Innovation is thriving around Ontario, with great companies emerging all over the province. This post is part of a monthly series featuring the up-and-coming companies of MaRS’ partners across Ontario.
When I got out of my taxi at 720 Ouellette Avenue in Windsor, Ontario, I saw a couple of energetic people chalking something on the ground and a guy from the local media capturing the scene. When I got closer I found out that WEtech Alliance was celebrating Social Media Day by creating the largest chalk-Twitter display that Windsor (and I!) had ever seen. How cool is that?!
Here’s a glimpse:
WEtech Alliance (a member of ONE – Ontario Network of Excellence) is an exemplary organization that works to foster innovation and help technology startups from the Windsor-Essex region accelerate their businesses through mentoring, innovative programs, networking events, workshops and industry collaboration. I love the fact that they share a space with the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator, a group that works toward a similar goal: helping entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses.
Through WEtech’s Entrepreneur-In-Residence program, clients (startups) gain access to experienced entrepreneurs who help them to refine their business plans, target their customer analysis, pitch to investors and more. Additionally, entrepreneurs benefit from Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Workshops and market intelligence services via MaRS.
WEtech is amazing when it comes to collaboration, helping the whole community prosper. The business communities in Windsor benefit from one-on-one entrepreneurial coaching, peer-to-peer networking (an initiative that helps with professional development, knowledge sharing and relationship building) and the deskUP program, which aims to help university and college graduates take the first steps toward entrepreneurship in the innovation and technology sector in the Windsor-Essex region.
All of the above-mentioned programs are currently successful, and new ones are sure to emerge due to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Windsor-Essex region. Many exceptional and innovative companies are coming out of this region. I would like to present a few success stories to learn from and get inspired. (It was very hard to pick just three, there were numerous!)
Adversity -> Innovation
When three young, enthusiastic men suddenly lost their jobs working for an ad agency that helped a large car manufacturer with its interactive projects they took it as an opportunity to start something of their own. Innovating and converting their passion into reality (or business), they launched Red Piston, a company that specializes in building innovative mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry Playbook. The best part? The company was self-funded with their own savings!
Red Piston was recently named the 2012 Windsor Chamber of Commerce Startup of the Year.
Improving quality, efficiency, process and productivity in the manufacturing sector.
Through continuous hard work, Radix Controls has become an innovator in advanced manufacturing technology applications, offering North American manufacturers solutions for industrial applications and automation with the goal of improving quality and effectiveness for manufacturing facilities.
Radix Controls is currently a participant on CBC’s “The Big Decision,” a television program in search of Canada’s next great innovator, and has recently launched Tool Tracker, a new vision-based camera system that will monitor and report errors made in the manufacturing process. “The Big Decision,” which features Jim Treliving and Arlene Dickinson, gives struggling Canadian companies a chance to prove their worth and turn their chances around.
In 2007, Radix Controls was recognized in PROFIT magazine’s annual ranking of Canada’s fastest-growing companies.
Innovation at its best – protecting the environment and creating employment.
It was interesting to note that while other cleantech companies are not doing so well in the Windsor region, Unconquered Sun Solar Technologies is moving toward greater use of solar technology not only to protect the environment but also to create more jobs. The company has proven that, through innovation and passion, the status quo can be challenged and success can be achieved.
Unconquered Sun manufactures solar-powered golf carts that run for about 180 kilometres without needing to be plugged in to charge. Kingsville Golf and Country Club in the Windsor region has been using these golf carts and promoting the use of clean energy. Very recently, a new partnership emerged to install 500 solar panels on the roofs of two buildings at the Kingsville Golf and Country Club to help make the golf course more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Unconquered Sun Solar Technologies won the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 Go Green Award.
I don’t think any further explanation is required to appreciate what is happening in this region of Ontario. Research and innovation are being fostered in the Windsor-Essex region and organizations like WEtech Alliance have religiously committed themselves to helping startups succeed and enhancing economic development.