The Next Big Thing: A Recap of Startup Edmonton’s 5th Annual Launch Party | By Hanhmi Huynh

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Startup Edmonton’s 5th Annual Launch Party, where each year 10 up and coming startup companies in Edmonton are featured. This year the list included:

Alieo Games
Instacoins
MADSOFT Games
MASV
OMx
Otto
Pogo CarShare
TeachMe
Trajectory
TwoFold

 

This year’s event was held at the EPCOR Tower, a pristine new business venue in Edmonton. As a nursing student attending business events in my semester off, I was glowing with excitement. Just as we were walking in, we ran into Mayor Don Iveson, looking dapper, and exceptionally approachable, as always. Already a great start to an impressive event! The venue was filled with a mix of students, investors and business professionals eager to learn more about these exciting new companies.

The night started with opening speeches from representatives of Startup Edmonton, the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) and the Mayor. Derek Hudson from EEDC spoke about igniteedmonton.com, a new website to support entrepreneurship in Edmonton, and for customers and partners to discover local businesses. The Mayor spoke to our city’s emerging economy, and acknowledged the creativity of these startups. Edmonton is rapidly changing: 40% of new jobs in the country were created in Edmonton. “People are starting to take notice of Edmonton and recognize that it is the best place to take a risk and create something,” the Mayor concluded.

The opening pitches from each company gave a brief introduction of what they were all about. However, I wanted to get to know a little more about some of these companies and how they started. Time was limited, so I went straight to the companies that caught my attention the most.

Pogo Carshare
Pogo Carshare officially launched that night. Pogo is a locally-based company that allows Edmontonians to use Pogo cars in their area. I talked to James Kwan, a University of Alberta graduate and co-founder of the company:

Who are the people involved and responsible for the start of the company?
Our team consists of five people in total, two of which are University of Alberta grads.

How does the service work?
Currently, we have twenty cars in total: twelve active and eight in preparation. What you would do is check to see if there is a Pogo car available in your area (we have an app in the works) and check out the pick-up and drop-off zones. For example, say you were tired of studying at the University and wanted to head to Whyte. You would locate a car in the University area, access it and park on Whyte. And since they are in the same zone, you do not need to return the car to where you originally found it.

The payment options are per minute, per hour, or per km after 200km. For insurance purposes, we also have eligibility requirements; members have to be over the age of 21 and they require good driver’s abstract.

What are your goals as a startup company?
We want to grow as quickly and sustainably as we can while delivering as much value as possible to Edmontonians. We hope to reach 150 cars by the end of next year.

How will you deal with problems such as downtown parking and the criticism that you will be taking up parking spaces for Edmontonians?
I would argue that although it seems counterintuitive, our service will help with the congestion and help with parking downtown. For example, many car owners are looking to transition from two cars to one, sell their cars, or look for alternatives to car ownership. This would be a great way for people to still drive to the places they need without the stress of car ownership. Parking is also included with our service as we are in partnership with the city.

What was your motivation for starting this company in Edmonton?
It was something that we felt was missing. Many of our founders use alternative modes of transportation; one of our co-founders is a huge cycling enthusiast. We wanted a way to help make Edmonton more sustainable and also provide a service that would give back.

OMx
With an abundance of information about health in the media and online, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate information about health and to determine what specific health markers are importantOMx provides in depth testing of more than 120 health indicators to empower people with a personalized action plan to achieve their optimal health. Common health factors include vitamins, hormones, athletic indicators, metabolites and other micro-indicators that alone may be insignificant, but in combination with other markers, are useful in providing insight into our overall health and could possibly help with early diagnoses. As a nursing student, I was intrigued. In the past year, there has been growing research on urinalysis and metabolomics, especially here at the University. I went to talk to Michael Wilson, one of the co-founders of the company and another University of Alberta grad.

How does the service work?
Once you sign up you are mailed a kit which includes a urine cup and a  six millilitre vacuum test tube. Both are sterile, and the test tube is lined with a solution that prevents bacterial growth and contains preservatives to keep the sample chemically sound for 72 hours. Once the sample is mailed back to the lab, it is tested with a gas chromotography mass spectrometer (GCMS) machine, analyzed, and the test results are interpreted to give a snapshot of your health. The test results identify, for example, which nutrients are in excess or lacking, as well as other points of interest used to analyze your overall health to help prioritize goals. If you continue to test, you can keep track of your goals and identify trends in your health. The service costs around $400 per test and $1500 for a year subscription, and includes a one-on-one consultation and review of the report with a dietician.

What does your company offer that other fitness tracking apps don’t?
OMx offers a specific, accessible way to track and monitor patterns in much more detail than even a regular medical lab. It is easy to use and understand, providing an individualized report of your health. Urinalysis can reveal a significant amount about your health. Not only are there waste products, but urine also contains other important indicators such as sugars, vitamins, amino acids, sodium, urea, creatinine, hormones and toxins that can give insight to information about protein digestion, hydration, muscle breakdown, infection and even chronic disease.

When did you start and what are some of your goals?
OMx started a little less than a year ago and we are still in the works. We are in partnership with the University for lab use and to get some traction before investments help fund our organization. We are currently looking for beta testers in the range of about 200 people in the next two months. Right now we are hoping to partner with athletic organizations, fitness centres, and geneticists as complimentary testing. We are hoping to work towards early diagnosis and prevention in the future.

Michael then went on to show us a sample of what the test results looked like. The graphics designed by their Creative Director, Christina (also a University of Alberta graduate) were aesthetically appealing, organized in a manner that was easy to interpret and understand.

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