Vancouver’s startup community is thriving, but it’s not always obvious which company is about to become the next big thing in technology, social media or lifestyle products. Here are 11 of Vancouver’s startups to keep an eye on in 2015.
It’s surprising to hear that, when Latergramme launched their Instagram post scheduling app in May 2014, there was not a single competitor on the market. To date, they have scheduled half a million Instagram photos, have half of the teams in the NFL using Latergramme, and have over 10,000 monthly active users. Not bad for a little idea that sprung out of Vancouver’s Angel Hackathon in late 2013.
“Everything that makes Instagram great is what marketers struggle with,” says Ian MacKinnon, one of Latergramme’s four co-founders. It’s impossible to automate posting a photo on Instagram (you must login to the Instagram app to do that) and you cannot hyperlink a URL in the caption of a photo. This is why so few apps have attempted to do for Instagram what they did for Twitter and Facebook.
Latergramme is ahead of the curve and the next year looks promising. In the coming months, we will see an Android version of their app, and they are always looking to hire developers to build new features. An Instagram analytics tool is also in the works and could provide the answer to the big questions of our generation, like does #blessed or #swag get more likes? I am eagerly awaiting the answer.
Wiivv Wearables Company is at the forefront of custom wearable technology building what they dub “the Invisalign for feet.” Using images of someone’s foot they can design and 3D print a custom orthotic for athletes, marathoners and anyone with aspirations of becoming bionic. Along with sensors in the orthotic, their mobile app and a subscription model, they aim to help people eliminate the need for orthotics altogether.
This is not your typical piece of wearable technology. For one, you will never hear an orthotic, not even a custom orthotic, described as fashionable. “A wearable is something you wear everyday,” says Louis-Victor Jadavji, co-founder of Wiivv. “Foot wearables won’t clash with your style because they’re in your shoes.”
In 2014, Wiivv validated their orthotic with medical professionals, hired 9 people for their Vancouver and Palo Alto offices including Ben Wynne as CTO. Shamil Hargovan, Wiivv’s other co-founder, and Wynne helped to pioneer 3D printing at Hewlett Packard.
Continuing their momentum, this year Wiivv will be raising a $1 million seed round and aim to have their Canadian investment match or surpass their US investment. In April, you can catch Wiivv representing Vancouver at the Inside 3D Printing Design Show, “the largest professional 3D printing event worldwide.”
Control is a complete online payment management platform for any type of business that accepts online payment, in industries like digital, Software as a Service (SaaS) and retail. Currently, they partner with Stripe, Paymill and soon Paypal. Their iOS, Android and web-based apps provide merchants remote control of their business, as well as revenue metrics and alerts on key events. Control has 8,500 users in more than 40 countries. Over 1,000 users access their app on a daily basis.
After pitching at Cascadia Summit last Nov., and making to the finals stage with two other startups, they received a $25,000 investment offer from Plug & Play Ventures in Silicon Valley with a $2.75 million valuation. Since then, Control has received investments from Ryan Holmes, David Tedman, Tony van Brackle, Singapore based Standard Chartered banking exec George Nast, as well as SAP executive Darshan Sheth.
Kathryn Loewen, founder and CEO, anticipates significant growth in 2015. “We are mobile first and platform-agnostic because our customers are,” says Loewen, referring to the entrepreneur who is selling their products and services online. The Control app gives them, fittingly, full control over their sales with the ability to gather an aggregate view of their transactional data, and a detailed view of the customer.
Their plans for 2015 are focused on accelerating delivery of Control’s product roadmap and user acquisition. They will be expanded their analytic offerings to provide true business intelligence capabilities, such as revenue forecasting, improving their customer relationship management (CRM) tools, as well as providing fraud management controls to merchants.
SparkCRM is a platform for selling new homes and condos, which real estate developers use to manage and generate leads and inventory throughout the sales and marketing process. Since June 2014, they are managing just over $1 billion in new real estate and growing every week with clients in countries around the world.
Real estate technology has been dominated by outdated software and slow-moving organizations for a long time. “Real estate and tech are becoming more blended, and being a light and nimble software company allows us to adapt better,” says Simeon Garratt, CEO of SparkCRM, and that adaptation shows. Last year, the company rebuilt their entire application. They changed the entire structure and even stripped jQuery mobile in place of their own custom system. With those changes, SparkCRM enhanced the customization and security of the platform while boosting user growth.
This year, SparkCRM will be expanding by partnering with some of the biggest real estate syndication networks in the world. The process of buying real estate is the same around the world, says Garrat: “buying a home is a very emotional process no matter where you are.” They also have some big announcements coming about clients and partners, so I will be sure to stay tuned.
A classic underdog story: an unfavourable idea at Startup Weekend Vancouver went on to win the UP Global Startup Battle, a worldwide Google-backed pitch competition. Tony Yang originally pitched his concept art idea at Startup Weekend Vancouver. He proposed a crowdfunding site for concept artists to sell their art in 3D printed form to fans. The judges voted and Yang’s pitch didn’t make the top 15 recommended pitches. But, Shan Shan Fu, Denny Hollick and Jonathon Zou had heard something they liked. They joined ConceptKicker and went on to win the final pitch competition at Startup Weekend.
Next, the winners from Startup Weekend competitions all over the world duked it out in the UP Global Startup Battle, with a total of 250 entries in all. ConceptKicker went on to win the US West & Canada regional round, against winners from San Francisco and Toronto. The final judges, including Nas, Daymond John from Shark Tank, and Canada’s own Dan Martell, judged the 90 second video pitches from 12 finalists. ConceptKicker swept the rest of the competition again.
After ending the year on a high note, they look forward to their winnings: five trips, including Milan GEC and Launch Conference in San Francisco, legal services and free software. They have also had some early adopters among artists that worked on Tron, Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider and Lord of the Rings. To top it all off they already have early investment interest and are looking to raise a seed or Series A round this year. My only advice, be sure to find time to sleep during this whirlwind ride.
Well, it’s about time. Trippeo is building a next-generation business travel expense management app. The current solutions available are outdated, and yet have dominated the market for 15+ years. “There is space for newcomers,” says Adarsh Pallian, founder & CEO of Trippeo. Pallian believes that there is a growing need in the market for apps designed for the new generation of employees who favour simplicity, reliability and automation.
Expenses are even simpler with Trippeo through secure connections with your credit and debit cards (similar to Mint), and syncing with your calendar. This lets Trippeo automatically generate proposed expense reports and travel itineraries for review, approval and reimbursement. In some cases, employees can be reimbursed within 24 hours. Last year, Trippeo’s team of six raised a round of funding, including investment from Vayner/RSE.
This year, the company is launching their web and mobile apps to the public before heading to SXSW (warmly known as “Spring Break for geeks”), and you can expect to see both flight and hotel booking features coming soon. If you are lucky enough to travel for business, this is the app to get.
The man behind ShareShed, Daniel Dubois, is impressive. He has raised over $30,000 for the new Ronald McDonald House BC in Vancouver, he spoke at WeDay to 20,000 youth, with another 100,000 watching online, and he was accepted to The Next Big Thing (TNBT) Foundation as an entrepreneur-in-residence. All the while, he was casually working on ShareShed as a side project. Since being accepted to TNBT’s program he has solely dedicated to creating the “Airbnb for equipment gear.”
ShareShed connects people who have outdoor equipment, like skis, kayaks or snowshoes, to the people who want to rent or borrow it for the day. ShareShed is focusing primarily on “Sea-to-Sky” activity-related gear, as opposed to household tools or other equipment, because “the experience with skiing or snowshoeing in more salient and it really involves people connecting for it to work,” says Dubois.
This past October, Dubois pitched and won the EO Student Entrepreneurship Award for his pitch about ShareShed. And this year, the ShareShed website will be launching in the Vancouver market allowing people to connect and share gear. Dubois is also looking for a peer-to-peer delivery service, like Postmates, for those instances where people cannot meet to exchange gear. ShareShed is launching on February 1, but if you want early access email Daniel at [email protected].
What do you get when a London College of Fashion student can not easily order a bouquet of flowers? You get a flower experience unlike any other. Trevor Patterson, founder of Landeau, aims to “modernize the age-old gift of flowers.” From the intentionally simple website you order one of three different bouquets of roses. Doesn’t sound like much, but each bouquet is delivered in unique, Instagram-worthy packaging inspired by Patterson’s fashion background.
In 2014, Patterson and his small creative team soft-launched on Mother’s Day, garnering some press in Globe & Mail, Western Living and Betakit. Then, Patterson started reaching out to the local blogger community, wooing the likes of Jillian Harris, Cara Jourdan and Monika Hibbs, who featured the gorgeous bouquets on their blogs and in their Instagram photos.
The Landeau brand is preparing for another boost in less than a month. They have partnered with Holt Renfrew and will be the exclusive florist during Valentine’s Day 2015. Though, Patterson urges you not to wait until the holiday, since “you’re going to get the most mileage out of flowers that you send just because. You can create your own occasion.”
The Design Love Co is a fast-rising star in the world of stationary. “We design products that will help the modern woman organize her life,” says Marissa Cristina, owner and creative director of The Design Love Co, “so that she can spend more time doing the things she loves without forgetting the things that matter.”
Their first product, The 2015 Design Love Planner is a stylish day planner that was originally sold on Etsy.com. Before long, the Design Love Planner was being featured on numerous lifestyle blogs, like Notable.ca and MonikaHibbs.com. Canadian retail darling, Chapters Indigo began selling the Design Love Planner from their website on Christmas Day and the planner has been completely sold out since the end of the year.
This year, the Design Love Co has already released three new notepads in their classic black-and-white striped pattern, and they have more planners coming in different styles. “We will also be introducing our very first leather products just in time for the summer holidays,” says Cristina, “I can’t tell you how excited we are!”
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency called on the public to help bring down the $50K price tag on environmental sensors. TZOA answered that call and has created the most advanced environmental tracker for the average person. This tracker detects the air quality, temperature, UV, humidity and barometric pressure around you. “We want to provide people with a tool that not only measures their immediate environment,” says Kevin Hart, founder and CEO of TZOA Wearables, “but also offers them recommendations on how to live a healthier lifestyle and affect actionable change.”
Since then, Hart, his co-founder Laura Moe (who is also one of the The Next Big Thing Foundation’s entrepreneurs-in-residence), and a team of engineers and developers launched a $110,000 Kickstarter campaign for their environmental tracker. In 30 days, they raised $75,000 and, although they did not reach their target, they will be relaunching the campaign this Spring and offering the wearable tracker for as low as $99.
The value in the wearable device is not limited to the personal health and wellness data, but it “empowers people to use the tool to contribute data about the environment,” says Hart. With more people wearing a device that tracks the environment around them, that data can be pieced together to create a map of environmental data for entire cities. Information that we would all benefit from.
Last year was the year of the data breach, from the Sony hacks, to celebrity nude pictures leaked from Apple’s iCloud, and the endless breaches that hit Home Depot, Target, and Neiman Marcus, just to name a few. If 2014 was the year of the hacks, then buckle up because 2015 is shaping up to be all about security. With crypto apps on the rise, such as Whatsapp’s new encryption feature, there will be no shortage of options when it comes to securing your work and communications.
Keep an eye out for Witkit, a game changer in its own right, it has built the world’s most secure business collaboration platform, with end-to-end encryption inspired by the security of Bitcoin’s blockchain technology. Witkit’s platform will provide a secure and flexible way for businesses and entrepreneurs to work online with their team and partners. Their idea for encryption struck when the company was looking for a chat application to use in the office, “No application could offer the security we were looking for,” says Sean Merat, CEO of Witkit, “and what really bothered us was that we weren’t any more secure.”
Already attracting over 3,500 sign-ups during pre-beta launch, including teams from Facebook, Accenture, and Zendesk, on January 27, Witkit will begin rolling out public beta invitations to their secure collaboration platform, which you can sign up for at www.witkit.com. If their current 80% active user rate is any indication, then the company has a big year ahead. They are raising a Series A round to scale up their current team of 17 employees and plan to open an office in San Francisco. As for the rest of their plans, well, you’d have to try hacking into their servers to find out. Good luck.*
*Full disclosure: I am the community manager for Witkit.
Did we miss anyone? Comment below with the names of Vancouver startups that are poised to do big things in 2015!
Feature image: Watching smartphones via Shutterstock