance racing teams a consistent, accurate and graphical way to track metrics, like speed, fuel consumption and even the number of pit stops — details that matter when tenths of a second stand between a victory lap or going back to the drawing board.

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The second, yet to be named venture, is a two-pronged system of inventory management and performance tracking that they are currently developing for a major European tire manufacturer. Through the use of an RFID device, it can track a shipment of tires from delivery through to how each tire performed during the race.

Commenting on his Accelerator Centre experience so far, Andrew states, “It’s like I’m going to business school. But, instead of doing case studies on imaginary companies, when I graduate, I’ll have my own business.”

With a PhD in Systems Engineering from the University of Waterloo and Bachelor of Aerospace Electronics and Systems Engineering from Carleton University, Andrew is rightfully confident in his technical abilities.

However, he noted that even the process of applying to the Accelerator Centre was educational. “We literally didn’t know what we didn’t know about our business. Rightly or wrongly, we hadn’t made the time to develop a comprehensive business plan.”

During their first month in the program, the lessons that the members of HH Development learned were transformative. Andrew credits mentors Kevin Elop, Steven Fyke, Kevin Hood and Bob Rushby with helping his company evolve from operating in a young, ad hoc manner to adopting more more mature and viable processes, “We looked at our structure, our finances, our markets and basically everything.”

Recently when Kevin Hood stopped Andrew to ask why they hadn’t sat down to talk in awhile, Andrew answered, “Because I’m still addressing all of the things you opened our eyes to in our last meeting.”

Where would he like to be 10 years from now? He’d like to doing exactly what he’s doing right now, but on a larger scale, serving more clients. “We love what we do and we’ve only just gotten started.”

The Rundown

Business philosophy: There’s no substitute for the value of hard work.

Business heroes: All of the AC mentors.

Person he’d most like to have lunch with: Any of his clients or colleagues.

Things most people don’t know:

  • His attempted career as a racecar driver was woefully short-lived.
  • He’s lived in four countries (Canada, England, Austria and the United States).
  • He’s terrified of flying.

Stanley Cup Winner and Olympic Gold Medalist Theo Fleury partners with startup MyProHero

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By Ellyn Winters-Robinson

What do great hockey players and entrepreneurs have in common?

Good values, hard work, and a determination to be the best you can be, says Stanley Cup winner and Olympic Gold Medalist Theo Fleury.

Fleury spoke to a captive crowd of fans, startup executives and students who gathered at the Accelerator Centre to meet and learn at the hand of an NHL legend.  Fleury’s visit to the AC was coordinated by AC startup MyProHero, a company that offers young and up and coming players the opportunity connect online for virtual coaching delivered by former NHLers.

Fleury was himself starstruck by the incubator’s graduate wall and startup clients. “I’m a huge tech geek myself and here I am standing in Canada’s tech heartland. It is amazing to be among such smart people,” he said.

During his remarks, Fleury reflected on his career in the NHL and his experience winning Gold for Canada the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic games — Canada’s first gold in hockey in 52 years — playing along fellow legends such as Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman. “I have to admit, I looked to my left, looked to my right and couldn’t believe I was there amongst these players. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and something I could never even have dreamed of playing road hockey as a kid in Saskatchewan.”

Now a celebrated author, Theo Fleury brings his motivational coaching and candid outlook on life’s challenges to thousands of players, parents and other members of the hockey community every year.  His best selling autobiography Playing with Fire, documents the star’s struggles with drug and alcohol addictions and survival after childhood trauma.

Fleury will use the MyProHero platform to deliver his motivational coaching to an even wider audience. To learn more about the MyProHero platform and it’s amazing coaching roster including Theo Fleury, six time Stanley Cup winner Bryan Trottier, Hall of Fame inductee Adam Oates and others, check out www.myprohero.com

AC Client wins exclusive invite to pitch investors at Google’s annual Demo Day

WATERLOO, Ont. (April 13, 2016) — Google has invited edtech start-up Knowledgehook to pitch to investors at their annual Demo Day next month in Silicon Valley.

Knowledgehook, the Waterloo, Ont.-based company behind new gaming software that analyzes the academic performance of math students, is one of two Canadian companies selected to participate in the May 4 event. The team joined the Accelerator Centre in 2015 and received of $40,000 in funding and mentorship through the AC JumpStart program, which is funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) .

With the aim of securing additional rounds of investment, co-founders Travis Ratnam and James Francis will pitch on stage to a full room of investors, VCs and respected judges at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California.

“We’re thrilled to share our software with potential investors,” Ratnam says.

“We believe our products will be pivotal in connecting teachers and school boards all over the world with data that identifies what concepts students are struggling with and also provides them with immediate teaching solutions.”

Since March 2015, Knowledgehook software has been used by more than 65,000 students and teachers in math classes throughout Canada and the United States.

The team is grateful for the support they have received to date from the Accelerator Centre, Communitech, and for recent funding delivered by Ontario Centres for Excellence (OCE).

Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi congratulates Knowledgehook of their accomplishments to date.

“Knowledgehook is an example of how our innovation ecosystem has assisted businesses to spur innovation and create a dynamic environment that will improve the lives Ontarians,”he says.

“Ontario’s economic strength depends on the viability of our businesses, large and small. That’s why our government is helping to support unique and cutting-edge collaborations through partners such as OCE, who give our small and medium enterprises exposure to larger tools and skills they need to rapidly scale up to meet global demand.”

Co-founder Ratnam was inspired to build a company that supports alternative learning methods after struggling in his early academic career.

“To understand why I struggled, I exhaustively analyzed my mistakes. By persevering, I found ways to problem-solve that made more sense to me. I’d like others to enjoy learning as much as I did,” he says.

Knowledgehook software analyzes the academic performance of math students in real-time play to recommend to educators alternative teaching practices.