Accelerator Centre graduates one of its largest cohorts with four companies ready for takeoff

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Group photo of five Accelerator Centre gradsThe Accelerator Centre celebrated one of its biggest graduating classes last Thursday as four startups left the nest at the local high tech business incubator.

The most recent graduates — Ecopia, InTheChat, Knowledge in Development and Trending.Info — bring the total to 55 startups that have graduated from the centre in the last decade.

Two of the companies, Ecopia and Knowledge in Development, grew out of research that was done at the University of Waterloo, while the other two are business to business platforms that provide customers online engagment tools.

Ecopia was started by two University of Waterloo grads who were completing their research across the street from the David Johnston Research and Technology Park.

As a young company you only have a certain amount of runway to get a product to market and gain some traction.  If we can drive innovation, then it’s incumbent on those companies to be able to run that procurement process as quickly as possible.” — John Huehn, president and CEO of InTheChat

They’ve created intelligent systems to analyze geospatial imagery through computer vision techniques to go though the millions of images collected by satellites, airplanes, drones and other vehicles each day. They help retrieve that information and organize it as useful data for its customers. This means their clients can finally access that information when they need it the most.

“There was obviously a lot of hard work and long nights behind that,” said Jon Lipinski, co-founder of Ecopia, who said they’ve been refining the process for more than three years.

They feature 16 employees and have turned down some funding inquiries.

Knowledge in Development also came out of research done at UW by psychology professor Daniela O’Neill. She developed and published the Language Use Inventory, which is a new assessment tool for children struggling with forming words, and gives professionals an online tool to work with them.

“They use the normed results to find out if a child is falling significantly behind his or her peers so an intervention can begin as early as possible,” said O’Neill.

The fully secure and online portal allows professionals to do assessments and parents to fill out the information at their convenience.

“It generates detailed reports to share with parents and schools, or to secure needed intervention for the children,” said O’Neill, with the LIU program now being used all over the world.

The Accelerator Centre also graduated their first company from the Stratford branch of the program, Trending.Info.

The company creates a social pulse for business, services and associations and translates it into a clean, concise online marketing tool categorized by location, sport or interest.

“This (program) helped us gain momentum and ultimately land sales in new markets,” said Randy Huitema, CEO of Trending.Info. “AC Jumpstart allowed us to expand our staff and operations increasing our reach with newer services in more markets as well.

“This is just a few of the advantages of being part of this type of ecosystem, which is why it exists and I encourage all to leverage these types of programs if possible.”

John Huehn, president and CEO of InTheChat, also used much of his graduation speech to encourage more of that cooperation and cross-pollination between startups and other tech companies as they continue to build up Canada’s tech sector.

The company, a leading digital customer service platform for enterprises, has already has some success with corporations like TD Bank Group in helping them serve their customers through text messaging, social media, web and mobile chat and email and messaging apps.

The goal is to cut down on the number of phone calls to call centres, while improving direct communication with customers.

Huehn said the main thing that Canadian startups need is the support of bigger business with the capital to help. “There has to be willingness for government and enterprise to work with young, innovative companies,” said Huehn.

He said lengthy procurement process can kill innovation and stall their momentum.

“As a young company you only have a certain amount of runway to get a product to market and gain some traction,” said Huehn. “If we can drive innovation, then it’s incumbent on those companies to be able to run that procurement process as quickly as possible.”

By Bob Vrbanac, Managing Editor, Waterloo Chronicle/Kitchener Post. He can be reached at BVrbanac@waterloochronicle.ca . Follow the Chronicle on Twitter and on Facebook

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