HARD AND FAST
New cohort in Kanata’s L-Spark hits the accelerator
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.
ANTHONY MAR, FOUNDER OF CLINICONEX.