After leading a hugely-successful first year for its 10 startups, Techstars Toronto is back again with its second cohort.
Techstars, a global network of startups, mentors, and investors, has been running an accelerator out of WeWork’s flagship Toronto location for a year now, and the second cohort has just been announced. Led by Sunil Sharma, the Techstars Toronto program invites 10 companies from around the world to grow and scale in Toronto. Startups this year represent industries including cryptocurrency, travel, mental health, and government processing.
“Toronto has become a magnet for attracting the world’s best entrepreneurs and our profile as a global tech centre has never been higher,” Sharma wrote in a post announcing the new cohort.
“Our one and only goal is to leverage the broader ecosystem to support and grow these ten incredible companies. Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and strong partners and mentors help make this happen. The Techstars Toronto Accelerator program provides mentorship and access to all the talent and tech support that Toronto has to offer.”
Techstars has a storied history of spawning successful startups from its different cohorts around the world. ClassPass and Sphero are two examples, and veterans from the 2018 Toronto cohort include Flipd, Senso.ai, and Cinchy, with the latter two having recently joined TD’s Patents for Startups program.
Take a look at the 2019 Techstars Toronto class.
The cryptocurrency world can be difficult to navigate, and Balance makes it easy. The startup offers both a self-serving investment platform as well as a storage platform for digital assets, creating an easy way to manage cryptocurrency.
The travel-tech industry is taking off at a torrid pace right now, and Eddy Travels makes it easier for anyone to book flights and more. Coming from Lithuania, Eddy Travels is a chatbot assistant that lives on Slack, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and Telegram, and it is currently the only travel assistant leveraging voice on the Messenger platform.
“We’re focusing on building a travel assistant,” says Edmundas Balčikonis, the co-founder and CEO of Eddy Travels. “We’re not building our own inventory or trying to be a travel agency, so that allows us to partner with the best companies. We wanted to solve the problem of organizing your travel. The ‘a-ha!’ moment for me was travelling in China and Latin America. In China, everything is on WeChat—you buy, sell, order, do everything on there. In Latin America, everything is on WhatsApp.”
With that inspiration, Balčikonis wanted to create a catch-all travel assistant that both digital nomads like himself and casual travellers could use. They are poised to take advantage of the market as well—Facebook is planning to combine Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram together, so Eddy Travels will be able to tap into each app’s distinct audience.
There’s a saying in retail: “Good luck keeping up with Amazon.” That saying does not really jive with Envoi, as they are trying to bring same-day delivery and Amazon-like logistics to any retailer that needs it. The startup leverages a network of trucks to offer affordable and reliable delivery methods. The goal is to create a massive network of well-paid drivers who can keep local retailers at the same level of competition with the biggest e-commerce behemoths in the world.
As more companies recognize the importance of keeping employees mentally and physically healthy, companies like Inkblot will only thrive. The startup matches users with the perfect counsellor for their needs, tailored by a proprietary matching algorithm. The first session is always free, and if a user does not mesh well with their first match, every subsequent session is free until they find the right counsellor for them. All of the matching, paperwork, and counselling itself is done through Inkblot itself.
The biggest clients for Inkblot are companies looking to up their benefits game. Big names in tech like Tribalscale and League already use Inkblot, and even the counsellors themselves are loving what the platform has to offer.
“Counsellors liked the product that we built for their Inkblot clients so much that we expanded it to allow them to manage all their clients and not just the ones we bring them,” says Luke Vigeant, co-founder and CEO of Inkblot. “The platform is typically built for our company clients, but the counsellors have loved it. A counsellor’s job, 100 per cent of their hours are not put towards being a counsellor—it’s doing things they were not trained to do, like managing cancellations, paperwork and more. This saves tons of time.”
Of course, Inkblot is also hugely effective. The platform can track wellbeing outcomes through optional research metrics and really understand just how effective mental health resources can be for a company.
Walk into any restaurant in a big city and you’ll see four different signs indicating various ways to order ahead and pick up food. It’s a great option for consumers, but a bit of a nightmare for the restaurants themselves. Koomi has created a POS system specifically for line-ups, takeaway and on-the-go customers. This dedicated network can consolidate the online and mobile orders and make sense of the various terminals placed in front of a cashier.
Specializing in cross-border payments, Kora makes it efficient and cheap to transfer money into, out of and within Africa. Using next-gen technology like blockchain settlements, Kora offers a platform that users can trust.
With more than 35 million lifetimes users, Madlipz is already doing pretty well. The dubbing/singing app is used in more than 100 countries around the world and has a chance to be the premier parody platform of the next decade.
Name something more stressful than buying a home—it’s tough to do. Moregidge connects mortgage brokers, realtors, appraisers, and solicitors to the tools they need to really scale their business. Moregidge can take care of simple tasks and reduce processing tasks, providing a closer and more personal experience when it comes to finding the right mortgage.
The government can work a bit slowly, and Ben Sanders wants to change that. As a former co-founder of Clearbanc and a government veteran (he ran for MP, shadowed a premier, and worked as a house of parliament page), he knew what tech can do to streamline processes.
“Government is this massive industry that is underserved,” says Sanders, co-founder and CEO of Proof. “They still use paper, spreadsheets and old databases to do everything. Proof is ultimately empowering governments to go paperless and deliver better services to citizens and staff.”
Proof can streamline internal approvals, digitize application forms, and improve policy decisions with data. Proof can be implemented at all levels of government, and right now Sanders is working with municipal departments, and even First Nations governments.
“We’ve seen firsthand how much money is spent on red tape instead of helping solve real problems for people that matter, like homelessness and problems with the environment,” says Sanders. “These things that the government is designed to be the glue of society for, they aren’t being done because too much is stuck on paper.”
Imagine being rewarded for commuting to work in a safe and effective way. Velocia is a loyalty platform dedicated to smart mobility choices—the more a person uses car-shares, bike shares, or transit apps, the more they can be rewarded. The best part is that Velocia operates in partnership with the AION Network, a world-leading blockchain interoperability network based in Toronto.
The Techstars Toronto cohort will introduce these 10 companies to a new network of investors and partners throughout their tenure in Toronto. All of the companies will work out of the Techstars office in the WeWork building, adding another layer to their ability to network.
“Thing that’s most exciting for me about Techstars here in Toronto is that Sunil [Sharma] has worked in the federal government and he understands exactly what the problem is that we’re solving,” says Sanders. “The value for us is being able to work with him and his network and that’s opening a ton of doors for us. Being here, there’s a lot of companies from around the world. Government isn’t always the sexiest investment vehicle, so this is a real stamp of approval that we’ve got this amazing team doing innovative work.”
“We want to partner with the best in the industry, and Techstars can help with that,” says Balčikonis. “We’re getting great introductions and building relationships with industry leaders. We’re trying to raise funds and they are helping with that as well.”