Ottawa software startups take centre stage at L-Spark's SaaS Showcase

Brokrete CEO Jordan Latourelle was among the Ottawa entrepreneurs pitching at L-Spark's 2019 SaaS Showcase. Photo by Asen Aleksandrov.

Entrepreneurs seeking to tap new markets in fields ranging from boating safety to blockchain-integrated data management pitched their ideas to a packed ballroom Wednesday in L-Spark’s annual SaaS Showcase at the Brookstreet Hotel.

The event put a spotlight on many of L-Spark’s software-as-a-service accelerator companies, and for the first time ever it also featured players from outside of the Kanata-based company’s portfolio. They included startups supported by Invest Ottawa, Algonquin College, the University of Ottawa, Queen’s University and Montreal’s Holt Accelerator.

Trebble CEO and founder Armel Beaudry presented his vision for “the future of media consumption.”

Trebble FM, which is the product of Beaudry’s partnership with Algonquin College, is a platform aimed at businesses, media and content creators looking to create, distribute and listen to shortcasts. Shortcasts are “snackable” one- to two-minute audio bites that content providers would usually produce daily.

“With the platform, we are allowing people to catch up with what they care about, without having their screen in front of them,” Beaudry said. “You can do it while you're driving or in the shower. It’s an eyes-free, hands-free experience.”

The platform uses “capsules” – think of it like a tweet, but in audio. Trebble creators can include capsules with their content giving listeners access to interactive options such as more information or direct purchasing.

“We are allowing people to interact with the content. For example, if you were listening this morning and you heard about the L-Spark showcase, you could say, ‘Hey, can you send me ticket information?’ and Trebble will send that information right to your phone,” Beaudry explained.

These interactions are done hands-free by speaking to your device. Trebble content is integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Home smart speakers, but the app’s built-in voice assistant supports vocal interaction without any smart speakers.

The Trebble FM mobile app launched Wednesday. The platform’s revenue model is based around subscriptions and advertising partnerships, and its creators aim to have 10,000 daily listeners by the end of summer 2019.

Elizabeth Audette-Bourdeau pitches on behalf of Welbi at L-Spark's 2019 SaaS Showcase. Photo by Asen Aleksandrov.

Some featured presenters at the event, such as Mero Technologies, already have a foothold in their industry and are seeking investment towards their future growth. The showcase crowd heard that Mero is looking to raise $500,000 to cover development costs in hopes of “scaling (its) solution across North America.”

Mero is an intelligent labour and supply management tool, and is already used by clients such as Toronto’s Pearson Airport and Hilton Hotels & Resorts.  

“We are looking into revolutionizing how property management works,” said co-founder Nathan Mah at the top of his presentation. The app closes in on that goal by monitoring janitorial staff traffic and cleaning supplies in corporate buildings and cutting out redundancies and waste.

Mah said the issues Mero addresses currently cost North American businesses billions of dollars each year in unnecessary expenses. Mero’s revenue stream is based around subscriptions, and the app has so far shown to save an average of $500,000 annually to Mero’s Canadian corporate clients, its creators say.

This year’s showcase once again supported the Ottawa chapter of Technovation, a global technology entrepreneurship program supporting and encouraging young girls in the tech sector. The 2018 Technovation winners in the high school category presented their smart grocery app, Doof.

Doof – which is “food” spelled backwards – aims to “provide an easy-to-use platform to help manage groceries,” according to presenters Rica Qiu, Cherish Zhang, Divya Menon, Grace Gao and Shannon Cui, who currently attend Colonel By Secondary School.

Their presentation said 2.2 million tonnes of usable food are wasted each year around the world, and Doof is targeted at users who want to reduce their household’s food waste. The startup plans to generate revenue through advertising on its platform and partnerships with local grocers in the hope of introducing points-based rewards systems and coupons.

The app is currently under development, and the founders hope to find local partners by mid-July, followed by a full launch in December.

Technovation ambassador Jennifer Francis told Techopia the program has already had tangible impacts, noting many of its alumni have gone on to participate in the Dev Degree program, a joint venture of Carleton University and Ottawa’s Shopify.

“It’s been a good pipeline into the industry from a proven success perspective,” Francis said.