Laurier University students raises $1 million for road-safety, impairment device startup

Guard-Ex

Guard-Ex, an impairment screening device startup founded by members of Wilfrid Laurier University’s LaunchPad incubator, has closed a $1 million CAD seed round from a sole investor.

The four founders, all Laurier students, launched Guard-Ex in 2017 to address the need for a precise and impartial roadside impairment assessment device for law enforcement officers.

“These guys are unlike anyone else. They are filling a market need that is critical to the safety and welfare of Canadians.”

Guard-Ex adopts an approach to impairment examination that assesses physiological indicators like eye movement and body temperature, rather than the traditional approach of measuring chemicals from saliva or breath. Guard-Ex has designed a universal impairment screening device, with the assistance of machine learning, to screen for impairment instantaneously, with the goal of automating the manual procedure carried out by law enforcement officers.

According to Guard-Ex, every year, approximately $30 million taxpayer dollars are paid by the federal government on disputes of impaired driving charges due to lack of evidence. The company said that with the recent legalization of cannabis, this situation is expected to be exacerbated.

The sole investor was Bob Schlegel, founder and CEO of Schlegel Capital and Pavestone Company’s Bedrock Logistics located in Dallas, Texas. Schlegel is a graduate of Laurier, and is a longstanding benefactor to the university. He offered the preliminary funding for the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation in 1998, where LaunchPad is based.

“From the first time I met with the student founders of Guard-Ex, I was incredibly impressed,” said Schlegel. “In my career, hundreds of companies have pitched to me and I’ve invested a lot of money over the years. But these guys are unlike anyone else. They are filling a market need that is critical to the safety and welfare of Canadians. They are smart and driven and I know they’ll do well.”

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“We are so proud to work with and support the student founders of Guard-Ex,” said Laura Allan, assistant professor in the Lazaridis School and executive director of the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation. “They are making an important and impactful difference in the community and the country, and we look forward to helping them commercialize their product to make the roads safer for all Canadians.”

The Guard-Ex co-founders are hoping to finalize the prototyping and commercialization process within the next year. The company is working alongside the Laurier Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science.

The company has also presented its prototype to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and are working on getting signed memorandums of understanding to lead a pilot program that will test the device on the roads.

“We are excited to close our seed round with Bob Schlegel, allowing us to intensively speed up our product development and research to hit the market sooner than projected,” said Dastiger Khan, co-founder and CEO of Guard-Ex.

Image courtesy Guard-Ex.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast