By Mike Foster
Three start-ups identified as “most promising” at the 2016 Start-Up Garage Rally last week have links to the University of Ottawa.
Kegshoe Inc., a simple way for breweries to keep track of their beer kegs, Spiderwort, a company that provides open-source DIY kits to build scientific equipment, and Spivo, a company marketing a swivelling selfie stick that helps adventurers and athletes take videos of themselves and their surroundings, have been designated as “most promising” among a dozen participants in the 2016 Start-Up Garage program.
Kegshoe, a company that was co-founded last year by Telfer School of Management student Torin Regier, Faculty of Engineering student Adrian Pawliszko, and former chemistry student Mike Eagar, provides software to help breweries track and manage their kegs more efficiently. Regier described their pilot study at Big Rig Brewery, which found that empty kegs were sitting idle in bars for 35 days on average and that 10 percent of these kegs went missing. Thanks to their Kegshoe system, which uses bar code stickers on kegs and cloud-based software, the time that kegs spent sitting empty before being returned to the brewery was cut in half and the number of lost kegs dropped to a mere 1.4 percent.
“We can help breweries track the entire lifecycle of their kegs. Previously, sales people were wasting time going through accounts receivable reports to track them down,” said Regier, adding that the time saved allowed these employees to focus on sales. “We are now talking with larger breweries to get them started on our keg tracking app. And our growth strategy is to expand into taking on other aspects of brewery management.”
Spiderwort was founded in 2015 at the University of Ottawa’s Pelling Lab for Biophysical Manipulation by uOttawa professor and Canada Research Chair in Experimental Cell Mechanics Andrew E. Pelling, along with biology doctoral student Daniel Modulevsky, and postdoctoral fellow Charles M. Cuerrier. The company aims to provide open source kits to build scientific equipment.
The first product that Spiderwort is aiming to develop is a kit to build an inexpensive, easy-to-install cell incubator which could be sold to universities, schools, makerspaces, biohacker labs and even artists, says Cuerrier. Three Spiderwort cell incubators are currently in use in uOttawa labs. Cell incubators replicate the conditions found inside a human body by offering a controlled environment – 37 degrees Celsius, five percent carbon dioxide, and high humidity levels – and are used by researchers to grow cell cultures. However, they can cost up to $25,000 and are usually kept in a central location.
“They are really expensive, they take up a lot of space in a lab and many people are using them at the same time,” Cuerrier said. “It is a big biohazard risk because you’re walking through corridors with cells, sometimes human cells, and when you arrive in your lab the cells are no longer at 37 degrees – you don’t want that for your experiment,” Cuerrier said.
Spiderwort’s kits have generated a lot of interest on its website, especially after Pelling’s TED Talk, said Cuerrier. The next step is to raise funds through Kickstarter to begin filling orders.
The Spivo Stick, which pans a camera 180 degrees at the touch of a button, was first created by uOttawa alumni Marc Bjerring (BASc ʼ14) and Andre Bellerive (BASc ʼ14) in a product design class at the University of Ottawa.
Read our recent Gazette article about Spivo, as well as Balance and The Growcer, two more uOttawa-linked start-ups that were among the 12 fledgling companies that took part in this summer’s Start-Up Garage program.
The annual Start-Up Garage program provides cash, space, mentorship and support to Ottawa-area students and youth to help them grow their businesses. The program receives some 80 applicants, 12 of which are selected to receive funding to work full time on their start-ups for three months.