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Unlocking DMZ’s benefits, from a $10K entry grant and travel subsidies to free legal support

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Unlocking DMZ’s benefits, from a $10K entry grant and travel subsidies to free legal support

Breaking down how DMZ can help your startup’s bottom line. 


As a #1 ranked incubator globally, DMZ has a lot to offer, and we pride ourselves on not only talking the talk
but also walking the walk. We support the most promising and high-impact tech entrepreneurs who have what it takes to scale their businesses. But don’t get it twisted; we know it takes two to tango.

That’s why startups that join DMZ’s Incubator receive world-class programming and services. To us, that means real, tangible support. 

To start, startups accepted into our Incubator program receive a $10,000 entry grant to help kick-start their journey with us. While we know $10,000 can help with product development, a targeted marketing campaign, training and development or new infrastructure, we can also appreciate that $10,000 is a drop in the bucket. 

Beyond DMZ’s entry grant, startups receive personalized support with customer acquisition and fundraising, unlimited 1 on 1 coaching sessions from our Experts-in-Residence, pro-bono professional services, exclusive pitch competitions, access to the Student Work Placement Program, grant research and writing, startup perks and discounts valued at over $1 million, help with SR&ED tax incentives, free financial plan model custom built by a CFO, free UX design support,  24/7 office space and full-service amenities… the list goes on and on. 

So, how do all these program perks support startups with expenses, and —more importantly — how have they empowered startups to level up? We thought you’d never ask. 

Here are just a few ways DMZ’s Incubator can help your startup’s bottom line. 

Explore new markets without breaking the bank.  

Building a thriving business requires startups to go global, and DMZ helps founders cover travel costs for opportunities abroad through Mitacs Entrepreneur International. We’re committed to inspiring our founders to explore untapped markets and have been thrilled to see founders delve into opportunities abroad.

SoftDrive (Incubator ‘22) received $15,000 to travel to London, New York City, Japan and San Francisco to tap into international markets, meet with VCs, secure customers and attend global conferences

Lightster (Incubator ‘23) received $5,000 to travel to London to attend Techspo London and successfully secured a sales-qualified lead.

 

Fuel your research and level up your product. 

Strengthen your startup’s innovation capabilities through the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship. As a Mitacs partner, DMZ supports founders with the program to harness cutting-edge research to commercialize new products and gain a competitive edge in the market.  

Charmy Pet (Incubator ‘22) received $9,000 to research the health benefits of traditional Chinese herbs for pets, which led to the successful commercialization of a new product line available in over 450 specialty pet stores across Canada today.

 

Access essential legal services from day one. 

DMZ’s Startup Legal Support gives founders fully subsidized in-house legal services. We know how crucial legal support is for early-stage founders, which is why startups who come to DMZ don’t need to worry about cutting corners and instead can have legal processes in place from the get-go. 

To date, Startup Legal Support has saved founders over $600,000 in legal fees, helping them with legal matters, including corporate cleanups, intellectual property, stock option plans, term sheet reviews, share sales, terms of use, privacy policies, service agreements, customer contracts and more.

SoftDrive (Incubator ‘22) was able to save over $35,000 in legal fees.

XpertVR (Incubator ‘22) was able to save over $28,000 in legal fees.

Leasey (Incubator ‘24) was able to save over $25,000 in legal fees.

 

Save on startup must-haves.

DMZ’s perks and benefits provide discounts and fully subsidized tools for founders to save money on the essentials. From founder mental health, AWS Credits, financial services and more, DMZ startups receive perks from 170+ service providers worth over $1 million in business savings. 

Sitemax (Incubator ‘25) received $25,000 in AWS credits, allowing them to re-allocate resources to hire a new Business Development Representative for their team.  

Kaitongo (Incubator ‘24) received $25,000 in AWS credits, allowing them to make product enhancements.

Take part in exclusive pitch competitions. 

DMZ Incubator startups have the opportunity to participate in exclusive startup pitch competitions for the chance to showcase their business and secure grant funding. DMZ handed out $65,000 in grant funding to Incubator startups this summer.  

Chexy (Incubator ‘24) received $50,000 in funding, which helped them improve customer experience and expand their landlord offerings. 

Formaloo (Incubator ‘24) received $15,000 in funding to support their continued expansion with the new release of Formaloo 3.0.


Subsidize your team’s wages. 

Members of DMZ’s Incubator program get access to the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program, which allows startups to subsidize student wages.

Lightster (Incubator ‘23) was able to subsidize $20,000 in wages, which covered 3 student placements, one of which did two terms. 

Want to learn more about how DMZ’s Incubator can help your startup through coaching, mentorship, programming and benefits? Head to dmz.to/Incubator to learn more and apply today. 

Basecamp 2023: Unveiling this year’s winners

8 weeks, 36 students, 44 workshops, 4800+ hours working on startups and $30K in grant prizes


And just like that, DMZ’s favourite time of the year has come and gone. Seeing a new group of talented young entrepreneurs complete DMZ’s Basecamp program is always inspiring.

Basecamp serves as a nurturing space for innovation, allowing up-and-coming entrepreneurs to turn their business ideas into reality. After witnessing the growth of this cohort, we are confident that the future of innovation is bright and in capable hands.

Basecamp serves as an 8-week tech incubation program for students to unlock their potential, and collaborate alongside other youth innovators, industry experts and accomplished entrepreneurs.

Participating teams had the opportunity to pitch their startups to a panel of judges for the chance to take home one of six grants worth $5,000 to put towards taking their business to the next level.

DMZ was honoured to sit down with the winners to learn how the Basecamp program fast-tracked their startup’s trajectory.

DMZ Basecamp 2023 participants, ClearCardio, pose with their $5000 cheque

Clear Cardio

Clear Cardio is an affordable, accurate, wearable machine that instantly detects heart issues. Before starting Basecamp, the pair had no experience in the startup ecosystem. Basecamp provided them with the tools to nurture ClearCardio from concept to reality.

“[Basecamp] is the perfect way to get into the startup world, especially if you’re high school students like us, as the program is a beginner’s guide to everything business-related you need to kick start your journey, ” said Nima Vasigh, Co-Founder of Clear Cardio.

The PilotASD team poses with their $5000 cheque

PilotASD

Founded by two Toronto Metropolitan University students, PilotASD is a platform that simplifies finding tailored resources to make the future more accessible for autistic youth. Given their computer science background and experience with product development, the pair partook in Basecamp to better understand entrepreneurship and how to start a business.

“Basecamp set us up to thrive in Toronto’s entrepreneurship scene, and we’re delighted to be a part of it. We’re excited to see the journey ahead with PilotASD and where our future will take us, ” explained Cindy Fang, Co-Founder of PilotASD.

A group of students from startup NearMe pose with their $5000 cheque

NearMe

After years of isolation during the pandemic, three students came together to tackle the loneliness epidemic. NearMe is an innovative app that uses geolocation to connect post-secondary students based on interests and promotes in-person interactions. Looking back at their experiences in Basecamp, the trio found that the program served as a launching pad, equipping them with skills to tackle pitching, marketing and finances.

“The connections we made with Basecamp mentors gave us strategic insights on how we can elevate our startup. They helped us navigate topics that we aren’t necessarily getting taught in school,” said Rayan Ahmad, Co-Founder of NearMe.

DMZ Basecamp 2023 participants, Aidify, pose with their $5000 cheque

Aidify

This sibling duo is fighting for student success and academic integrity. Aidify is a typing analytics tool to help teachers detect plagiarism and assess student effort. Aidify highlighted how the mentors stood out as a remarkably influential part of the program. They were able to absorb startup fundamentals and found themselves inspired by their success.

“Starting a business was never a serious option we considered for our futures, but that’s changed now that we know the ins and outs of running a business. Basecamp has given us a ton of confidence knowing that it’s a real possibility for us,” said Charlie To, Co-Founder of Aidify.

PocketClass smiles upon receiving a $5000 cheque

PocketClass

PocketClass is a platform for extracurriculars that simplifies the interaction between parents and instructors through their integrated search, scheduling and payment features. CEO and Founder Lisa Huh plans to join DMZ Masterclass workshops to continue elevating her business.

“Basecamp is the go-to program for early-stage and aspiring founders. It acts as your compass in the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship, with resources, mentorship and a supportive community for your journey from idea to success,” explained CEO and Founder of PocketClass, Lisa Huh.

DMZ Basecamp 2023 participants, Capable, pose with their $5000 cheque

Capable

Although she didn’t reach the final pitching round, Jazel Dela Paz was selected by her fellow Basecamp peers as the lucky recipient of the Peer Choice Award. Her startup, Capable, aims to make adulthood easy by helping young adults confidently prepare, manage and navigate the responsibilities of adulthood stress-free.

“Basecamp allowed me to expand my network, introducing me to a strong network of startups and mentors. Their support, motivation and accountability were invaluable, especially during critical moments when I needed it the most,” said Founder of Capable, Jazel Dela Paz.

These students and their startups are shining examples of the innovation that spurs when passion, hard work, and support intersect. As we draw the curtains on yet another exciting Basecamp chapter, we’re confident these startups will make their mark in the entrepreneurial ecosystem for years.

Cheers to their success and a summer filled with learning, growth and success!

Looking to join Basecamp in 2024? Subscribe to our TechTalk newsletter and stay informed on program applications here. Until then, we invite you to check out DMZ Masterclass to master your business skills at dmz.to/masterclass

The art of the press release

Breaking down how to craft the perfect press release for your startup.


Ready for a DMZ hot take? Being able to articulate a startup win is just as important as the win itself. Reaching a significant milestone will be exponentially more impactful to your business if you share the success publicly. This is where press releases come in — a strategic symphony of words that transforms startup wins into news. 

For those new to the public relations world, a press release is an announcement made on behalf of your company about an achievement or new development. It serves as a tool to communicate the announcement to a wide range of stakeholders: customers, investors, partners and the media. Understanding how to craft a strong press release can be a cost-effective form of marketing, as it can lead to earned media, enhanced brand recognition and improved SEO. However, the media will not jump on every press release you write, and that’s expected! It’s important to note that not every startup update needs a press release.


Here are some examples of when you should write a press release:  

  • Partnership announcements
  • Funding announcements 
  • Product launches
  • Company award or accolade
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Company rebrand

Now that we’ve established the need behind a press release let’s dive into how you can craft your own. 

Define your public relations goals. 

Before you start writing any announcement, define what your broader public relations goals are. While the ultimate goal is to bring attention to your company, you need to specify what you hope to achieve long term. For more support on mapping out your strategy and where you can start as a founder, head to DMZ’s top 4 insider tricks for public relations success

Keep it formal and to the point.

Press releases embody professionalism, so use formal language and factual details. Remember to use plain language and avoid unnecessary fluff. Unlike a blog or social media, press releases are not based on personal opinions and don’t fully leverage your brand voice. Explore the differences in tone and formality for the same DMZ announcement across mediums. 

Utilize the 5W’s.

Use the 5W’s as a guide to ensure a well-structured opening paragraph. This includes the who, what, where, when, and why to provide relevant information and avoid straying off-topic. Readers should be able to identify what your press release is about in the first few sentences. Check out the opening paragraph of a recent DMZ press release

  • On Monday, June 26, Toronto Metropolitan University’s DMZ hosted the highly anticipated Insiders Event at the incubator’s headquarters in downtown Toronto. The exclusive showcase featured a handpicked selection of innovative startups from DMZ’s portfolio, giving attendees the opportunity to hear how they are transforming their respective industries.”

Include quotations.

Including quotations dramatically enhances the impact of an announcement. They can add a human element by sharing an individual’s perspective. A strong quote should highlight why your news is relevant now; think of it as a soundbite media could lead with. Aim to include at least one quote from your team and one from an external organization. See below for an example of a quote included in this DMZ press release

  • “Given Japan’s longstanding reputation as a pioneer in global innovation, it is an honour that JETRO has selected DMZ as its Canadian partner for the Global Acceleration Hub,” said Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director, DMZ, and CEO, DMZ Ventures. “This collaboration is a testament to both countries’ vision to foster business growth beyond borders, and we’re eager to unlock business expansion opportunities for Japanese startups visiting Toronto this month.

Include a boilerplate.

A boilerplate is a short, standardized paragraph at the end of a press release that provides high-level background on your company. Pro-tip: Keep a standardized boilerplate for your team in your shared drive for easy access. DMZ’s boilerplate is at the bottom of every announcement and follows the same format. 

  • DMZ is a world-leading startup incubator based at Toronto Metropolitan University that equips the next generation of tech entrepreneurs with the tools needed to build, launch, and scale highly impactful startups. By providing connections to customers, coaching, capital, and a community, DMZ’s customized approach helps innovators reach the next milestone in their entrepreneurial journey – whatever that might be. Through its award-winning programming, DMZ has helped more than 800 startups raise $2.5 billion in capital and create 5,000+ jobs. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada with globally-accessible programming, DMZ has a widely-recognized international presence with offices in Vietnam, India, and the U.S., and partnerships across North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Conclude with a call to action.

Wrap up your press release with a compelling call to action. Consider its purpose: whether you want readers to explore your website, sign up for a mailing list or connect with your team. Here are a few examples of calls to action from past DMZ press releases. 

Startup examples.

Let’s bridge theory and practice by looking at tangible DMZ startup examples and how they leveraged press releases.

Announcing a raise:

Announcing an acquisition: 

Announcing an award:

Looking for more support in marketing and public relations? Subscribe to our TechTalk newsletter and stay informed about the newest startup resources here.

The power of local: How Innisfil is fuelling economic growth and retaining top talent

How one small town is paving the way for sustainable regional growth


Innovation and entrepreneurship are not just buzzwords, they are the driving forces behind economic growth and opportunity. While big urban cities have been the traditional hotspot for startups to thrive, the notion of a startup hotbed being limited to bustling metropolitan centers is rapidly changing. Now, rural communities across Canada are demonstrating that they, too, have the potential to cultivate successful businesses and retain top talent.

Jelmer Stegink, Program Director of DMZ Innisfil, at DMZ Innisfil office.

Take Innisfil, Ontario, as the perfect example — a small town in Canada that faced the challenge of 82% of its residents leaving town for work every day. The town’s Mayor, Lynn Dollin, and her team recognized the need to create and support the jobs of tomorrow right in their own backyard. “Prior to the pandemic there was this misconception that founders needed to live and work in the GTA in order to tap into innovative resources, peers and programming,” says Mayor Lynn Dollin. “So in rural communities like ours, residents felt they had to spend hours in traffic to drive to a congested City to do their business.”

Enter Innisfil’s partnership with DMZ, the world’s leading startup incubator. Since its launch in 2020, DMZ Innisfil has successfully supported more than 35 local entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses, raising $10M in growth capital through DMZ programming and generating $1M+ in revenue.

But the real story here is how Innisfil has embraced entrepreneurship and innovation. By investing in programming to help business owners thrive, Innisfil has set a benchmark for how rural Canadian towns can encourage citizens to advance their local economy while creating the future they want in their hometown.

 “Through delivery of the DMZ Innisfil program over the past few years we’ve been able to demonstrate that innovation is a mindset, not a geography, and rural areas have just as much creativity and ambition as our urban counterparts,” says Dollin. “By bringing together like-minded entrepreneurs through DMZ Innisfil programming and events we’ve seen local founders flourish, enjoying better life work balance by the lake all while accessing world-class mentorship and support.”

The power of collaboration and support cannot be underestimated. One shining example of this synergy is the incredible success story of Fractional SaaS, a dynamic startup that found its footing with the invaluable assistance of DMZ Innisfil.

For founder Andrew Rains, the decision to move to Innisfil in 2018 was driven by a desire to seize emerging opportunities and raise a family. Little did he know that this small town was on the brink of an entrepreneurship revolution. 

When the pandemic struck, the Town of Innisfil faced a myriad of issues that demanded innovative solutions. DMZ, in partnership with the Town of Innisfil, launched a competition to address these challenges brought on by COVID restrictions. Fractional SaaS rose to the occasion by submitting a successful operations management solution in response to the Town’s call for better boat management at their marinas. This milestone became a turning point for Fractional SaaS., as it not only showcased their capabilities but also provided an opportunity to make a meaningful impact within the local community.

Fractional SaaS revolutionized marina operations in Innisfil, earning acclaim from the Town for their impactful solutions. They have expanded their services to other municipalities, positioning themselves as trusted partners for local governments. With DMZ Innisfil’s ongoing support, Fractional SaaS is poised for even greater accomplishments, connecting their team with the right people at the right time.

Fractional SaaS’s success story exemplifies the power of collaboration, with DMZ Innisfil playing a pivotal role in their journey as they continue to make a lasting impact, propelling innovation and community empowerment for different rural regions. 

 “Rural communities have become fertile ground for entrepreneurial growth. The notion that thriving innovation ecosystems are exclusive to major cities is now a thing of the past. Through my journey with Fractional SaaS, I’ve witnessed firsthand the hunger and the untapped potential in these communities. With the invaluable networks, resources, tools, and connections provided by DMZ Innisfil, startups are empowered to thrive and succeed!” –  Andrew Rains, Co-Founder of Fractional SaaS. 

Fractional SaaS is just one success story out of many. DMZ Innisfil is proud to welcome their most recent cohort of innovative businesses: What’s For Dinner Today, Behind Every Home Inc. o/a siikafoods, Directline Telecommunications, NewRidge Refinishing Group, Innisfil BJJ, MuniPaaS, NT Temps, Moon Cafe and Craft Beer, Roof Rejuvenation, Local Plumbing & Drains, Innisfil Wellness, and DriVR Academy.

Innisfil’s success shows that entrepreneurs no longer need to leave their hometowns to build successful businesses. Through their partnership with DMZ, they have developed tailored, localized entrepreneurship programming with a global mindset.

Check out just a few ways DMZ Innisfil is delivering big city resources to their town:  

  • Community: A vibrant community of like-minded entrepreneurs and business pros where you’ll feel right at home 
  • Mentorship: Expert guidance and support from Experts-in-Residence, an in-house legal team, and a network of peers who are driven to succeed
  • Fundraising: Connect with investors, unlock exclusive grants and get the chance to pitch at high-profile events like Collision.
  • International connections: Plug into DMZ’s global network of incubators in 10+ countries around the world for resources and introductions in new markets.  

Rural municipalities are often focused on building strong and vibrant communities that provide opportunities for growth and development while retaining the best and brightest talent. Recognizing this, DMZ champions municipalities by working with them to design tailored business support programming, empowering them to help their community capitalize on global resources while focusing on local economic growth.

The story of Innisfil’s success is a reminder that great ideas can come from anywhere and that the future of entrepreneurship is not limited to large urban centers. 

If you’re a municipal leader looking to empower your small business owners with the tools and connections to become world-class ventures while staying integrated within your local communities, DMZ is here to help. We’re committed to bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to all corners of Canada.

Applications for DMZ Innisfil’s Startup Incubator program close on July 21, 2023. Don’t wait – apply here. Interested in learning more? You can find out more about DMZ Innisfil here and more about the DMZ here.

 

The ultimate startup guide: DMZ’s 5 tips for thriving at Collision

The air in the city is electric with anticipation for Collision, Toronto’s tech scene is about to transform into a vibrant epicentre of innovation and possibility! We couldn’t be more thrilled for the global startup ecosystem to make its way to the city we proudly call home. As longtime Collision-enthusiasts, we’re sharing our insider tips on how to thrive at the 3-day conference. 

From June 26-29, the city will be buzzing with excitement as the world’s brightest minds come together for a week to network, share big ideas and dive into cutting-edge technologies.

Picture this: 40,000+ attendees, 1250+ journalists, 250+ partners and 950+ investors coming together under one roof to reimagine the global tech industry. And the fun doesn’t end there; industry experts tackling the biggest challenges facing our industry today will take the stage to share their insights on navigating uncertainty. 

Amidst all this buzz, DMZ is also gearing up for its most prominent presence at Collision to date. This year, we’re uniting the most fearless and diverse visionaries in the global startup ecosystem to mark the year of the camel startup.

At the fastest-growing tech conference in North America, the opportunities are endless. To help you make the most of your time at Collision, we’ve compiled a handy guide with our top tips for startups. Read on for a download of our top startup tips to get the most out of the week. 

Create a plan of attack

Your time is valuable. Before attending any event, it’s crucial to do your research and plan ahead. When planning your schedule, start by reviewing the various sessions and identifying the ones that best align with your needs.  

You can build a personal event schedule on the Collision app by tapping the  ‘Schedule’ tab at the bottom of the app. Tap the calendar icon to any must-see sessions to add to your own personal schedule. 

Don’t forget to explore the multiple stages and booths across Enercare Centre, including DMZ’s booth (booth E281). Swing by to connect with angels and VCs in the ecosystem and check out our dedicated DMZ stage and startup showcase, win prizes and much more! If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of a certain 6-foot-tall animal hanging around our space.  

For additional insights, check out Collision’s essential guide, which provides registration information, venue details and travel suggestions. 

Set clear objectives 

Given the scale of Collision, it’s important to define your objectives beforehand. Upon doing your research and planning your schedule, set intentions and determine what you want to achieve from the conference. 

A clear goal could sound something like this, “I will lock in 5 meetings with CEOs who could benefit from my solution and follow up with my pitch deck before July 1.” Put it in writing and commit to it!

Utilize the power of networking 

With over 40,000 attendees and 2,000 startups, Collision offers immense networking opportunities. Be sure to make a list of speakers and entrepreneurs you want to connect with to maximize your time. 

We suggest taking full advantage of this opportunity by checking out the alpha and beta startup sections, actively engaging with thought-provoking speakers and attending educational masterclasses and Q&As. 

Not to mention, DMZ’s booth will feature its very own networking lounge for 1:1 meetings with investors, startups and industry leaders. 

Don’t skip out on workshops 

 

Make the most of Collision by participating in expert-led workshops. Here are a few sessions that might pique your interest:

  • Metaverse: The road to a trillion-dollar industry

    • Julie and Alan Smithson (Metaverse)
      • Hosted by DMZ – 4:30 PM, June 27th
  • The power of community for your brand

    • Chelsee Pettit (aaniin)
      • Hosted by DMZ – 2:00 PM, June 28th
        * The first 15 attendees will win a limited edited Tkaranto t-shirt from Chelsee’s brand, aaniin!
  • Startup Legal Essentials

    • Allan Goodman (Goodmans)
      • Hosted by DMZ – 3:00 PM, June 28th
  • Is venture capital right for you?

    • Phil Joseph (Rep Matters)
      • Hosted by Rep Matters, at DMZ’s booth – 11:30 AM, June 29th
  • Founder Fireside: Torys and Meroxa

    • Konata Lake (Torys) and DeVaris Brown (Meroxa)
      • Hosted by DMZ – 11:00 AM, June 29th

Oftentimes smaller-knit and more intimate, these sessions will provide valuable insights while giving you a real opportunity to engage with speakers. For more information on the exciting sessions taking place at DMZ’s booth, check out our full schedule here!

Don’t be afraid to tell your story

Collision will attract over 1,250 journalists from prestigious publications such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Betakit, The Peak, The Globe and Mail and many more! Leverage this opportunity by putting your startup front and centre. Media at the event will be wearing a slightly different badge than regular attendees, keep your eyes peeled and don’t be shy to approach them and spark up a conversation. 

Remember to wear your startup swag, bring business cards and have your Linkedin QR code and Collision app on hand so you’re ready to connect. 

By following these five tips, you’ll be well-prepared to maximize your Collision experience. We can’t wait to see you there! 

To find out more information about DMZ and our presence at Collision, visit dmz.to/collision 

Rewiring co-creation: Learn how to become customer-obsessed 

We had the pleasure of chatting with Pat Sathiensamrit, the Founder of Lightster, to learn more about the startup, its global mentality and carefully crafted process that helps companies become customer-obsessed. 

Keep reading to learn more about Lightster, and Pat’s top tips for how companies can become customer-obsessed and build better products.

Can you tell us about Lightster and its mission?

Empowering companies to create better products for their target users, Lightster (Fall ’23) is a platform that connects tech companies with their intended customers to help guide their product development in 60 seconds. These 60 seconds represent our impressive ‘time to insight’ capability, eliminating the need for weeks of waiting to obtain actionable feedback. Our platform empowers companies to swiftly gather essential information, enabling them to make informed decisions and optimize their products quickly.

We aim to increase collaboration between companies and users while benefiting both parties. The benefits are twofold. Customers who sign up can share their insights while earning rewards, and companies create a direct channel of communication with their target audience to refine their products through surveys, chat messages and live conversations.

Despite being an early-stage startup, you’ve already set up shop with multiple partners worldwide. How has your experience been working across global markets?

By exploring new markets worldwide, Lightster has opened up untapped customer segments that allow us to unlock new avenues for growth. This has been made possible by securing strategic partnerships with organizations in countries like Brazil, Jamaica and Switzerland. Our partners have opened doors for us by providing us with connections, market exposure, and, most importantly, insights on the problems that tech companies globally face in their mission to become customer-obsessed. 

Given we work with startups and partners across the globe, we’ve found timezone differences can be both a benefit and a challenge. With our co-founder working remotely from Asia, we understand that finding meeting times that work for all parties can be difficult, but operating in different time zones can often give us additional time to complete deliverables. 

When one office closes, another one opens up, which allows work to be completed around the clock globally. With teams located across different time zones, we have the advantage of having our offices open around the clock. This enables us to promptly address any issues that may arise when our customers are asleep, ensuring efficient resolution and minimizing any potential delays. By having all hands on deck, we’ve made things happen even faster than before. 

For any founder who’s hesitant to open up to new markets, I’d encourage them to go for it. We’ve expanded our reach significantly by working with trusted global partners. Startups might be pleasantly surprised to discover how many companies are eager to tap into the North American market, actively seeking partnerships in the region to unlock new opportunities and expand their reach.

How exactly do you work with your clients? What is your solution offering them?

Lightster empowers companies to connect with their users, by allowing them to create instant communities of their target users based on who is available to provide input on their product while it’s being built. Companies connect directly with their target audiences to involve them in the co-creation process of products that were built for them.

Our clients get to connect with their users directly, providing them with an opportunity to voice their genuine opinions. We’re proud to enable companies like Nobul, Ecowiser, Between.co, Referral Candy, and incubators that support startups like DMZ to become customer-obsessed and build their best products yet on Lightster.

Lightster has grown its user base to almost 7,000+ users. What does this reach mean for your companies, and what’s next?

A more extensive user base translates to better success for our clients as they can connect to a broader set of target audiences faster. Companies that join Lightster instantly match with more users who fit their criteria and target audience.

Companies on Lightster will soon have more ways to connect with their users through a pre-launch product ‘feed’ where they can invite their users and potential users to join and co-create the product as it’s being built.

Could you share your top 3 tips for how companies can better serve their customers? 

  1. Involve them in the co-creation process. As soon as your idea sparks, founders should seek user input. Stats have shown that early involvement increases customer loyalty.
  2. When looking for customer feedback, ask open-ended questions and focus on past behaviours and events instead of asking “what if” questions. This approach produces richer responses allowing you to pinpoint and improve on real, proven challenges, rather than hypothetical scenarios. 
  3. Utilize the vast array of potential users on Lightster by experimenting with different types of representative behaviours and characteristics. You might be surprised; what you discover could lead to your next big idea.

Head over to Lightster’s website to learn more about how they are creating customer-obsessed companies. Want to learn more about how you can help Lightster on its journey? Reach out to their team at welcome@lightster.co.

Introducing DMZ’s new cohort of Incubator startups

Six startups who are transforming the tech ecosystem 


DMZ is thrilled to unveil its latest Incubator cohort of startups
. Of nearly two hundred applications submitted from around the world, we’ve chosen the top six ventures joining us for the next 18 months and will graduate as the Incubator Fall 2024 cohort.

These founders hail from a range of industries, including health tech, moving and logistics, insurtech and AI, but are all driven by the same common goal — wanting to grow and scale their businesses.   

Our newest cohort will receive comprehensive support to execute their go-to-market strategy, acquire lighthouse customers, gain media exposure, explore global expansion, prepare for the next round of funding and much more. 

This competitive program is for venture-backable pre-seed and seed-stage startups with a full-time founder, early traction and proven product-market fit.

Scroll to learn more about how these high-impact startups are pioneering new innovative solutions. 

Introducing our Fall ‘24 Incubator cohort:

 

Approva is an all-in-one home loan solution that makes the home loan process simpler and faster by providing users with the best deal on their mortgages in real time.

Compass is a holistic mental health platform that provides users with personalized mental health resources based on their unique needs, wants and identities.

 

MoveMate provides on-demand moving services that aim to disrupt and integrate the archaic and fragmented moving and delivery ecosystem by building a more comprehensive, connected and tech-driven moving and delivery marketplace.

 

Robbie Restoration Technologies partners with insurance companies to save on unnecessary claim costs in water-related property and casualty claims. By providing data-driven analytic insights, adjusters and claims departments can be in complete control of the water restoration process.

 

Sensaiotech is an end-to-end fire risk assessment solution. Using AI-embedded devices and cutting-edge transmission technologies, their solution monitors and predicts where and when a wildfire will occur and flags at-risk areas up to 5 days earlier.

Vaultt is a collaborative information management and communications platform that uses a B2B SaaS model and multi-channel approach for family caregivers. Vault helps patients, families and caregivers securely organize, store and share vital information within their circle of care.

 

Get to know more about our Spring ’24 cohort of startups by visiting DMZ’s Current Startups page. Are you an early-stage tech founder interested in growing your business? Discover how DMZ’s Incubator can help here

Meet Marcelo Noronha: The brain behind Mr. Turing’s AI business assistant

How Mr.Turing’s AI business assistant is saving companies time and money


Meet Marcelo Noronha, the unstoppable force and brain behind Mr. Turing, an AI (artificial intelligence) business assistant revolutionizing how companies work with their data. In an increasingly AI-driven world, Mr. Turing is a true game-changer, providing companies with a powerful tool to unlock the full potential of their internal data to save time, knowledge and money. 

Like Alan Turing, the trailblazing mathematician and computer scientist who laid the foundation for modern computing and artificial intelligence by cracking the German Enigma code during World War II, Noronha is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with AI.

What sets Mr. Turing apart from the competition is its unique ability to manage all of a company’s information in one place. With its innovative Alan technology, Mr. Turing helps companies process, interpret, and manage the knowledge generated from their internal data more effectively than ever before.

So, who is the mastermind behind Mr. Turing, and what inspired him to create it? We sat down with Noronha to discover his inspiration, the unique benefits of their AI-powered business assistant, Alan, and the measures they have put in place to safeguard sensitive information. If you’re interested in the intersection of entrepreneurship and AI, read on to uncover Noronha’s insights and discover the next big thing in business technology. 


What inspired you to build Mr.Turing? 

As a tech entrepreneur for 20+ years, all the companies I worked for used image processing for document management. However, every company had a gap in delivering value to its customers; we would process the documents but only deliver 20% of the value from all the information contained within them. This always bothered me because it was a lot of work for very little delivery. At the time, the technologies weren’t ready to process, interpret, and generate knowledge. When I came across the AI technique of Language Processing, I realized that this was where I could change the game.”


Tell us how your AI-powered business assistant (Alan) works.

Imagine needing information across different types of media: documents, videos, audio, websites, meeting minutes, and other sources. Now, imagine all of this scattered across multiple platforms within a company. How would you access and leverage it to improve your business processes? It would be practically an endless search, wouldn’t you agree?

This is the challenge we addressed with Alan, a tool that can manage and generate knowledge for companies, integrate with any system and process any type of media. After processing, interpreting and integrating where the information is, Alan is ready to respond naturally to the needs of those looking for information. And the best part of all of this is that this knowledge is secure within the company, so they can make informed decisions on how to use it.


How does Alan differ from other data management solutions on the market?

Our differential is the ability to manage all knowledge produced by company teams in a single platform, Alan. We can make connections between meeting videos, emails, projects, dialogues, and communication platforms.


With the increasing focus on data privacy and security, how do you ensure that Alan adheres to data protection standards? What measures have you put in place to safeguard sensitive information?

At Mr. Turing, we place great emphasis on data privacy and security. To ensure that we comply with data protection standards, we have implemented a range of measures to safeguard sensitive information. These include encryption, regular security audits, access controls, and user authentication. We are committed to staying up-to-date with evolving data privacy regulations and continuously improving our security practices to protect our users’ data.


How have you leveraged natural language processing to develop Alan? Can you walk us through your approach to training?

We utilized natural language processing (NLP) techniques and cutting-edge AI models to create Alan. Our methodology for training and refining the model involves several stages:

  • Data collection: We obtain a diverse set of data from multiple sources, including text, audio, and video content, to ensure a comprehensive understanding of a company’s information;
  • Data preprocessing: The collected data is cleaned and preprocessed to eliminate irrelevant or redundant information; 
  • Model training: The preprocessed data is employed to train our NLP models, with a focus on comprehending context, semantics, and relationships between different pieces of information; 
  • Fine-tuning: The trained models are refined using reinforcement learning techniques, which enable Alan to enhance its performance by adapting to the specific needs and preferences of each client; 
  • Evaluation and feedback: Alan’s performance is continually assessed against predefined benchmarks, and any insights gleaned from user feedback are utilized to further improve the model.


With the recent advances in natural language processing and conversational AI, how do you see your assistant evolving? Are there any new features or functionalities you’re excited to roll out?

The recent advancements brought by OpenAI with ChatGPT have given Mr. Turing the missing piece of the puzzle. We expected this to come around mid-2025, and it has been accelerated, which is great news!

We believe that we operate at the process layer of companies, with the capability of integrating, processing, and interpreting all the information that flows within them. With this, we can more precisely control what the conversational part of GPT models can synthesize without attempting to fabricate any information from non-existent data.


How do you balance the need for automation and efficiency with the importance of maintaining human oversight and control over data management processes?

Finding a middle ground between the need for automation and efficiency and the importance of maintaining human oversight and control is crucial. 

This can entail utilizing automation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence to boost the efficiency of data management processes while also keeping a check on human oversight and control to ensure the accuracy and quality of the managed data. 

Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that data management processes are well-documented and that policies and procedures are adhered to consistently to uphold data integrity and regulatory compliance.


Can you discuss future plans or goals, such as expanding into new industries or integrating new technologies?

We plan to expand into new industries such as healthcare, finance, law, and education. To remain at the forefront of AI and NLP technologies, we are enhancing collaboration features, developing advanced personalization features, and incorporating environmentally-friendly strategies into our operations and product offerings.


What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur in the AI space?

No matter the industry, the first step is to assemble a strong team with a common purpose. Then, it’s important to understand that building AI applications requires time, effort, and a great deal of persistence. Success cannot be guaranteed simply by utilizing AI technology, and it’s crucial to be ready to adjust and improve your ideas as you progress, given the rapidly evolving nature of the field.

Ready to save your business time and money with Mr. Turing? Click here to discover more >

2023 federal and provincial budget digests

How the 2023 federal and provincial budgets will impact the startup and innovation economy

 

In March, the federal and provincial governments unveiled their highly-anticipated budgets. With both plans moving from COVID-19-specific funding and focusing on lightening deficits and combatting inflation, we now have glimpse into what the road to a more robust economy looks like.

DMZ has reviewed the Ontario provincial and federal government budgets and identified key commitments that impact the startup and innovation economy.

Here’s what you need to know about both budgets:

Federal budget highlights

The full federal budget can be found here.

Small business support

  • Lowering credit card fees: The federal government has reached an agreement with Visa and MasterCard to reduce credit card fees by up to 27%.
    • This reduction will help small businesses save $1 billion over the next five years.

Innovation

  • Canada Growth Fund: The government intends to introduce legislation to enable the Public Sector Pension Investment Board to manage the assets of the Canada Growth Fund to deliver on the Growth Fund’s mandate of attracting private capital to invest in Canada’s clean economy.
  • Supporting Canada’s leadership in space: The government invested just under $2.8 billion to get Canadians — and Canadian technology — into space, onto the moon and beyond.
  • Canada Innovation Corporation: The government invested $2.6 billion for the new Canada Innovation Corporation, which will support Canadian businesses in investing in research and development.
  • Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive: The Department of Finance will continue to engage with stakeholders on the next steps of the SR&ED program to ensure it is providing adequate support and improving the commercialization of intellectual property.

Transition to the green economy

  • Clean electricity investment tax credit: A 15% refundable credit to support non-emitting generation systems, storage and transmission.
  • Clean technology manufacturing: A 30% tax credit for new machinery and equipment used to manufacture or process key clean technologies and extract key critical minerals.
  • Clean hydrogen: Up to 40% tax credit for projects producing clean hydrogen.
  • Strategic Innovation Fund: A $500 million commitment over 10 years to support the development and application of clean technologies in Canada.
  • Smart Cities Challenge: The government will be launching a new round of the Smart Cities Challenge later this year, which will focus on using connected technologies, data, and innovative approaches to improve climate resiliency.

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Provincial budget highlights

The full provincial budget can be found here.

Innovation

  • Underserved entrepreneurs: Investing an additional $15 million over three years for the Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Entrepreneurs (RAISE) Grant Program that includes support for Indigenous, Black and other racialized people, as well as an additional $3 million in the Black Youth Action Plan
  • Innovation hubs:
    • Providing an additional $1 million per year for three years to Invest Ottawa, starting in 2023–24, to expand into a Regional Innovation Centre hub for Eastern Ontario.
    • Committing an additional $2 million in 2023–24 to Futurpreneur Canada.
    • Providing $4 million in 2023–24 to support the City of Brampton in attracting more entrepreneurs and business investment to help drive economic growth.

Skills development

  • Mitacs: Investing an additional $32.4 million over the next three years to support 6,500 high‐quality research internships through Mitacs.
  • Skills Development Fund: Providing $224 million in 2023–24 for a new capital stream of the Skills Development Fund to leverage private-sector expertise and expand training centres.

International talent

  • Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program: Enhancing the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program with an additional $25 million over three years to attract more skilled workers, including in-demand professionals in the skilled trades, to the province.
  • Ontario Bridge Training Program: Expanding the Ontario Bridge Training Program with an additional $3 million in 2023–24 to help internationally trained immigrants find employment in their fields and get faster access to training and support towards a licence or certificate.

Manufacturing

  • Ontario-made tax credit: A 10% refundable Corporate Income Tax credit to help local manufacturers lower their costs, invest in workers, innovate and become more competitive.

Business savings for Ontario employers

  • Tax relief for small businesses: Improving competitiveness by planning to enable an estimated $8 billion in cost savings and support for some Ontario employers in 2023, with $3.6 billion going to small businesses.
    • This would provide Ontario’s small businesses with additional Ontario income tax relief of $265 million from 2022–23 to 2025–26.

Electric vehicle investments

  • Electric vehicles (EV): Attracting over $16 billion in investments by global automakers and suppliers of EV batteries and battery materials to position Ontario as a global leader in the EV supply chain.

Are you a founder trying to navigate the startup ecosystem? Learn more about programming DMZ offers here.

What contracts do you need for your startup?

This is a DMZ guest blog by Konata Lake and Wendes Keung of Torys LLP.

Building a startup is challenging. You need to balance cash flow control, product development, go-to-market strategies, talent, branding and working in perpetual ‘go’ mode. And then there is the back-end work—the part that you don’t look forward to—financial records, information management systems, documents, policies and procedures, and, of course, contracts. Although a good contract doesn’t feel quite as rewarding as building your product or closing a deal, it’s an essential building block for a successful startup.

The best contracts are always ones that are drafted with your product, business model and consumer base in mind. Early-stage startups can be tempted to use online templates, but templates can leave you vulnerable. Most templates favour one side or are drafted ambiguously in a way that leaves interpretation up for debate.

We thought we would break down a few key contract non-negotiables to always keep in mind.

Your service offering and crown jewels

  • Services: The agreement should clearly describe the services that will be provided and what is included or excluded as part of the project scope. For example, will your service include software licenses, hardware, software, professional services, training, installation/integration, or maintenance and support? The agreement should be clear about allocating responsibilities, development milestones, and milestone deadlines.
  • Intellectual property: Your intellectual property (IP) is your most valuable asset. Investors will closely scrutinize your IP clauses to confirm that you actually own your IP. Here’s what to look out for:
    • Effective license rights if you are licensing your IP to customers via service agreements or if you require the customer’s data to deliver the services. 
    • Ensure your IP clauses in employment agreements and independent contractor agreements are clear about ownership. In Canada, the default for IP ownership developed by an employee is ownership by the company unless the contract says otherwise— however, the opposite is true for contractors and consultants.

Managing data

  • Confidential information: The definition of confidential information typically covers any information disclosed by or on behalf of a party to the other party that is marked as confidential or that reasonably should be understood to be confidential. Confidentiality terms are crucial to ensure that the person you are negotiating with won’t steal your secrets.
  • Customer data: If you are dealing with customer data as a part of your service, be prepared to answer questions on privacy and security. Customers will likely want to know the security requirements you have in place to protect their data. If you will be collecting, accessing, using, or disclosing personal information, consult a privacy expert to ensure that you’re compliant with appropriate privacy laws. Certain jurisdictions, such as the EU, UK, Switzerland and California, have specific requirements that companies must follow if they deal with individuals in those jurisdictions.

Mitigating risk exposure

  • Disclaimers: Disclaimers notify your users that you will not be held responsible for certain damages from their use of your website, products, or services. They need to be carefully structured to have legal effect. One that is too broad may be struck down by a court as ineffective. Well-crafted disclaimers go a long way in protecting a business from liability.
  • Indemnification: Put simply, an indemnification clause requires one party to compensate the other for putting that party in harm’s way. For example, if you are a software developer, your customer may ask you to indemnify them if they receive a copyright infringement claim for using your software. You would be asked to “step in the shoes” of the customer and manage the dispute. If you agree to offer an indemnity, you should limit the categories of claims that you are willing to indemnify for, put caps on the damages and consider purchasing insurance as a way to limit your financial risk and exposure. 
  • Limitation of liability: Limitation of liability clauses allow parties to limit the amounts owed by one party to the other in the face of a claim. The type of damages due or claims brought can be limited. This allows a party to avoid a “bet the business” situation by allocating risk between the parties. There are typically three parts to a limitation of liability clause to look out for: 
    1. Waiver of Indirect Damages: This clause states that a party will not be liable for any indirect damages that arise under the agreement, including any damages for lost revenue, lost savings, or lost profits. 
    2. Cap on Direct Damages: Agreements typically limit the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed as direct damages. This amount is typically tied to the fees paid under the agreement. 
    3. Exclusions: The parties may agree to exclude certain types of damages from the above circumstances. If these types of claims occur, whether directly or indirectly, the party will be exposed to unlimited liability. Parties will typically negotiate excluding claims for gross negligence, willful misconduct or fraud.  
  • Governing law & forum: The agreement should state what substantive law governs the rights and obligations of the parties and which country’s courts will hear disputes. You should consider the most practical and convenient jurisdiction if a dispute arises. If you choose a jurisdiction that is not your home court, make sure you are comfortable with their procedural system and how difficult it may be to enforce a foreign judgment domestically.

How you do business

  • Subcontracting: A contract is between two parties, and typically the rights and obligations under the contract cannot be imposed on a third party. However, third parties can sometimes be brought under a contract. For example, a subcontracting clause can be used to allow a party to assign or outsource parts or all of the obligations under a contract to a third party. You may need to rely on this clause if you have a third party hosting provider or even independent contractors working for you. Take note of language that requires you to obtain the customer’s consent before subcontracting (or to notify the customer in advance). 
  • Non-solicitation: As an early-stage company, almost all of your employees directly impact the bottom line. Non-solicit clauses protect your employees from being poached by a customer. The clause should define the timeframe, be limited to employees related to the services being provided under the agreement, and exclude situations where an employee responds to a general recruitment advertisement. 
  • Assignment: An assignment clause governs whether and when a party can transfer the contract to a third party. While agreements typically limit the ability of a party to transfer the contract without some form of prior consent, startups should ensure there is language that permits it to assign the agreement to a purchaser of its assets or shares without consent.

Many startups offer game-changing products and services to solve inefficiencies in the market, but overcoming the growing pains of launching a startup isn’t easy. A well-thought-out risk management tool often makes the difference between a successful startup and a struggling one. Good contracts are part of your risk management toolbox. A great technology contracting lawyer should be able to leverage sector knowledge and their own experience to advise you on which terms are negotiable and what is market in the industry.

Are you a startup founder with contract questions for Torys? Reach out to Wendes Keung today to get your questions answered.

 

This article appears on Torys’ Startup Legal Playbook: a guide to issues founders face as they grow their company, from ideation to exit. For more actionable insights on operating your startup, raising capital, building a team and going cross-border click here.

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