Category Archives: Startup Profiles

Toronto startup Akira provides access to a doctor from your cell phone

Akira is a doctor in your pocket – we provide instant, on-demand access to Canadian doctors & nurses through our mobile app. You can get help with troubling symptoms, renew prescriptions, get specialist referrals – all without having to leave home or work.

Long-term, we’re on a mission to bring high-quality healthcare to all of humanity. We plan to do that by building “Akira”, a smart medical assistant that can help healthcare providers around the world make better decisions. Think of it like an Iron Man suit for medical professionals.

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

The three founders are:

Dustin Walper (CEO) – Previously co-founded Myplanet, a technology company with 75 employees & $10MM in revenue that builds web and mobile products for Fortune 100 companies (Apple, Cisco, New Balance, etc.)

Dr. Taha Bandukwala (Chief Medical Officer) – Entrepreneurial radiologist with several startups under his belt, including the e-consultation platform Consult Conduit. Taha and Dustin met when they were 16 at nerd camp (Shad Valley).

Matt Zukowski (CTO) – Trained in cognitive science & AI, formerly the lead architect at AdTech company AdParlor. Matt is the one who keeps Taha and Dustin grounded in technical reality.

Our goal was to build a company that was ambitious in all areas – clinically, technologically, and as a business.

How are you being financed?

We’ve mostly raised from super-smart angels thus far, like Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke and Dragon’s Den personality Harley Finkelstein. We’re currently wrapping up a seed round that we will be announcing in early 2017.

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

Our biggest obstacle lies in changing behaviour – the delivery of healthcare has functioned in a very similar way for almost 100 years. We need to help people understand exactly what role digital health should play in their lives (and conversely, where it’s not the right tool).

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

Our two biggest secrets: work on something that people really care about, and pick a technology stack that good developers want to work in. The former is really helpful because having a clear, meaningful mission attracts people who are tired of the meaningless hype that can sometimes pervade the tech industry. From a tech stack perspective, we have lots of interesting problems to work on – we have native iOS and Android apps, a complex React web app used by our doctors, a Ruby back-end, and lots of different analytics platforms that need to work together. We’ve built a strong engineering culture and have a get-shit-done bias that I think is unusual in the healthcare space.

Interestingly, our engineers work on software that directly impacts peoples’ lives. There’s no greater satisfaction than hearing a patient talk about the impact we’ve had and knowing that your code made it possible.

Who is your biggest competition?

We compete with business as usual. Most people, particularly most Canadians, have never experienced what services like Akira can offer. So their default behaviour is to continue going to walk-in clinics or googling their symptoms. Education is one of the most important facets of how we market our service – people want to know what they can and can’t use Akira for, whether it’s appropriate for their kids, etc.

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

We’ll surpass a million dollars in revenue in 2017. We’re focusing right now on the Canadian market, since we think it’s essentially a blue ocean, but our long-term goals will take us into other parts of the world like Asia or South America. We think we can get to $100MM in revenue in Canada alone given the sheer scale and scope of the healthcare industry.

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

Charge for your service/product as quickly as possible. We gave away too much for free early on and missed a valuable opportunity to debug our business model – as soon as we turned on payments, we realized that a bunch of our assumptions were wrong and we had to scramble to fix things. Realizing that 6 months earlier would have saved us a tremendous amount of headache.

Website: www.akira.md

Montreal Hopper raises $82m – announces $1m in flights sold per day

Hopper, the mobile app that analyzes and predicts airfare, today announced it has secured $82M CAD in Series C financing led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), one of North America’s largest pension fund managers. Existing investors Brightspark Ventures, Accomplice, OMERS Ventures, Investissement Québec and BDC Capital IT Venture Fund also participated in the round. The round is comprised of new funding, as well as a convertible note that was announced earlier in the year, and brings Hopper’s total funding to date to $104M CAD.

Hopper is currently the only company that can forecast future flight prices with 95% accuracy up to a year in advance of departure. The app recommends if you should book now or wait based on current and historical yield trends as well as pricing volatility. Hopper collects five to eight billion airfare price quotes daily, which amounts to 300 billion prices a month, and has built a huge historical archive of 5.2 trillion prices from the past several years.

“Hopper stands out through its innovation capability by using highly sophisticated technologies to predict customer demand and buying behaviour,” said Christian Dubé, Executive Vice-President, Québec at Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. “This financing is intended to crystallize the company’s current lead in the market by enabling it to accelerate the pace of its development and global expansion.”

Hopper is a new kind of travel company that is reinventing the way people plan travel and book flights by leveraging the power of mobile conversation and big data in the form of trillions of flight prices. Today, Hopper is one of the fastest growing travel apps ever, with over 10 million installs since our launch in 2015, and behind it all is a team of 40-some passionate developers, designers, data scientists, growth hackers, creatives, travel junkies — and one dog.

Website: www.hopper.com

Vancouver startup Ayogo helping patients with chronic conditions / raises $2.5m

Ayogo builds applications for patients with chronic conditions. Our applications use gameplay and social mechanics to help patients develop new behavior and habits, and increase engagement with their care plans. Our customers are  healthcare innovators seeking to address the national quality and costs crisis in patient experience and engagement.

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

Ayogo was founded in 2011 by Michael Fergusson (CEO) and Paul Prescod (CTO), based on work they began together in 2008. Paul and Michael both have long experience as entrepreneurs and as technologists. Day-to-day, Michael focuses on business matters, Paul on the technical side.

How are you being financed?

Ayogo is largely bootstrapped, and built itself on revenue generated from sales to clients like Merck, Kaiser Permanente, AstraZeneca, etc. UPDATE: Ayogo raises $2.5M Series A to accelerate growth of gaming platform for chronic conditions

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

As we are leading in the games for health field, our biggest obstacle is marketplace adoption. This seems to be changing quickly, however, so our biggest challenge will be educating the market about the scope of what our current technology is designed to do. That said, we always have arrows in our technology quiver allowing us to work with unexpected healthcare opportunities.

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

There is a good community of designers and developers in Vancouver to draw from. Our philosophy is to build our company around the most talented people we can find, as skills and experience can be acquired, but talent is innate.

Who is your biggest competition?

Our competition is in the minds of the marketplace. This means that we are constantly competing for the attention and interest of the healthcare industry in order to persuade it of the efficacy of our product and process. We’re happiest when we speak with innovators in the healthcare industry. As industry increasingly understands the power that narrative, progression, and social connectedness have to educate, engage, and empower patients, our company’s profile and success grows.

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

What are doing is ramping social, content and thought-leadership mechanisms to greater distribution. Additionally we have to sculpt our current business momentum to achieve greater scale, to listen to our customers requirements. and not become distracted by directions that might cause us to lose focus. Our  market is primarily the US, Segments we work in are Pharma, ACOs, Payers, Care Providers – the whole healthcare galaxy, basically.

We’re focused on delivering scalable solutions to HMOs and ACOs, primarily in the US.

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

Our big lesson learned is that outcomes are what matter most in health care, and not to let the pursuit of perfection distract us from delivering something that can help improve outcomes now.

Website: www.Ayogo.com

Montreal Startup mNubo making devices smart

mnubo provides Big Data and Analytics to the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) space – we enable ‘connected things’ to become ‘smart objects’.

Our focus is to help extract true value from sensor data by delivering advanced analytics, strategic insights, and enabling richer applications. We offer a SaaS-based solution to connected object manufacturers to connect, collect, and analyze their object data. Our services benefit customers in wearables, home, automotive, industrial, and healthcare verticals.

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

The company was founded by four tech savvy individuals armed with several decades of tech experience in the mobile, internet and machine-to-machine domains.  The team is now 40+ strong.

How are you being financed?

We are self-funded.

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

The main obstacle the industry faces is mass adoption. While technology is a part of our everyday lives consumers are still getting comfortable with everything being connected. With so much information available online privacy becomes a concern. Social networks have widened consumers’ perspectives by demonstrating the benefits information sharing presents but there are still reservations that are inhibiting adoption rates.

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

We believe it is important to reach a wide audience however it is as important to attract candidates who see a fit with the mnubo culture.  Jobs are posted on various websites including our company website (www.mnubo.com), linkedIn and Joboom. Our employees are our biggest asset, to utilize their rich networks employee referrals are encouraged and rewarded. Once contacted, interactive interviews are done to ensure candidates are qualified both intellectually and socially for the job.

Who is your biggest competition?

The IoT is a developing industry and the competition directly associated with mnubo is still small. Our primary competition still resides within our customer’s organization, i.e. the desire to build in-house vs use a SaaS model.

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

We have already experienced a steady growth in revenues, in a market that counts in B$. Our intended market is the Internet of Things (IoT) with a specific focus on the industrial, healthcare, wearable, home automation and automotive verticals.

Website: www.mnubo.com