If you’re trying to give someone directions to a great hidden gem around town, you might pull out your smartphone or recite the turns they need to take.
How do you do that on a lake, especially when you can’t see the hazards that lurk below?
Enter Wavve Boating. In 2018, the Kingston-based business launched a GPS navigation app for smartphones that helps boaters keep their vessels safely afloat.
“When I was a teen working along the St. Lawrence Seaway, I would try to sell nautical charts but most of the boaters couldn’t read them or didn’t care to learn how to,” founder Adam Allore said of his inspiration for Wavve. “They would want to know, ‘Where’s Potters Beach?’ or ‘Where are the pike?’ and I’d have to say things like, ‘See that tall pine? Line up with that spruce, head in a straight line, avoid the rocks, then turn right at the cove…’”
“People would look at me like I was crazy,” Allore admitted.
Since its launch, Wavve’s app has placed easy-to-understand digital maps for all North American waterways into the hands of tens of thousands of boaters. Wavve has seen exponential growth over the past three years in the U.S., where 85 per cent of its customer base resides. The company has plans to expand outside North America in the coming years fueled by sales to individual consumers and, increasingly, through partnerships with boat clubs and boating organizations. More recently, its software was integrated into the dashboard of Bombardier’s high-end 2021 Sea-Doo GTX with the first-of-its-kind marine connected technology.
But transitioning from a neat idea to an international success doesn’t just happen. You need a roadmap to help you figure out a destination and a plan to get there.
This is why Allore turned to Launch Lab, a regional innovation centre that supports entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises throughout eastern Ontario.
“With Launch Lab, there’s a connection to a lot of skilled business advisors and partner organizations in the startup ecosystem,” the first-time entrepreneur said. “You’re going to find a really good fit for a business mentor.”
Through Launch Lab, Allore was introduced to a Launch Lab mentor who helped him shape the company’s next steps. First, he met Sam Khan, a Launch Lab entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR). Khan’s expertise in software development and scaling applications, as well as his familiarity with relevant government funding opportunities, helped Wavve raise capital and shape the early product.
Allore was later introduced to the Southeastern Ontario Angel Network (SOAN) and eventually to Mike Amos, who recently became SOAN’s managing director – building on decades of Bay Street and startup experience. SOAN played a big role in Wavve’s seed investment funding and Amos, a boating enthusiast, guided Wavve through challenges such as how to position its product for business sales. Post-seed investment, Amos has remained engaged with the company as an investor and growth coach.
“SOAN and Launch Lab work together to help companies create value, employ Canadians and help them scale,” said Amos. “There’s a growing movement in tech ecosystems to ensure businesses have the right combination of experience, enthusiasm and capital, creating the ideal conditions for innovation. That’s what SOAN and Launch Lab aim to foster through our collaboration.”
But it turns out those conditions aren’t just great for the startups. EIRs such as Khan say it’s people like Allore who keep them engaged with Launch Lab: entrepreneurs who are interested in growing their businesses, who have a great product idea and are easy to work with.
“You don’t know what will happen or what new technology might enter so, when you’re investing in these companies, you’re betting on the people,” said Amos. “And it’s important to have that support at two in the morning when you’re staring in the abyss, unsure about what to do. I did it without Launch Lab in the early 2000s and could have used this kind of help.”
For full Launch Lab program details, more info about its EIRs and success stories, visit launchlab.ca.