HARD AND FAST

New co­hort in Kanata’s L-Spark hits the ac­cel­er­a­tor

Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - Front Page - BY CRAIG LORD

L-Spark, the Kanata-based in­cu­ba­tor that is a part­ner­ship be­tween Wes­ley Clover and In­vest Ot­tawa, con­tin­ues to churn out promis­ing star­tups. The pro­gram in­cludes an in­cu­ba­tor for newer com­pa­nies and an ac­cel­er­a­tor for more ad­vanced com­pa­nies. Be­low, we check out the new co­hort in the L-Spark ac­cel­er­a­tor.

CAREERLAUNCH “We want to hit this mar­ket hard and fast.”

If you get a job straight out of col­lege or univer­sity in the next few years, it might be thanks to Jef­frey Doucet. He’s the founder of the com­pany that bills it­self as the first job search man­age­ment plat­form, CareerLaunch.

It be­gan as an app called “Quick Hire,” aimed at help­ing em­ploy­ers re­cruit for en­try-level po­si­tions. Then it evolved into a plat­form to help post-sec­ondary stu­dents or­ga­nize their job searches.

“We re­al­ized we weren’t solv­ing the prob­lem we were hop­ing to solve,” says Doucet, not­ing they were really look­ing to help stu­dents get hired out of school.

His team then de­signed a course to pro­vide stu­dents with the skills to get a job. CareerLaunch is the soft­ware that came out of that. It was de­signed to mimic that process.

The prod­uct is made avail­able through li­censed post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions. It or­ga­nizes ap­pli­ca­tions, sends no­ti­fi­ca­tions of next steps, and pro­vides learn­ing ma­te­ri­als to stu­dents.

“It makes the job seeker much more ef­fec­tive,” Doucet says.

The Toronto-based com­pany was at a cross­roads a few months ago, af­ter it locked down an ini­tial part­ner­ship with Ry­er­son Univer­sity. It could have grown slowly and fo­cused on pre-ex­ist­ing cus­tomers, or it could aim at an enor­mous in­ter­na­tional mar­ket of job seek­ers.

“For us, grow­ing slowly wasn’t an op­tion we were ex­cited about. We want to hit this mar­ket hard and fast.”

That need drove Doucet and co-founder Tris­tan Toye to L-Spark. Though just a few weeks into the pro­gram, the men­tor­ship avail­able through the ac­cel­er­a­tor has made an im­me­di­ate im­pact on CareerLaunch’s tra­jec­tory.

“A lot of the value is in the peo­ple who walk through the door,” Doucet says.

CareerLaunch launches with part­ner schools in On­tario in just a few weeks time.

CLINICONEX “Hav­ing to ex­e­cute even faster. Hav­ing to get deals done faster. Hav­ing to raise money ear­lier.”

An­thony Mar is no stranger to the L-Spark pro­gram. Cliniconex, a SaaS com­pany that helps doc­tors’ of­fices save money on missed and resched­uled ap­point­ments, was a prod­uct of the in­cu­ba­tor.

“As the dead­line to ap­ply was ap­proach­ing, I started think­ing about the con­tri­bu­tion [L-Spark] made to the com­pany in the in­cu­ba­tor,” Mar says.

Cliniconex re­cently missed out on a first round of fund­ing. Prospec­tive in­vestors said missed met­rics were to blame. Nonethe­less, the progress the com­pany ex­pe­ri­enced made ap­ply­ing for the ac­cel­er­a­tor an easy de­ci­sion.

“We were really close to rais­ing a round. That was be­cause of L-Spark,” Mar says. If that’s what the pro­gram can do in a few month, he adds, the nine-month ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gram will yield even greater re­sults.

It was a nat­u­ral tran­si­tion, too, from the in­cu­ba­tor to the ac­cel­er­a­tor. Mar says the two-dozen pitches he has done in the past few months made the suc­cess­ful ap­pli­ca­tion to the ac­cel­er­a­tor pos­si­ble.

“I needed the in­cu­ba­tor to get into the ac­cel­er­a­tor,” he says.

Liv­ing up to its name, Mar says the ac­cel­er­a­tor has made ev­ery­thing in the com­pany move at a faster rate.

“We have higher expectations now of our­selves to ac­com­plish things,” he says. “Hav­ing to ex­e­cute even faster. Hav­ing to get deals done faster. Hav­ing to raise money ear­lier.”

But that’s the kind of en­vi­ron­ment Mar says the co­hort needs. The ac­cel­er­a­tor is teach­ing the co­hort how to be the CEOs of fast-grow­ing com­pa­nies.

“L-Spark gives en­trepreneurs a way to tran­si­tion from be­ing ‘that tech guy’ to be­ing CEO. And that’s really cru­cial.”

FILE FACETS “You al­most can’t help but suc­ceed.”

You’ll be for­given if you don’t understand the in­ner work­ings of “in­for­ma­tion gov­er­nance,” also known as IG. File Facets is there to do it for you, and save your com­pany money while it does.

To make it sim­ple, the ob­jec­tive of File Facets is to clean up the “dark data,” the files with­out proper me­ta­data or re­ten­tion sched­ules, saved and for­got­ten on shared drives or some other dusty dig­i­tal shelf in the re­cesses of your com­pany’s servers.

Clear­ing out and or­ga­niz­ing re­dun­dant, ob­so­lete, triv­ial files (ROT), can save busi­nesses $5,000 per ter­abyte, says File Facets founder Chris Per­ram.

File Facets, the soft­ware com­pany, be­gan in Jan­uary. But Per­ram has been build­ing to­wards this stage for years as an IG con­sul­tant for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It wasn’t un­til a cus­tomer asked him about im­ple­ment­ing the tech­nol­ogy into shared drives that the con­cept for the soft­ware-asa-ser­vice was born.

“There’s noth­ing in File Facets that isn’t client-driven from real-life projects,” says Per­ram.

In Septem­ber, File Facets won the IG Tech­nol­ogy Provider of the Year award from the In­for­ma­tion Gov­er­nance Ini­tia­tive, beat­ing out heavy-hit­ters in the field like OpenText and Hewlett-Packard.

In com­ing to L-Spark, File Facets is learn­ing ev­ery­thing there is to know about be­ing a soft­ware com­pany from the best in the Ot­tawa ecosys­tem.

“At the core of what they pro­vide us, in terms of sup­port, is in­cred­i­ble men­tor­ship,” Per­ram says.

The en­vi­ron­ment has been so ben­e­fi­cial to Per­ram al­ready that he has moved from his of­fice in Kanata to work di­rectly out of L-Spark at all times.

“If I’m go­ing to squeeze ev­ery­thing I can out of L-Spark, I need to be here.”

Per­ram says the prin­ci­ples of dis­ci­pline and ac­count­abil­ity that come with work­ing in the ac­cel­er­a­tor have been the big­gest im­pacts on his daily work.

“I am laser-fo­cussed on my next nine months,” he says. “You al­most can’t help but suc­ceed.”

ZINATION “They force you to not just be­come an en­tre­pre­neur, but to be­come CEOs.”

Making a re­turn to L-Spark is ZINation founder David Ker, who found ini­tial suc­cess in the in­cu­ba­tor co­hort.

ZINation pro­vides soft­ware for mer­chants to gen­er­ate au­to­matic cat­a­logues and look­books for their wares. It’s in­te­grated with Shopify and Ma­gento e-commerce plat­forms. The soft­ware strives for a sleek view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for cus­tomers, in­te­grat­ing prod­uct de­tails into a cat­a­logue in just two clicks. Making them “shop­pable” is the ul­ti­mate goal, Ker says.

The pre- and post-L-Spark ver­sions of ZINation are clearly de­lin­eated in Ker’s mind.

“Be­fore L-Spark, we were a bunch of en­trepreneurs, but we were a bit naïve … The in­cu­ba­tor was to make us fund­able, now we need to raise the money.”

The L-Spark pro­gram doesn’t take it easy on the co­hort, suf­fice to say. Expectations around monthly re­cur­ring rev­enues (MRR) and five-year plans are para­mount in the pro­gram. De­mand­ing as it may be, Ker was ex­cited to reap­ply for a chance at that kind of en­vi­ron­ment through the ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gram.

“You’re go­ing into a process of cre­at­ing a smarter busi­ness. More data-driven. More cus­tomer-fo­cused,” he says. “They force you to not just be­come an en­tre­pre­neur, but to be­come CEOs.”

One re­cur­ring theme from the in­cu­ba­tor co­hort was a sense of com­mu­nity forming around the L-Spark com­pa­nies and men­tors. Ker says he can al­ready feel the same con­nec­tions be­gin­ning to form.

“It’s still early, but it’s a sim­i­lar en­vi­ron­ment. I see the same level of co­op­er­a­tion … The L-Spark team is awesome.”

Early re­sults from L-Spark’s sec­ond ac­cel­er­a­tor co­hort in­di­cate agree­ment on that point.

PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

AN­THONY MAR, FOUNDER OF CLINICONEX.

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