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Five must-watch startups for 2015We rounded up some young businesses poised to make big things happen in the year ahead.

"You can feel it, that things are really coming together for the community.”

That's what Karl Martin, the CEO of Nymi, says to me as we talk about the year that was for Toronto's startups.

He's right, of course.

Toronto's tech community, long overshadowed by those in other Canadian cities like Kitchener and Waterloo, Montreal and Vancouver, is finally starting to come into its own. It may never grow to the size and significance of a Silicon Valley, but as we've recently discussed, global startup empires are starting to come out of Toronto.

Indeed, there's a genuine excitement for what the city's young businesses might achieve in 2015, and it's in that spirit that we look at five local startups that we think will have a tremendous year.

Two things unify the startups on this list. First, with the exception of Nymi, these are smaller companies that many people may have not heard of. More importantly, each of the companies listed below has the potential to have a significant impact on the lives of the people living in this city.

Without further preamble, here is Yonge Street's list of five Toronto startups to expect big things from in 2015.


In the winter of 2012, Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Hasegawa spent a series of chilly mornings visiting construction sites in and around the University of Western Ontario to find out, from building contractors, whether there was a consistent pain point they faced. Eventually, these conversations led back to one issue: handling construction defects—or deficiency management, in the parlance of the industry. 

Construction defects are the small but significant imperfections that inevitably crop up in any building project: cracked drywall, leaky faucets, scuffed walls—you get the idea. They come up because humans make mistakes, and often stick around because contractors and sub-contractors don't have a good way of tracking, communicating and delegating their repair.

Brodie and Hasegawa decided that technology was the best way to address the issue, and they founded Bridgit to create that solution.

In 2014, the company launched Closeout, a cloud-based app that makes the process of tracking deficiencies about as pain free and easy as it can be. The industry has flocked to the app. This past November, Bridgit's customer base grew by 43 per cent. In fact, 2014 was so good for Bridgit that Brodie can say, “All the things we thought would happen before we launched actually did happen.”

In 2015, the company plans to launch the second iteration of its app. “When we launched last March, we knew we had a solid product, but there were features that we wanted to test and improve upon as we got feedback from users,” says Brodie. “Now that we've gotten that feedback, we’re launching our second version in March. It will have more robust features, an improved user interface and experience.”


While the ebola virus was ravaging parts of West Africa, a Toronto startup was hard at work on technology to help quash the deadly illness once and for all, as well as completely revolutionize the development of new pharmaceutical drugs.

That company is a startup based out of the University of Toronto called Chematria. They're working hard towards perfecting a program that can quickly and intelligently parse through millions of data points to narrow down how effectively known and potential drugs target some of world's deadliest diseases.

According to Alexander Levy, the company's COO, Chematria's technology is one of the best developed solutions for doing this kind of research in the world, and may in the next several years completely change how drug companies go about developing treatments.

“This technology could transform the economics of drug development. It could also transform the pace at which this development takes place, as well as the accessibility of drug development by making experiments that were out of reach within reach,” says Levy.

In 2015, the company plans to continue working on marquee projects—like putting its software to use against ebola, leukemia and multiple sclerosis—in hopes of showing the pharmaceutical industry how valuable its technology is.


For the company formerly known as Bionym, 2014 was a landmark year. It not only changed its name to Nymi, a name that aligns the company more closely with its upcoming flagship product, but it also raised a $14-million Series A round of funding and grew the size of its team to 40 people.

The year also did much to reaffirm the desperate need for security measures like the company's biometric authentication band. Between the Heartbleed bug, the recent Sony hacking and a host of other data security breaches, it became apparent to the public just how easily dedicated hackers can gain access to sensitive information.

With its emphasis on identifying and authenticating users using their ECG data, the Nymi band promises to make passwords a thing of the past—in the process, making our data safer. 2015, however, is the year that the company must make good on that promise and it has several plans to do so.

“We talk a lot about how the Nymi is representative of a platform. The reality, though, is that as a startup you can’t really sell a platform; you need to go to market with applications and use cases,” says Nymi CEO Karl Martin.

“This is the year that we take a deep focus on applications that are immediately useful to our early users. People are excited about the vision of the future that we've painted, with wearable, persistent identity; 2015 is the year that we establish the foundation of that future by rolling out the applications focused on device unlock, physical space unlock, and contactless payments.”

Martin is the first to admit that no authentication system will ever be perfect, but even if he and his company are only partially successful, they will have done much to make the world safer from hackers of all sorts.

OTI Lumionics

2014 saw OTI grow its team to 14 people, move into a new 3,500 square foot facility and cement a series of soon-to-be-announced partnerships that will see their technology make its way to retail. Additionally, they continued to work on their groundbreaking lighting technology, one that adapts the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels found in many smartphone screens and turns them into a highly efficient and environmentally friendly light source.

2015 has the potential to see OTI become a household name. If everything goes according to plan, the company will establish new retail partnerships and begin shipping the Aerelight, a nifty lamp that shows off the strengths of OTI's innovative technology, and break ground on a new production facility in Southern Ontario. It's an ambitious plan and one that CEO Michael Helander is rightfully excited to put into action.

“The most exciting part is looking forward and saying, 'What's the company going to look after another year of growth and development?'” Helander says. “That's what gets us excited: thinking about what's possible when you get down the road.”


Those who follow Yonge Street regularly will be familiar with Ubi. We featured the company in a piece last September that looked at how it and other Toronto startups were helping to create new computer user interface paradigms. In that article, CEO Leor Gerbler said that his company's first product, the eponymous Ubi, was simply their first foray into the world of voice-activated computing. He wasn't kidding.

By the time this article is published, the company will have announced UbiSpeak at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. It's an iOS and Android app that allows anyone whodownloads it to use some of the Ubi's functionalities.

“We want to bring the Ubi experience to as many people as possible,” says Gerbler, as he starts to explain the company's rationale for releasing a stand-alone app. “That’s why we’re going the route of making it available on mobile devices. We want to get in front of millions of people as quickly as possible.”

It looks like his plan is poised to take off.

(Any startups on your must-watch list? Feel free to leave a comment with your picks for 2015!)
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