Purpose vs. Passion: Building a Startup Brand

Passion: The powerful emotion that drives you to work for your own success.

Purpose: The why behind what you do. The impact you make on your customers, your community, the world.  

After years of working with startup founders, we’ve seen countless innovative products and services and a lot of passionate people along the way. But with so many passionate entrepreneurs, how do we select the best-of-the-best, those most likely to succeed in the AC’s Accelerator Program?

When we evaluate applications into the program, we weight founder attributes like curiosity, a willingness to continually learn, and having a clear purpose as primary criteria for admittance, and for good reason.

Passion alone is not enough. In the recipe for success, passion and purpose are needed in equal measure. If you are in it for the long haul, and you should be, passion and purpose feed into one another. Before you have an established brand, your purpose – the real problem you solve – is the first thing that helps you get customers. Your passion is what sells your customers on your ability to deliver on that purpose.

An excellent example balancing purpose and passion when building a startup is Waterloo tech company, Vidyard. We interviewed CEO, Michael Litt, to learn more about how they leveraged their purpose and passion to build the Vidyard brand.

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Clinton Ball: The first question is Purpose vs. passion, what have you learned as it relates to running your business today?

Michael Litt: I would say that…Purpose and passion should be aligned. When we started Vidyard, we identified our purpose as helping businesses put their videos online. Our purpose was plain and simple. We built a long-term vision around what that could become.

My passion was always for our customers. It was the only thing I could be passionate about, because when we built Vidyard, it was just a couple co-founders and I writing code – trying to throw ideas around and see what sticks.

The passion for the product came later once we saw it in our customer’s hands, providing them with value, and changing their careers. This inevitability lead to the development of our stakeholder list, which is what I’m passionate about. That list includes our customers, Vidyardians (our staff), shareholders, and our community. The stakeholders get me out of bed every morning.

Clinton Ball: What about storytelling. What is the purpose of telling a good story and around branding?

Michael Litt: Storytelling is absolutely essential. When you start your business, you have no customers and therefore no customer stories. The only reason someone would buy something from you is because you have purpose and you’re passionate about it. You need to have a story about why you have that purpose, and why you have passion to draw your buyers in.

At scale I don’t think that changes, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and that’s why both purpose and passion are both so important.

Our story was a video content production company. We made videos for businesses that didn’t know how to put them online. We built software to help them do that and then built software helped us analyze it. All of a sudden our customers realized there was huge value here, and that’s kind of when the journey started to scale. Our purpose inevitably drove our passion, and that story is what really aligned us with the first few customers.

Clinton Ball: For startups that are just starting out, what do you think is the best approach to marketing and getting that first customer? How do you sell when you don’t have a brand yet?

Michael Litt: When you’re getting started, you have to put yourself out there in front of people. It’s the only way to sell when you don’t have a brand and no one is visiting your website. When we got started, we built a crawler to scan the DMOZ for every business that had a video on their home page. That list extracted 80,000 companies. I’d spend the first few hours of every day sorting through that list, and prioritizing 100 companies that I would contact the next day. The next day, I’d contact those 100, and prioritize my list of 100 for the next day again. This happened over months.

When you have no brand, and no customers, the only way to communicate is to sell your vision, your purpose, and your passion by putting yourself out there in front of people. I’ve seen so many companies that build the digital site of their business, but they miss out on the sense of urgency to put themselves in front of the customers. Maybe they don’t have the experience, or they’re introverted so it’s scary – but it’s ultimately why the never moved into the next phase of their business.

Clinton Ball: Lean startup methodology vs. a design centric approach. In your opinion, do you think it’s a mix of both of those things, or do you prefer one over the other?

Michael Litt: Well Steve Jobs and Elon Musk both got their career started doing exactly what I just described. By the time you have the personal brand, by the time you’re Apple, by the time you’re Tesla, it’s a completely different story of design first and they will come. So we’re talking about 2 very different ecosystems. Any company story, like Nike, McDonald’s, Oakley, always has that essential starting point of like just grinding it out and putting stuff in front of people.

Clinton Ball: Speaking about first clients, how did you land them? Was it a product of many meetings, how long did it take to find someone that was willing to take the risk with Vidyard and believed in you and your vision?

Michael Litt: In the early stages of our business, we were making videos for companies, so we had a client list of those who trusted us and had bought from us. We built software to solve their problems. We were easily able to communicate what we were doing because that line of communication was already open. We were able to implement out Vidyard software in their business, and that was essential because it was a service-based sale. We were then able to talk to the customer and develop a feedback loop so that we could iterate our product accordingly.

Clinton Ball: Let’s talk about leveraging that feedback. How powerful do you think it is to leverage testimonials, and a positive customer experience in order to generate new sales?

Michael Litt: When you start your entrepreneurial journey, FOMO (fear of missing out) is a major driver for people. If you’re able to develop a relationship with someone who will be a reference for you, they’ll be able to communicate your passion and purpose about how you’ve changed the way they do business. Others will hear that, lean in, and start buying your product too. If you have someone who becomes that hook and is willing to make that commitment to you, it’s so important to hear their stories and keep the relationship strong so that you can leverage it for future buyers.

Want more pro advice from Michael? Check out part 2 of our interview with Michael “ Why Michael Litt says Vidyard will Always be a Startup.

Emmetros Launches MemorySparx One – Their First in a Suite of Products for People Who Live with Dementia

For Mary Pat Hinton, helping people who live with dementia and their care-partners have a better quality of life is personal.

Seeing her grandmother, Jean, suffer with Alzheimer’s disease in the 80’s, a time it was not well understood and there were few resources available for patients, made a lasting impact and inspired her to change the way those with dementia cope with their conditions.

As a result of her experience, Mary Pat started Emmetros – a company dedicated to creating solutions that help dementia sufferers to live independently and with dignity.

In 2016, Mary Pat joined the AC’s Accelerator Program to help guide her business to success. “Before I joined the AC, I did a lot of research into incubators and the resources available to entrepreneurs like me,” Mary-Pat explains. “I came to the AC because of their focus on long-term success and their stellar mentorship team.”

When she started Emmetros, she knew she wanted to create something bigger than a single app to support people living with dementia, and the mentors at the AC helped her build out her business in a way that will see the company develop a full suite of solutions that will work together to create an all-in-one digital solution – not only for those living with the disease, but for their families and care communities as well.

“The mentors at the AC are like an extension of my team. They are always there for me.” she explains. “They are incredibly experienced, can shift focus easily, and can go as deep into my business as I need them to. No moment spent with them is a wasted one,” she adds.

Last week, Emmetros launched MemorySparx™ One. The first application in the planned suite of solutions to support those with dementia and their families.

MemorySparx One is a digital memory aid that helps individuals living with dementia organize and recall important information like personal photos, health information, and more.

Traditionally, those living with dementia (or their families) were instructed to create paper booklets to help them organize and keep track of important information. “One of the major challenges with paper-based memory aids is keeping them up to date, while making sure that they remain easy to use and meet the changing needs of a person who is experiencing declining cognitive abilities,” Mary Pat explains.  MemorySparx One leverages decades of research on the value of those paper-based memory aids and combines it more than a thousand hours Mary Pat and her team have spent partnering with and getting to know people who live with dementia, their families, and academic researchers to create a mobile digital solution that provides these people with a way to communicate with confidence and greater independence, wherever and whenever they need to.

MemorySparx One allows users to:

  • Add and update content using intuitive templates designed with the unique needs of people with dementia in mind
  • Store personal details, captioned photos, audio recordings, and personal health information in one easy-to-access tool
  • Access information that’s important whenever and wherever it’s needed – at a doctor’s office, a social engagement, or a professional event
  • Keep track of personal health history, medications, and changes to mood or behavior so you can speak for yourself at appointments with care professionals

Emmetros’ next focus is on developing their complementary suite of products and on continuing to build out their incredible team and work culture. ‘We are fortunate to have a team of very talented and experienced people. Every one of them is incredibly passionate about our vision,” Mary Pat explains proudly. “When I started this, I never expected that people would be asking me how they could join our team, but they are and that’s pretty amazing. Every single day I wake up grateful.  There’s nothing better than that.”

MemorySparx One is available for iPad and is on the iTunes store now. For more information, visit memorysparx.com.

Media Contact:

Tabatha Laverty
Community Manager
tlaverty@acceleratorcentre.com

AceAge’s “Karie” takes first steps as ‘connected health’ solution

Originally published by Innovation Guelph

May 3, 2017

Stacey Curry Gunn

Medication delivery device will make its debut in clinical trial at University of Toronto

Soon to be vying for countertop space in the “connected home” is an automated medication delivery device named Karie, designed to help patients take their medication correctly – a solution to a multi-billion-dollar healthcare problem.

Karie was born out of the personal experience of entrepreneur Spencer Waugh, who saw his grandfather repeatedly admitted to hospital after medication mix ups. Waugh discovered that his grandfather was not alone in his struggles: up to 90 per cent of patients make mistakes in taking medication, leading to 28 per cent of emergency room visits and 23 per cent of nursing home admissions. He founded AceAge in 2015, with Karie as its first product.


Karie is designed to make it simple to follow complex medication regimes, using standard multi-dose packaging to dispense the correct meds at the proper times. The device reads the information on each pouch to schedule doses, and goes off like an alarm clock when it’s time for each dose. Karie can also be set to automatically notify a caregiver if a dose is missed. In addition to supporting patient well-being, Waugh expects Karie to be a boon in clinical trial settings as a way to improve adherence rates.

At the end of March, Waugh and his team were busy assembling devices in preparation for Karie’s first big test: a  usability study at the University of Toronto.

The six-week study, set to start in May, will see 32 patients use the device in their homes, a step that Waugh expects will yield the validation necessary to turn a slew of interest from potential partners and customers into firm business relationships.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see something that I’ve been working on for so long become a reality. Karie is no longer a concept, this is our first chance to show how we will positively impact people’s lives. We are now scaling up to build and deploy thousands of devices. We want to make Karie the central fixture of the connected health home,” says Waugh.
Along the way, AceAge has tapped the ONE Network for assistance, including Innovation Guelph where Waugh has worked closely with mentor Don Thompson on product development.

“Don has been phenomenal, covering all the challenges of going from building a handful of beta units, to thousands of devices every month.”

AceAge has also benefitted from $30,000 in matching funds from Innovation Guelph’s Fuel Injection program. “It funded the build of our on-board user experience and application interface, and created the brand for our product Karie,” Waugh said. “Without the Fuel Injection award, we would not be able to go to market right now. The funding and advice that Innovation Guelph gave us was crucial for us to get to the stage we are at today.”

Fuel Injection funds also made it possible for Waugh to travel to Edmonton, Hong Kong and Paris to introduce Karie to potential partners and investors.

“It’s been extremely rewarding to help Spencer navigate the many aspects of bringing this important medical device to market,” Thompson says. “Karie solves a real problem for patients and the healthcare system as a whole, and we anticipate exciting things to come.”

AceAge will also be making the rounds at Toronto Health Innovation Week (April 3-7, 2017): Waugh will be competing at the 3rd annual MaRS HealthKick Challenge April 5, as well as pitching at the Aging2.0 Toronto Global StartUp search on April 7. He is also scheduled to speak at the Apps for Health conference at Mohawk College on April 27 and will be at OCE Discovery May 15-16. Follow the company’s progress on Twitter @AceAgeKarie and LinkedIn.

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.

AC Grad Alaunus Unveils Bloom

New Platform Puts Ontario Patients and Families in the Driver’s Seat When Accessing Home Healthcare Services
April 10, 2017 (WATERLOO, ON) — Alaunus, an emerging leader in technology-enabled care solutions today launches Bloom, a new technology platform to directly connect Ontario patients and families with caregivers, accelerating access to high quality home-based care.
Targeting the 1.46 million people, mostly seniors, in Ontario today who receive community support such as meals, transportation and caregiver services in their homes, Bloom gives patients and family members more choice, using modern technology to connect and match patients to high quality, fully vetted caregivers. The platform streamlines the existing home health care delivery system, empowers full patient-choice, enhances accountability, and elevates the quality of accessible caregivers, all while strengthening the voices of patients and families in their own healthcare planning.
In Ontario today, 93% of eligible home care patients receive their first nursing visit within five days of being approved and 84% of home care patients with complex needs receive a visit from a personal support worker (PSW) within the five day target[1].  The ultimate goal of the Bloom platform is to narrow that time window even further, says Andrew Ringer, CEO of Alaunus, Bloom’s creator.
“With the home health care market expected to grow internationally to reach $400 billion by 2021, our healthcare system can expect to see more cost constraints, more hospital admissions and more “aging in place” preferences. Bloom is a much-needed platform for the time,” says Ringer. “It puts flexibility, real-time communications and on-demand service directly in the hands of patients and their families, while leveraging proven evidence-based practices for increased client satisfaction and care outcomes. At this time of growing demand, we want to provide fast, safe, secure, and affordable home care for everyone.”
Bloom Capabilities:
●   Full alignment with Patients First Act and Better Care Closer to Home
●   Patient choice of personal support worker (PSW) or health care provider (HCP) on-demand, with real time notifications
●   Easily search PSW or HCP by geography, skill-set, experience, & ratings/reviews – ideally matched based on Bloom’s matching algorithm
●   On demand service capability, easily scheduled by patient, family, or care team
●   Geo location time and attendance verification to increase caregiver accountability, alleviate over-billing & reduce administrative burden.
Bloom’s Advantages:
●   15-20% reduction on home care services spend
●   Provides more care and control to more patients
●   Encourages faster, more accountable and efficient care
●   Increases at-home quality of care, motivating caregivers to do better work
●   Adds value to the community, and
●   Supports an increased number of caregiver jobs in order to provide better care closer to home
Fuelled by Ontario Health Technologies Fund (HTF)
Bloom’s innovation is fuelled by the Ontario Health Technologies Fund, a $20M Fund developed specifically to support the development of leading, market-ready, made-in-Ontario health technologies. The first priority area for the HTF is Better Care Closer to Home, enabling Health Innovation Teams from across Ontario to work on projects related to home and community care through virtual, digital and mobile health-care technologies. Alaunus is one of 15 health innovation projects selected province-wide for HTF funding.
Pilot Projects in Hamilton, Waterloo Region.
Bloom will be piloted in partnership with Brain Injury Services of Hamilton and the Waterloo Wellington LHIN/CCAC.
“We have the ability with Bloom to leverage technology transform the traditional home health care delivery model,” says Laurie Graham, Director, Residential Services, Brain Injury Services. “Patients and their families are provided with greater control over their health care decisions and more expedited care. This drives better outcomes. Care workers as well, are provided with better support to succeed in their roles. Across the board, quality goes up.”
“The Waterloo Wellington LHIN was pleased to support Alaunus’s application for funding from the Ontario Health Technologies Fund, given its potential to facilitate a better connection between patients and caregivers, while reducing costs and increasing transparency and accountability. This is directly aligned with Ontario’s  Patients First Action Plan,” says Bruce Lauckner, CEO, WWLHIN.”
The Hamilton pilot kicks off in June 2017.  For more information visit joinbloom.com
For more information contact:
Andrew Ringer
CEO Alaunus
OR:
Ellyn Winters
Ignition Communications
PR for Alaunus

GainX is on a mission to eliminate billions in wasted innovation spending for global financial services companies

Across the innovation landscape, agility matters. Fast innovators are 42% stronger, 27% more disruptive, get new products to market quickly and generate 30% more revenue from those products.[1]  And yet, 90% of CEOs across all industries remain unsatisfied with their year/over/year progress and returns on innovation. They are plagued by a lack visibility across their complex innovation portfolios and processes. This poor transparency translates into billions of dollars in waste and Innovation DragTM across the industry.

Entrepreneur Angelique Mohring founded her company GainX in 2012 after spending two decades as a technology executive, working for large enterprise software organizations such as OpenText.  “After working with Global 1000s for 20+ years as a tech executive and global change agent, I realized I had the skills, passion and expertise to help the world’s biggest businesses better understand and overcome the innovation challenge and finally realize real financial payback from their efforts,” says Angelique.  “I want people to understand that innovation is so more than simply counting ideas. It is about cultural and digital transformation, and it is about producing measurable business impact.”

GainX, a fast-growing leader in the FinTech market (the company will target other sectors but is initially focused on Financial Services) is leading and defining the Innovation Strategy Management (ISM) market, providing financial services companies with the critical bridge between innovation happening at the edge of business and the core enterprise.

“By combining predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, semantic analysis and in-depth behavioural analytics to drive cultural change and improve innovation capacity, our ISM platform ensures creativity and delivery stay in balance, and allows businesses to achieve sustainable market success and drive greater return on innovation investment (ROII). This results in increased productivity, improved employee engagement, greater clarity of vision and reduced risk of in-market failure,” says Mohring.

Recently, GainX released the findings of a benchmark survey it conducted on behalf of the Canadian financial services industry assessing the innovation capacity of Canada’s leading financial services institutions (FSIs). More than 375 executives and employees participated in the analysis, which captured both data and semantic analytics on innovation derived from their respective organizations. More than 27,000 data points were analyzed through the GainX platform, and FSIs were plotted on an innovation maturity curve, measured against the critical gains necessary for innovation and transformation, including strategy and clarity of vision, appetite for risk, digital enablement, culture, and engagement and collaboration.

While the Canadian FS executives and employees surveyed all identified innovation as a top priority, our analysis found that the sector’s capacity to achieve those goals remains limited. 77% of Canadian FSIs surveyed indicated they lacked an integrated innovation process, and only half (51%) believed their organization to be innovative. More than 90% of those surveyed indicated they lacked a clear, actionable digital strategy and effective tools and technology systems, representing significant barriers to innovation and growth.[2]

After joining the Accelerator Centre in 2015, Angelique has been able to drive the business forward, landing key deployments of the GainX platform in several Canadian banks. Thanks to critical AC JumpStart funding made available through FedDev Ontario, she’s also expanding her presence into the US, the UK and other international markets.

“It’s been powerful to be at the Accelerator Centre and to be able to tap into the fantastic network to draw on the resources most needed to help our company grow. The JumpStart funding provided yet another critical stepping-stone in our company’s development and growth.

“We are on the brink of massive change in the innovation market,” says Mohring. “The emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will provide a critical catalyst for innovation, by allowing organizations to unburden smart people from administrative tasks, and to put the right people on the right project to accelerate innovation. It is going to be a huge year for GainX, and I’m so excited I could just about explode.”

 

[1] Boston Consulting Group, 10th Annual Survey, Most Innovative Companies 2015

[2] GainX Insights™ benchmark analysis data.

Finding a solution for in-home bike training ACJumpStart client STACPerformance

Originally Published on CTVKitchener

For generations, manufacturing has been the economic backbone of our area.

In the 20th century, Waterloo Region was a leading manufacturer of shoes, clothing, furniture, auto parts, televisions and other products too numerous to mention.

More recently, the emergence of the local tech sector has prompted a switch in what’s being produced locally — but it hasn’t stopped manufacturing from employing tens of thousands of people.

In the weekly segment Made Right Here, Max Wark profiles manufactuers from across our area.

Everything from mattresses and canoes to robots and submersible vehicles is produced here. Each week, Max brings you inside another factory to show off another product made right here at home.

Made Right Here is sponsored by The Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and Heffner Toyota.

 

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.

 

Flying High: University of Waterloo drone startup Pegasus Aeronautics takes off with the help of AC JumpStart Funding

With applications in law enforcement, agriculture, retail, military and other sectors, the global commercial drone market is booming, with an estimated CAGR of 16.9% through to >$1.2B US by 2022.

For industrial applications, drones — flying unmanned robots — offer a significantly more affordable, nimble and safer alternative over traditional aircraft or helicopters. However there is one significant drawback. Drones, which are typically powered by lithium batteries, are limited in their flight time and range. With the added weight of sensors and cameras, the average industrial drone can only achieve about 15 minutes of fly time, including take off and landing.

This time constraint has proved to be a huge inhibitor for growth, explains Matthew McRoberts, CEO of Pegasus Aeronautics. “If you are doing a land survey or inspection of a wind turbine, the fact drones today have very limited air time really limits their usability.”

McRoberts and co-founders Joe Kinsella and John Biskey met in residence while studying engineering at University of Waterloo. Over the four years, the three collaborated on various school projects, and in fourth year, McRoberts and Kinsella teamed up for their final engineering capstone. The challenge they sought to tackle: a new solution to extend the range of drones.

“We always knew we wanted to do something that was drone related.  Drone range limitation is a well understood challenge within the industrial sector and one of the largest problems facing industrial drone manufacturers, so it was a logical choice,” explains Matt McRoberts.

Many other companies have sought to solve the problem in the past, but most solutions have focused around the battery itself, says McRoberts. “They’ve tried tweaking the battery. Automatic battery swapping. Recharging stations. Even solar power. But they basically are stepping around the primary source of the problem – the battery.”

McRoberts, Kinsella (Biskey joined the team after the initial capstone) decided to chart a different course with their engineering, setting out to create gas/electric (hybrid) powertrain alternative to the battery.

“We felt that a gas/electric hybrid system was the only and best way to solve the problem. But no one had done it before. First, it is very difficult to make gas engines run in the first place. And on top of that, we had to design power electronics that would be lightweight enough they can fit on something that can fly.”

Proving through the capstone that it was possible to create the envisioned powertrain, the team was encouraged by its faculty advisor to found a company to commercialize the technology and Pegasus Aeronautics was born.

Pegasus Product Shot
FedDev Ontario JumpStart funding, secured through the Accelerator Centre, provided the young company with a critical injection of capital to move forward. “AC JumpStart funding and mentorship was a real tipping point for our business,” says Matt McRoberts. “We were facing two paths post graduation. Leave our technology on the table, or pursue it as a business. AC JumpStart allowed us to take our project and turn it into a real commercial opportunity.”

Access to Accelerator Centre’s team of mentors, provided as part of the JumpStart funding program also provided to be instrumental to the founders. “The mentorship we received totally changed the way we thought about how we would structure business. The mentors — Kevin Hood (sales mentor) in particular urged us to do primary research to really understand our industry, our competitors. It gave us a huge edge on the competition. First, we learned that a universal powertrain would have widest appeal and allow us to partner with all industrial drone manufacturers. Second, we learned that ease of use was critical – researchers in the field are not engine experts. I can’t overstate the contribution Kevin made to our business.”

The team at Pegasus Aero are now readying to bring their final product to market. Over the next few months, they will be doing some field beta testing to collect final feedback, and have customers lined up anxious to get their hands on the company’s unique hybrid powertrain.

“Just to get the job done, field teams using drones today are lugging hundreds of pounds of batteries into the field and are spending $14,000 a year or more per platform in battery costs,” says McRoberts. “Our solution is so easy to use, a field worker can pull the drone out of the back, siphon gas from the truck and be up in the air for 8 times as long. Fortunately for us, marketing around those kinds of advantages is pretty much a no brainer. We help industrial drone manufacturers overcome a really big barrier. So when we explain what we do to folks in the industry, the response is “how soon can get our hands on it?”

The Accelerator Centre Announces 2nd Cohort of Startups into Their Newly Redesigned Incubation Program

Media Release

We are pleased to announce the companies that will comprise the second cohort of Phase One clients in our newly redesigned Accelerator Program.

The companies in our world-renowned incubation program are selected through a very competitive process and represent the best-of-the-best in technology and entrepreneurship in the region and around the world.

Companies joining the second cohort of Phase One are:

  • Travel wholesale – Quest Travel
  • Search engine optimizationTraffic is Currency
  • Nano Technology – NanoCNET
  • Lidar systems developmentSingle Quantum Systems
  • Veterinary technologyHealthy Pets
  • Mobile payment softwareFinserve
  • Health and safety software – Site Safety Solutions
  • Hockey technology – TheHockeyPro
  • Waste management/Public service technology – Eagle Vision Systems
  • Live global mapping program – Live Anywhere
  • Video game technology56 Studios

“I am always impressed by the wide variety of innovative and impactful ideas that these entrepreneurs bring to the table. I am pleased to welcome cohort two into the Accelerator Program and I am excited to see them build and scale successful, global businesses.”  – Paul Salvini, CEO, Accelerator Centre.

Phase One is the first of four phases within our recently restructured two-year incubation program. The program offers customized, milestone-based programming alongside the proven mentorship model we are best known for. At the end of the Phase Four, our clients graduate with confidence, knowing all areas of their business are ready for long-term success.

For more information on the companies in cohort two, our programming, or to learn how to apply for the next cohort contact:

Tabatha Laverty

Community Manager

tlaverty@acceleratorcentre.com
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