11 new startups from U of T’s Creative Destruction Lab
Ventures showcase urban development, personal health, romance and more
They’re leveraging tech to improve everything from windows and lamps to construction sites, fitness, love matches and more.
Meet the startups that recently completed U of T’s elite accelerator program called Creative Destruction Lab, based at the Rotman School of Management. Participants spent the last eight months meeting with titans in the world of Canadian business and entrepreneurship – known in the program as “the group of seven” (G7) – and working to meet technical and business milestones set for them by the G7, such as raising specified amounts of seed capital.
“Creative Destruction Lab really is next level. There isn’t any other comparable program in Canada when it comes to quality,” said Mallorie Brodie, co-founder of a construction-industry app called Bridgit, and member of the latest Creative Destruction cohort. (Read more about Bridgit)
“The G7 has helped us set aggressive sales and product milestones for the company – they have helped us to see what we are truly capable of as a company.”
A main focus for startups in the Creative Destruction program is the creation of equity value: combined with the ventures who graduated in its first cohort in 2013, the lab says Creative Destruction ventures have collectively generated approximately $130 million in equity value.
“We are excited to see how much the second cohort of ventures has grown since they first applied back in September 2013,” says Jesse Rodgers, Director of the Creative Destruction Lab. “We had an increase in both the overall quality and quantity of applications this year, and it was really great to see eleven ventures successfully complete the program.”
Here are the 11 companies driving Creative Destruction’s equity value beyond the 100-million-dollar mark.
This wearable fitness tracker is for professional athletes, coaches, and anyone else who wants to measure and improve their workout in a serious way. Push tracks reps, explosive strength, force, velocity and other metrics key to fitness.
“The wide black armband is designed to stay put on a bicep or thigh without slipping around, and the device itself is large and rugged,” read a recent feature on Push in online magazine FastCompany. “Push isn't a fragile piece of jewelry-esque tech you have to baby like your iPhone. It's there to take a beating.”
“We are targeting a type of person – someone who is gritty, tough, and wants results," Push’s chief design officer told the magazine.
Co-founder Mike Lovas indicates there's been interest from the NHL, NFL, pro soccer and more.
Specifically focused on the construction industry market, Bridgit’s app offers a smartphone solution to time-consuming and inefficient methods of tracking progress and problems (or ‘deficiencies’) on work sites.
With a win in the entrepreneurship competition at the National Business and Technology Conference, media features in the Globe & Mail and TVO’s The Agenda, several write-ups in industry blog Techvibes (which even nominated Bridgit in the 2013 Canadian Startup Awards), and big-name clients such as PCL and McKay-Cocker, Bridgit is already well on its way.
Sandra Feenstra, project Coordinator for McKay-Cocker Construction, says it’s an efficient tracking tool that’s “easy enough for even the least tech savvy to use (it takes two minutes to learn!).”
This company offers a product they refer to as, “the future of window blinds.” Doesn’t sound very high-tech, but this alternative to old-fashioned blinds is a thin film applied to windows that allows you to remotely adjust transparency to let more or less light into rooms based on privacy, energy-saving and scheduling needs and preferences. Instantly windows go from transparent to opaque based on factors such as when users leave for work, go to bed, want to keep their rooms warmer or just let in light and scenery.
“Sleep in a dark room with frosted windows, wake up in a bright room with transparent ones,” reads its website. “NanoShutters learns your schedule and preferences and programs itself. It will know when you usually wake up, when you go to work, and when you need some privacy.”
A tiny, smarter keyboard is what this company built when they blasted beyond their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign goal by 873 per cent. (Read more about the Minuum crowdfunding campaign)
The single-line keyboard takes up a fraction of the space used by traditional keyboards on smartphones, smart devices and wearable technology and predicts text with high accuracy.
"It's really about the user's expectations of the keyboard," co-founder Will Walmsley told online magazine The Verge. "Most of the frustration that happens when you're using an iPhone keyboard is because you're shown these distinct buttons and you feel like you're supposed to use it like a typewriter, where you need to hit every button every time.
"But that's completely unrealistic, because when you're using a phone that's that small, you're going to be making mistakes all the time anyway. So by making the keys even smaller, really we've changed the user's mindset to be aware that they're supposed to miss every time... it's the understanding that the system is always working with them to correct their spelling."
“Why not use science to create longer, healthier, more durable relationships?” asks TV’s relationship expert Dr. Wendy Walsh in a video promoting Instant Chemistry, a kit that determines genetic compatibility of romantic partners.
The system analyses cheek-swab samples to determine genetic compatibility in addition to emotional and psychological compatibility. Instant Chemistry was founded by researchers-turned-entrepreneurs Sarah Seabrooke, a U of T neuroscience and genetics PhD grad and Ron Gonzalez, also a neuroscientist as well as U of T alumnus from the physiology and Rotman Management programs.
Instant Chemistry has already been featured on ABC News, CBS, Fox and CBC.
Forget screwing in a lightbulb. With organic LEDs, lighting can be thin and flexible as a sheet of paper.
In step with the increasing demand for organic products these days, OTI Lumionics is looking to bring the sleek and environmentally-friendly benefits of organic LEDs (OLEDs) to the realm of lighting, displays, solar cells and more with their cost-effective technology.
“We are working on unlocking the full potential of OLED lighting and displays, through innovative equipment, materials, and process technology,” reads the OTI Lumionics website.
This software “taps into big data to help retailers decide where to locate and expand their businesses,” reads a recent PiinPoint feature on TechVibes online magazine. The app, which has been referred to as “Google Analytics for physical locations,” offers details on traffic, demographics, municipal data and more to businesses looking for spots to launch new brick-and-mortar locations.
Online magazine Business News Daily describes it as an “A/B testing solution that offers the ability for entire teams – from product managers to designers and developers – to update apps without the use of code or the need for approvals, enabling businesses to focus on their core jobs in a streamlined platform.”
And it lets users instantly update apps.
“When you have an internal discussion about features or implementations, instead of making an either-or decision, put the debate out to your users through a test and let them decide,” writes co-founder Cobi Druxerman in a recent blog. And that’s the central idea behind A/B testing.
Not sure if you should put a ‘buy’ button for an online product to the left or to the right on the screen? Wondering if it should be blue or red? Taplytics lets users test all these important questions for their apps.
This 3D printer is aimed at helping to make science and technology education a hands-on experience for high school students.
A recent Forbes feature touching on the MIT-born, U of T-accelerated, team described it this way: “To make 3D printing part of shop classes, and part of STEM programs across the U.S., NVbots has created an easy-to-use cloud interface and tiered safety training curricula enabling students to safely 3D print 24-7 on an NVprinter from any device.”
It’s billed as “the first automated loose-leaf tea vending machine company" but not much information is available yet about this refreshing startup. Pity.
It’s an add-on removable gadget that makes any watch or wristband into a ‘smartwatch.’
“Glance is a smart accessory that tells you who is calling, helps you find your phone, enables motion control and activity tracking,” reads the pre-order page for Kiwi Wearables’ first product.
The Creative Destruction Lab is currently accepting venture applications for its third cohort. (Read about how to apply.)
About the Creative Destruction Lab
Founded in 2012 by Professor Ajay Agrawal, the Creative Destruction Lab at the Rotman School of Management leverages leading faculty and industry networks, inventions, and talent from world-class, technology-oriented faculties at the University of Toronto as well as its location in Toronto, one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities and Canada’s largest financial centre. For real-time updates, please visit the Creative Destruction Lab on Twitter and Facebook and at www.creativedestructionlab.com.
The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is redesigning business education for the 21st century with a curriculum based on Integrative Thinking. Located in the world’s most diverse city, the Rotman School fosters a new way to think that enables the design of creative business solutions. For more information, visit www.rotman.utoronto.ca.