Toronto-based Innerspace has announced the close of a $3.2 million CAD seed round as it looks to expand the presence of its indoor location tech in smart buildings. The funding round was led by BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Fund.
“The company is tackling a highly complex technical problem that even companies like Google have yet to solve.”
Innerspace is a platform delivering GPS systems for the indoors. It touts itself as the world’s first indoor mapping and location intelligence platform, building a massive database of digital indoor data.
The company’s sensors plug in to indoor spaces and start collecting data on the movement of people and how they interact with the space. The startup works within commercial real estate, manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and retail locations to deploy its platform.
“We spend 80 percent of our time indoors and yet the minute you walk inside, Google doesn’t know where you are,” Cerys Goodall, Innerspace’s chief marketing officer, told BetaKit. “It seems like a problem that should be solvable but for whatever reason wasn’t happening…because the tech was too highly customized or too difficult to obtain.”
With this seed funding, the company stated that it is ready to disrupt the market with support from its investors and backers. The round saw investment from MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, 500 Startups, Industry Ventures, and Zach Coelius’s AngelList syndicate, as well as other unnamed investors.
The company is looking to use the funding to help it further develop its product and grow its presence in the market, where it already names among its customers a number of Fortune 500 companies.
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Innerspace’s platform uses internet-of-things (IoT) and artificial intelligence technology to offer analytics, insights, and predict future behaviors of how people will use indoor spaces. It also uses that data to create consumer and employee mobile apps and software that is designed to inform people about the services available in buildings such as finding available meeting rooms and desk space, nearby amenities, as well as offering turn-by-turn directions to find those services.
“Indoor location data is the linchpin to creating successful, results-driven Smart Buildings solutions,” said James Wu, CEO and co-founder of InnerSpace. “This funding enables us to expand our client base and support our development of new turnkey solutions that make deploying Smart solutions easier, faster, and more cost-effective. The impact of these solutions for our customers is the ability to manage their real estate costs, improve customer sales, predict staffing requirements, retain talent and ultimately improve their bottom line.”
“Indoor location data is the linchpin to creating successful, results-driven Smart Buildings solutions.”
“InnerSpace is an appealing investment because of its unique platform approach,” said Michelle McBane, director of MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund. “The company is tackling a highly complex technical problem that even companies like Google have yet to solve. InnerSpace is ideally positioned to become the indoor location of choice.”
The company began as an idea in 2014 after is three listed co-founders, Wu, Matt MacGillivray, and Jason Gamblen, as well as a large part of the team (including Goodall), met will working at e-reader company Kobo.
“We like to think of ourselves as that next generation of Toronto tech startups that we’re starting to see come out of these more successful companies,” Goodall said. She noted that the founders wondered why indoor location and data tracking hadn’t scaled as a business opportunity and wanted to tackle the issue.
In 2016, Wu, MacGillivray, Gamblen, and the rest of the team, decided to really go for it, and started working on the startup full-time. Since then, Innerspace has seen its most growth over the past three years, with customers spanning coworking spaces, large tech companies, property management firms, and sporting stadiums. It boasts among its previous and current customers, Walmart, Kobo, League, Rogers, and Telus.
This seed funding round was led by BDC’s Women in Technology Fund, which has the goal of investing in women-led companies.
“InnerSpace has leapfrogged past the obstacles that have plagued the indoor location industry,” said Michelle Scarborough, managing director of BDC’s Women in Technology Fund. “Its impressive roster of marquis clients and proven technology positions the company well for continued growth and success.”
The reason Innerspace, founded by three men, received women in tech-specific funding was because of Goodall. Goodall told BetaKit that although she is not a founder per se, she is a founding member of the team, having been with Innerspace almost since the beginning.
She met the three founders while they were all working at Kobo and after a two-year stint at League, Goodall decided to join the Innerspace team in 2016, a couple of months after it participated in IBM Innovation Incubator Project, (a partnership with Ontario Centres of Excellence), and it decided to become a formal business.
Goodall met the three founders while working at Kobo and after a two-year stint at League, decided to join the Innerspace team.
She noted that the reason Innerspace received support from a fund with the mandate to “only invest in women-led or co-led technology companies,” is because of her relationship and role within Innerspace. Goodall explained that in her position as chief marketing officer she (obviously) runs marketing but is also responsible for running client delivery, and all professional services, and she noted that her scope within the company is significant.
It’s important to note that the mandate of BDC’s WIT fund is to “only invest in women-led or co-led technology companies at the seed, Series A and Series B stages.” The dedicated fund of $200 million was presented as a way “to increase its term lending to majority women-owned businesses…in addition to its ongoing support to women-founded technology firms and funds.”
However, BDC has been criticized in the past for broadening its mandate, moving away from majority women-owned and women-founded tech companies. Its criteria now states, in order for the fund to invest in companies, it only needs to “have a woman founder, CEO, CTO, CFO or be in a key C-suite position.”
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Scarborough spoke to BetaKit on a CanCon podcast episode in April, expressing that BDC is, in fact, willing to use its Women in Tech fund to finance companies founded and run by men if they contain women in leadership positions. She expressed her belief that having as wide a funding criteria as possible is the smartest approach to fostering a larger pool of women in tech
To BDC’s credit, the majority of companies listed in the fund’s portfolio, which consists of at least 16 companies to date, according to its website, are women-led or founded companies, including Nudge Rewards, Bridgit, Canvass, and Plum.io.
Goodall herself has been an advocate for women in the tech space, publishing a series of blog posts around International Women’s Day addressing challenges faced by women in the industry and pointing to other women that have been leaders in the space.
Innerspace noted that its platform is currently in Canada, Australia, and the US and it is available to customers for a starting price of $2,995 USD.
The Toronto-based startup has previously worked with 500 Startups, having been accepted into its 2017 seed program that offers an accelerator, as well as $150,000 USD in funding to its cohort in exchange for six percent equity. That same year Innerspace also participated in an IoT and smart city accelerator launched by Infiniti Motors.
Image courtesy Innerspace