UTEST is a 12-month incubation and acceleration program co-managed by the University of Toronto (U of T) and MaRS Innovation that allows selected U of T-affiliated early-stage startup companies to incorporate, use office space, receive mentorship and access $30,000 in funding, with opportunities for follow-on funding from MaRS Innovation.
“We are thrilled to partner with A&B and leverage their legal expertise for our startups and emerging companies,” said Kurtis Scissions, who co-directs UTEST with MI’s Mike Betts. “To date, 17 companies, including Granata Decision Systems, Whirlscape, Crowdmark, eQOL and TrendMD, have successfully graduated from our program. We look forward to adding A&B’s Startups Team of lawyers to our mentorship group for the UTEST program, beginning in 2015.”
Vodafone expands Toronto-based company’s global partners to advance mobile platform offerings
TORONTO, April 28, 2015 – Vodafone, one of the world’s largest global mobile carriers, has led a second closing of Flybits’ Series A round through Vodafone Ventures. The announcement builds on Flybits’ previously announced Series A financing in August 2014, which was led by Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Trellis Capital.
As an innovative software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, Flybits enables consumer-focused enterprises to expand and manage mobile experiences that deliver targeted content and services. Its platform enhances mobile services to deliver a better customer experience, drive sales and capture analytical insight to establish a competitive advantage. The Flybits solution is easy to deploy, user-friendly and scalable.
“We’ve enjoyed an excellent partnership with Vodafone since beginning an incubation project with them almost two years ago,” said Dr. Hossein Rahnama, founder and chief product officer of Flybits. “They helped us make our product carrier-grade, and this investment will allow us to leverage their presence in more than 21 countries. With the support of our strategic investors, Bosch and Vodafone, our plan is to become the leading platform for companies to develop and deliver intelligent and context-aware mobility solutions.”
“I congratulate Flybits on today’s announcement,” said the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade. “Flybits has used many of the services our government offers to help Canadian businesses succeed abroad including the Canadian Technology Accelerators (CTA). Through our network of Trade Commissioners and various programs, this government is committed to helping companies such as Flybits grow beyond our borders to expand globally, creating jobs and economic prosperity across Canada.”
Stacey Ivanchuk, director of intellectual property for MaRS Innovation in Toronto, says that protecting a startup’s technology is important especially from an investor’s perspective.
“One of the first questions investors will ask a company is, what is your IP position? To them it’s something they can talk about as an asset and shows that you are distinguishing yourself,” [Dr.] Ivanchuk said.
Ivanchuk said businesses run the gamut from doing nothing to protect their ideas to filing for patents on every idea that comes out of a brainstorming session. “Too early is not good because it can be a waste of money if the proof you expected down the road doesn’t happen,” she said. “But if you wait too long someone might beat you to the punch.”
The article also quotes Atul Asthana, CEO of Kaypok, a tech start-up in the text analytics space spun out from York University in partnership with MaRS Innovation:
In the high tech world especially, it’s not always easy to determine whether something should be protected or not, according to Mr. Asthana. “You have to be able to enforce it. If you do it poorly, you will be giving your ideas away and spending a whole bunch of money. It can become a real cat and mouse game sometimes,” he said.
Deal led by MaRS Innovation and Innovation York to strengthen Slyce’s mobile image recognition application for retail e-commerce
TORONTO, Feb. 4, 2014—Slyce today announced that it has acquired a computer vision technology developed at York University that quickly analyzes and aggregates similar images.
Through the acquisition, Slyce also hired former York PhD student, Dr. Ehsan Fazl-Ersi, to lead the integration of the intellectual property into Slyce’s Visual Search Platform as their new head of Research & Development.
Slyce is a premium provider of visual search technology for retailers, brands and publishers. Their platform allows customers to take a picture of real-world products with their smartphone and then find direct or close-matching products from the retailer’s catalogue, which they are able to purchase on the spot.
“Identifying and classifying an object captured within a scene is difficult due to the effects of background clutter, lighting variations and viewpoint changes on the object’s appearance,” says Fazl-Ersi, who designed and developed the technology with his PhD supervisor, Dr. John K. Tsotsos, a professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a member and former director of York’s Centre for Vision Research.
“This is a much bigger problem for mobile applications where the algorithm’s speed and efficiency are the difference between losing a consumer or making a sale,” says Fazl-Ersi. “Our technology will provide higher accuracy when quickly identifying retail items so that consumers can choose among similar items according to style, colour or pattern using a mobile device.”
The researchers partnered with MaRS Innovation and Innovation York, York’s commercialization office, to file patent protection on the initial technology, develop a commercialization plan, secure grant funding, facilitate business development meetings and negotiate the resulting transaction.
Whirlscape Inc.’s Minuum keyboard was featured on the January 27, 2014 episode of Discovery Canada’s Daily Planet.
Lucas Cochran, Daily Planet’s technology correspondent, covered the technology that’s perfect for small devices and big fingers, noting that Minuum’s creators are successfully combating the small amount of space available on wearable technology, like smart watches.
Check out the video here. The profile, in Cochran’s Digit@l segment, begins at the 1:10 mark.
Whirlscape continues to build momentum for the Minuum keyboard. On January 21, the UTEST grad launched a demo of their keyboard on a Galaxy Gear Smart Watch.
The remarkably accurate keyboard that encourages sloppy typing for smartphones and wearable technology uses a disambiguation algorithm to make sense of any letter combination, so it’s been proven perfect for big fingers.
Xavier Snelgrove, Minuum’s co-founder and CTO, wrote a detailed explanation on the creation of the keyboard in Input, a blog by Minuum’s creators. From language models to algorithm descriptions, the post offers fans of Minuum an inside look at the science that makes the technology so user-friendly.
Minuum’s potential goes far beyond improved touchscreen typing. The company’s so-called “one-dimensional” keyboard approach can actually be applied to a wide range of scenarios, in particular, highly touted new wearable technologies like Google Glass, and motion-sensing technologies such as Microsoft’s Kinect and the Leap Motion 3D controller, enabling users to type “anywhere.”
“It’s one thing to invent a machine that prints skin, but it’s a whole other challenge to bring what seems like the domain of mad science to mass production,” Matthew Braga wrote in “Looking for ways to get ‘skin’ in the game,” published in the Financial Post on July 15.
The article focuses on MaRS Innovation’s (MI) and the Innovations and Partnerships Office’s (University of Toronto) joint efforts to commercialize the bio printer, a “prototype 3D printer that, instead of extruding layers of plastic and other inorganic materials into physical shapes, builds layer upon layer of cell-laden tissue, a process that could lead to the cheap, rapid production of human skin.”
Braga’s article was syndicated in the Regina Leader Post, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, and the Vancouver Sun, among other Canadian publications.
Program’s second cohort includes eQOL, E-Twenty Development, Root2Crown, Treata Smart Solutions and TrendMD
TORONTO (May 14, 2013) — Five companies tackling pervasive healthcare challenges — such as assessing dental health, helping patients and medical personnel navigate hospitals with greater ease, staying current with medical literature, or creating digital tools to help care for the elderly or those with chronic health conditions — have been admitted to the University of Toronto Early Stage Technology (UTEST) program’s second cohort.
Two companies in UTEST’s second cohort, E-Twenty Development Inc. and Treata Smart Solutions Inc. are participating in Canada 3.0 at the Metro Convention Centre May 14 and 15, 2013, in Toronto.
This announcement was covered in PE Hub.
Each company will receive up to $25,000, incubation space in the MaRS Discovery District, mentoring and business strategy support to develop protectable intellectual property, launch their products and gain market traction. They are also eligible to become clients of MaRS Discovery District’s ICE or Healthcare practices.
UTEST seeks scalable, enterprise-focused software applications interested in building business-to-business customer bases — and preferably operational products with a short term to market. The program is co-directed by Kurtis Scissons (U of T IPO) and Dr. Lyssa Neel (MI).
“If there’s one profession for which you don’t want students to have learning gaps, it’s medicine,” Rebecca Walberg wrote in the Smart Shift: Agenda for Innovation section in the Financial Post on May 7 (reprinted in the Vancouver Sunon May 9 and in the Calgary Herald on June 6, 2013). “Yet that’s exactly what Dr. Paolo Campisi saw while working with medical students at the University of Toronto.”
Walberg’s article, “Innovation in medical learning a Canadian business success story,” describes the process Campisi and his colleague and co-founder Dr. Vito Forte, both of the Hospital for Sick Children and cross-appointed to U of T, undertook to design the OtoSim device, which addresses the gap in how students were learning skills associated with otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat diseases or infections).
Here’s an excerpt (beginning with a quote from Dr. Forte):
“The answer wasn’t more time to lecture or show big pictures on a screen, but rather some kind of instrument that would mimic the experience of looking into an ear with an otoscope. And we went through a number of prototypes developing a simulator that can do just that.”
The result is the OtoSim, brought to market and sold by OtoSim Inc. The simulator consists of a rubber ear made to scale, and a computer display integrated into the model where the eardrum would be in a patient, which can display images of ear canals that correspond to a wide range of medical conditions.