Category Archives: Startup Profiles

Calgary Startup NiDUm Making TrainIng A Breeze

NIDUM is led by Venezuelan-born, Canadian serial entrepreneur and restaurateur Jose M. Azares. Jose is reimagining the future of how businesses tackle their HR training processes by combining virtual technology with immersive learning and colliding them with an evolving multi-sided platform.

Jose found that a solution was needed, particularly in the hospitality industry, for outdated HR practices and training pain points that can make a business inefficient and training ineffective. This type of training using virtual reality as a medium hasn’t been owned by anyone in the tech or HR industry across North America. And the augmented training module program by NIDUM can be applied to any industry, on any scale. 


Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background? 

Jose is the founder of NIDUM, and he created the company based on his own need as a restauranteur (with no industry experience). Prior to opening his restaurant, he developed his first startup company Rigware, a construction management IT startup that concentrates in the execution, pre-commissioning and turnover phases of oil and gas projects. He is the primary team member with technology experience. 

The company’s tech leader, Nirali Shah, is the primary lead to develop the platform and training modules. From simplifying user experience to integrating virtual reality, to developing our clients’ training content, she has brought the vision of the product together. With more than 15+ years of experience, she is the lead developer and VR technologist.

How are you being financed? 

Since inception last year, Jose has been bootstrapping the creation of NIDUM its first version of the product. He has been personally funding all aspects of the business, from hiring contractors to employees, to marketing to business operations. As of June 1, NIDUM has entered its earliest stage of funding, the seed round, using a crowdfunding campaign on Canadian platform FrontFundr.com. 

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome? 

Now, the immediate obstacle to overcome is the seed round. Normally early-stage funding for tech companies is extremely hard in normal conditions since they need to prove somehow they have mitigated all the associated risks with launching such a business. Now, with existing market dynamics is making it even more complicated. 


The next issue to overcome after raising the seed round will be to streamline the product development process as NIDUM reaches its  Product Market Fit inflection point, but by picking the right investors, it could be able to leapfrog some of the issues associated with such a complex process.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?


First, it’s important to have a good culture in the company, a culture that thrives with innovation, creativity, freedom, transparency, honesty, and diversity.

In specific with developers, NIDUM partnered with local development schools such as Lighthouse labs that work closely with eager students wanting to upgrade their skills and learn new technologies. The startup is working with an emerging technology Virtual Reality (VR) which makes the company a little more desirable than just coding.

Don’t rush things, it’s not a sprint, it’s a triathlon! Pick your battles, be aware, let it flow, and trust the process!

Jose M. Azares

Canadian serial entrepreneur and restaurateur, Nidum

Who is your biggest competition? 

Competition always comes in layers, not only from one facet, in NIDUM’s case. The competition includes virtual reality consultancy firms that offer eLearning and HRTech platforms, but shockingly the largest competitor is the status quo practices – one-on-one and group training sessions, paper manuals, and/or peer training.

The company occupies a unique market space within the training sector due to its hybrid model. The combination of immersive technologies, eLearning, analytics, and application integrations are part of the proprietary multi-sided platform.

Though someone could try to copy the company’s technological approach, what separates NIDUM is its social impact values – ensuring inclusion is a defacto business practice.

NIDUM’s social impact focus is to democratize employment opportunities, giving people from vulnerable communities (mental or physically challenged, people of color, refugees, immigrants, indigenous, low-income, homeless) to have access to training material that: A) reduces learning barriers B) enables them to have confidence and understanding when applying or training for work. C) Provides employers with data information about new recruits and/or  employee engagement using each training module. 

For the last proof point, being able to track new recruit engagement is the most beneficial because the training modules can be sent to a prospective employee, and thi eliminates the potential for stereotyping a future employee – solely basing their eligibility on their willingness to participate, learn, and train.

From there, turning over data and training modules is not a common practice for profit to non-profit within HR, and NIDUM sees it as an opportunity to provide further resources to equip agencies who help those from vulnerable communities enter the workforce.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets? 

From Jose: “EASY…. by not thinking about that. Creating a company with exponential growth has nothing to do with ” million dollars in revenues”, but with focusing on creating a product that genuinely brings added value to your customers. Startups need to concentrate on understanding their early adopters, behavior, interaction with the product, so you can sustainably keep bringing added value and create a scalable product that all audiences could use!

You can’t create a scalable product unless you truly understand your clients, mission, and values!

Focusing on the ” million dollars in revenues” question it’s something called the Shiny Object Syndrome. You must concentrate on your product, clients, and employee, and mission – and exponential revenues will come as a by-product.”

Currently NIDUM operates in the Canadian market (primarily in Alberta), but also has international client Noble House Hotels based out of the U.S. Long-term goals would be to be in major North America markets. 

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project?


From Jose: “Don’t rush things, it’s not a sprint, it’s a triathlon! Pick your battles, be aware, let it flow, and trust the process!”

Amazing story of a Venezuelan coming and contributing to Canadian economy. How did end up in Canada?

For Jose, he immigrated to Canada after he graduated with his civil engineering degree in Venezuela and decided to go to Concordia University in Montreal for his Masters in Engineering and Construction Management. Right after graduating with his Masters, he was hired by Suncor Energy, and worked for five years as capital growth project manager.

However, being an entrepreneur is in his blood so he really wanted to dive into a startup. He loves to be more versatile and entrepreneurship provides that opportunity, to jump industries and find solutions for existing barriers.

His first startup, Rigware was created after Suncor. He had decided to go to McGill for his MBA, but as fate had it, he decided to partner with a friend in the program and they dropped out to create the SAS software, which was sold to ATCO after they realized it was no longer scalable.

He decided to finish his MBA in 2014 in Austin, Texas, an incredible entrepreneurial hub, and during that time, he came across this unique burger called HopDoddy. Visiting it every weekend, friends encouraged Jose to bring the concept back to Canada as his next entreprenuerial venture as he didn’t want to be in tech or oil and gas.

With a gap in the marketplace, Jose identified the need for a boutique burger bar in Calgary, that was not only innovative with its food and milkshakes, but with a quirky and fun brand that hadn’t been seen in the city. Without any industry experience, he quickly moved and learned how to create the next niche thing in the city and opened RE:GRUB! The restaurant’s focus on inclusivity and hiring employees with disabilities or marginalized backgrounds created not only an opportunity for social impact with the brand, but has raised awareness for the need in employment democratization in the workforce.

Toronto Startup BagAway Helps With Your Luggage Storage

Bagsaway is a Canadian startup based in Toronto that offers on-demand luggage storage for travelers all over the world through their online booking platform. Think of BagsAway as an AirBnB for your luggage, so that whether you have a late checkin or early checkout, you’ll never have to be tied down by your luggage. The idea for BagsAway came from our co-founders’ love of travel and the difficulties they experienced missing out on opportunities for adventure while having to babysit their luggage.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?


BagsAway was started by friends Eugene Veeden and Irina Zusman. Eugene was a software engineer who loved to travel and saw an opportunity in a problem anyone could see upon arrival to destinations across the world – why were all these people lugging bags around?! Irina’s has been heavily active in the startup community since graduating from college, working as a Manager of Operation and Product Development for Touch Taxi Media and acting as a marketing executive for Locomobi and the “Have a Heart for Down Syndrome” Foundation.

How are you being financed?


So far, BagsAway has been bootstrapped, but is proud to be a member of Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, the top business incubator in Canada.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?


The biggest obstacle for BagsAway is letting people know we’re here! Many travelers don’t know that this service even exists and feel relegated to lugging their suitcases around town with them before checkins or late departing flights. Once people know we exist and have the chance to experience the freedom and security of leaving your baggage with one of our storage partners, they’ll never travel without booking luggage storage again!

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?


With Eugene’s background in software engineering, he is the primary developer for the site, but we also work with an agency that helps advise us on technical SEO, design, user experience, and other elements of our website.

Bagsaway Team

Who is your biggest competition?


Our biggest competition greatly depends on where travelers are headed. There are smaller companies that cater only to specific locations, and there are larger companies that have widespread reach in a handful of locations. The goal for BagsAway, however is to be a global solution so that no matter where travelers go, they have a company they can trust to safely and securely store their luggage – and help local small businesses along the way.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?


Right now, we’re focused on improving our website, growing our number of partner locations to include top destinations on all the major continents, and providing excellent service to our customers. Shoring up each of these elements of our business while simultaneously spreading the word about our service will help us achieve our revenue goals. With travel still being restricted in many areas of the world, we’ve had a great opportunity to take a step back and start looking at the changes that we want to make for greater success in the future.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.


Our biggest lesson came very early – and maybe a touch harshly. In order to succeed, you have to be able to scale and adapt at a rapid pace. BagsAway actually started out as an on-demand pickup and delivery service for travelers. But we quickly realized that this model would be incredibly difficult to scale to areas outside of our local region. With all our investments tied up in this venture we had to quickly figure out how to make the idea work while completely rethinking our business model. Although it was tough to make major changes so quickly, it taught us to always keep listening to our customers in order to continuously improve our offerings. And that is a lesson that has paid for itself 10x over.

Toronto Startup Tazwiz Helps with Local Hiring

Tazwiz is a personal assistant for Startups, Entrepreneurs and SME to ease daily operations. On the platform, post a task that you need help with, set your budget and requirements. Tazwiz will take care of the rest from connecting you to local students and taskers to handling the payments.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have a tech background? 

Tazwiz was started by Parth Patel while pursuing his computer engineering degree. With many successes and failures in his past startups, Parth never gave up the entrepreneurial dream. When it came to Tazwiz, Parth risked it all and dropped out of college to pursue his passion full-time.

How are you being financed? 

Tazwiz was able to secure an angel investment early on to bring the MVP to life, and recently secured a seed round from a Houston based VC to help Tazwiz expand across Canada and into other parts of the world.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome? 

The biggest problem to overcome for any market place is the classic chicken and egg problem. In other words balancing supply and demand. We are growing daily and need to make sure that we have enough taskers (students/professionals) on the site to match the requests of customers. 

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company? 

When building a good product with a strong vision, you’ll attract developers from where you least expect it. For instance Parth and Orlandson (now Co-Founder and CTO of Tazwiz) had met each other in a summer marketing class. Of course, the rest is history. 

Who is your biggest competition? 

Upwork is our biggest competitor, but unlike them, Tazwiz has uniquely focused on providing our customers with local support of young talented students. We want to corner the niche market of student and freelance employment which is growing by leaps and bounds in this uncertain job economy. Also, there are tasks that people just don’t want to do or would rather pay someone else to do, we offer that service. 

How are you intending on taking your company to million of dollars in revenues? In what markets? 

To reach a million dollars in revenue, our main focus has been in providing value at a community level by collaborating with incubators and government agencies. One of Tazwiz’s core values is that by working together as one, no challenge can be unsolved. 

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

Investing in a team that has genuine care for your product is the biggest asset for any startup. Throughout the journey, you will be faced with a lot of hurdles but when you have a team that cares, they will sacrifice without you asking; work hard without you asking; and dig deeper without you asking. 

Montreal Mixonset AI Startup Helps To Discover Music

Mixonset is the best way to discover music that fits your vibe. It’s like having a personal DJ in your pocket that curates the music you listen to by suggesting exactly the songs that you’re feeling in the moment. Mixonset’s AI also beat-matches your Spotify playlist so that everything sounds great together, and even creates seamless transitions at the right moments. It’s a DJ that you can use anywhere with one tap.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

Zeyu Li and Boris But founded the startup. A few years ago, Zeyu was building software for investment banks in Toronto in the day and working the turntables at clubs at night. He decided to go back to McGill to learn how to apply Artificial Intelligence to mix music – which sowed the seeds for Mixonset. After working on the Mixonset algorithm for a couple years, Zeyu met Boris at McGill University and started the company.

Our short term goal is to monetize our app through an ad-supported free version and a premium version with features that will blow every other music app out of the water.

Longer term, we can also license our music mixing technology to other music streaming services as a value differentiator.

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Boris But

Co-Founder & CMO

How are you being financed?

Mixonset is currently bootstrapping with personal investments and grants. We made personal investments into the company, won an AI entrepreneurship grant from the government and won the Videotron Innovative Media Prize at StartupFest.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

Our biggest obstacle is scaling up with minimal spending. Since Mixonset is still a 2-person startup, both Co-Founders are juggling too many tasks at the same time. We’re testing new features all the time, new interfaces, new market segments, and speaking to different user persona types. We’re definitely on the right track, but we need to nail down the exact recipe for success and get to the next phase of our development.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

We have a network of IT guys that we can hire because we’re deeply embedded in McGill University. Considering there is an AI boom in Montreal right now, we can find top-tier talent. But the best way to hire is still through friends of friends of friends and build upon that chain of trust.

Who is your biggest competition?

Our closest competitors are mobile DJ apps that transpose complicated music mixing software onto a much smaller screen – it just doesn’t work. Our biggest competition is Spotify, even though they’re not directly in the music mixing space.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

Our short term goal is to monetize our app through an ad-supported free version and a premium version with features that will blow every other music app out of the water. Longer term, we can also license our music mixing technology to other music streaming services as a value differentiator. We can also expand to other audio-based industries, such as gaming and video production.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

There are an important number that we track every single day on our office white board. There’s a ‘98’ written next to a poorly-illustrated coffee cup which represents the number of coffee dates I’ve been on in the last few months with end users. This number reminds me to leave the office and speak to the people who actually use Mixonset so I can truly understand what problem we’re trying to solve – and from that, what solution we can build. Our success hinges on building something that people love.

If you’re interested in trying out Mixonset for free, Spotify Premium or iTunes users can install Mixonset on the Apple App Store.

Toronto’s Startup Oncoustics Simplifies Liver Disease Diagnostics

We have sat down with Ahmed El Kaffas, Co-Founder at Oncoustics, to talk about his Toronto’s startup. The company helps with early diagnosis when it comes to liver disease without invasive biopsies or expensive imaging.

Oncoustics is changing that with AI diagnostics for inexpensive, pocket-sized, point-of-care ultrasound, which is not ordinarily capable of high-resolution diagnostic imaging.

They do this by mining unique raw data streams for subtle signatures of disease, which is beyond perception with conventional methods.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

The Founder: Dr. Ahmed El Kaffas is an Instructor at Stanford University in Radiology researching ultrasound tissue characterization. Dr. El Kaffas graduated from the University of Toronto’s prestigious Sunnybrook Research Institute where world-renowned ultrasound and medical imaging research is conducted.

CEO on founding team: Dr. Michael Weil is an MD in Radiation Oncology and has led several innovative technological developments from concept to market, including products that he has fully licensed to Siemens. He also founded Sirius Medical and has 15+ years in imaging technologies.

Business lead on founding team: Beth Rogozinski is a serial entrepreneur at the cross-bridge of tech and medicine.  She has served as CEO of Signal 2 Health and CPO of Pear Therapeutics. He work has produced >30 apps and > 12 for healthcare w/ 2 FDA approvals.

Oncoustics is a multi-disciplinary international team of radiologists, hepatologists, engineers, physicists, AI/ML and business experts, with international data collection and collaborations with Stanford and University of Toronto; total of ~13 employees.

How are you being financed?

Seed Angel Consortium through the Creative Destruction Lab (Toronto) and non-dilutive funds from Grand Challenges Canada, OCE and others. 

Building a start up is a lot of work, and as a founder, you are involved in everything from hiring, finding talent to tech dev, business pitches and strategies.

It’s a lot of fun, but it takes a lot of work and many don’t realize that still… failures happen, and one needs to move on after learning the lesson – things never run smoothly.

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What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

Our initial obstacle was to set up a global network of clinics to acquire data to train on – this is because the data Oncoustics uses is unique and not conventionally stored on any ultrasound system or hospital repository (PACS). Oncoustics has spent the last year addressing this issue, and now have a steady stream of data flowing into our cloud system, and have started building AI on these.

The next major challenge will be a business one, that is to ensure that Oncoustics can have our product as part of the healthcare buying lifecycle – this is not a major challenge due to our software-based solution which taps on to already available hardware systems in the clinics. 

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

I tend to have a lot of faith in new grads that are passionate about tech and develop, and i’ve found that they are often deeply committed and have quick insight about the product once a training phase of 2-4 months passes; having them take ownership of the work and play a crucial role in the company also ensures that they are part of a founding team in start up like ours.

The GTA is full of excellent tech workers that have proven themselves over and over. I am also linked to Egypt, and often visit – Oncoustics has found an excellent network of developers there deeply passionate about the start up scene. As such, Oncoustics has been fortunate to run our business across several continents and to tap into an incredible network of talent in tech.

Who is your biggest competition?

Due to the nature of our business, Oncoustics does not have any direct completion. That said, Oncoustics has other players that are in parallel spaces; essentially other AI in medical imaging companies.

How are you intending on taking your company to millions / billions dollars in revenues? In what markets?

  • Introducing  low-cost liver disease surveillance and diagnostics with ultrasound; the alternative is i) invasive biopsies, or ii) imaging systems that cost > $150k-$1M.
  • Using a data-driven solution to enable low cost (< $5k) point-of-care ultrasound systems conventionally designed for guiding a procedure in the emergency room, now transformed to equivalent  systems to those in a radiology department.

As death and morbidity rates from liver disease rise around the world, there is a growing need for low cost and widely available surveillance and diagnostics.  Oncoustics provides just such a system that is an alternative to both invasive and expensive biopsies and high end imaging systems that cost > $150k-$1M. Our data-driven solution enables low cost (< $5k) point-of-care ultrasound systems to be used as diagnostic systems and accelerates the procedure from hours to minutes.  Via this system, more patients everywhere can have faster access to better diagnostics, surveillance and treatment than currently exists.

Revenue will come from:

  • Partnering with clinical centers,
  • Distribution through a Saas Model with PoC ultrasound OEMs
  • Partnerships with Pharmas to train our data for specific indications (i.e. companion device)

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

Building a start up is a lot of work, and as a founder, you are involved in everything from hiring, finding talent to tech dev, business pitches and strategies. It’s a lot of fun, but it takes a lot of work and many don’t realize that still… failures happen, and one needs to move on after learning the lesson – things never run smoothly.

As a company, Oncoustics had to do several pivots to iterate how Oncoustics introduce our tech and idea into the market, and that on it’s own took a significant amount of time and several years of development, talking to MDs, OEMs and understanding the real problems in the space Oncoustics is trying to tackle.

Quebec City’s MyCustomizer is Making it easier to Shop

We have sat down with Renaud Teasdale Co-Founder and CEO of startup MyCustomizer to ask him about his Quebec City’s company and the success he had with it.

Summarize your company in an elevator pitch.

MyCustomizer empowers brands to engage customers in outstanding design-your-own experiences with a powerful online platform.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

Renaud Teasdale co-founded the company with Simon Vallières and Thierry Proulx. Renaud is a designer who worked for Warrior (New Balance) while Simon and Thierry are full stack developers. After witnessing the emergence of mass customization, they decided to build a software platform allowing any brand to sell customizable products online. A few years later, Malo Guertin, a skilled software engineer joined us as in intern and now leads our development team.

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Being persistent is key.

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Renaud Teasdale

Co-Founder and CEO MyCustomizer

How are you being financed?

We raised a micro-seed round back in 2012 with Founderfuel and BDC and pretty much bootstrapped our way to profitability. We now have a solid client base from startups to large companies such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Suunto.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

We are launching MyCustomizer 2.0 a fully self-serve solution on the Shopify App Store in the next few weeks and our goal from there will be to scale exponentially. It’s going to be a big challenge to handle the growth while keeping an excellent service. We want to make sure our clients succeed. If they win, we win.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

We have success with internships and word of mouth.  Having a great work environment (flexible schedule and vacations, work from home) where people want to show up on Monday mornings also helps!

Who is your biggest competition?

An agency like Fluid has a large chunk of the high end market. Our model is different because we are purely a software-as-a-service play. We are more like Shopify for customization.

How are you intending on taking your company to millions / billions dollars in revenues? In what markets?

Mass customization and ecommerce in general are definitely growing trends. We are building the best platform to sell custom products online. This is a huge market across all verticals from sporting goods to food. Studies have shown that 25-30% of online shoppers are interested to try customization. If 25% of online sales of footwear are customized, that equate to a market of 2 Billion per year.

8. What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Being persistent is key. Back in 2012, all the investors were telling us that this was a niche market. It is now very clear that this is a huge opportunity. The world is moving towards production on-demand at light speed.

Toronto’s HomeStars Helps Home Owners Pick Qualified Contractors

We have interviewed Nancy Peterson, founder and CEO of HomeStars, and asked her few questions about the company. HomeStars is Canada’s largest network connecting homeowners with trusted home service pros.

Summarize your company in an elevator pitch.

HomeStars was started in Toronto in 2006 by Nancy Peterson. She was on maternity leave and renovating her own home at the time and was alarmed by the lack of resources available to her to find and hire reputable trades. She started HomeStars with a marketing background (formerly she worked for Kraft) and no real tech experience.

Nancy Peterson working at the office.

HomeStars is Canada’s largest online marketplace connecting homeowners with trusted home service professionals. In 2018, 8 million homeowners visited HomeStars looking for a pro for their next home improvement project. HomeStars, an ANGI Homeservices company, is part of a global network of home improvement marketplaces in Europe, the UK and the US, including Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

Nancy said she had no tech background, but now 20% of her workforce are engineers/tech-focused. She currently employs just over 100 people.

How are you being financed?

Originally, the company was financed by Angel Investors and Bank (founder) Debt. But in 2017, HomeStars was acquired by Denver-based HomeAdvisor. They are now part of the ANGI Homeservices group of companies and are part of a worldwide network of home service marketplaces.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

The biggest obstacle to overcome is consumer awareness.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

We look across functional areas in the business. We go to meet-ups and events. It’s a very competitive market, but we are in a unique spot in Canada.

We are part of a publicly-traded organization, but with a lot of autonomy. It’s unique since we have all the benefits of a big company, but still run like a start-up. It gives us a great advantage.

Who is your biggest competition?

Google and word of mouth.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

We have already passed that. We are already 8-digits and are looking to 9-digits.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

Reviews are still very vital to what we do. We have built our business on them.

How do you verify your reviews / know they are legit?

First off, yes HomeStars verifies its reviews. Reviews are submitted and before they are published, they go through a series of software checks. These software checks notify review moderators to anything that does not look legit. The moderators then check them manually to ensure there is nothing suspicious. Many reviews are rejected if they are not found to be legit. In addition, as a matter of process, reviews are randomly investigated.

Also as a point of interest, HomeStars is currently doing background and criminal checks on companies and has completed more than 80% so far.