’Tis the startup season: A startup gift guide for the holidays

’Tis the startup season: A startup gift guide for the holidays

If you’re still scratching your head trying to come up with the perfect presents for your loved ones, consider giving the gift of innovation and celebrating the imaginative products offered by Ontario startups in our Startup Gift Guide. The MaRS Market Intelligence team has selected a number of great gift ideas that are guaranteed to be favourites during this festive time.

The list features gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list, including the tech lover, the fitness and health enthusiast, the creative minded, the young learner and the people who are just looking to give back. This holiday season get a little creative with gift items from Ontario startups.

For the avid young reader

Ooka Island

Headquarters: Toronto, ON, and Charlottetown, PEI
Product: Ooka Island
Price: Monthly subscription, $11.99; one-year subscription, $99.99; two-year subscription, $169.99. Gift subscription: three-month program, $39.99; one-year program, $99.99; one-year program and books, $149.99

This holiday season give the gift of reading with a ticket to Ooka Island. Combining over 25 years of research and scientifically proven methods, Ooka Island is a fun, interactive way to teach children ages 3 to 7 the skills needed to become a confident reader. Ooka Island identifies a child’s reading strengths and learning style, and provides a customized learning experience. The online educational tool provides over 80 hours of research-based adventures, 85 e-books and 24 levels filled with characters, music and stories to help young learners master reading. The learning platform also provides parents real-time reports so that they are aware of their child’s strengths and where they need additional help.

For the holiday season, Ooka Island allows family and loved ones to purchase a gift subscription (three-month or one-year program) that can be redeemed at any time by the recipient.

Ooka Island
Ooka Island President & CEO Kelly Shaw with two young readers

For the fitness fanatic


Headquarters: Toronto, ON
Name of product: Posture Performance Shirt
Price: $89.99

The Posture Performance Shirt ensures that the wearer maintains an upright posture throughout his or her workout. Adrenalease has extensively researched and designed the shirt to passively stretch specific muscle groups. Correct posture can relieve overstressed muscles (often aggravated by long hours sitting at a desk) and potentially increase aerobic performance through improved airflow. Available for both men and women in a variety of colours, fabrics and sizes, this shirt may be just what the fitness enthusiasts in your life need to take their workouts to the next level!

Adrenalease posture performance shirt
Adrenalease posture performance shirt help wearers maintain upright posture during workouts.

For the health conscious


Headquarters: Mississauga, ON
Product: iHeart Device and Internal Age App
Price: US$195

Do we all age at the same rate? Is it possible to affect your rate of aging? The answer to these questions depends on how you define aging. From a physiological perspective, the rate of aging can be manipulated.

Vitalsines, a health technology company based out of Mississauga, has developed the iHeart Internal Age System, an innovative tool that tracks and monitors your physiological age. The system consists of a Bluetooth fingertip optical sensor and an iOS app that measures the shape of an individual’s arterial pulse wave, which is determined by the stiffness of the aorta. Years of scientific research have shown that there is a strong relationship between aortic stiffness, overall health and a person’s life expectancy. By measuring aortic stiffness, iHeart can provide an estimate of a person’s physiological age.

Depending on lifestyle choices, a person’s physiological age might be quite different from his or her chronological age. Increased daily activity, less stress and a healthy diet will all contribute to lowering the rate of aging. Using the iHeart iOS mobile app, users can track their physiological age over time and make adjustments to their lifestyle in order to decrease their physiological age and improve their health.

VitalSines iheart device
VitalSines; iheart device tracks and monitors your physiological age.

For the generous giver

Lucky Iron Fish

Headquarters: Guelph, ON, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Name of product: A School of Lucky Iron Fish
Price: $35

Give the generous gift of health for families in need by purchasing a School of Lucky Iron Fish. Iron deficiency affects billions of people worldwide, impacting cognitive ability, physical development and more. To combat this preventable condition, the team created the Lucky Iron Fish, a fish-shaped iron ingot designed to release iron into cooking water. A single Lucky Iron Fish placed in a cooking pot daily can provide a family with up to 90% of their daily iron intake. By purchasing a School of Lucky Iron Fish, five fish will be donated and distributed to people who need it the most. In less than a year, families who use these Lucky Iron Fish will be healthier—and, importantly, will also feel better—due to increased iron levels.

Lucky Iron Fish
Lucky Iron Fish is a fish-shaped iron ingot designed to release iron into cooking water.

For the colour lover

Nix Sensor

Headquarters: Hamilton, ON
Name of product: Nix Pro Color Sensor
Price: $349
Discount code: MARSHOLIDAYS (receive 10% off until December 24)

If you have a lovable colour nerd in your life—someone who is able to distinguish sky blue from robin’s egg blue from turquoise—then the Nix Pro Color Sensor is the ultimate gift. It’s like the Adobe Photoshop eyedropper tool, but on steroids. The Nix Pro Color Sensor is a sturdy and portable device that when placed on any surface will send an accurate colour reading of that surface wirelessly to your smartphone through the Nix app.

The Nix Pro Color Sensor takes the guesswork out of finding the perfect paint match. Have you ever seen the perfect paint colour for your room, but have no idea what the colour is? With the Nix Pro Color Sensor, you can find the perfect match to any colour with the major paint manufacturers or colour schemes (RGB, CMYK, HTML, HEX, CIELAB, and XYZ).

The Nix Pro Color Senor blocks out all ambient light and provides its own calibrated light source, making it more accurate than any fan deck or human eye.

NixPro Color Sensor
Nix Pro Color Sensor is a device that can send an accurate colour reading of a surface to your smartphone.

For the digitally creative


Headquarters: Waterloo, ON
Name of product: Palette
Price: Starter kit is US$199, with add-ons starting at US$29

Palette gear offers a modular input system that enables tactile controls for digital editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. Built-in magnets allow you to snap individual modules (three types in total: the slider, the dial and the button) into the layout that is best suited for your workflow. Through an app that you can download to your computer, you can program each module to control a particular function in the digital editing program you’re using and save different configurations as profiles for various tasks to further increase your productivity. Not limited to photo and video editing, Palette controls can also be used in MIDI mode for music software.

With their aluminum finish (or the limited wood edition) and LED-lit edges, the modules are reminiscent of controls that you would find on a classic arcade game machine, making a process like editing a photo a quick and playful experience. The gear is a perfect addition to any creative professional’s workstation.

Palette gear is a modular input system that enables tactile controls for digital editing programs.

For the shutterbug

Bubl Technology

Headquarters: Toronto, ON
Name of product: Bublcam
Price: US$799

The Bublcam is a nifty camera that enables you to capture a complete 360-degree spherical photo or video. Developed by Toronto-based startup Bubl Technology, the camera uses four lenses to remove all blind spots and create a seamless viewing experience. You have the option to fully control the camera directly using the Bublcam or remotely via the mobile app for iOS or Android. Have fun creating some beautiful memories this holiday season with the Bublcam!

Bubl camera
Bubl lets users capture a complete 360-degree spherical photo or video.

For the smart home enthusiast


Headquarters: Toronto, ON
Name of product: Nanoleaf Smarter Kit
Price: US$99.99

The Nanoleaf Smarter Kit allows you to control all of the lights in your home with the sound of your voice. The Smart Hub is Apple HomeKit–enabled, meaning you can control up to 50 Nanoleaf bulbs with your iPhone using Siri or the Nanoleaf app. This means you can turn the lights off in your living room while lying in bed! You can even program your favourite settings to respond to custom voice commands.

The kit comes with the Smart Hub and two of Nanoleaf’s LED Smart Ivy bulbs (the world’s most energy-efficient bulb, which lasts 27 years). Brighten up anyone’s holidays with this smarter gift. You can find the Nanoleaf Smarter Kit in select Best Buy Canada stores and on the Nanoleaf website.

Nanoleaf Smarter Kit light bulbs pack
Nanoleaf Smarter Kit light bulbs can be controlled throughout your home with the sound of your voice.

For the solar champion


Headquarters: Toronto, ON; New York City, NY; Kathmandu, Nepal
Donations: $10 provides enough electricity to perform three C-sections in hospital settings; $25 provides enough electricity to power 25,000 hours of light in rural Nepal; $50 provides enough electricity to power 1,250 hours of computer usage in schools; $100 provides enough electricity to pump 571 litres of water for rural farmers; $250 provides enough electricity to perform 73 C-sections in hospital settings

Give the gift of energy to those in need on behalf of your loved ones. SunFarmer is offering gift cards for the holiday season. Given the magnitude of the disaster in Nepal this year and SunFarmer’s ongoing involvement in reconstruction efforts, all donations through the end of 2015 will be used exclusively to provide solar energy systems free of charge to health facilities, schools, farms and other community centres in districts impacted by the earthquakes.

“These gift cards are a chance to have a meaningful impact this season. We provide solar energy systems to key community institutions, so not only is there the environmental benefit of solar, but also the social benefit of enabling modern healthcare, education and more with reliable electricity,” says Jason Gray, the CEO of SunFarmer.

In 2015, SunFarmer completed 91 solar energy projects that power health clinics, schools, community shelters, local government offices and farms in Nepal. In 2016, they are targeting 500 solar projects, including an expansion outside of Nepal. Canadians will receive a tax receipt for the gift cards through SunFarmer’s partner, the Solar and Sustainable Energy Society of Canada, which is co-sponsoring its Earthquake Relief Campaign.

SunFarmer solar panels
SunFarmer offers gift cards to provide solar energy to homes affect by the Nepal earthquake.