Spark Centre’s Ignite Competition Featured on Techvibes


By Techvibes NewsDesk

Spark Innovation Centre, a not-for-profit organization that offers free services and support to local entrepreneurs, is accepting applications to its second annual Ignite Competition.

Two startup companies will be chosen to win $25,000 to use towards their business.

Last year Ignite saw over 100 companies compete in a rigorous program that involved pitch competitions, a business boot camp and boardroom competition. An expert Power Panel which included former Dragon’s Den star and cofounder of Round 13 Capital, Bruce Croxon and Jason Atkins, President and CEO of 360 Incentives helped choose the five finalists and ultimately the two Ignite winners, Squabble Studios and MobileXCo.

In 2014, Ignite will focus on innovation, technology, invention and advanced process oriented startups.

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Spark Centre Opens Applications for its Ignite Startup Competition


Ignite Feat Banner


Spark Innovation Centre, a not-for-profit organization that offers free services and support to local entrepreneurs has begun accepting applications to its second annual Ignite Competition. Two startup companies will be chosen to win $25,000 to use towards their business.

Last year Ignite saw over 100 companies compete in a rigorous program that involved pitch competitions, a business boot camp and boardroom competition. An expert Power Panel which included former Dragon’s Den star and co-founder of Round 13 Capital, Bruce Croxon and Jason Atkins, President and CEO of 360 Incentives helped choose the five finalists and ultimately the two Ignite winners, Squabble Studios and MobileXCo. Matthew Stephan, CEO of Squabble Studios spoke about the importance of the program; “Ignite is an amazing opportunity for any entrepreneur. It teaches great new skills and helps businesses build meaningful connections.

In 2014, Ignite will focus on innovation, technology, invention and advanced process oriented start-ups. “The success of Ignite 2013 was very evident with over 100 competitors and over 2,000 attendees to watch the various competition events,” said Dennis Croft, Executive Director, Spark Centre. “This year Spark continues to enhance Ignite, bringing in the specific Spark Centre mandate of focusing on technology, invention and advanced process creation oriented companies.”

Local pitch competitions will take place in several cities around Durham Region to broaden our search for high potential startups, and the competition will once again have an expert Power Panel to help with the selection process. Ignite 2014 will also be highlighting new categories which support young entrepreneurs including a special prize of $5,000 to a student currently enrolled in a post-secondary institute in Durham Region.

Startups located anywhere within Canada are eligible to apply, but winners must establish their business within Spark Centre offices in Durham Region. The winners will work closely with the Spark Centre team and have access to Spark’s network of mentors and advisors who will help to accelerate their business.

Applications are available online and must be received by 5:00 p.m. EST on September 12, 2014. Please visit for more information on the application process, eligibility criteria, and important dates.

About Spark Centre: Spark Innovation Centre is one of fourteen not-for-profit Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) that form part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). The centre works to improve competitiveness and visibility of Durham Region and Northumberland County as a world-class innovation cluster. For more information on Spark Centre, please visit

Media Contact:
Amanda Reynolds
Public Relations and Media Manager
905-432-3999 x 122

Spark Centre launches “The Vault”

The Vault Logo

Spark Centre launches “The Vault”

Whitby’s Centennial Building is the location for Spark Centre’s Incubator Accelerator Program

Whitby, ON (August 12, 2014) — Spark Innovation Centre is pleased to announce that in partnership with the Town of Whitby they have established an Incubator Program located in the Centennial Building at 416 Centre Street South.

The incubator space will foster cross learning and collaboration for entrepreneurs and startups. Activities will include strategic planning, product design and brainstorming, executive coaching, confidential business discussions, executive team meetings, legal activities, presentations and pitch preparation. Clients will receive training, business assistance and access to funding to support all aspects of innovative technology or invention. The focus of “The Vault” is to expedite business commercialization for local startups.

Spark Centre’s Executive Director, Dennis Croft, spoke about the new location; “Spark Centre is honoured to have presence within the prestigious and historic Centennial Building. The Vault will inspire young entrepreneurs to pioneer new technology and bring ideas to life.” Town of Whitby Mayor Pat Perkins says “We welcome the Regional Innovation Centre in Whitby. It is a great opportunity for local entrepreneurs to work with Spark Centre’s executive team to help grow their businesses.”

About Whitby’s Centennial Building:  Built in 1854, Whitby’s Centennial Building is one of Ontario’s finest designated heritage structures.  The Centennial Building began as the Ontario County Courthouse, and served from 1854 to 1964 as a trial court and a meeting place for County Council. In 1967, a local Centennial project turned the building into a community centre. The courthouse is currently the Whitby Courthouse Theatre and includes a banquet facility, local archives, and is used by community organizations.

About Spark Centre: Spark Innovation Centre is one of fourteen not-for-profit Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) that form part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). The centre works to improve competitiveness and visibility of Durham Region and Northumberland County as a world-class innovation cluster. Spark Centre envisions a thriving entrepreneurial community that embraces innovation and technology to compete in the global business world. For more information on Spark Centre, please visit

Media Contact:  
Amanda Reynolds
Public Relations and Media Manager
905-432-3999 x 122

Linkitz Wins $100,000 at 2014 N100 Startup Competition

To read more about Spark Centre’s involvement in the N100 Competition, CLICK HERE



The time has come for the maker movement. The time has come for the re-shoring of manufacturing in North America. The time has come for a shift in venture capital investment to hardware. And the time has come to close the technology gender gap. At the intersection of these multiple transformations is the winner of the 2014 N100 Startup Competition: Linkitz.

“Wearables are the new black, and kids want their own. Linkitz makes smart and modular wearable toys that blink and buzz and will help kids learn programming too,” explains Andrew Macrae, CTO of Linkitz.

“Girls are big on accessories and Linkitz will give them a chance to get programming chops as they make toys their own,” says Lyssa Neel, CEO of Linkitz and a MIT PhD who co-founded two other companies. “Making technology playful at an early age can go a long way,” she adds.

By winning N100, Co-Founders Neel and Macrae have secured a $100,000 early-stage investment from Northumberland CFDC to finalize, test and market their product. “Linkitz is already working with the prototyping and engineering team at a local Cobourg manufacturer,” said George Harvey, Chairman of the business development corporation that runs N100. “They will be establishing their headquarters and operations here in Northumberland where they will be able to leverage local innovation infrastructure and value-added partnerships.”

“A social toy and fashion item can motivate kids to learn more about technology. Building this type of confidence can help kids get comfortable with technology and grow from mere consumers to active creators,” Neel said.

“Through innovation, Lyssa Neel is creating a pathway of possibilities for a generation of young women,” said Wendy Curtis, Executive Director of Northumberland CFDC. “And we are putting the spotlight on an impressive entrepreneur who is helping to close the gender gap for women in tech.”

“Having the support of investors who share our vision will help us put Linkitz into kids’ hands much faster,” says Linkitz CEO Lyssa Neel.

This year, Linkitz won out over forty-one other startups from Canada, the USA and around the world. The next call for applications for the annual N100 Startup Competition will go out again in January, 2015 with a registration deadline in March.

About Linkitz

Linkitz is a wearable electronic toy that allows kids to have fun while easily learning to program. A Canadian hardware startup led by Co-Founder and CEO Lyssa Neel, Linkitz is the winner of the 2014 N100 Startup Competition and was recently accepted into the 2014 HAXLR8R Fall cohort. Follow Linkitz on Twitter @Link_itz.

About the N100 Startup Competition

N100 is an annual startup competition led by Northumberland CFDC in partnership with Spark Centre and a high-level Power Panel including David Pamenter, Business Law Partner atGowling Lafleur Henderson LLP and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). Startups compete for $100,000 in early-stage investment capital through a series of three Rounds: the Pitch, Business Planning and Negotiation. The winner of the inaugural year of the competition in 2013 was Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation (UCIC) who went on from their win to launch an expansive beta program for their ubiquitous computing device (dubbed the “Ubi”) and to secure a $635,000 angel round led by Maple Leaf Angels.

Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation (Northumberland CFDC) is a business development corporation dedicated to providing financing and strategy for entrepreneurs. A member of the Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) Northumberland CFDC receives core operational funding from FedDev Ontario.

Spark Centre is one of fourteen not-for-profit Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) that form part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). The RIC works to improve competitiveness and visibility of Northumberland and Durham as a world-class innovation cluster.


John Hayden – Manager, Enterprise Programs
Northumberland CFDC
600 William St. Suite 600
Cobourg, Ontario, Canada
K9A 3A5
Ph: 905-372-8315 x224


Entrepreneurship and Innovation is thriving in Durham Region

thriving banner

Recently, Spark Centre was a part of three momentous events celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation in Durham Region and Northumberland County.

We were very proud and honoured to be the Premium sponsor for Metroland’s Breakfast Seminar with Arlene Dickinson. The event took place at Landmark Cinema in Whitby on June 11th and featured Arlene speaking about her journey to success. She shared some very personal stories about how she became an entrepreneur, author and Dragon’s Den star. Local Durham Region entrepreneurs and success stories, Jason Atkins from 360 Incentives and Jodi Glover from Real Tech Inc. were also on hand to speak on their experiences and offered their advice during a Q&A session. Dennis Croft, Executive Director of Spark Centre was the MC of the event and spoke about the impact the morning had on the sold-out crowd; “Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart and we were treated to how to accept and conquer adversity.  Arlene, Jason and Jodie inspired us to reach beyond our paradigms. I was humbled to be master of ceremonies in such company.”

The second June event took place in Oshawa at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).  The Innovation Conference titled “Rethinking Management 2020” empowered its attendees to keep up with changing technologies in the workforce and encouraged all to seize new opportunities to advance their business and reinvent their management style. Dennis Croft was also the MC at the event, joining an impressive group of speakers and industry experts. “It was an honour to be the Master of Ceremonies for UOIT Innovation Day.” Dennis says “UOIT’s drive to foster innovation in Durham Region shone bright on June 24th.  We saw the best and brightest of management gather and discuss the future of innovation. Just awesome!”  

 Spark Centre was once again very eager to partner with Northumberland CFDC for their N100 Startup Competition. Startups who apply for N100 compete for $100,000 in investment to support key milestones in the development of their company. Spark Centre ran a Pitch School for the Top 10 businesses which consisted of a one day boot camp followed by one on one sessions with entrepreneurs to finalize their pitches for the N100 Pitch Night. Once the N100 Power Panel chose their Top 3 finalists, we held a Mock Boardroom Investment Presentation. The finalists were able to execute a 15 minute boardroom presentation followed by a 15 minute Q&A with experts, entrepreneurs and investors from Spark Centre’s network. Braden Kemp, Manager, Business Acceleration Services at Spark Centre says, “It was fantastic to be a part of the N100 competition again this year, and to work with such a talented and innovative group of entrepreneurs. N100 is a great example of the incredible technology ecosystem that is growing right here in our own backyard and we can’t wait to see who comes out on top later this summer.”

What an exciting time for Durham Region and Northumberland County! Spark Centre is continuously proud of the work being done to create a thriving entrepreneurial community. We will always continue to strive to build on a community that embraces innovation and technology.

Rethinking Management 2020

Rapid advances in technology are changing the workplace and the way business is conducted.

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s (UOIT) Faculty of Business and IT is partnering with RBC Royal Bank and RBC Wealth Management to host Rethinking Management 2020.

This exciting innovation conference happening at UOIT on Tuesday, June 24th is a must for business professionals. Attendees will hear from high-profile key note speakers; Avi Pollock, RBC Vice-president, Innovation and Strategic Planning and Jon Peddie, PhD, President Jon Peddie Research on how to seize new opportunities to advance their business and reinvent their management style.

Spark Centre’s Executive Director Dennis Croft will be the Master of Ceremonies at the conference, joining an impressive group of speakers and industry experts. The conference aims to empower attendees with the required knowledge, along with new and advanced resources needed to keep up with changing technologies.

When:  Tuesday, June 24 – 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where: University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Science Building  – 2000 Simcoe Street North  Oshawa, ON

Visit to register or to learn more.

The Neuroscience of Engagement

Spark Centre recently attended OCE Discovery – Canada’s leading innovation-to-commercialization conference in Toronto. The Spark Zone was full of activity, showcasing eight of our high potential start-ups, including Dr. Edmond Dixon. His initiative, Helping Boys Learn revolves around a unique “6 Secret” framework designed to improve boys motivation and achievement by using an approach in sync with male brain wiring and physiology. At the conference, Dr. Dixon had the opportunity to connect with 360 Incentives, one of Spark Centre’s innovation partners in Durham Region. 360 Incentives featured the following piece on Dr. Dixon and Helping Boys Learn on their Technology Blog discussing engagement in learning and business.


“Maybe the loyalty business has it all wrong.”

The idea that loyalty is a fish you can catch if you simply own the correct accoutrements is to ignore the biology of how loyalty works.  Herein lies the problem: loyalty in business is too often approached as simply a “what” question, but it’s really more of a “why.”   “What has worked before?” is often the question, when a more useful question is “why did it work?” and then capturing that information and applying it to create new, better programs.

After all, loyalty is not a mathematical formula, a secret sauce or social movement – it is a feeling. And feelings can be tricky little devils; they don’t necessarily simply come when called.   It turns out though, that feelings of loyalty do, in fact, have some predictable triggers.

“Motivation and engagement only happen when the person you want to engage actively participates in the activity,” says Dr. Edmond Dixon.  “You can’t ‘con’ them into it – the base of engagement is learning and for us to learn we have to be motivated to do it.”

Dr. Dixon specializes in building greater engagement between developing boys and their schoolwork.  Getting into this field involved years of studying the neuroscience around motivation and engagement.   It turns out that engagement has very different biological construction within the bodies of males and females.

So what is the biological makeup of engagement? Dr. Dixon says “Males release testosterone and prefer victory and triumph of some sort, whereas females release oxytocin and tend to like the idea of community better.”

From a marketing person’s perspective, considering these simple facts as we build strategy can serve us very well. You may be at the mercy of your incentives management software to determine if you have the necessary flexibility to address males and females differently in your marketing, but here is a brief cheat sheet to help you tailor your programs in such a way that they resonate better with people.

Start With Why

Males – Dr. Dixon says that in order to engage males, right out of the gate they need to know “what’s the end game?”   Be sure to communicate your own business goals, how it fits in with their own goals and any other information that fulfills this need.

Females – “Females need to understand ‘how does this fit in (to the bigger picture)?” adds Dr. Dixon.  They don’t necessarily need to know the clear end result, but be sure to frame your offering in terms of the big picture.

How To Get ANYONE Engaged

Even in the digital age, there may be situations where it is tough or even inappropriate to segment your marketing by gender. It is useful to consider some universal principles of this science.

“The connected world gives us all previously inaccessible amounts of information and choice, and when people can act autonomously, they tend to be more engaged,” says the doctor.

“You have to allow them to use information and choice in their own way,” he adds.

In the specific instance of engaging retail sales associates, Dr. Dixon suggests giving them a quick path to information to make sales.  Provide a way that they can get more expertise in a short time in order to help customer make choice.

He adds, “We say we’re socially connected, but people still like to feel special, like they’re part of a team.   To engage sales, allow them to learn in collaboration with others using their own information and choice, combined with recognition.   Geography is not important to forming this recognized group.   They will effectively go about forming a mastermind group, solving problems that a company may never have previously imagined.”

Remember: technology helps you scale these training resources and user communities in a way that was previously impossible. Digital assets such as training videos, sales leader boards and online discussion groups will build the engagement what you need, help the people in the channels to perform better and keep your brand on the tips of their tongues.

What has worked before will always be a sensible and useful point of reference.   Understanding why it worked will drive us to do better and better work.

This article was written by Jason King and first appeared on the 360 Incentives blog.

Durham College & IFTech to partner on wearable technology project


Durham College (DC) announced recently its intent to partner with IFTech, an Oshawa-based start-up company specializing in wearable technology. The college’s Office of Research Services and Innovation (ORSI), with support from DC faculty researchers and staff, will be working with IFTech on an applied research project designed to support the company’s growth and expansion into the wearable technology marketplace. A grant application for the project is currently being finalized with the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE).

In particular, the college will be assisting IFTech with bringing its flagship invention, As Real As It Gets (ARAIG), to a manufacture-ready, commercial product. A multi-sensory stimulation device, ARAIG is a wearable suit that immerses individuals into the reality of a gaming world by stimulating the senses with localized directional feedback. Providing physics to the body, it leaves the mobility of the user unfettered and provides a new level of immersion in terms of how games and virtual simulations are experienced.

“ORSI, along with our faculty and staff, is excited to work with IFTech on bringing such a unique technology product to market,” said Debbie McKee Demczyk, director, ORSI. “This project will provide a wonderful opportunity for our students, faculty and staff to pursue applied research in an area that is both new to the college and the current consumer marketplace including the chance for them to gain significant on-the-job research and work experience.”

A 3D-scale model of the ARAIG titled Legion One Exoskeleton, created in collaboration with Cimetrix Solutions Inc. an Oshawa-based company that specializes in providing professional grade 3D printing solutions, will be revealed on Tuesday, May 13 inside the Spark Zone at the OCE Discovery event. The event, which is taking place in Toronto on Monday, May 12 and May 13, will mark the first time IFTech has publicly shown the design. Attendees will have an opportunity to speak directly with Brodie and Michael Stanfield, co-founders and co-chief executive officers of IFTech and co-creators of ARAIG, and provide feedback.

“IFTech sees this as the beginning of a relationship that will continue for many years to come,” said Brodie Stanfield. “We see Durham College being involved in many current and future projects and are excited to be partnering with some of the brightest minds in Durham Region in order to rapidly move forward on our research and development.”

In addition to its new relationship with the college, IFTech has also been working directly with innovation experts from Spark Centre over the last year to advance its commercialization plans.

“IFTech and its flagship product ARAIG will revolutionize a video gamer’s experience,” said Dennis Croft, executive director, Spark Centre. “Durham College’s deep expertise in applied research will greatly advance the timeline for a commercial-ready, high-quality product for IFTech.”

Gov’t of Canada Invests in Innovation, Jobs and Growth in Southern Ontario


SOFII_ImagesBrantford, Ontario – The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) announced today a $20-million investment in innovation funds that will support small- and medium-sized businesses in southern Ontario. Minister Goodyear was accompanied by Phil McColeman, Member of Parliament for Brant.

“Innovation is critical to creating high-value jobs and securing a prosperous future for southern Ontario communities,” said Minister Goodyear. “The investment announced today will lead to new opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses in the region, allowing them to grow, develop new products, services and technologies. This will diversify the economy, encourage greater innovation and create hundreds of jobs for southern Ontario.”

“Small and medium sized businesses in southern Ontario are ready to compete and lead in the twenty-first century global economy,” said McColeman. “With the launch of this new fund, our government is taking additional steps to encourage innovation and the creation of high quality, highly skilled jobs right across this region.”

The $20-million contribution comes through FedDev Ontario’s Prosperity Initiative. This investment will support two funds, known as the Southern Ontario Fund for Investment in Innovation (SOFII) projects. SOFII will provide a $12-million fund in the west and an $8-million fund in the east. These two funds will be delivered by southern Ontario’s two regional Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) networks: the Western CFDC Association and the Eastern CFDC Network Inc. to both smaller rural and larger urban communities.

During the projects’ first two years, the Networks will provide business loans valued between $150,000 to $500,000 each to accelerate the growth of an estimated 80 southern Ontario small- and medium-sized businesses, which will help create or maintain over 700 full-time jobs. This will support innovation and growth in small- and medium-sized businesses in southern Ontario.

“We have heard about the difficulties small businesses can have bringing new developments to market,” said Cindy Swanson, Past-President of the Western Ontario Community Futures Development Corporation Association, Inc. “This fund will provide an opportunity for small companies to secure the financing they need and get the product to market more quickly than they otherwise might be able to.”

Dan Stanford, Chair of the Eastern Ontario CFDC Network shares this sentiment. “New products, new services and new processes often need support with that last push to the market—as do other late-stage commercialization activities,” said Stanford. “SOFII can help knowledge-based businesses do this successfully and we look forward to our role in assisting the Government of Canada to create a more productive and competitive private sector in southern Ontario.”

For more information about SOFII or the Prosperity Initiative, please refer to the SOFII-Brochure.

The investment announced today supports the Government of Canada’s science, technology, and innovation agenda, which is focused on increasing the country’s productivity, creating jobs and growing the economy.

Created in 2009, FedDev Ontario supports the southern Ontario economy by building on the region’s strengths and creating opportunities for jobs and economic growth. The Agency has launched a number of initiatives to create a Southern Ontario Advantage and place the region in a strong position to compete in the global economy. These initiatives are designed to encourage partnerships and support projects that help the region’s businesses and communities become more competitive, innovative and diversified. To learn more, please visit or call 1-866-593-5505.

Startups from Waterloo’s Velocity Incubator Have Raised $100 Million in Five Years

The University of Waterloo’s Velocity startup incubator today revealed that companies in the program have raised more than $100 million in funding.

That number comes five years after the program was launched and includes includes funding from venture capitalists, angel investors, government programs, grants from the Velocity Fund, and crowdfunding platforms.

Graduates with notable raises included Kik, Pebble, and Thalmic Labs. Kik’s last raise was a $19.5 million Series B round, while Pebble shattered crowdfunding records when it raised $10 million on Kickstarter. Meanwhile, Thalmic Labs had an incredible 2013, raising one of the most significant venture capital rounds of any Canadian startup that year and also winning 2013 Startup of the Year in the annual Canadian Startup Awards.

To read more: