TrustPoint finds a culture fit with ETAS Embedded Systems

Originally Published in Communitech News

Written by Craig Daniels

It was the autumn of 2015 and TrustPoint co-founder and CEO Sherry Shannon-Vanstone knew she had a decision to make.

TrustPoint, which develops secure products for the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine communication, needed to grow. And it needed to grow fast. The IoT was booming. Security, smart cities, connected critical infrastructure, all the areas in which TrustPoint was working, were generating unmet demands.

“It takes a lot of resources,” Shannon-Vanstone explained recently.  “We had bootstrapped the company, and we weren’t going to be able to move fast enough. It was time to go out and get a huge investment, and work with a VC, bring in lots of cash, hire people. But even then we would have had to disrupt some of our current projects, just to try to grow. We had to move faster.”

And then opportunity presented itself.

Shannon-Vanstone learned that ETAS Embedded Systems, which provides secure diagnostic and calibration solutions for the automotive industry, was going to open an office in Waterloo Region. A subsidiary of the Bosch Group, ETAS was well known to Shannon-Vanstone and her late husband and co-founder, Scott Vanstone.

Discussion began.

“At first it was just a conversation,” said Shannon-Vanstone, “just a general information gathering of what they were looking for and what we were looking for. At that time, we were interested in a strategic partnership or an investment.

“The conversation was on a casual basis until June (2016) when ETAS Canada opened their office in Kitchener. And at that time, they indicated an interest in TrustPoint.”

Fast forward through many more conversations, and a process of technological and legal due diligence, and you reach the events of last week, when TrustPoint agreed to be acquired by ETAS — when Shannon-Vanstone agreed to sell her “baby.”

“Emotionally, yes, it was tough,” she said. “It’s my baby, and it’s hard to let go of it.”

But the time was right. The fit was right. “There’s a huge opportunity in the Internet of Things right now,” she said.

TrustPoint grew out of a company called Certicom, which was founded by Scott Vanstone in 1985 along with two professors from the University of Waterloo. Certicom worked closely with Research In Motion in the late 1990s, providing security for the company’s smartphones. In 2009, RIM acquired Certicom, and Vanstone and his wife, recognizing the market for secure devices that was building around the rise of IoT, left in 2012 and started TrustPoint.

For Shannon-Vanstone, the decision to throw in with ETAS — other suitors were also interested, she said — was in large part motivated by culture.

“We found the cultural alignment was high on the list. Bosch is a private corporation. They are owned by a foundation. That foundation uses all the profits to build hospitals around the world.

“When Scott and I started TrustPoint, one of our objectives was to be philanthropic. To be a positive influence, globally and locally. So this aligned perfectly with our founding principles.”

The deal with ETAS is still subject to antitrust approval. When it’s finalized, TrustPoint’s 30 people will join ETAS in a yet-to-be-determined location in Waterloo Region.

“I’ll be staying involved for the time being,” said Shannon-Vanstone. “The work, the focus will be the same. Most of the people will have the same job description. We may fine tune over time.”

She doesn’t need to fine-tune her commitment to local tech ecosystem, which she has watched grow since the mid-80s — before there even was a local ecosystem.

“It’s tremendous. We decided to set up in K-W because of the access to talent. The access to the university. The access to the resources for a startup.

“This is my fourth startup but my first as a founder.

“It’s supportive even for people who are little more grey-haired than others.”

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.


We’re Hiring! Program & Executive Administrator (Full-time)

We’re Hiring!

The Accelerator Centre is looking for a Program & Executive Administrator to join our team and be responsible for all facets of administration within the organization.

JOB DESCRIPTION – Program & Executive Administration

The Accelerator Centre requires a qualified, energetic and organized person to fill an exciting position in a fast paced and dynamic entrepreneurial work space. The ideal candidate must have a critical eye, have excellent communication skills, be a master of multi-tasking and take on projects and initiatives without much guidance.

Reporting to the VP, Client Experience & Partner Relations the Program & Executive Administrator is responsible for all facets of administration within the organization. This position will play a critical role in contracts, data management, assistance to the Senior Leadership Team and Board Governance.


  • Contracts & Client Administration – working with the client experience team and client companies, this role will compile and manage all contracts and addendums related to facility & services, prepare Access Cards and passes, update insurance certificates and collect post-dated cheques from clients during intake
  • Contact/Data Management – compile all contact lists, use Active Campaign & Constant Contact, and organize the Shared Drive.
  • Provide administrative & office support to the CEO/CFO/Sr. Team including coordination of travel arrangements.
  • Manage & maintain CEO/VP calendar including the triage of appointment requests; management of meeting schedules (onsite, offsite) and preparation of materials/agendas, where necessary
  • Board Governance – liaise with the Board of Directors & Committee Chairs – including management and preparation of meeting schedules, agendas and presentations, RSVP/quorum tracking and minute transcription & dissemination.  Ensure integrity and confidentiality, maintain & update AC governance documents, by-laws and Board distribution lists and provide ongoing support for the Board and Committee chairs.
  • Be the Chief Everything Officer (CEO), find opportunity in every task and support the company and team


  • Post-secondary education in administration, operations, or related discipline
  • Conducts business in a professional, detail-oriented manner at all times, leading by example with a positive team attitude in all aspects
  • Strong commitment to providing exceptional customer experiences for clients, visitors and industry partners
  • Clear verbal and written communication skills
  • Assertive, confident and thrives under pressure
  • Excellent organizational, trouble-shooting, and interpersonal skills
  •  A self-starter that can work under minimal supervision


Submit an electronic .pdf package HERE containing the following by November 14th, 2016 at 11:59pm:

  1. Your resume and social media profiles so that we can learn about your past and some of the things you’ve done up to today.
  2. Be creative and in 500 words or less, tell us why we must have you on our team.

AC Co-Presents Award Winning Documentary KONELĪNE


The Accelerator Centre is proud to Co-Present

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful

The AC is pleased to partner with Princess Cinema, Sustainable Waterloo Region and Alternatives Journal to help bring the award-winning documentary KONELĪNE: our land beautiful to the screen at Waterloo’s Original Princess Cinema, Sept 16 – 22.

WINNER – Best Canadian Documentary, Hot Docs 2016

Where: The ‘Original’ Princess Cinema

When: 16-22 September (check Princess Cinema calendar for show times)  

View the  KONELĪNE Trailer:

Set deep in the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation, KONELĪNE captures an epic canvas of beauty and complexity as one of Canada’s vast wildernesses undergoes irrevocable change. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Nettie Wild, KONELĪNE is a work of visual poetry that delights in exploding stereotypes with scenes of breathtaking spectacle. Heidi Gutfrucht, both a big-game hunter and fierce environmentalist, swims her 17 horses across the unforgiving Stikine River. A Tahltan First Nation diamond driller bores deep into the same territory his elders are fighting to protect.  A white hunter carries a bow and arrow while a Tahltan elder shoots moose with a high-powered rifle.

Cameraman Van Royko won the 2016 Award for Best Documentary Cinematography from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers for KONELĪNE, which is shot and projected in wide screen with surround sound.

What the critics are saying:

“Transcendent, epic spectacle. […]She lets the camera hunt for art in every frame, mining veins of abstract beauty rather than sharp nuggets of political narrative.  She allows every image an ecumenical gaze.”
– Brian D. Johnson, Maclean’s

“Astonishing, stunningly beautiful. […] Equal parts sigh, song and cry.”
– Linda Barnard, Toronto Star

“Breathtaking, gripping. […] Finds beauty in unexpected places.”
– David Perri, The Northern Miner

“A feast for the eyes […}in the hands of an expert storyteller. I urge you to see it.”
– Marc Glassman, POV

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful is a Canada Wild production, produced in association with Telefilm Canada and the Rogers Group of Funds through the Theatrical Documentary Program; Super Channel; Canal D, a division of Bell Media Inc.; Knowledge Network; The Canada Media Fund; developed in association with The National Film Board and Creative BC; produced with the participation of Rogers Documentary Fund; the Shaw Media/Hot Docs Completion Fund; the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit; and the Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC.

Accelerator Centre announces its largest graduating class to date


Four graduates, four unique business stories

The AC is excited to announce our largest graduating class in our ten year history. The graduation of Ecopia, InTheChat, and Knowledge In Development brings the total number of companies to successfully complete the AC’s intensive multi-year business commercialization program to 55.  The occasion also marks the AC’s first graduate from our facility in Stratford, Ontario.

“The companies graduating from the Accelerator Centre today represent the diversity of industry segments and founder backgrounds that characterize the AC’s client base,” says Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre. “Within just this graduating class we have mature business executives, tenured professors, and serial entrepreneurs — all realizing their dream of starting and building a world-class business. We are also very excited to have our first graduate from our Stratford facility represented today. was in on the ground floor with us when we expanded our programming to the University of Waterloo campus in that city. It is fantastic to see the company leave today a graduate.”

Millions of geospatial images are collected by satellites, airplanes, and vehicles every day. With large amounts of data becoming available at an increasing rate, efficient retrieval and organization of useful information from this data has become a large issue. As a result, much of this information is not accessible to those who need it most. Ecopia Tech creates intelligent systems that vastly improve the process of analyzing geospatial imagery through the employment of computer vision techniques.

Knowledge in Development
Founded in 2008, by University of Waterloo professor and researcher Dr. Daniela O’Neill, Knowledge in Development (KID) Inc. publishes and distributes the Language Use Inventory (LUI), a unique assessment of early pragmatic language development, to professionals and researchers. Knowledge in Development’s online platform now allows users to administer the LUI fully online with parents, in house or via email.

InTheChat (ITC) is an industry-leading digital customer engagement platform that enables large-scale enterprises to serve their customers via today’s preferred communication channels: text messaging, social media, web and mobile chat, email and messaging apps. Global leaders in the banking, telecommunications, retail and other industries are using ITC today to free their customers from phone calls to their call centres, while also simplifying contact handling for the company’s front-line teams.

Trending.Info provides social media solutions for businesses, services and associations, allowing them to harness the power of online marketing while building communities of social interest showcased in one place. Founded in 2013 by Randy Huitema, the company today becomes the Accelerator Centre’s first Stratford-based graduate.

Applications now open for Phase One

AC Built to Scale - Website

We’re excited to launch our new four month, cohort-based program

Applications are open for the first cohort of our newly developed Phase One program, launching this September!

Phase One is an intensive four month program focusing on market validation and investment readiness.

I am very excited to launch this new program because it offers a truly unique combination of expert sessions and peer-to-peer learning, blended with the world-class mentorship the AC is known for. The select ten companies we accept into Phase One will also have access to our newly developed Advisory Network; a group of incredibly talented advisors from industry.

— Paul Salvini, CEO, Accelerator Centre.

This new program is the first of four phases within the our recently restructured two-year incubation platform, which is tailored to the unique needs of each company as they scale.

The first phase culminates with Presentation Day; an open house event where companies present to a panel of experts and business leaders who determine who 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.*

The deadline to apply to the Accelerator Centre is Sept. 9, 2016.

Apply now

About the Accelerator Center
The Accelerator Centre (AC) is dedicated to building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive technology firms; and to commercializing advanced research technologies emerging from academic institutions. The AC offers an intensive, milestone-driven program to help Clients gain traction and establish early growth; begin to scale and prepare for global expansion.

*About AC JumpStart
AC JumpStart provides eligible companies with $30,000 in seed capital (to be matched by recipient firms), $10,000 in mentorship, and access to market research and connections to investors. The program is funded through an $8 million commitment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the University of Waterloo. Companies considered for AC JumpStart must meet the eligibility requirements posted at

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.










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


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 Grad Intellijoint Surgical wins the Shopify Grit Award


TORONTO (May 31, 2016) – At today’s Action Entrepreneurship Canadian Summit in Toronto, Futurpreneur Canada and Shopify announced Intellijoint Surgical Inc. as the winner of the Shopify Grit Award. The award celebrates the kind of business success that comes from having “true grit” – creativity, ingenuity and resilience when faced with challenges.

“Futurpreneur has helped launch thousands of businesses and we are honoured to be 1 of 3 recipients of the prestigious 20th Anniversary Awards,” said Armen Bakirtzian, Co-Founder and CEO, Intellijoint Surgical Inc. “Business owners across this country face countless challenges, and we are humbled and extremely proud to represent the hard work and determination it takes to succeed.”

The team at Intellijoint Surgical started out as three graduates from Waterloo University with no medical background or entrepreneurial experience who set out to undertake a major challenge – creating a medical device and putting it on the market. They overcame many obstacles to create a surgical device that is FDA-approved, has a Health Canada medical device license, and has been used successfully over 350 times across North America. In just six years, they’ve gone from one desk at the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo to 10,500 square foot facility and have hired 22 people.

“Starting a business takes dedication, hustle and a desire to succeed. We’re excited to support the next wave of entrepreneurs, especially the incredibly talented team at Intellijoint Surgical,” said Harley Finkelstein, COO of Shopify.

“Starting a business can be challenging for anyone without entrepreneurial experience, but putting a medical device on the market is a huge test of resilience,” said Scott Bowman, Senior Director, Ontario, Futurpreneur Canada. “The team at Intellijoint Surgical have proven that determination and persistence are one of the greatest contributors to entrepreneurial success.”

The Grit Award was one of five awards that Futurpreneur presented today. Other awards included the Clearwater Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the BDC Mentorship Award, the Youth Business International Beyond Borders Award and the RBC Community Partner Award. These awards are one way the organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary, by recognizing top Futurpreneur-supported entrepreneurs and the people and organizations that support their success.

Paul Salvini on the future of innovation and TheNEXT10


The Accelerator Centre’s CEO reflects on what it takes to build a truly innovative business

What do a successful startup and a Hollywood blockbuster have in common? According to Accelerator Centre CEO, Dr. Paul Salvini, each one is a blend of business, technology and creativity — and the best businesses can do all three very, very well.

“Innovation happens in every part of an organization. People often don’t understand why an innovative business model can be as important as anything else. For instance, if you look at a company like Uber, there’s technology involved, but the real innovation is the customer experience.”

His philosophy of uniting varying disciplines is grounded in his own life experience. If you had asked a young Paul Salvini what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would have said a photojournalist. However, as a summer student at small, local newspaper, he developed a program to help simplify the sizing process for images.

Building on his strengths in programming, he went on to earn a BMath in computer science from the University of Waterloo and MASc and PhD in engineering (computer simulation) from the University of Toronto. In order to balance his technical background with formal business knowledge, he also completed an MBA from the University of Toronto Rotman School of Business.

Whether by serendipity or intent, he managed maintain a connection to visual arts in his professional career as he guided innovation as CTO at Toronto-based Side Effects Software, makers of Academy Award-winning 3-D animation and visual effects software, and Waterloo-based Christie Digital, provider of world-leading digital projection and display technologies.

PrintAs Accelerator Centre CEO, a role he assumed in 2014, he now combines his business experience, technical background and 23 years of teaching, first at Ryerson University then the University of Toronto. He will leverage these skills as he helps further the organization’s vision to develop strong, scalable, globally competitive and potentially disruptive businesses.

“In the next 10 years, we will focus on helping to build holistic companies. The future isn’t just about interesting technologies, it’s about building strong businesses that innovate across all areas of operation from product development and market validation to growth strategy and culture creation.”

A cornerstone of this philosophy is the AC Momentum Program, targeted at early-stage companies in the process of identifying their business strategies. With the opening of the Reactor Space in August, 2015, the Accelerator Centre now has space to welcome an additional 30 companies into the program.

“There’s a rich ecosystem of entrepreneurship in the Region of Waterloo. As a whole, we need to work on enhancing this environment so that entrepreneurs can think and dream even more boldly.”


IMG_5805Family: He and his wife, Julia, have two children, Lindsay and Kai. The family pet is Penny a petite golden doodle.

Wishes he could have lunch with: Walt Disney

Best business book: Creativity Inc. by Pixar CEO, Ed Catmull

Who he admires: Anyone with a clarity of vision for what they define as success and who has worked hard to achieve it.

Three things people don’t know:

  • He’s a licensed, instrument-rated, commercial pilot with an interest in aerial photography.
  • He’s a devoted hockey dad and unofficial team photographer.
  • He also owns a Ducati