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Ontario spending $6.8m on campus-based accelerator programs

The provincial government continues to unroll elements of its youth jobs strategy. The latest announcement came recently from Reza Moridi, minister of research and innovation. The program is called Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLAs), and the goal is to help student entrepreneurs "harness their ideas, their vision and their enthusiasm and turn them into jobs for today and for tomorrow," he said in a statement outlining the initiative.

CLAs will provide funding to select post-secondary institutions across Ontario t"o create, improve and sustain a culture of entrepreneurship among students and youth in their regions, and to integrate these entrepreneurial activities with investors, industry, and other stakeholders in their region. The Toronto-area institutions to receive funding under the program:
  • The University of Toronto, which will receive just over $3 million in funding over two years. That money will be distributed across the university's existing accelerator programs: the Creative Destruction Lab (Rotman School of Management); the Hatchery (at the faculty of applied science and engineering); the Impact Centre (based in the faculty of arts and science); and UTEST (the university's Innovation and Partnerships Office). U of T’s Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will also be involved, coordinating efforts at the three different campuses.
  • Centennial College, which is partnering with ventureLAB (a non-profit regional innovation centre). Their goal is to help support the creation of 60 businesses in the coming two years, and they will be focusing their work on several priority neighbourhoods within Toronto, to try to reach youth who might not have ready access to accelerator opportunities otherwise.
  • Ryerson University is receiving $2 million from the CLA program, and will use the money to support existing entrepreneurial programs, as well as to create "new learning zones includ[ing] the Design and Fabrication Zone, focusing on early stage design and technology; a zone in the new Student Learning Centre; and the Biomedical Zone, to be formed in partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital."
  • OCAD University, which is getting nearly $1 million to support its entrepreneurship and commercialization hub, called the Imagination Catalyst. (As we reported this spring, the Imagination Catalyst also includes a specific stream for social enterprise.)

Across the province the government is planning to put a total of $20 million into CLA programs over the next two years.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Research and Innovation, University of Toronto, Centennial College, Ryerson University, OCAD University

Flybits closes $3.75M in Series A financing

Toronto-based start-up Flybits—with the help of several private sector partners, the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, and Ryerson Futures—hopes to revolutionize the way that mobile technology integrates into our daily lives and into the texture of our cities.

They’ve created a platform that helps bring a huge variety of data and apps together into a seamless experience, and they’ve just closed a major round of Series A financing that will enable them to double their 16-staff complement within a year.

When people talk about the kind of apps they wish they had, says Flybits CEO and founder Hossein Rahnama, they often describe tools that are context-sensitive and responsive: in an ideal world, for instance, your alarm clock would not only know your schedule but also know if your boss was running late, and know when to wake you up to accommodate both of those facts. Flybits has created a platform that aims, eventually, to do just that: it’s a context-aware platform that integrates information from a wide variety of sources and apps, and customizes the information it provides to an individual user based on his or her needs.

We’ve heard about apps like these before: the fridge that emails you a grocery list based on what’s left inside, for instance. “If you want to develop these applications,” says Rahnama, “you typically need to go to an app developer…who builds a very monolithic, non-scalable application.”

What distinguishes Flybits is that it aims to build a platform that is flexible and user-driver, rather than developer-driven: one where, he goes on, “rather than enabling engineers to build apps we enable people to build apps for their own experiences; you own that experience, you built it for yourself.”

To make this all more concrete, says Rahnama, imagine a Toronto app for Pan-Am visitors. It would start as your airport assistant (understanding your itinerary), and as you took the Union-Pearson Express it would become your transit assistant; then once you arrived at Union it would serve as your navigator—one continuous experience that eliminates the need to switch from app to app, and which could deliver all the information in whatever language you (as a traveller to Toronto) find most useful.

So far Flybits’ focus has been focusing on serving corporate clients, to allow the start-up to monetize and grow. (Among those clients are the City of Ottawa, GO Transit, and the provincial ministry of transportation.) They plan to open a free, public-facing consumer platform sometime in 2015.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Hossein Rahnama, CEO and founder, Flybits

Giving electric vehicle owners a charge

Electric vehicles have been on the market for three years in Canada. Enter Plug’n Drive, a not-for-profit whose mission is to accelerate the penetration of those vehicles into the consumer market.

One of the biggest challenges in encouraging potential car buyers to go electric is the so-far limited availability of charging stations: if you’re not sure you’ll be able to power up when and where you need to, an electric car can be a tough sell. Which leads to Plug’n Drive’s latest cause: increasing the number of charging stations in condo buildings.

“Essentially for the past 20 years Toronto has been going through a condo boom,” points out Josh Tzventarny, director of operations for Plug’n Drive, which is incubated at Ryerson’s Centre for Urban Energy. “Now about 30 per cent of Torontonians live in condos—none of which were designed for electric vehicles.”

For the past year or so Plug’n Drive has been working with Canadian Condominium iInstitute and the WWF to make recommendations for updates to the provincial Condominium Act, which is currently up for review and is likely to come before the legislature in the fall. The Condominium Act only enforces what happens after a condo has been built, however; the best Plug’n Drive is hoping for from new legislation is that it will include rules and guidelines for charging stations should a condo board decide it wants to install one.

“Where the real work needs to be done,” Tzventarny goes on, “is probably the building code—and the City of Toronto is starting to do some work around that with its green standards.”

In the meantime, Plug’n Drive is trying to reach out directly to condo owners and condo boards, making the case that retrofitting a building to include charging stations isn’t actually that a daunting prospect. (They issued a guide to installing them this past spring.)

“It’s really just an electrical job,” Tzventarny says. “It’s no different than installing an air conditioner or something like that.”

Plug’n Drive is also starting to field queries from property managers and real estate agents with clients who have electric vehicles, and prioritize charging stations when they go condo shopping—an indication, he believes, that this is "starting to become more and more of an issue."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Josh Tzventarny, Director of Operations, Plug'n Driv

Vegetation and solar panels, all on the same roof

Developers interested in making their buildings more sustainable typically face a choice: solar panels or a green roof? There isn't, presumably, room for both.

Some University of Toronto researchers are challenging that assumption. This summer, with the help of many government and private sector partners, they're launching a study looking at whether the two can be combined—at the possibility of installing one roof that uses both vegetation and solar panels. The bonus: if the researchers' hypothesis is correct, they won't just be making dual use of the same space; the cumulative effect of combining the technologies will provide greater environmental benefits than using them separately.

"Solar photo voltaics operate best when they are not overheated," explains Liat Margolis, director of UofT's Green Roof Innovation Testing (GRIT) Lab. "Ideally [the panels] would be in a relatively cool climate, but sunny; conversely when they are overheated their energy production drops. The hypothesis is that ...if the vegetation actually cools the air, that could improve the performance of the solar panels."

Basically: because green roofs create a cooling effect through the evaporation they facilitate, they will keep the solar panels above cooler, and thereby—so the theory goes—keep those panels working more efficiently.

The GRIT Lab is running the experiment on the roof of 230 College Street; it includes 40 solar panels installed two and four feet above a layer of vegetation. The study is still in the early stages: Margolis says they anticipate about a year of calibration and testing, and hope to begin collecting data next spring. They'll gather results for three growing seasons, to have a data sample that accounts for variations in the weather. (This summer's cool temperatures would likely yield different results than a much hotter summer might, for instance.)

The basic benefit of solar panels—energy generation—can be appealing over the long term, but since even the best solar panels are only about 18 per cent efficient, it can take eight to 10 years to reap the financial rewards of installing them.

Green roofs, meanwhile, provide other environmental benefits, such as stormwater management, and the reduction of flooding and erosion. This too is a tough sell, though: while these are genuine environmental concerns, they are generally managed by municipal governments rather than building owners. However, Margolis says, "I think water performance will become more and more of a factor as the public becomes more aware of the issue."

As we experience more major storm events, in other words, the incentive to use green roofs to mitigate storm effects will grow. The ultimate hope is that the combination of the two technologies will create a better business case for installing them both, and make it easier for developers to pursue environmentally friendlier projects by allowing them to see the financial impact of doing so more quickly.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Liat Margolis, director, Green Roof Innovation Testing Lab
Photo: Courtesy of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.

Ryerson launches partnership with London tech accelerator

Recently Ryerson University announced that its Digital Media Zone (DMZ) had signed a "friendship agreement" with one of Europe's largest technology accelerators, Level39. Based in London, England's Canary Wharf, Level39 has a particular focus on the financial, retail, and future cities sectors. The agreement will allow members of each institution access the other's facilities, spaces, and networks.

Ryerson has been in talks with Level39 for "five or six months," says Hossein Rahnama, director of research and innovation for the DMZ, "and it was a natural decision to form a partnership with them." Level39 has been around for two years now, says Rahnama by way of introduction, and is owned by the Canary Wharf Group. They "are hoping to transform part of the city into a global technology hub," he goes on. "Our goal is to enhance our collaboration with the UK, enhance mobility."

London has done a "great job" in developing the sectors in question, and the partnership is key for expanding the opportunities the DMZ can offer its members. It's one of several partnerships Ryerson hopes to develop in Europe over the coming years.

"International expansion has been part of our agenda since the beginning," Rahnama says—crucial for helping DMZ members find new opportunities for growth by giving them access to new markets, as well as exposure to best practices.

"A lot of our startups in Toronto are looking at addressing the financial vertical," Rahnama explains, so this allows Ryerson to offer that community to allow for scaling in Europe, without a lot of startup costs.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Hossein Rahnama, director of research and innovation, Ryerson University DMZ

Artscape launches pilot programs for creative industry entrepreneurs

We're used to thinking of Artscape as a (re)maker of spaces: from the Wychwood Barns to Gibraltar Point, they take old sites in Toronto and help shape them to suit new uses.

Now Artscape is taking a more active role in programming some of those spaces, launching a series of pilot programs to help creative entrepreneurs tackle the business aspects of their ventures. The Creative Business Design Workshop, Creative Entrepreneurship Program, and Business Skills for Growth Workshop Series are part of the ramp-up to the opening of Launchpad, a full-fledged centre slated to open in 2017.

Launchpad has been in the works for five years, says Pru Robey, Artscape's Creative Placemaking Lab Director. It will be a new creative and cultural entrepreneurship centre, one that gives "skills, tools, and resources" to creative workers, to help them start and sustain effective businesses.

It's needed, she says, because underlying all of the banner headlines about Toronto's vaunted arts scene, "are some real challenges that are faced by people in the creative sector." Stats about growth and employment "are actually made up of independent, solo traders working part-time, and working in other sectors to support their creative work, and people who are earning very little on average."  This means, Robey argues, that there is a great deal of unrealized economic potential: earnings for workers in the cultural sector are below average compared to those in other sectors with comparable education levels.

This is often compounded, she says, by a lack of early-stage support. "Graduating students suddenly lose access to a whole network of support"—basics such as space, equipment, resources, and mentorship—and aren't taught the specific, practical skills of how to build an effective freelance career or business.

Toronto already has a number of entrepreneur-support programs, incubators, and other similar support systems. Why the need to start a new one for the creative sector in particular?

"Our research shows, and our experience tells us," says Robey, "that oftentimes creatives have lots of passion [for their work] but they don't really want to talk about growing a business, so the traditional kinds of entrepreneurship support aren't necessarily appealing."

The pilot programs will be unveiled throughout this summer and fall. When Launchpad opens in 2017, says Robey, it will "combine a learning environment with a creative environment" and include a "range of highly specified and equipped production studios." The goal is to provide both creative and business support for everything from sound production to photography to fashion and jewelry to industrial design.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Pru Robey, Creative Placemaking Lab Director, Artsca

New research institute to explore end-of-life issues

The University of Toronto and the University Health Network have announced that they are launching a new institute dedicated to one of the most fraught areas of medicine: how we handle death and dying.

The Global Institute for Psychosocial, Palliative and End-of-Life Care (GIPPEC) will focus on interdisciplinary research, bringing together medical experts along with academics in subjects ranging from religion to law, to work collaboratively on what is not just a medical issue, but a growing subject of public interest and policy.

"What happened in the history of medicine is that as medicine became more specialized and technical, many of the aspects that had to do with control of physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, end of life care, fell off the radar," explains Dr. Gary Rodin, who will serve as the new institute's director. At one point those matters, he says, "would have been part of expertise of generalists, but as doctors became more focused on organ systems and diseases…palliative care emerged to fill that void."

That growing field isn't sufficient, however, to tackle the numerous and complex questions faced by those grappling with end-of-life issues.

"Many of the questions are broader questions than can be answered by medicine alone," Rodin continues, "including withdrawal of care, assisted suicide, and resource distribution—not just medical issues. A whole variety of disciplines…are needed to address these issues."

There are investigators in a variety of disciplines working on various aspects of these questions, and one of the institute's main goals is to bring them together so they can share their insights and work collaboratively.

Given than many of the laws, regulations, and procedures which shape end-of-life decisions are made by politicians and courts, rather than decided by physicians, another of the institute's major goals will be to "provide at least scholarly opinion to inform the public debate we think that's been lacking. There's a lot of emotion around [these issues] but not a lot of research."

This is also why Rodin is planning a significant programming element: there will be a series of talks, as well as a large annual conference that includes both professional and public components.

The institute will have its formal inauguration in October, and will be up and running within the next year. It will include a core staff of about half a dozen, and will have numerous Canadian and international researchers contributing part-time.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Dr. Gary Rodin, Director, Global Institute for Psychosocial, Palliative and End-of-Life Care
Photo: The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the University Health Network

U of T president lays out vision of "The University and The City"

When Meric Gertler was announced as the new president of the University of Toronto a few months ago, it generated a fair bit of buzz: not just because UofT is a major local institution, but because of Gertler's profile in particular.

He came out of the humanities—the first UofT president to do so in decades—and his area of academic expertise is the geography and economy of cities. The buzz was generated in large part out of curiosity about whether Gertler would take a more active role in involving UofT in the broader life of the city.

A few days ago, Gertler began to address some of those issues in a major speech delivered to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

"My starting point," he said, "is that the relationship between universities and their host regions is fundamentally symbiotic. It is mutually enriching, along multiple dimensions. Simply put, a strong university helps build a strong city, and a strong city helps build a strong university. We need to leverage this relationship to mutual advantage if we are going to advance our shared prosperity."

Gertler then moved on to lay out three central points: universities help keep their home cities dynamic and contribute vitally to economic development and flexibility; universities in general are large institutions and thus by nature "stabilizing forces on urban economies, and on the local neighbourhoods they inhabit"; and universities serve as conduits, connecting their home cities, via relationships with other universities, to cities around the world.

Most crucially, Gertler concluded by focusing on what can be improved. "We have an obligation to do more, and it is in our own best interest to do more," he said, inviting civic leadership across Toronto "to help us find imaginative ways to deepen our relationships and work with one another."

Gertler said he had recently begun talks with the presidents of OCAD, Ryerson, and York, "to explore potential collaborations aimed at addressing the region’s most pressing challenges."

Separately, the Unversity of Toronto is deep into planning with the universities of Western and Waterloo, "to establish a joint entrepreneurship accelerator in the new MaRS tower."

Gertler also hopes to work more closely with the municipal government—though he steered clear of political issues in his remarks—"to find new ways to inform debates, provide analysis, and bring our evidence and expertise to bear on the most important urban issues of the day."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: "The University and The City," delivered by Dr. Meric Gertler, president, University of Toronto, on May 29, 2014.

Normative aims to reset our expectations: from personal goals to hospital connectivity

Back in the fall, five North American companies were selected to participate in a three-month bootcamp to develop new apps for wearable technologies (like Google Glass).

One was Toronto-based software design firm Normative, and the app they came up with is now available. It's called "A to B" and the idea is simple: record your route during an activity (running, biking, skateboarding), and then race against your own recorded routes.

It's one example of the kind of work the 25-person company has been working on over the past six years—work that, says Normative CEO Matthew Milan, is essentially driven by the same goal: "using software technology to help people do the things they want to do…to give them better capabilities, make it easier for people to do stuff."

One example we've all been hearing more about lately: the Internet of Things. That, explains Milan, "is what happens when you start assigning network addresses—just like you have on your cellphone or computer—to a much wider range of things like, like your car, or your dishwasher, or your alarm clock."

And while that might seem to needlessly complicate things, the goal, at least, is to make them simpler, "to use data you get from the network to optimize experiences people are already having." (For instance, having your dishwasher remind you to get detergent.) Normative's latest foray into this realm is called Peak, an app that uses sensors in specially designed skis to collect data about your performance.

But this kind of integrated software design isn't just about the fun toys and gadgets, fancy new gizmos that few people will ever buy or use.

Another Normative project: developing an intranet for the Hospital for Sick Children.

"Five or ten years ago people would build an intranet, and it would help make it easier to find documents, for example," Milan says. Their goal at Sick Kids was to "help people find people rather than people find documents…make a system that makes it really easy for people to find each other, develop relationships with each other, collaborate with each other." It allows people with expertise who may work only a few doors or floors away, but never have met in person to easily find each other, and work together on research and patient care.

As for the future of technology in Toronto, and Canada more broadly, Milan says that "one of the challenges we have is that there is a real dearth of real literacy in terms of technology… We really need strong leadership that understands how technology is going to make things better at all levels of society."

He compares it to the U.S. New Deal: President Franklin D. Roosevelt's slate of laws and social programs that established the social safety net Americans grow up with today. Milan believes that technology now offers the same kind of promise and potential—the ability to fundamentally change our expectations, establish baselines for what daily life looks like, or as he puts it redefine "what 21st century society should give its citizens."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Matthew Milan, CEO, Normative

OCAD U and CSI announce new partnership

Toronto has a growing number of accelerators, innovation hubs, and other organizations designed to help support young ventures launch and develop successfully.

Up next: many of those organizations, along with more traditional institutions, are starting to collaborate, forming partnerships that capitalize on their strengths and creating opportunities for people from various sectors to share their respective areas of expertise. A few months ago, for instance, Ryerson and St. Michael's Hospital announced a partnership to help the former's engineers and the latter's clinical scientists work together.

Another new partnership was announced recently between OCAD University and the Centre for Social Innovation. The goal is to develop a social enterprise-specific stream within OCAD's overall entrepreneurship hub, called The Imagination Catalyst. The Imagination Catalyst was created to help young enterprises with commercialization; this new partnership will do the same for social ventures in particular: enterprises that have some human, cultural, or environmental goal.

As part of this new collaboration, OCAD U will offer residencies to three CSI members at its Imagination Catalyst incubator, helping with access to funding, and providing other entrepreneurship support. CSI, meanwhile, will offer membership—including access to space, a vibrant community, and other funding sources—to all those incubated by Imagination Catalyst.

"Apart from start-up funding, introductions to venture /angel investors, etc., we believe any incubator experience is enhanced if you have a diverse set of start ups in the space," explains Petra Kassun-Mutch, executive director of Imagination Catalyst.

"Diversity in our case means legal form, scale, sector, and level of experience. We believe the social enterprise sector is an extremely important and growing part of the start up community space."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Petra Kassun-Mutch, executive director, Imagination Catalyst, OCAD University

Ontario and Alberta launch collaborative innovation program

The provincial governments of Alberta and Ontario have reached an agreement to work with academic and industry partners to collaboratively pursue research projects that have strong potential for commercialization, according to an announcement made earlier this month.

The two year Alberta-Ontario Innovation Program (AOP)  will be jointly managed by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (AITF). Each province will provide up to $2 million for the project with the aim of industry partners matching those sums in each province as well.
According to an Ontario government backgrounder on the program, AOP "will draw on academic expertise to address challenges faced by industry, such as the conservation of water and energy, developing better insulated building materials, environmental remediation, stormwater management, converting waste into energy, and modular manufacturing and assembly."
In order to participate, applicants will have to go through a two-step selection process, and their proposed projects must span no more than two years.

To be eligible, projects must include at least one industry partner that operates in both provinces, or multiple industry partners that collectively operate in both; a research partner from an accredited Ontario academic institution; and a research partner from an accredited Alberta academic institution.

The first step in the process is submitting an Expression of Interest, due by June 9, 2014. A review committee will assess those EOIs, and select applicants will be invited to continue to the next stage of the application process. Complete details are available on the AOP website.
Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation

Showcasing Toronto's young gaming talent at Level Up

"One of the first things I did when I got here [in 2010]," says Emma Westecott, assistant professor of game design at OCAD University, "was try to find out who else was teaching games."

She found a kindred spirit in Steve Engels, a senior lecturer in computer science at the University of Toronto. They met, and they had their students meet, and "one of the things that became evident was that a lot of the games our students were making could be much better if they were working together." So they started doing just that, and it went well enough that they decided to set up a showcase at the end of that first year of collaboration.

It's four years later, and this past weekend Level Up marked its fourth instalment: an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional showcase of student work in gaming that allows graduating and senior students to show off their work, engage in a bit of friendly competition, and—crucially—meet potential employers.

This year more than a dozen institutions participated, and over 50 team projects were included in the showcase. Organizers estimate that 1,000 people attended—200 more than last year.

Why an off-campus showcase? "It became obvious to me that with a new subject matter," Westecott explains, "that working with community was the best way to build expertise."

Toronto has a well-established gaming sector—it's a growing and dynamic part of our local economy—and one key goal of Level Up is to help introduce students into that community, sniff out potential internship opportunities, and tap into a network that will help them as they leave school. It's also a great way to measure your progress.

"For our students, it helps them see what their games are like in comparison to what other games are being made; from potential employers' point of view, it makes it easier to see everyone in one place."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Emma Westecott, Assistant Professor, Game Design, Digital Futures, OCAD University

Ontario launches new venture capital fund

Many Canadian entrepreneurs, both anecdotally and in industry surveys, lament the lack of funding for early-stage ventures that's available here, relative to what they can find south of the border. 

One new development that may at least begin to help with those concerns: late last month Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the province, in conjunction with the federal government and several private sector partners, has launched a new venture capital fund. The Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund had a total of $217 million in commitments at its first closing, and is aiming to hit $300 million in short order.

In order to raise the starting pool of money the provincial and federal governments are matching private investor contributions (one dollar for every two the private sector invests), up to a total of $50 million each. The fund takes its name from Northleaf Capital Partners, the Toronto-based firm that is managing it. It is a "fund of funds"—a fund that invests in other funds—and is in addition to (not a replacement for) the existing Ontario Venture Capital Fund. The latter launched in 2008 and has, according the provincial government, "attracted $872 million in private sector capital while creating and retaining 1,500 jobs in the province."

The Northleaf Catalyst Fund is the first provincial fund launched under the federal governments Venture Capital Action Plan, which was announced a year ago, and which will distribute $400 million over the next 7-10 years.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Office of the Premier

Medical accelerator signs major new strategic deal

Back in 2010 the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and MaRS Innovation came together to form a new cancer-focused accelerator. Called Triphase, in October, 2012 that accelerator quietly closed a collaboration deal with major biotech company Celgene—a deal that has just been publicly announced.

Triphase focuses on developing oncology therapies, taking them through the early phases of that process, including initial funding, industry advice, and clinical proof-of-concept work. Their goal is to help new therapies complete this process in under three years. Products that make it through the accelerator will then be sold or licensed, on their way to full commercialization. Some key terms of the deal—including the amount Celgene paid upfront to gain access to Triphase's products—haven't been disclosed, but we do know that Celgene has acquired the right of first refusal on Triphase's first three products, plus negotiation rights on three more cancer therapies.

"For the last year or so, we've basically been accumulating assets [i.e. potential new therapies], and running drug development processes around those products," explains Triphase CEO Frank Stonebanks, about the 15-month gap between when the deal with Celgene was signed and when it was announced.

Triphase has now acquired one product in particular that they are excited about, and has been working on trials, cleaning up the data from the company that originally developed the therapy, and generally doing some groundwork. Now that the Celgene deal has been announced, Triphase is focusing on expansion, including potentially expanding beyond oncology entirely.

With facilities in both Toronto and San Diego, and experience working on both sides of the border, Stonebanks has developed an appreciation for the differences between the two business cultures. A Canadian, he originally left here in 1995 "for basically all of the [usual] reasons: I could not find the intellectual, economic challenges that I wanted… Then the OICR recruited me and I came back in 2010. That's a good sign, the tide is starting to turn."

Now back in the States, Stonebanks says that we do "a great job on early science and technology, but translating that into actionable value—that's where Canada has frankly fallen short over the years." That may be something to work with rather than worry about, however: "I think we need to be a little honest with ourselves with what we don't do well… We live in a global economy, don't have to have all manufacturing here, all aspects of development here. It's not a flag-waving exercise; you need to do what's right for your business."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Frank Stonebanks, Founder and CEO, Triphase Accelerator Corporation

Medical startup lands $2 million in seed funding

It's one of those ideas that seems entirely obvious in retrospect: provide a forum for medical professionals to share clinical images, so they can have a large pool of resources to draw on when seeking to learn more about certain conditions, and a large pool of expertise to draw on for insight into particular cases.

Three Torontonians came up with just such a forum—a mobile app called Figure 1, the product of a startup of the same name. Figure 1 recently announced that it has raised $2 million in seed funding, to support its next stage of growth.

Figure 1 was started about a year ago by a practising physician, a senior developer, and a Ryerson communications professor. They launched at Ryerson's DMZ—"Ryerson's just really great with innovation and entrepreneurship and flexibility," says co-founder Gregory Levey (he's the communications prof)—and currently have nine full time staff. With the help of the seed funding they hope to double in size within the year.

The new financing will allow Figure 1 to grow in a variety of ways. Their first goal is to expand onto different platforms: they're planning to launch on Android within four or six weeks, and will then move onto a desktop version of Figure 1. They're also looking to expand into other countries; the app is available in Canada, the U.S., Ireland, and the UK at the moment, and Australia and New Zealand are next. (Because the app is for licensed professionals, there are costs involved when they expand to each new country as they need to accommodate a new set of medical regulations.)

Levey's quick to admit they don't have a business model quite yet—Figure 1's focus right now is on building the service and user base. This isn't, right now, worrying anyone: their investors are on board with that strategy. Many of those investors are based in America, though there are some Canadians in the mix as well, and that's reflected in the approach a bit: "I do think there's something of a difference," Levey says of the investment culture in the two countries. "The American ones, especially on the west coast, are really swinging for the fences. The Canadian ones are a little more cautious, a little more risk averse—but that's changing."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Gregory Levey, co-founder, Figure 1
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