Blancride hits over 500 users

Spark Centre client and one of Ignite Durham’s Final Five, Blancride, has hit over 500 users of their innovative mobile app designed to evolve carpooling into the modern age. Using GPS and smartphone technology, BlancRide matches passengers and drivers based on similar routes. Passengers save time, drivers save money and everyone saves the environment. 

Blancride’s first beta was launched in November targeting students, staff and faculty at University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College. The company was founded by Dr. Hamid Akbari, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business and Information Technology (FBIT) at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). UOIT  featured Blancride in a recent news story about how quickly the company has evolved.

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UOIT Researcher’s Innovative Carpooling App Creating a Smooth Ride for Commuters

Fuel and insurance costs, parking fees, vehicle upkeep, traffic congestion, weather conditions and sheer time spent on the road. No matter how you slice it, commuting by car in the GTA tests every driver’s patience. And it certainly takes a toll on the pocketbook.

One way motorists can get around the financial roadblock of commuting is to share costs by setting up a carpool. But even getting a carpool off the ground can be a trying task: how do you find people who are going where you are? How do you know where to meet someone? What if schedules change?

“We examined all of these questions and looked for a way to create an app-based tech solution to tackle the challenges that prevent carpooling,” said Dr. Hamid Akbari, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business and Information Technology (FBIT) at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). “Our answer is Blancride: an innovative carpooling platform that matches passengers with drivers who share the same travel needs.”

Blancride works through smartphones as a customized message-board. It automatically balances the costs of each trip between each passenger and driver, simplifying the financial transaction and lowering the cost of each individual’s trip. Blancride takes a small fee for performing the service.

 (Click here to read the full story…)

 

Durham Region Post-Secondary Institutions Launch FastStart Program

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), in conjunction with Durham College, Fleming College and Trent University shared today that the four organizations are working with Spark Innovation Centre and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster (GPIC) to launch the FastStart program (FastStart), a powerful new resource designed to help university and college students acquire entrepreneurial skills and convert innovative business ideas into successful companies.

FastStart is an entrepreneurial training partnership designed to increase the entrepreneurship skills and awareness of university and college students and help them develop solid business plans and take products to market. It is being funded through an $800,000 Government of Ontario grant being shared equally among all four post-secondary institutions under the province’s $5 million On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEA) program, managed by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE).

“Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit among students is a key component of Ontario’s Youth Jobs Strategy, through programs that help transfer their ideas and skills to the marketplace while creating rewarding careers,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. “By partnering with colleges and universities to support entrepreneurship, we are ensuring our province’s business leaders of tomorrow are getting the support they need to succeed today.”

FastStart, designed to leverage existing synergies, educational approaches and the student needs of each university and college in their respective geographic market, reflects the commitment of the six partnering institutions to offer a program that enables students to apply what they learn to their future careers, whether they are in startups, established businesses, social innovation or public service.

FastStart features include:

  • Available to students at all four institutions, in all fields of study, including youth in the community with an entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Customized services to help participants refine their ideas, build teams and prepare solid business plans to deliver products to market.
  • Programs such as boot camps and student incubators.
  • Progressive, more focused programs to students with demonstrated interest and ability.
  • Opportunities for students to transition through FastStart to the Spark Centre, GPIC or local business access development centres where they can access additional services to help them quickly advance and launch their businesses.

The OCEA program is part of Ontario’s Youth Jobs Strategy, which is seeing the province invest $295 million over two years to help 30,000 more youth from across the province connect with the tools, experiences and entrepreneurial support they need to find employment or start their own businesses.

“Ontario Centres of Excellence is pleased to be able to deliver this project as a trusted partner of the Government of Ontario,” said Dr. Tom Corr, president and chief executive officer, OCE. “I look forward to putting our years of experience in connecting academia and industry, and our ongoing support of young entrepreneurs to good use in making this initiative a tremendous success.”

Funded by the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) is Ontario’s innovation system. The ONE is made up of regional and sector focused organizations designed to help Ontario-based entrepreneurs rapidly grow their companies, and create jobs. For more information visit http://www.onebubsiness.ca.

Please visit faststartfs.ca to find an online copy of this release. Further information will be posted as it becomes available.

National ProStaff and Tiko3D Announced as Winners of Ignite 2014

Spark Innovation Centre is pleased to announce the Ignite Durham Young Entrepreneur Winner National ProStaff and the General Entrepreneur Winner Tiko 3D, who have taken the top prize of $25,000 each. The announcement was made on Thursday November 27th, 2014 at the Durham Art of Transition Creative Awards in Whitby, Ontario.

National ProStaff (“NPS”), the Young Entrepreneur winner, is a social commerce platform which connects consumers with brand experts. Over the past 3 years, NPS has grown to become the premier fishing website and app for anglers all across Canada. Brands are able to manage, recruit, and highlight all of their brand ambassadors in one place while consumers gain a great resource to make smarter buying decisions. For more information on NPS, visit www.nationalprostaff.com.

“Winning the ignite competition is an amazing honour when you consider how great our competition was this year,” says Dan Miguel, CEO of National Prostaff. “This award now offers our company a great opportunity to grow and scale that much faster. Not only will we use the money to expand our business into the US market and other industries, but this prestigious title alone will certainly give us the credibility we need to attract future investment. We’re so excited to begin working with the great people at Spark Centre, as their knowledge and resources are sure to help National ProStaff succeed.”

Tiko 3D is a cutting-edge startup that aims to bring new, affordable 3D printers to everyone. They are a passionate team of innovators who develop new technologies that make 3D printers more accessible and more capable. Together, they hope to bring this amazing technology into the hands of students and entrepreneurs, empowering them to develop the products and technologies of tomorrow.

“Winning Ignite is a huge door opener. There are so many amazing things we wanted to do before releasing the product, and the $25,000 will allow us to keep pushing the limits of what’s possible while refining what we’ve already made.” says Matt Gajkowski, CEO of Tiko3D. “Even more valuable is the support from the Spark Centre and their team of startup experts. With their guidance and eagerness to help, we know we’re on a path to success!”

Now in its second year, Spark Innovation Centre’s Ignite Competition saw an incredible amount of engagement in the local entrepreneur community. Focusing this year only on innovative technology or invention based ventures, the centre accepted over 65 applications – nearly double the number in that category last year.

“I was so impressed with the level of competition at Ignite this year. I applaud all those who participated for their courage and dedication,” said Dennis Croft, Executive Director of Spark Centre. “Congratulations to National ProStaff and Tiko3D, two innovative companies who truly personify the entrepreneurial spirit in Durham Region. Spark Centre is looking forward to working closely with both of these hardworking companies and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”

The Ignite competition was an extensive journey for the finalists which included a 60 second pitch, a three minute pitch, and a 30 minute boardroom presentation in front of the Ignite Power Panel before the two winners were chosen. This year saw the inclusion of a new Student Entrepreneur Category where Turnkey Aquaponics, a startup founded by two University of Ontario Institute of Technology students was announced as the winner and presented with the $5,000 prize earlier on in the journey.

Along with the $25,000 prize, these two companies will now take part in Spark Centre’s upcoming Thrive Program. Thrive will offer a hybrid of incubation and acceleration services including co-location in Spark Centre’s The Loft offices in Durham Region with other local startups, and significant advisory and business support services to achieve a faster market entry.

Spark Centre’s Manager of Business Acceleration Services, Braden Kemp is leading the Thrive Incubator Program. “Thrive is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in Durham Region to access critical support and resources that are rarely found outside well-known startup ecosystems like Toronto, Waterloo, Silicon Valley, or New York,” says Kemp. “It will allow Spark and our partners to focus significant efforts on up to ten rapidly scale-able businesses, bringing incredible technologies to market right here in Durham Region.”

Thrive will be accepting applications to be included in the program. A full assessment will be completed and entry will be based on various criteria. Applications to enter the Thrive program will be open soon at www.sparkcentre.org.

Zambah is Changing the Way we Discover New Music

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by Kenneth Asafo, CEO & Co-founder of Zambah

The Independent music scene has been emerging and growing over the past few years, with countless musicians trying to find a suitable outlet to expose their music as well as engage their fans; but have only come across barriers or dead ends.

At Zambah, we have created a unique experience for both musicians and music lovers alike. A chance for musicians to upload, share and sell their songs directly to their fan base. A way for anyone and everyone to discover brand new music in the matter of seconds. We do this by organizing songs in a new and trendy manor by tagging each song with “hashtags” that users can easily use to discover brand new songs based on the mood they are in, genre of music, or even by the artist’s name.

We have recently released our beta; resulting in a great response from music lovers and musicians. Over 200+ users have signed up and are currently using the Zambah platform. We have gained a variety of new musicians who have also been featured on our blog thanks to their incredible content and high quality music.

At this stage of our company, we are solely focused on building a passionate community of artists and music lovers who want to help us push the indie music scene to new heights. We truly value community feedback as their help and advice will give us the right insight needed to make us a great community driven platform for discovering new music.

For any more information on who we are and what we do, please visit www.zambah.com. Or check out some of our great features at blog.zambah.com and discover some of the best songs that you’ve never heard!