November 29, 2013 in DemoCamp
November 27, 2013 in DemoCamp
November 26, 2013 in Startup
Hamilton-native Matthew Bailey is a co-founder of Thalmic Labs (@thalmic), a company that is consistently ranked not only as Canada’s hottest startup but also as one of the top startups to watch worldwide. Their MYO gesture control armband uses arm muscle activity and EMG signals to control digital devices over Bluetooth. MYO has over 30k in pre-sales at $149 each and they have recently closed a $14.5 million Series A round of investment to turn MYO into the next big thing in gesture control. Thalmic Labs was incubated in the Velocity program at University of Waterloo, along with other successful Waterloo-area startups such as BufferBox and Kik.
As we saw at last night’s DemoCamp, student entrepreneurism has been on the rise in terms of quantity and quality several years now at McMaster University. For example Nix Sensor being able to raise $70k on Kickstarter, or Woof reaching 20k users just 2 weeks after launch. But as Waterloo is showing us, there’s potential for more. That’s why I was happy to talk to Matthew about his own experiences in the field, with Thalmic Labs, and at Velocity. Check out the interview below:
I have always been interested in robotics. My parents bought me Lego Mindstorms at a young age. My dad got me to learn how to program PLC’s and then had me start to learn how to use AutoCAD. In highschool, I began doing AutoCAD competitions and became even more interested in robotics. I applied to the Mechatronics program at UW as that was the most relevant to my interests. Throughout my co-op experiences, I began realizing that I wanted to try to start a company on my own. The Mechatronics program gives you a high level of knowledge in mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering, the perfect combination to be able to create a hardware device. We did a few complex projects that had us create full hardware/software systems that gave me the confidence that I could do this on my own. I found the right group of guys in my program who shared the same desire to start a company, and we began working on it upon graduation.
Do you feel your secondary school education at Bishop Tonnos here in town was able to develop your early interest? Do you have any thoughts on how to improve early technology education?
I do. As I said, I participated in AutoCAD competitions at BT, and this was lead by my tech teacher, Mrs. Fede. She identified my skill with the program out of the class and personally took me to the competitions. This really sparked my interest in mechanical design and cultivated my talent in its main software suite. Leading the mechanical department is one of my main duties at Thalmic Labs.
I would add more projects within the school system that focus on using software, coding, and building electro-mechanical systems at the appropriate skill level that have cool and tangible results to get kids interested in this at a young age. A perfect example is First Robotics. Unfortunate, BT did not have this program, but the co-op students that I have hired that participated in this are way more knowledgeable and effective at a younger age than anyone else because of this exposure.
How did the idea for Thalmic Lab’s MYO originate?
Steve and I created a device called EAVI (Electronic Aid for the Visually Impaired) for our fourth year design project. This device was a belt that has a LIDAR mounted to the front of it that scans the area in front of the user and translates obstacles to haptic feedback on the users stomach. The user would be able to feel their way around the world. It also had a head mounted camera and a set of speakers that could identify friends and road signs and then announce them to the user using sound localization. The device was self contained and had no form of tethering.
Using technology to restore some abilities to the disabled got us thinking that maybe we could use technology to give us abilities that we dont currently have. We looked at where the computing industry is going, and there is a strong push towards wearable technology. Lots of companies have created great output modalities like the Google Glass, but no one has figured out a good way of interacting with this technology. We thought it would be really cool if we could somehow just control this wearable technology with no perceived “controller” from another persons view. This is how we arrived at the Myo.
What can you tell us about the work being done on MYO?
We are working hard on creating the best possible user experience for the Myo. As it is a new interface method, there are a lot of things that we have to get right in order for it to become adopted by the general consumers. We are making it easy to develop for, easy to use and robust in design.
Thalmic Labs is an alumni of the Velocity program at the University of Waterloo. What is the Velocity program about?
Velocity is all about giving bright students coming out of the University of Waterloo an environment that cultivates and nurtures their ideas either to the point of success, or to the point where a decision can be made not to pursue it anymore. This is all done free of charge, which is critical for its success. People say students are starving, but entrepreneurs coming straight out of school typically have debt, can’t get OSAP, and turn down paying job offers to pursue their passions, so definitely cannot afford to pay for space. They put upwards of 30 startups all in one big room, with the only rule that they have to be hitting their own defined milestones on a monthly basis.
What type of support did the Velocity program offer Thalmic Labs?
The help and mentorship from the other startups in the program is one of the most valuable aspects of the program. There are startups that are older and younger, have been through similar problems, and are working just as hard, so there is a real sense of community and a very supportive environment that has been created. It is always the same crowd of people that are in there every day, and they are all working the 13 or 14 hour day as well, so it encourages you to keep going at it no matter what problems you may face. This is key in getting your startup to the point of success, as you will inevitably have a long list of failures that led up to that.
The Velocity team provides support in all aspects of the startup cycle. From beginning the company and figuring out equity splits and incorporation, to creating a business plan and determining product strategy, to launching a product and figuring out how to market it properly, they have a talented list of advisers who will help in any way they can. They regularly bring in notables from the startup community like Alexis Ohanian or Dan Martel at free dinners to give the startups words of advice and to tell their stories. They keep the facility open 24 hours with an endless supply of coffee,
How important was the Velocity program for the success of Thalmic Labs? What do you think are the most important aspects of programs like Velocity in terms of creating more successful student startups?
It was critical in our success. The love we received from the Velocity staff, the help from the other startups, and the amazing work environment, all helped us get to where we are right now. We owe a lot to that program. Every company that graduates from there will say the same, and they always keep very close ties and try to give back to the program in any way they can. They had to put up with a lot from us. As a hardware startup, we require a different set of tools than a software startup. We built a huge electronics lab in the space, bought 3D printers, put acid baths for 3D parts in some of the washrooms, took over a room to ourselves in another area of the building, set up a server farm (loud). A successful company before us, Bufferbox, manufactured all of their boxes in the Velocity garage. The fact that they are willing to accommodate companies in any way, shape or form to allow them to get what they need to get done will always be remembered and appreciated by us.
What are your recommendations for students thinking about founding their own tech startup?
I would say that now is the time to do it. Graduating from school is when you have the fewest responsibilities. No mortgage, wife, or kids allows you to be financially irresponsible (not taking a salary for well over 6 months is completely normal). If you have an idea that you believe will add something to this world that the world needs, then try it. Do not be afraid of how daunting the whole idea of starting a company sounds because there are tonnes of people out there who are more than happy to lend a hand and help you out. It will never be wasted time as demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit and starting a company looks good on a resume, no matter what the outcome. Along the way, you will learn more than you ever thought possible about things you never thought you would be doing and make a lot of valuable connections. However, be prepared to encounter a lot of setbacks and emotional hardships. I cannot count the number of times I thought we were never going to get anywhere with the technology or the product. You have to stay strong!
November 25, 2013 in DemoCamp
When: Monday November 25th from 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Where: TwelvEighty pub at McMaster University
Also, Stephanie McLarty CEO of Hamilton-based REfficient will be in attendance tonight, and if you would like to participate in their Phone4Trees program you will be able to give her your old phone at the event. Check out the details of the program below:
Want to do something good for the environment?
Want to show your company is environmentally responsible â€”
and have the data to back it up?
Give a phone, plant a tree
Hand in your company’s and employees’ old cell phones, smartphones and tablets to REfficient for recycling and repurposing.
REfficient coordinates trees to be planted for phones and tablets handed in. We work in partnership with Trees Ontario and other tree planting organizations across Canada.
And not just that â€” you can plant your own tree! Bring your employees, their families and other stakeholders to the Community Tree Planting Day in May 2014. Stay tuned for details.
There is absolutely no cost to participate in the program.
How The Phones4Trees Program Works
Delete the data on the phones. Guides on how to do this are found online here. Please note REfficient is not responsible for any data left on phones.
Collect your phones, cables, power supplies, etc all together.
Contact us at phones4trees@REfficient.com or 905-544-5000 x5001 and we’ll arrange for pick up of the phones. There is free shipping for 5 or more phones collected. Alternatively, drop off your phone at or send it to 605 James Street North, 2nd floor, Hamilton ON L8L 1J9.
Receive a complimentary Go Green report â€” a report that gives you sustainability data from the recycling program that you can then use for website purposes, social media, CSR reporting, etc.
Stay tuned for more information on the Community Tree Planting Day in May 2014, so that you and your employees can have a fun-filled day planting trees.
November 22, 2013 in McMaster Innovation Park
November 21, 2013 in Hamilton
Hamilton, Ontario â€“ November 20, 2013 â€“ REfficient starts a new chapter in its history this week. The three year-old company has moved into a new office, has new product offering on its REfficient.com website and a new cell phone recycling program, in response to customer demand.
REfficient, an online marketplace to buy business equipment cost-effectively and sustainably, now has customers in almost every Canadian province and territory. The company also has customers in 11 other countries on 4 continents.
The company has moved its headquarters into a new office at 605 James St N in Hamilton. The office is twice the size and is located in the historic Hamilton Port Authority main building at overlooking the Hamilton marina. Many environmental features were done to the office, including the flooring, paint and furniture. The move to the new office is not the only change. REfficient CEO Stephanie McLarty explains, â€śREfficient started out as a solution for telecom companies to buy, resell and recycle industry equipment. That still remains a large part of our business, but we have opened up our focus due to customer demand and requests. We now have digital cable boxes, business phones, projectors, and repurposed furniture on REfficient.com.â€ť
Yet the biggest addition is a cell phone recycling program that includes a tree planting component. â€śBusinesses kept asking us if we recycle cell phones, and so we have decided to create a program specifically for this,â€ť McLarty explains. â€śWe knew that we wanted the program to make a difference for the community, so we have started Phones4Trees. When people hand in their old cell phones or tablets, trees will be planted. Besides that, people will get the chance to plant the trees themselves at a Community Tree Planting Day next spring.â€ť Businesses also receive a Go Green report, so they can use the data and information for any sustainability reporting, website information, RFP responses and more. To participate, businesses can simply start collecting cell phones and tablets, and REfficient will pick them up by December 11th. Details and resources can be found at REfficient.com/cellphonerecycling. Individuals can also participate and drop off or send in their phones to REfficientâ€™s office at 605 James St North, 2nd floor, in Hamilton. A formal open house will be held in 2014 to celebrate the new office.
REfficientâ€™s transactional marketplace is built on a â€śtriple-winâ€ť model, providing large telecom and AV companies a trusted and efficient platform for deriving value from surplus inventory, while offering buyers reliable, often new equipment at savings of 20-50% over traditional sources. This innovative new green model benefits everyone by reducing waste and increasing resource efficiency. You can follow REfficient at @REfficient and http://www.facebook.com/REfficient.
November 20, 2013 in HammerTown CoderDojo
Brock Dubbels is leading the charge on Hamilton’s first ever CoderDojo! What’s a CoderDojo all about? Check out the interview below for all the details:
My background and training is in human learning. I was a public school teacher, and teacher educator at the University of Minnesota. I spent 14 years at the Center for Cognitive Sciences at the University of Minnesota. I studied human behavior at the HumanFIRST (http://www.humanfirst.umn.edu/) Laboratory, and then at the Minnesota Laboratory for Low Vision Research (http://gellab.psych.umn.edu/), and later building games for United Health Group, Benedictine Health Group, Minneapolis Public Schools, the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
My first exposure to software testing and development was as an intern at Xerox PARC and Oracle. I found that I really liked studying human interactions with computers, and the power that software can have in human learning and development.
What do you do at McMaster University? What is G-ScalE about?
I am a post-doctoral researcher at the GScale Games Development and Testing Laboratory.
Our project examines issues in scaling games across different devices.
Of particular interest to me are games to help improve quality of life in health, happiness, and family.
Are there any plans to connect the G-ScalE facilities to local industry somehow?
We are very interested in connecting to local industry. We have amazing facilities at GScale, and local businesses can actually get support through the NSERC Engage program, as well as MITACS. This allows them to have one of our researchers work on problems they might have in their software development, from market research, programming, to user experience, and scaling up. Local companies need to provide an in-kind contribution — such as interaction, information related to their problem, or the software itself. The company keeps all intellectual property, our researchers gain valuable experience, and the local economy benefits with another success story.
What is the HammerTown CoderDojo?
CoderDojo is a movement orientated around running free not-for-profit coding clubs and regular sessions for young people.
Local leaders like Fluidmedia, Hamilton-Wentworth Schools, Innovation Factory, Mohawk College, and McMaster University CAS have supported the initiative. We are looking forward to our first program Dec 7th. This first session filled in 5 days. We know there is a desire to learn programming and to make games. we are going to need to expand, so that we can open up more seats for the children who want to learn. So we need volunteers and mentors to come and work with children. Volunteers and mentors do not need to be programmers. They need to have an interest in helping kids, and be good at high fives.
At a CoderDojo, young people learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs, games and more. Dojos are set up, run by and taught by volunteers. Dojos organize tours of technology companies, bring in guest speakers to talk about their career and what they do, and organize events. In addition to learning to code, members meet like minded people, show off what theyâ€™ve been working on and so on. CoderDojo makes development and learning to code a fun, sociable, fun experience. CoderDojo also puts a strong emphasis on open source and free software, and has a strong network of members and volunteers globally.
CoderDojo has just one rule: â€śAbove All: Be Coolâ€ś, bullying, lying, wasting peopleâ€™s time and so on is uncool.
How did you get the idea to start a CoderDojo in Hamilton?
I started taking my 7 year old daughter and 8 year old son in Minneapolis, then in Toronto. We really enjoyed it, so I put it in my mind that we would start on here to benefit the kids in Hamilton.
When will the first event take place?
Dec. 7th at Mohawk College
What can parents, children and other participants expect at this event?
That we are going to gather and participate in a fun activity related to game programming.
What are your goals for the future of the HammerTown CoderDojo?
to serve many children in Hamilton. To provide a safe space where kids can explore, create, and build skills, knowledge, and experience.
How can we best encourage more local youths to pursue careers in software development and technology?
By making the learning fun. By emphasizing playful learning, and reducing the emphasis on consequences.
What do you think of online learning platforms like Codecademy and Khan Academy?
I think they are great resources. I am glad they are available.
How can the local community help you make HammerTown CoderDojo a success?
Smiles, laughter, kids making cool games, bringing families together, and lots of high fives.
Please join us at:
November 19, 2013 in CoderCamp
If you’ve never been before, CoderCamp is a small monthly meetup event that’s based around casual, technically-focused talks. The intention is for software developers to have a venue to share tips, tools, tricks and technology with one another. And stuff that’s just flat out cool to see and know about. There are a series of pre-allotted talks, but anyone is welcome to show up and give a 5-20 minute talk or start a discussion on a given talk.
This style of event is called an unconference. CoderCamp is a fairly pure unconference in the spirit of BarCamp in that it really is up to the attendees to shape the event’s content. If you’re a CoderCamp regular that wants to have a certain type of talk or discussion, then you can give that talk or start that discussion. If you’re new to coming out to CoderCamp, you’re equally welcome to share what you know via a talk or a discussion with everyone in attendance.
Last month for example we had an Intro to PhoneGap talk, a talk on SOLID principles, a software architecture talk, and a slideshow of a developer’s experience working remotely in Europe.
This month we will have the following talks:
- Kevin Browne (@hamiltonkb) will talk about the effectivenss of iPad apps that were used in the Introductory to Computer Science course at McMaster University
- Nick Groupinets (@NickGoupinets) will talk about software architecture
- AJ Bovaird (@AJBovaird) will continue his introductory talk from last month, and go deeper into a practical demo of refactoring an MVC application using SOLID principles.
I believe Nageeb Twal (@accidentalblues) will also be giving a talk. If you haven’t been out to CoderCamp before, make this the one! Hope to see you there.
When: Wendnesday November 20th from 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Where: The Pheasant Plucker @ 20 Augusta Street Hamilton, Ontario
November 18, 2013 in DemoCamp
When:Â Monday November 25th, 2012 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm
Where:Â McMaster University – Twelve Eighty Student Pub
What:Â DemoCampÂ is an event format that involves a keynote speaker, about 5 software demos which each consist of 5 minutes of actually demoing the software and 5 minutes of Q&A, followed by general socializing with the good company in attendance.
April Dunford is the founder of Rocket Launch Marketing, providing advisory services to startups and growth-stage companies including help with marketing strategy, lead generation, messaging and positioning, inbound marketing, marketing and sales alignment and metrics. Previously April has been a marketing executive at 5 startups (Janna Systems, DataMirror, InfoBright, Sitraka, and Watcom) where she focused on sustainable growth through 4 acquisitions. She has also held executive marketing positions at IBM, Siebel Systems and Nortel. April also authors the popular startup marketing blog RocketWatcher.
Woof is bringing dog lovers closer to their dogs and local dog communities.
Make sure you find your stocking next year! Mabelâ€™s Labels has an application and labels to help you find items in your storage bins, search for them, and organize yourself.
Walkbug allows users to create and share tours of their local area. Every neighbourhood is unique, and the people who live there can use Walkbug to share the hot spots and ‘hidden gems’ that are special to them. Walkbug also gives travelers a chance to experience any city as the locals do, and gives you the ability to experience areas from the locals’ perspective when on vacation in another part of the world. Right now Walkbug is being beta tested in Hamilton, but will be expanded internationally soon.
Eventlyze helps market to existing customers outside the inbox by using their emails to search the web for their social profiles and providing in depth details about each customer. Find the influencers, segment them by groups, find their conversation and start interacting right into Eventlyze.
Who Want to Be A Nurse? – A Mobile Solution for Calculating Correct Medication Dosages. Created to help BScN nursing students develop the skills and confidence required to safely calculate the correct dosages of medications and to administer them. A mobile education platform with applications in other fields.
Brian Hogg will be presenting Book a Meeting, a tool to help set up your meetings with less time and frustration, using just your e-mail inbox.