Spark Centre a part of Durham College’s new Centre of Collaborative Education

Spark Centre is very pleased and excited that Durham College has announced their new Centre of Collaborative Education (CFCE). This new centre will provide a variety of resources including, an aboriginal student centre, student entrepreneurship centre, health science facilities and more. These resources are greatly needed in Durham Region and will make Durham College a beacon for the community.

Spark Centre eagerly awaits the opportunity to take presence in the new building. Spark Centre is currently leveraging space in Durham College’s VIBE centre, located in the Gordon Willey building, where we provide orientation to student entrepreneurship and advice to student companies who are registered as clients of Spark Centre.

Spark Centre will be looking to its space in the new building to enhance our day to day activities with students on campus and continue to deliver programs that encourage students to consider entrepreneurship as a career.

CLICK HERE to read the official announcement from Durham College.

Feature Article in Metroland: Part 3

Durham’s tech and innovation sector competes on global scale

By Ian McMillan – Metroland


This is the third part of a three-part series looking at the emerging innovation and technological based businesses in Durham Region.

DURHAM — As the innovation and technology cluster in Durham Region continues to grow, the pressure has never been greater to maintain and gain on its successes.

But that’s easier said than done.

Toronto boasts a successful innovation hub, the MaRs Discovery District. There’s also two major hubs in Waterloo, the Canadian Innovation Centre and, in Kitchener, Communitech. In Kawartha, the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster is also putting pressure on Durham’s Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre.

So how to compete?

Part of the answer is through the Spark Centre’s innovation and technology partners, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College.

Dr. Michael Owen is UOIT’s Vice-President, Research, Innovation and International. He said programs at the university are responsive to business and industry needs.

“We tend not to have programs of a generalist nature,” he said.

The university also fosters partnerships with many industry and business leaders including OPG on the electrical engineering and nuclear side and with smaller businesses across Durham Region, explained Dr. Owen.

“The Region has a number of industrial clusters and our work (at UOIT) fits in with these clusters,” he said.

Through these partnerships, the university is able to gauge its degree requirements and the technical and soft skills students need.

“Staying ahead of the curve is always very difficult,” he said, adding business structures and information technology are constantly changing. “It’s a lot different now than it was even five years ago.”

But it’s not only in-class instruction that’s fostering innovation at UOIT. It’s also entrepreneurialism.

Throughout the year a number of bootcamps are offered at UOIT for students and faculty members. These camps show how to take an idea, turn it into a product or service and how to take it to market.

“We provide support to faculty members and students to develop their own companies,” Dr. Owen said.

“In the last five to 10 years we’ve really harnessed our energies and expertise into entrepreneurship,” he added.

Durham College also fosters partnerships with business and industry leaders. Susan Todd, Dean, Science and Engineering Technology, said Durham College is constantly in touch with employers to find out their needs as the college provides “market-driven programs” that not only allow employers to succeed but also students.


Feature Article in Metroland: Part 2

Key to fostering innovation is maintaining homegrown talent in Durham Region

By Ian McMillan – Metroland


DURHAM — Dan Miguel’s passion for fishing has taken him from the waterfront to the boardroom.

The 31-year-old Ajax resident is co-founder of National ProStaff, an online sport fishing platform launched in 2011. The business, located in the Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre in Oshawa, has exploded in growth during the past year.

“I’ve always fished,” Mr. Miguel said sitting at his boardroom table.

He’s dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, not something associated with the old school image of a businessman. But make do doubt, Mr. Miguel is all business.

“I really wanted to make a career in the fishing industry,” he said.

The career Mr. Miguel originally wanted for himself was in sport fishing, not something that gets a lot of media attention. He fished prostaff (sponsored angler) for seven years, sponsored by Rapala, the world’s largest manufacturer of fishing lures and other fishing-related products. This took him to fishing tournaments and shows all over North America. He eventually put away his fishing pole and worked for three years in marketing.

“One out of four people fish,” he said. “It’s bigger than hockey.”

It was during his time with Rapala that Mr. Miguel noticed a disconnect between anglers and brand ambassadors. There are hundreds of sport fishers out there but how do they get sponsored?

“There are no scouts out on the lakes or rivers (looking for great anglers),” he said.

The world of sport fishing is all about who you know, explained Mr. Miguel. Fortunately for him, he knew a lot of people in the industry, but for the vast majority of anglers, there was a massive disconnect.

So he decided to connect them by creating an online platform, . He quit his marketing job and he and his friend and fellow UOIT grad Brandon Wetzel launched their NPS website platform in 2011. The next summer another friend and UOIT alumni Chris Lazarte invested in the company and joined as a partner and co-founder.

NPS connects thousands of anglers, top brands, tournaments, and outfitters. It displays the latest products top anglers use, allows products to be endorsed by anglers on their profiles and tagged to content so users know exactly what products work.

For prostaffers and companies, NPS offers a place to stay better connected with fans and sponsors and helps companies better manage their teams.

NPS also allows users to highlight their knowledge and talent, generate a fan following, and apply directly to brands for sponsorship.

Despite NPS’s success to date, when the site was launched even Mr. Miguel admitted it was a bit nerve-wracking.

“I had no guarantee that anyone would want to use it,” he said.

But reel them in they did, especially after winning the Spark Centre’s Ignite competition in 2014. The $25,000 prize money, joining the Centre’s Thrive Accelerator Program and moving their headquarters to the Loft has helped NPS expand from two people to 10 full timers.

“That competition was massive for us,” Mr. Miguel said.

With the prize money, NPS was marketed to the US. The site now boasts 200 brands and has attracted pro angler Brent Ehrler.

Along the way the Spark Centre helped NPS get about $100,000 in grant money.

“These guys (Spark Centre) make it hard to leave,” Mr. Miguel said.

But the business hasn’t been without its challenges. NPS may be all about fishing but in order to build and maintain its online platform, it requires innovative talent.


Feature Article in Metroland: Part 1

Start-up companies in Durham’s innovation and technology sector continue to thrive at the Spark Centre in Oshawa

by Ian McMillan – Metroland


Dennis Croft is holding court at the Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre. As he walks through the spacious facilities located at the Loft, 21 Simcoe St. in Oshawa, his three guests are captivated, not only by what they’re hearing but the energy and people who surround them.

These three entrepreneurs are looking for help and Mr. Croft appears to have what they are looking for. During any given week, he conducts between 20 and 30 such tours.

It may be hard to believe but the Loft, Spark Centre’s head office, houses 50 innovation- and technology-based businesses in the Durham Region and Northumberland County. Inside, top 2015 companies such as IFTech, ARAIG, Sound Options, National ProStaff, Panda Insights, Tiko 3D and Seriously Fun Games, to name but a few, are busy building their start-up companies.

The genesis of Spark Centre came in 2010 when the Durham Strategic Energy Alliance began to pursue an Ontario start-up program focused on innovation. Key players within the DSEA who saw the vision included Jacquie Hoornweg, Michael Angemeer, Michael Owen, Jeff Kistner, Debbie McKee Demczyk, Doug Lindeblom, Sheila McGrory and Johnathon Wheatle.

In 2011, Spark Centre was born with Mr. Croft arriving as a volunteer mentor. He was tasked with helping the start-up companies with funding and investment, offering expertise on their business plans, marketing strategies and product developments, among other things.

“You just can’t possibly know everything about business,” he said. “There are grant programs and other companies that can help them with their needs.”

Kathy Weiss is chairwoman of Spark Centre’s board of directors and the director of economic development and tourism at the Region of Durham. She said students at both the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College have long immersed themselves in innovation and technology so it was a natural fit for the Region to support Spark Centre. That’s why it took little convincing for Regional council to approve funding for the initiative.

“The Spark Centre is phenomenal. It’s a huge asset for us right now,” she said.

When the Spark Centre opened its offices at 21 Simcoe St. four-and-a-half years ago, there were four staff, and about five advisors. Today it’s grown to nine staff and 18 individual advisors. Mr. Croft now sits as the president and CEO.

“I hate to use this expression, but if you build it they will come, and they do,” he said.


Client Update: Zambah Introduces Tastemaker Feature

by Ken Asafo – Co-Founder & CEO, Zambah

Zambah is a social media platform built around the consumption of streamable user generated audio content. Our goal is to become the best worldwide destination for discovering new and emerging independent audio content creators.

At Zambah, we believe that playlists curated by humans is crucial for how most people discover new songs and artists. This is why for the past few months we’ve been working towards enhancing and innovating new ways to provide people with quality playlists curated by people they trust, which is something we’ve been doing with our new Tastemakers feature.

Tastemakers gives people exclusive access to create digital campaigns that enables them to curate and build playlists containing crowd-sourced music submissions from artists worldwide. People that we deem as Tastemakers are highly sought public figures or brands in various industries such as music, film, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business and other key interest areas. A user can become a Tastemaker through an invite-only process that requires them to meet a specific criteria of influence on culture or industry that has been pre-approved by the Zambah staff.

Aside from building the tech needed to launch this feature, we’ve been reaching out and recruiting the right group of Tastemakers that will be first group of faces to represent this concept. So far we have a solid group of Tastemakers to begin with and we look forward to adding more in the coming weeks.


Our working space at the Loft provided by Spark Centre has been nothing less than amazing! Since we pride ourselves as a very creative team, it great to come to a work environment that has so many smart entrepreneurs working on super creative ideas. Often times, the highlights of our day involve interacting with the Spark staff, in addition to the other entrepreneurs. We are very proud to be part of the Spark community.

To learn more about Zambah, check out our website at and to get in touch with us you can follow us on our social media page:

Twitter: @ZambahMusic
Instagram: @ZambahMusic

Client Update: KAI Innovations Acquires Trimara Corporation

Spark Centre is thrilled to congratulate Spark Centre client, Kai Innovations on their multi-million dollar acquisition!

KAI Innovations, a Whitby-based startup targeting healthcare professionals looking to move their health records online, has acquired Ottawa-based Trimara Corporation. The full press release is below.


Today, KAI Innovations announced that it has acquired Trimara Corporation, a medical technology company based in Ottawa that has a primary focus offering an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) solution to physicians in Ontario.  Trimara is one of the fastest growing companies in the market and recently completed the acquisition of two smaller vendors in 2015.

The multi-million dollar acquisition was an all-cash deal that has not altered the current share structure of KAI Innovations.   Arjun Kumar, CEO of KAI Innovations said “This is an exciting milestone in our rapidly expanding business.  We are excited to have the management team from Trimara join KAI Innovations as we have been impressed with their work.  The acquisition not only advances our already impressive growth rate, but the resulting team will be one of the strongest and most innovative in the market.”  On plans for the future, Mr. Kumar feels “We will continue to offer a top quality solution at economical prices.  It will be difficult for competitors to match our offering now that we have reached this position”.

President of Trimara Corporation, Kris van der Starren, who will be joining KAI Innovations as the Chief Information Officer said “This amalgamation of top-talent in the OSCAR EMR space will benefit clinicians and clinical staff and improve patient care through the combined team’s ability to drive innovation into the OSCAR platform for all users of OSCAR. This is an extremely positive evolution for the entire OSCAR market and I am proud to be a part of it.”

While KAI Innovations will look to expand nationally in 2016, majority of its operations will remain focused on Ontario as only 11,212 of almost 30,000 physicians have converted to Electronic Medical Record systems as of November 30th 2015, representing only a fraction of the total potential market.  The expansion plans will include Manitoba and Atlantic Canada, and the company is currently investigating other acquisition opportunities in British Columbia.

Upon completion of the transaction, KAI Innovations will be managing the Electronic Medical Record infrastructure for thousands ofOntario physicians and allied health providers in 2016.  Sara Bond, COO of KAI Innovations stresses the opportunity for growth “It has been amazing watching KAI Innovations grow by 100% year over year since inception, and with only about half of the market transitioning from paper records to Electronic Medical Records the potential is limitless.”

KAI Innovations will also focus on its innovative passion projects by rolling out patient engagement solutions to over 1 million Ontarioresidents who will be offered real-time access to their medical records as well as the ability to interact with their doctors electronically through tools like Online Booking and Secure Messaging.  Mr. Kumar concluded “We have a lot in store for the Canadian healthcare system in the next few years and plan on elevating an outdated industry into modern times.”

About KAI Innovations
Founded in late 2012 by former healthcare professionals in response to poor quality customer service offerings available to physicians in Ontario looking to move to electronic systems.  The company was seeded with a $50,000 Start-up grant from the Northumberland CFDC, KAI Innovations has now become the leader in delivering McMaster University’s OSCAR Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software and IT Solutions to healthcare organizations in Ontario.  With the goal of providing a high quality, yet economical, solution to physicians to improve the management and care of their patients.  KAI Innovations has a strong focus on innovation and will continue to improve options available to medical practices across North America.

For further information: Sara Bond,, 905-444-9166