Category Archives: Startup Profiles

Guelph Ontario Startup Fivewalls Matches Top Real Estate Agents To Buyers / Sellers

fivewalls is a free service that matches home buyers and sellers with top REALTORS® from leading local brokerages. We provide home buyers and sellers access to agents’ verified reviews, past transaction data, recently sold homes and personality videos. The fivewalls team is here to ensure you are happy and confident in the real estate agent you work with and will work with you until you are satisfied.

For example here is one of the videos featuring GTA Real Estate agent Naz Sala:

https://youtu.be/6cLkrYUuc3w

 

Who started the company? Do you / team members have a tech background?
fivewalls Realty, Brokerage was founded by Paul Hayman in 2014 and has just launched in Toronto. During the 2008 to 2012 housing crisis in the USA, Paul served as the USA Chairman of the Think Tank for Single Family Residential Rentals. He also founded Tenant Access which, within one year of founding the company became one of the largest single-family residential property management companies in America. In addition to his professional life at TFC, Paul served as the Entrepreneur in Residence at Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario.

We also have a tech team of two developers who innovate and create features that make it faster for users to search for the right agent. From time to time, we bring in consultants for select projects to enhance user experience.

How are you being financed?
Currently we are financed by private investors.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?
Our biggest obstacle to overcome is that many home buyers and sellers don’t do enough research when finding a real estate agent. Many will pick their neighbor or someone easily accessible which may not always result in the best fit for them. We will have to educate consumers about the value of researching and working with an agent who has the expertise they need according to property type, location and budget.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?
Since we are a start-up we can offer many unique perks such as flexible hours and remote work locations for our employees. Our current developers love what we are trying to achieve and the culture we have within the company. Everyone gets to voice their opinion and is included in every major decision the company makes.

Who is your biggest competition?
Our biggest competition is personal agent referrals. Many home buyers and sellers will ask friends and family for referrals of real estate agents. The problem with using an agent who has been referred to you by a friend is that they may not be a good fit for your exact needs. Not every agent serves the same areas and has access to the same marketing tools that you need to sell a condo or detached home, for example.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in
revenues? In what markets?
fivewalls currently operates in the Greater Toronto area, Kitchener, Guelph and London. Our intention is to first master the Toronto markets to ensure our processes are successful before we expand into the other large markets in Canada.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.
The biggest lesson that we have learned (so far) is that millennials pick a real estate agent based on data rather than simply the agents’ personality. When we first created this model we focused more on the personality of the agent rather than providing details about their skills and experience. We have evolved over the past few years to include more data from the real estate agent.

Toronto Startup SecureKey Helps Secure Your Online Identity

SecureKey is a leading identity and authentication provider that simplifies consumer access to online services and applications. SecureKey enables next generation privacy-enhancing identity and authentication networks for conveniently connecting people to critical online services using a digital credential they already have and trust. SecureKey is a leading identity and authentication provider that simplifies consumer access to online services and applications. SecureKey enables next generation privacy-enhancing identity and authentication networks for conveniently connecting people to critical online services using a digital credential they already have and trust.

Today, verifying who you are is hard. For example, if you want to open a bank account you have to show up at the bank branch and present your driver’s license and other key personal documents to verify your identity. That doesn’t make sense. Why can’t you verify you are you, online or over the phone? We live in a digital world, but we are being forced to use outdated and broken identity systems. SecureKey is fixing those systems.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

The company was founded by Chief Executive Officer Greg Wolfond in 2008, a serial tech entrepreneur who brings more than 30 years of experience to SecureKey. His earlier ventures include Footprint Software Inc., a financial software company he sold to IBM, and 724 Solutions Inc., a wireless infrastructure software provider he took public.

Jaime Shapiro, SecureKey’s president, brings a host of experience specifically relating to financial services technology. Prior to SecureKey, he developed businesses, serving as president of Blue Sky Capital; executed M&A and strategic investment transactions as vice president of corporate development at 724 Solutions Inc.; and advised leading banks and insurance companies as a member of A.T. Kearney’s NYC-based financial institutions group.

Didier Serra is our EVP Sales & Marketing. He has extensive experience in sales, channel partnerships, technology partnerships, marketing, and program delivery, with two decades of knowledge in contactless, near field communication (NFC), and secure microprocessors. Prior to joining SecureKey, Didier was general manager and executive vice president of sales for North America at INSIDE Secure, a company he had co-founded in 1995.

Andre Boysen is our Chief Identity Officer. He is responsible for positioning SecureKey’s growth strategy, cultivating opportunities in new and existing markets, and promoting demand for the company’s solutions globally. Prior to joining SecureKey, Andre co-founded and served as chief technology officer of 724 Solutions Inc. Previously, he served as chief technology officer for Footprint Software and as chief executive officer for the company’s Asia Pacific business.

Eric Swedersky is our SVP Delivery and Public Sector. Eric oversees enablement and delivery of our services to clients and partners as well as SecureKey’s Program Management Office (PMO). He also holds a lead role in managing our key Public Sector relations. He brings over 15 years of experience in managing programs and operationalizing strategy over a breadth of industry, financial services, and government spaces. A partiality for applied technology and innovation stems from the beginning of his career when Eric served as an aircrew officer in the Canadian Air Force.

Dmitry Barinov, Chief Technology Officer of SecureKey, is a recognized industry leader with 18 years of experience in information technology and security. Prior to SecureKey, Dmitry has led and delivered numerous technology, security, identity and risk management projects including major implementations in the financial payment industry that have included EMV migration. As Technology Head in a major North American financial institution Dmitry has participated in major payment platform transformations and contributed to the Canadian Bankers Association’s Financial Service Industry Computer Incident Response Team organization (CFI-CIRT).

Rene McIver, Chief Security Officer, brings over 18 years of information security experience to SecureKey and is responsible for ensuring that the security posture of SecureKey’s cloud-based authentication and ID services meet industry best practices and stringent regulatory requirements.   As such, Rene oversees SecureKey’s compliance program and has key involvement throughout the product development and operational deployment life cycle. Prior to SecureKey, Rene held security leadership positions as Chief Security Officer at Authenticor Identity Protection Services, whose aim was to build a federated biometric identity protection utility, and also Chief Information Security Officer with Route1 Inc., a trusted provider of security and identity management network solutions. Rene established a firm foundation of information security in the fields of cryptography, as Crypto-mathematician with the Canadian Government’s Communications Security Establishment; and in biometrics, as Director of Technologies with Bioscrypt Inc., a provider of advanced fingerprint recognition technology.

Scott Allan, SVP Operations, brings to SecureKey over 18 years of leadership experience across IT operations, engineering, security, and architecture domains in diverse heterogeneous computing environments. Scott has demonstrated proven excellence in leading teams in the design and delivery of highly scalable solutions and data center operations for Tier 1 and 2 mobile operators, government and banking industries across EMEA and North America. Prior to SecureKey Scott led teams in the delivery of very large-scale messaging and access infrastructure for 724 Solutions and more recently with Sentaca Communications.

Patrick Engel, SVP, Product Development, has assembled and heads an industry leading team of technology specialists since the founding of SecureKey where he is responsible for product management and product development. Patrick has over 20 years of experience in software and technology development for the financial services, government and manufacturing industries. He was previously Chief Technology Officer of Authenticor Identity Protection Services and was responsible for architecture and design of Authenticor¹s federated biometric identity system. Patrick spent 8 years as VP, Product Development at 724 Solutions, where he was responsible for building secure mobile solutions for Financial Services, and providing software infrastructure and data-usage oriented consumer applications to mobile network operators. He also spearheaded the creation of an industry-leading alerting solution that notifies consumers via SMS, email, MMS, IM, and voice.

How are you being financed? This information is confidential.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

The technology industry can be tough. Major strides in privacy and security are only effective until the next major data breach or hack, when players in the technology industry are forced back to the drawing board.

To date, there has been a fundamental lack of respect for consumers’ digital identities in the market. SecureKey’s mission is to solve this issue of identity and ensure that consumers are given complete control over their identity, allowing them to decide who they share information with and when.

As such, the biggest challenge we still have to address and overcome is emphasizing to everyday Canadians that their digital identity and assets have value, and should be respected by organizations that have access to this personal information.

Other key challenges SecureKey faced during its inception were:

• The design of a new type of information service that provides user identity validation data, and still retains blinding privacy principles, while eliminating need for centralized authority/operation that do not provide a single point of failure and are resilient against denial of service attacks.

• Maintaining end user privacy and keeping them in full control over their digital assets while registering their consent into an immutable ledger, enforcing ecosystem rules, and providing evidence of data and identifier validity.

• Aligning multiple trusted partners to the idea of a new digital identity ecosystem that could operate and scale at a national level.

• Fast adoption by consumers and businesses. 5. How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

We try to be very active in the development community, regularly attending events and participating on panels and through speaking engagements. We have had a significant hiring cycle over the last six months and through our social media channels we have created a “buzz” that has candidates coming directly to us for opportunities.

We also offer our team flexible time off policy where employees can manage their time effectively by taking the personal time off they need and still meet their work deadlines.

Who is your biggest competition?

N/A

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

We plan to launch a new innovation publicly in 2018, including substantial efforts in marketing, advertising, communications and more. We also plan to continue to onboard organizations and agencies that will benefit from the new innovation, in order to further expand the reach of the service and benefit to consumers.8. What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.Today, verifying who you are is hard. Identity fraud is a real problem, and the best fraud prevention measures often mean customers can’t access the services they want without going through a complicated, lengthy and costly validation process.

Even with these measures put into place to safeguard businesses and consumers, Equifax estimates fake identification is costing Canadians as much as $1B overall each year. That’s above and beyond the billions of dollars and millions of hours wasted each year due to inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in the validation process.   SecureKey is building a federated identity ecosystem that puts the control of digital assets back into the hands of the consumer. We have learned that, once informed, people and business are incredibly receptive to pursuing these ecosystems.

eZWake, Vancouver startup app, best way to wake up according to science

ezWake is a youth-driven company that aims at an extremely simple problem: waking up. The company creates apps that activates the mind enough to make it difficult to fall back into sleep. Eventually, with enough uses, the app being personalized – adjusting its own difficulty and duration to the specific needs of the user.

Who started the company? Do you/team members have tech background?
Alannah Zhou, an executive of Illuminate Vancouver’s Tekathon, started the company. Her position gave her connection to a lot of figures in the Vancouver tech scene as well as the team’s developers with tech backgrounds. Her, as well as the marketers and designers, do not have as much tech background but do have a knack for what they do.

How are you being financed?
We currently have a Kickstarter accessible at http://kck.st/2iq85AE .

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?
Starting our project in July, and aiming to launch our app in the fall of 2017, time is our biggest obstacle as we hope to launch sooner in order to more quickly help those in need – those who struggle to wake up, and get out of bed in a timely manner, our mission. At ezWake, that, is what we strive for.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?
ezWake tries to use each marketer’s social media network to spread the word of our hiring applications. This gives ezWake a larger pool to select from.

Who is your biggest competition?
Time is our biggest competition. We don’t see other companies (that exist currently) as reason to worry.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?
An area that a lot of small-team apps fail at is marketing and design. We have a passionate team with marketers who have large access to our target market – high school and postsecondary students. Moreover, the app’s unique spin – individualized wake ups with differing durations and difficulties – will help steer in clients who are looking for something fit for them. ezWake has already started a research journey into how people wake up and interact with alarm apps.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.
Hard work works when talent stops working. When a large group of teenagers dedicate themselves to a large project at the heart of summer break, the individuals who are truly driven to make ezWake succeed shine through. Those who prove their passion for the project become the best kind of executives – willing to risk great amounts for the team.

Montreal Local Logic does AI for Real Estate

Local Logic is a big data company which uses a combination of geospatial and user generated usage data to quantify the qualities of any given location within a city. The technology developed by Local Logic is used to guide the decisions of e-commerce consumers when looking for real estate or travel accommodations and built predictive models to inform decision makers investing in urban environment.

We sat down with Naoufel Testaouni to get to know more about the company:


 

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

Alexandre Pagé, Colin Stewart, Gabriel Damant-Sirois and Vincent-Charles Hodder are the co-founders of Local Logic. Alex and Colin have a programming background while Gab has a background in statistics.

How are you being financed?

We have revenue from our existing clients and closed 2 rounds of financing from VC.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

The biggest obstacle will be to scale our technology in geographies where the data we use in our algorithms are harder to collect.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

We have the chance to build a product that can impact how cities are used and developed and most people find that project quite appealing. This helps us attract great candidates. Also, we’re trying to be involved in strategic community initiative and gain a good reputation and exposure through these.

Who is your biggest competition?

Walkscore is our main competitor. They offer Walkscore, Bikescore and Transitscore. They are based in Seattle and have been acquired in 2014 by Redfin an online real estate company. Spatial.ai is another competitor that offers layers of information to add on maps in travel and real estate. Their algorithms use AI fed by social media feed such as Twitter and Foursquare. Based in Cincinnati, they offer their services to automotive industries to power autonomous vehicles.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in
revenues? In what markets?

Our product is already available throughout North America and has good traction with major players in the Real Estate market. We also have big potential in the travel market, and in building predictive models for organizations investing in urban environment.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this
project.

Putting in place a process that guides the tech and product team to build small iteration providing values to clients or other stakeholders, rather than converting new ideas into huge projects, allows you to build what is really needed and not waste months on the wrong thing.

 

Learn more: https://www.locallogic.co

Toronto Avocare Reduces Healthcare Wait Time

Avocare helps reception desks in the healthcare industry reduce their phone volume. They do it by enabling two-way channels of digital communication – text message, Facebook Messenger, and web messaging. To drive efficient communication, they further support both patients and practitioners by automating requests and conversations with our in house developed AI powered assistant. The outcomes are reduced costs for healthcare clinics, and improved patient access and satisfaction.

We sat down with Vikram Luthra, CEO & Founder, to find out more about his company:


Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

The company was founded by Vik Luthra, an experienced entrepreneur and corporate executive. Subsequently, Vik partnered with Taylan Pince (CTO & Parner @ Avocare, and an experienced technology leader), to build Avocare’s products. Avocare has a talented team of designers, developer and advisors. Another partner in the business is Dr. Manisha Verma (a family physician), who is a partner and the companies Chief Medical Officer.

How are you being financed?

Avocare has raised pre-seed capital from some early stage investors, including its founder and partners.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

A major obstacle will be barriers to technological change in the healthcare industry. Typically, technology is dominated by larger incumbents and switching and integration costs from existing solutions can be high. Furthermore, especially in Canada, adoption of new technologies is slow – for a number of reasons. Our challenge will be to drive change in a way that lessens the impact of these obstacles and factors on practitioners and patients.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

Taylan, our CTO, has years of experience developing junior technical talent, and also brings with him a wide network within the tech community. Our team and recruitment has been built on this platform.

Who is your biggest competition?

Our biggest competition is web-based technologies that are offer digital services to patients on behalf of clinics. However, it’s important to note that our value proposition and product features differ in many ways – for one, we strive to make our services as accessible and efficient as possible to all parties, with great focus on helping clinic administrators run better practices. Providing great customer service and very simple user experiences help too.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

There are many initiatives that we are working on from both a product and scaling perspective – including growth of our product and expansion into new markets in Canada and the US. We have a pipeline of clinics that are interested in the benefits that our product provides. Ultimately, it requires that we sign on as many clinics, practitioners and patients as possible, as quickly as possible, across key Canadian & US markets.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

Building an incredible product and launching with our first clinic within 5 months is a huge success, however arguably we could have gotten to market sooner. We had recognized problems that needed to be solved long before the start of Avocare, but it took a long time to fully take the plunge – a consequence of over-analysis.

Lesson: As an early-stage startup, moving fast, and constantly iterating on and testing ideas with real world users is the most important thing we can and will continue to do. If we fail at things, it’ll be okay, as long as we pushing hard and fast to drive progress on our path.

 

Learn more about Avocare here:

Toronto Kukuzoo Animates your Business

Toronto startup Kukuzoo makes short animated videos for all types of stuff like products, services, social messages or anything else!

We sat down with Don Radhay, Founder at Kukuzoo, to find out more about his startup.


Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?
Don Radhay started the company in 2014, in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto. Most of our team members come from an arts background specializing in animation, writing and design.

How are you being financed?
We started the company lean and have never been financed. We simply began building our video portfolio by reaching out to customers that we felt would benefit from having an animated video. We’ve been growing organically ever since.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?
Changes in video technology (Like VR) and video platforms are a major challenge. As new video platforms and tech get introduced, our job is to research, experiment and become experts in them. It’s important for us to be able to effectively use these platforms and create great content on them for our customers.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?
We don’t have IT guys or developers, however when it comes to hiring animators, writers, or voice over artists, we look into their previous work and portfolios. We make sure that the people we hire, will understand our own creative process. To do that we try to understand what their process is like when creating work and then see how they can compliment ours.

Can we see some of your work? 
More than two-thirds of doctors use online video to keep updated on clinical information. That makes videos like this one very important. A video detailing new medical discoveries is a valuable educational opportunity.

The video below presents the complicated information in a clear manner for doctors. The animations illustrate the groundbreaking research in a quick and efficient style. Animations like these are time savers for doctors.

Who is your biggest competition?
We believe Epipheo is one of the best video production companies right now. While still a competitor, they inspire us and challenge us to make higher quality videos. Fiverr.com does a great job of bringing together experts in the arts field with competitive pricing, so that clients can develop their own animated videos without a video production company. However with Fiverr, it can be challenging if they don’t know how to effectively manage the video making process.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?
Overtime, as our unique creative process and animations become more attractive and favorable, customers will be willing to invest more as they see major value in working with us. When we say creative process we mean taking an idea from concept all the way to completion through Script, Design, Voice Over and finally Animation. We continue to get input from clients on how well their experience was, and what we can do better to streamline the creative process. There aren’t much limits to what markets we currently work with. We’ve done videos for Academia, Nonprofits, Human resources, Finance and Economics, and of course Retail.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.
Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is, if you plan to start a business, ask yourself if you’re actually willing to sacrifice a lot of time and money, and if this your passion. If not, I don’t bother pursuing it, because you will learn quickly that there will be a thousand times more failures than there are successes. At times, there may only ever be failure, so be sure that anything you pursue, its based on your passion and your strengths.

Check out the video to get more info about the company and their portfolio:

Guelph Ontario Time.ly Helps Manage Your Events

Timely is advancing the calendar into a distribution and promotional platform. Unlike other calendars, Timely offers our users an inspiring calendar for their own website that can also import & export events to other calendars – whether those other calendar are Timely or others. We aim to fix the fragmented events space by connecting & improving the functionality of calendars around the world.

We sat down with Bradley Roulston to ask him some questions:


Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?
Founded by Rik Logenberg and Bradley Roulston. Rik was our CEO for the first 3 years, Bradley is VP Sales. Rik was a developer, Bradley was a speaker with a background in finance. Both cofounders have deep roots in entrepreneurship and community building.

How are you being financed?
We are in revenue and being financed by Treemark Capital based out of Vancouver, BC

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?
People to open their minds about what calendars can do. Calendars are human’s oldest and most popular social technology. We ourselves and stewards that are helping a 4,000 year old technology (think Stonehenge) advance to a connected state.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?
We moved out office (May 2016) to Guelph to take advantage of the Waterloo University grads, Communitech, and other developers in the tri-city & Toronto area.

Who is your biggest competition?
CitySpark. However, Timely not only runs on community sites (media/tourism) as they do – we also run on venues (those creating events)

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?
Community hubs (media/tourism/associations) push us out in their respective communities as a connected calendar supplier – in that our customers promote us to their network. Though we have beachhead in every country, we’ll be making strategic partnerships this year to open up new channels.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.
Get an in-house team. We tried a distributed staff model and lost a lot hours in miscommunication, time zones, overall failing to stay on top of our developers. We may open up this route in partial down the road as we need specific tasks completed and have the resources to manage. Until then, keep your team under one roof.

 

Watch explanation on how Time.ly works:

https://vimeo.com/183538558