Today was Venture Day for the Next 36. This is a program that takes 36 of Canada’s finest undergraduate would-be entrepreneurs, puts them into teams, gives them starting capital and legal resources and teaches them business while they explore setting up their ventures. Today we got to take stock of where they had come in just 9 months.
In honor of that and in the spirit of the program, I thought I would give out some personal awards for some of the ventures. These awards highlight those who have taken a rigorous and careful approach to both ‘proof of concept’ and ‘strategic analysis’ in spending investor’s money and their own time.
Best Venture — Bridgit: This venture, founded by Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Hasegawa, is bringing technology to the building industry. The key problem that large building sites face is the logging of repairs and such and ensuring it all gets done. This is currently done via notebooks and spreadsheets but Bridgit have developed a mobile app to cover the lot. They have 5 very large paying customers and some competitors on their heels. But they are focussed on just this problem and so are getting some good traction in the market. This venture has been focussed from the start and has done considerable legwork in working out precisely what its potential customers want.
Most Persistent Venture — BoxIt: The team behind BoxIt actually explored two ideas before, just a couple of months ago, picking up a new idea — to provide a service whereby people could store items by the box. They are extremely talented at marketing and have got the economics down pat for this business that could open up storage to a whole new range of customer. It is free to get them to take a box but it costs you $7 per month to store it and then a retrieval fee. They have plenty of ideas as to where to take the business when they get a foothold on the core business and it should be exciting to watch. I was consistently impressed by the persistence of this team. When they had an idea they explored it until it could be proven it just wasn’t going to work. Now they have found something very viable.
- Seamless: this is a venture that provides apparently one of the most user-friendly apps to keep patients in touch with hospitals after being released with a view to cutting down readmissions. They already have pilots going in 10 hospitals in North America.
- Encore: this venture has an app you can download right now. The app allows you to share photos and videos from concerts you attend and then, after the big night, look at the photos and videos of others and relive the moment. It is a beautifully designed app (something I set a high bar on) and has a real chance of becoming the market leader in the space.
- Needle: Needle is a search engine for creative designers. It has had a ton of use in the market already and looks like becoming the way for SMEs to find designers in a variety of categories. It has done so well it already received its first cease and desist order from Adobe but was able to re-work their site around that one. If Needle succeeds, Adobe may have to come back begging which will be fun if it happens.
- Snapy: it is hard to know how to sell this idea as it is so focussed on a particular customer need. But apparently when you use PayPal for your business it doesn’t integrate with digital accounting platforms which means you have to handle transactions by hand. From digital to hand to digital. Crazy until Snapy came along and resolved the connections. They’ll be able to do this for all manner of ‘non-communicating’ platforms. Even with the restricted focus, they already have more paying customers than they can handle and so have established a queue for growth.
There are other promising ventures including Instagram image processing for brands, a platform that allows teachers to share elementary school work with parents in real time, a platform to link real estate agents to potential buyers, and a way of helping parents teach and manage teen finances. These ventures are still working out their technology and so we will have to wait and see. However, if there are any breakthroughs there I will be sure to write about them in the future.