Client Update: Q&A with Sound Options

Sound Options is one of the companies recently accepted into Spark Centre’s Thrive Accelerator Program. The company was started after the team’s years of research in tinnitus. This led to Sound Options creating an innovative approach to treating tinnitus: personally customizing a sound therapy using current understanding of tinnitus and cutting-edge software.

 ”We’re excited to have Sound Options with us in the Thrive Accelerator. The team has developed an incredibly novel solution to a real problem that many people face daily – we’re looking forward to seeing rapid growth in the market” - said Braden Kemp, Director of Client Services and Thrive Accelerator Program at Spark Centre.

Spark Centre sat down with Michael Chrostowski, PhD, President & CEO of Sound Options Tinnitus Treatments Inc. to talk about the impact his business is making in the industry and what advice he has for fellow entrepreneurs.

What is Sound Options?
Sound Options provides a treatment for a hearing disorder called Tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears. We’ve developed software that incorporates neuroscience research to be able to provide a customized sound therapy. Everyone’s condition is unique and has their own tinnitus profile and that’s what has made this condition very difficult to treat. What we have done is embed a computational model of the hearing brain into our software which partly came out of the research I did during my PhD at McMaster. This allowed our software to take a person’s hearing along with their tinnitus profile and predict an optimal sound therapy. Our software then embeds into music, uploads it to the cloud and allows a person to listen on their own device. We are currently offering this treatment through hearing clinics that are partnering with us.

What is your goal for Sound Options?
In the shorter term, between three to five years, I would like Sound Options to be one of the leaders in tinnitus therapy. In the longer term, our goal is to expand to other types of therapies, not just tinnitus. Things like sleep disturbance and anxiety where sound therapy and music therapy have been found to help.

Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
I’ve always had the need to build and grow something of my own. When I started my PhD I was looking to do research that would eventually lead to something applied. My background is originally engineering applying knowledge is very important to me. I always had in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to stay in academia but wanted to create something that could help others and build a business from that.

What are some of the key things that worked when you launched Sound Options?
The most useful thing we did is engaged our customers very early on. Not just the tinnitus sufferers but potential clinics. Even when we did our clinical study at McMaster, we used hearing clinics to help us recruit patients. It was a great way to get them engaged early on, before we even knew if the treatment was going to work. It made them aware of us and allowed them to give us feedback on their experiences and issues with other treatments in the past.  That gave us some really great insight on how to sell our product to other potential clinics in the future.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
We were always told to reach out to our customers early on in some of the entrepreneurship training and workshops I’ve done. Sometimes you think ‘I have this great idea, I’ll talk to the customers later but I need to develop this idea first’.  It really is true and I think my experience shows that you have to talk to your customers as early as possible. You might think something is a good idea but it’s possible that no one will be willing or interested in using it. So the key thing is to find that out sooner rather than later.

What made you sign up for Spark Centre’s Thrive Program?
I got to meet a lot of the people that are working at Spark Centre and I know a lot of the staff and advisors have skill sets that are extremely valuable to where Sound Options is right now. We’re currently in the scaling phase and need to focus more on sales and marketing. We’re also in the phase now where we want to make some distribution agreements with hearing clinic chains and franchises and with some of the requests they have, we knew we needed some legal expertise. We are hoping we can secure legal advice through the Thrive Program as well as some general accounting advice. There are a lot of ins and outs of the business side that we just haven’t had the time to handle and the Thrive Program is a good opportunity to start doing that with the right experts.

What’s next for Sound Options?
Right now we’re working to expand outside of Ontario. We’ve just secured our first clinics in Manitoba and soon in Calgary so we’re looking to be across Canada. We’re also focused on getting FDA clearance in order to sell in the US. The goal is to have that complete in the next year by 2016. And eventually other markets like Asia, where obtaining FDA clearance simplifies the process going overseas. We have pilot programs running in China at some large hearing clinic chains which we are hoping will be a major source of revenue for Sound Options.

Meet Thrive Cohort 2


Spark Innovation Centre
 is pleased to present Cohort Two of the Thrive Accelerator Program.  These four start-ups will be co-located at The Loft – Spark Centre’s collaborative ecosystem in Durham Region and will have access to significant advisory and business support services to achieve a faster market entry.  Thrive is a four month program with the option of continuing for up to 24 consecutive months.

Introducing Thrive Cohort Two:

Panda Insights
The world’s first bio-metric data loyalty program for the health market. Panda Insights provides real time data tracking that allows for rich data to be pulled from the gym about the end user’s gym experience.
@Panda_Insights

Sound Options
Sound Options provides effective treatments for reducing chronic ringing in the ears known as tinnitus. The company provides a software-generated, customized sound therapy that is embedded in music to stimulate the ear and brain and reduce the causes of tinnitus.
@so_tinnitus

uConekt
The creators of lynk device. Lynk is a wearable device & app to protect your mobile digital identity & locate your smartphone.
@lynkdevice

yoSpotMe
Tinder for gym mates. SpotMe is a mobile app and web platform that helps you connect with local fitness enthusiasts, providing you with the social support required to achieve your goals.
@yospotme

 

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Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition

Spark Centre‘s first cohort in the Youth Accelerator Program is well underway and you are invited to watch the students pitch their entrepreneurial experiences.

Click the dates below to register your attendance!

Thursday, July 9th
1:30pm – 3:30pm
The Loft at Spark Centre
21 Simcoe St. S, Oshawa

Thursday, July 30th
1:30pm – 3:30pm
The Loft at Spark Centre
21 Simcoe St. S, Oshawa

Background
The first student cohort of Spark Centre’s Youth Accelerator Program is done in partnership with Durham College’s Summer Accelerator and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Brilliant Summer Incubator. Both programs are facilitated and led by Spark Centre who provides in-depth advisory services, start up support, free office space, and a breadth of specialty workshops and events.

The goal of the program is to help these entrepreneurs validate their business ideas and take those ideas to market quickly. The program also aims to provide practical exposure to entrepreneurship as a career path. Learn more…

Client Update: ARAIG & Durham College Research Project

The co-founders of Inventing Future Technology Inc. (IFTech) had a great opportunity to work with Durham College’s Office of Research Services and Innovation (ORSI). The video below highlights the applied research work that Durham College students accomplished with the IFTech team to help make their As Real As It Gets ARAIG gaming suit come to life.

The college worked with IFTech beginning in June 2014 when it received funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE). The student and faculty team worked to support IFTech’s growth and expansion into the wearable technology marketplace with a focus on bringing ARAIG to a manufacture-ready, commercial product.

Check out the video below to get an idea of the great work that has been done with this partnership.

Client Update: Q&A with Sustainable Engine Technology Inc.

Sustainable Engine Technology Inc. is one of the inspiring student companies we have working at The Loft. Tom Ross and Joshua Eidelberg, both 23, joined our Summer Incubator through the Univeristy of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Brilliant Entrepreneurship Program. Their business has been rapidly expanding and these two are a great example of the innovative talent we have in Durham Region looking to make an impact worldwide.

Have you ever been behind a truck or bus forced to breath in its thick black smoke? Tom and Joshua created ACE Systems, created to make that experience nothing but a bad memory by greatly reducing the diesel smell and particulate matter from the exhaust.

Spark Innovation Centre sat down with Tom Ross, Sustainable Engine Technology Inc. President at Co-Founder to talk about the impact his business will have on the environment and what’s next for his team.

What is the ACE System?

The ACE System stands for After Market Combustion Enhancement Systems. ACE Systems enhances the combustion process by adding fractional amounts of hydrogen and oxygen gas which will allow you to burn more fuel instead of spitting it out of the tailpipe. By burning more of the fuel you will have increased fuel economy and a cleaner engine, which prolongs engine life and reduces maintenance costs. This means an increase from 5-20% in fuel economy and reductions in maintenance, oil degradation, and most of all pollution.

We can prolong the life of existing transport trucks and also bring any previous truck up to current emission standards. Any one pre-1988 trucks are equal to 60 of today’s trucks worth of emissions. The ACE System can bring any truck no matter what year up to 2010 emission standards.

Tell me about your team?

I’ve been working with my father for five years now developing and marketing onboard hydrogen generators which has influenced me to go into Energy Systems Engineering at UOIT. I’ve also taken some business courses at UOIT which have been hugely beneficial now that I’ve started in entrepreneurship. Josh has graduated Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technician at Algonquin College. His hands-on experience has been beneficial in manufacturing and installation. Our success is in large part to the combination of his hands-on experience and my theoretical knowledge, which has made us a really good team. We are also rapidly expanding! We have hired on three individuals on contract basis, two are handling sales in Texas, and one doing sales in Vancouver. They are currently working with private and government enterprises to secure orders.

What’s next for your company?

This month we are going to China to install six units on government and private vehicles in both the airports and ports. This should lead to a larger order after the initial trial period.

Our focus now is to try and secure an investment in our company.  Our product is completely ready for commercialization so we are now at the stage where we need to secure investment or a large enough order to propel us to the next level of manufacturing.

What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?

The number one thing is just get started. If you have a good idea and something you are passionate about, don’t wait. Just get started. There is no better time than now. Young Entrepreneurs have a lot at their disposal right now.  There are so many programs and resources out there and government and academic funding. The UOIT Brilliant Program and Spark Centre have been so helpful for us. I would highly recommend anyone to join Spark Centre as it’s been hugely beneficial to just be in this environment.

How has Spark Centre helped your company?

The help that we’ve received from Spark Centre has been great. Kristie Arbour from Spark has been a huge help with our website and we wouldn’t have what we have now without her.  Meetings with Robert Weese and Dennis Croft have been beneficial for our company strategy, future plans and direction. Also, just being in the environment at The Loft and talking to other young entrepreneurs has been helpful to bounce ideas off each other and have an environment like this.

To learn more about Sustainable Engine Technology and their ACE System, visit www.getSETnow.ca.

Spark Innovation Centre Announces the Launch of Innovative Youth Incubator

Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre is pleased to announce the launch of a new youth incubator. The incubator launched on May 4, 2015, with the first cohort running from May to September 2015 and it celebrates 25 youth aged 18 – 29, contributing to 20 start-up companies.

The first cohort is done in partnership with Durham College’s Summer Accelerator and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Brilliant Summer Incubator.  Both programs are facilitated and led by Spark Innovation Centre who offer the companies in-depth advisory services, start up support, free office space, and a breadth of specialty workshops and events.

The incubator provides a state-of-the-art environment with seminars, workshops, one on one mentoring, job shadowing, peer group best practices, partner programs, coaching, and support for youth grants and loans.  Young entrepreneurs also have opportunities for exposure to private angel networks.

The 20 student companies were selected to participate in the program after presenting a compelling business venture pitch, identifying the potential for large market sustainability. The goal of the program is to help these entrepreneurs validate their business ideas and take those ideas to market quickly. The program also aims to provide practical exposure to entrepreneurship as a career path.

“The demand for new business incubation in the Durham Region is growing rapidly. At the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) our student entrepreneurs are excited about the opportunity to develop their business and innovation skills and knowledge in partnership with Spark Centre and UOIT’s Brilliant Incubator program,” said Michael Owen, Vice-President, Research, Innovation & International at UOIT.  “Our student entrepreneurs have amazing business ideas and technological insights, and represent the future for the Region of Durham.”

“We were thrilled to launch the DC Summer Accelerator, the latest addition to our FastStart programming,” said Debbie McKee Demcyzk, Director, Office of Research Services and Innovation at Durham College. “Teaming up with Spark Centre to provide expert advising and mentorship services, we will provide participants with a unique opportunity to kick-start their businesses. We’re confident this will be a successful and in-demand program supporting young visionaries in the community.”

“Incubation is proven method to accelerate commercialization, and the demand for youth has never been higher,” says Dennis Croft, President & CEO of Spark Centre.  “We believe this will be a significant economic driver for our region and offers a truly unique environment for youth entrepreneurs. UOIT and Durham College are amazing partners, and their student talent is best in class.”

Spark Innovation Centre plans on holding three four month cohorts a year, and will open applications up again in late August for Cohort Two.

Client Update: Zambah Launches New “Pro” Service

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Zambah, the community driven online music platform that supports the discovery of new independent music, is pleased to announce the release of their new Pro account. Zambah Pro comes with a multitude of new and exclusive features which enable independent musicians to sell music and keep 100% of the profits. Highlights of Zambah Pro include:

-       Unlimited song uploads by artist
-       Unlimited downloads per song
-       Artists keep 100% of profits from all music sales
-       Access to detailed analytics including measure of song sales, plays, likes, downloads, and geographic information

“Zambah Pro is meant for music creatives looking for a clean and intuitive platform to host and sell their entire music catalogue,” said Zambah CEO, Kenneth Asafo. “We want Zambah Pro to empower artists to sell music directly to listeners in a matter of seconds without losing any profits – we aim to lead as a music service that gives the most back to artists.”

Zambah launched its beta application only a few short months ago with the objective of providing music artists with core tools to upload, share, and monetize their music to an engaged audience of music enthusiasts.

Artists can purchase Zambah Pro for $10 a month and can cancel their subscription at any anytime.

For more information about the new Zambah Pro, visit: zambah.com/pro

About Zambah: Zambah is a community driven music platform that supports the discovery and collection of new independent music.  Zambah is currently available for Android and the web. Founded in February 2014, Zambah is headquartered in Oshawa, Ontario. Visit zambah.com for more information.

Media Contact: 
Kenneth Asafo, CEO and Co-Founder
905-409-5364                                      
k.asafo@zambah.com

Client Update: Seriously Fun Games

One of Spark Centre’s top start-ups to watch in 2015 and Thrive Cohort One member is Seriously Fun Games (SFG). SFG built their company to teach important social, health and safety lessons to kids using the fun and engagement of video games.

Since joining Spark Centre’s Thrive Accelerator Program earlier this year, SFG has worked with the Spark team on approaching strategic partners, sales advisory and branding. The companies’ debut game, Monster Brusher™ is now complete and set to launch on Google Play and the Apple Store later this summer.

Monster Brusher is a new game that helps kids learn about oral health in a fun and interactive way using a tablet or phone. Gesture recognition lets kids learn proper brushing techniques. They follow along with the instructions by brushing teeth in a circular motion for two minutes and are graded on their skills when they finish.

While building the game, Monster Brusher teamed up with Brush-a-mania’s educational program. Brush-a-mania is a not-for-profit program designed to promote oral health and awareness among young children from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6. Matthew Stephan, CEO of Seriously Fun Games attended the Brush-a-mania launch in April and introduced Monster Brusher to dentists, educators and kids.

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Seriously Fun Games CEO, Matt Stephan at the Brush-a-mania launch event

The goal of SFG is to continue to work with the Spark Centre advisory team on building their business and continue to build educational games so anyone can have fun while learning.

Spark Innovation Centre and City of Oshawa Announce The Loft

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Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre in partnership with City of Oshawa is pleased to announce the official Grand Opening of The Loft, a 90 seat start-up incubation space located at 21 Simcoe Street South in Downtown Oshawa.

The Loft is a new ecosystem where innovative entrepreneurs and partners can collaborate with Spark Centre in a truly unique environment. The open concept co-working space allows start-up businesses the opportunity to expand their network and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and business leaders.

City of Oshawa has committed $150,000 over five years to help encourage the advancement of entrepreneurship and innovation in Downtown Oshawa. This funding has allowed Spark Centre to expand office space to The Loft and offer more advisory and business support to clients on a daily basis.

“The City of Oshawa is thrilled with the opening of The Loft. This is a wonderful opportunity for our innovative and technology based entrepreneurs to explore a unique way of conducting business,” said Councillor John Aker, Chair of the Development Services Committee.  “I encourage all our innovative entrepreneurs and partners to take advantage of this newly open 90 seat start-up incubation space and together we will continue to grow our amazing community.”

“Opening The Loft is another great milestone and achievement for Spark Centre,” says Dennis Croft, President & CEO of Spark Innovation Centre. “The City of Oshawa’s insight into setting a strong Downtown strategy for entrepreneurship has been a major driver in creating the ecosystem here at The Loft. I am confident that their ongoing focus on entrepreneurship and innovation will continue to expand in the downtown core.”

Applications for Thrive Cohort 2 are now open!

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What is Thrive?
Thrive is a startup accelerator that offers a hybrid of incubation and acceleration services. Co-locate with the Spark Centre team and other tech startups to achieve a faster market entry with advisory and operational support services.

We are looking for…

  • Compelling business ventures with innovative technology focus
  • Rapidly scalable, large market opportunity
  • Strong, committed and coachable team
  • Willingness to work day to day with the Spark team.

Applications will be opened for each four month term, based on capacity. Applications will be assessed on team capability, attitude and commitment, ability to execute, strength of innovation, and potential to generate revenue and raise capital.

Applications are open until May 25th. Thrive Cohort 2 will commence the first week of June 2015.

Click Here to Apply!