Backed by $2.4M in fresh funding, Ottawa-based Nook looks to find market niche with new productivity app

Nook graphic

An Ottawa startup behind a new app that aims to make workers more productive by aggregating information from platforms like Gmail, Slack and other sources has raised more than $2 million from a group that includes former Shopify executives and C-suite leaders at Apple and LinkedIn.

Nook Technologies said Wednesday it’s secured nearly $2.4 million in pre-seed funding for its new product, which CEO Marc Gingras describes as a “personal information system that’s disguised as a note-taking app.”

Launched in private beta two weeks ago, the platform uses artificial intelligence to gather notes and other pertinent information from Google products such as Gmail as well as communication software like Slack and present it to users in a single, easy-to-read format on desktops and mobile devices. 

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The idea, Gingras explains, is to save workers the time and hassle of sifting through multiple apps and tabs as they prepare for meetings, presentations and other work-related tasks. 

Users receive a notification before the event. Clicking on the link takes users directly into Zoom, Teams and other teleconferencing platforms while bringing up emails, Slack messages and other data related to the meeting. 

“There’s a lot of noise out there. How do we help people silence that noise so that they can think more clearly and ultimately be more productive?”

Users can also take notes in the app, which Nook’s executive team hopes will soon steal market share from competitors such as Evernote.

“There’s a lot of noise out there,” says Gingras, who took over as chief executive in July. “How do we help people silence that noise so that they can think more clearly and ultimately be more productive?”

Founded in early 2021 as a spinoff of communications app-maker Foko Retail, Nook initially launched a scheduling app that told managers and employees where everyone was planning to work on a given day as well as their purpose for being there.

But Gingras – who spent seven years as CEO of Foko before the firm was acquired by WorkForce Software in 2021 – said the founders soon realized a more “fundamental problem” faced workers who were struggling to organize the constant flow of information to their desktops and devices.

“People are using more and more apps every day,” he says. “It becomes very complicated.”

Early this summer, Nook decided to shift gears and focus on developing its new product. The eight-person team – mostly veterans of Foko Retail and Gingras’s previous company, business calendar app Tungle – quickly got to work.

“It’s not our first rodeo, so it’s like getting into a machine that’s already very well-oiled,” Gingras explains. “It’s been pretty amazing.”

Along the way, a bevy of big-name investors took note. 

The startup’s new pre-seed round is led by Code Cubitt, managing director at Ottawa’s Mistral Venture Partners. Other participants include San Francisco-based Renegade Ventures, former Shopify executives Mohammad Hashemi and Louis Kearns, Apple vice-president of software Sébastien Marineau, LinkedIn vice-president and head of business development Scott Roberts and Mike Potter, co-founder of local software firm Rewind.

“Ultimately, to me it was not about raising money,” Gingras says of Nook’s high-profile backers. “It was about getting the right people around, because I think it takes a village to build a successful startup.”

‘Product should sell itself’

Even though he’s now got a solid funding warchest to tap into, Gingras says he’s not about to go on a hiring spree. He plans to keep the team lean, preferring to channel Nook’s resources into developing a more robust platform. 

“I want to focus on building a product that people are going to want and a product that will almost not require any marketing spend,” he says. “The product should sell by itself if we do our job right.”

About 40 users have signed up to test the app so far, with more on a waiting list. Gingras says he’s in no rush to start charging for the platform, and he’s confident that revenue will start rolling in when the time is right. 

“Ultimately, my objective is to build something that’s going to last,” he says. “We just want to go step by step until we hit the mark.”

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