Techstars Toronto showcases 2019 cohort, announces new partnerships

Techstars TO demo day 2019

On Thursday, Techstars hosted the Demo Day for its second Toronto cohort, all pitching and presenting their companies after 13 weeks in the accelerator.

“All ten of the companies have either raised during the past three months, or are in active discussions with fundraisers.”

During the showcase, the audience heard from a number of founders and mentors, as well as Techstars’ managing director Sunil Sharma, program manager Tariq Haddadin, and Minister of Small Business and Export Mary Ng. The organization also made announcements about some of Techstars’ budding partnerships.
 
 

Launched in Canada in 2018, Techstars’ Toronto is run in partnership with Real Ventures. The program runs out of WeWork in downtown Toronto, and unlike Techstars’ proptech and AI accelerators in Toronto and Montreal, respectively, this program is not vertical-specific and focuses on building mentor relationships, accelerating iteration, and fundraising for a wide range of tech companies.

“It’s very exciting to know that all ten of the companies have either raised during the past three months, or are in active discussions with fundraisers right now,” said Janet Bannister of Real Ventures.

Proof, a company that came from the Yukon to participate in Techstars Toronto, created a solution aiming to digitize government. It is looking to take away the red tape from the sign-off process by streamlining internal approvals, digitizing application forms, and improving policy decisions with data. Proof’s first customer was the provincial government in Yukon, followed by a deal with the government of Nova Scotia, the City of Winnipeg, the City of Toronto, and the company just signed a new deal that will be funded by the federal government.

Cross-border payments solution Korapay, one of this year’s companies, which struggled with visa issues, managed to fly out five other members from the team from Nigeria, including CEO Dickson Nsofor. In the company’s pitch, Nsofor announced Kora has been able to operate in 23 of the 54 countries in Africa, and that the company is looking to expand into other financial services like savings, micro-loans, investments, and advisory.

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AI-powered travel assistant Eddy Travels, which came to participate in Techstars from Lithuania, announced during its pitch that beyond its partnership with travel search company SkyScanner, it has also partnered with five additional companies: SafetyWing, Sitata, Sherpa, Vertoe, and G Adventures.

In the era of Quadriga, companies working in crypto assets are facing a complex and challenging landscape. Techstars participant Balance has a self-serve investment platform as well as storage facilities for digital assets. It wants to ensure losses like Quadriga never happen again, by offering geographically distributed offline vaults, as well as hardware with military-grade security. The company has received letters of intent from accounts with an aggregated value of over $50 million.

The final pitch came from Inkblot Therapy, which uses proprietary matching algorithms to connect clients with the mental health counsellors or life coaches based on user needs and preferences. The company’s video-counselling sessions are scheduled and take place directly on the Inkblot platform from the comfort of home or a quiet space at work. It stated that the company has managed to cut its prices to half that of the national average.

Tranqool, a very similar service that was later acquired by HumanaCare, took the B2C route to the business idea. Inkblot, on the other hand, had opted for the B2B route, partnering with Honeybee, Beneplan, and Sun Life. Inkblot is also working with health benefits tech tool League, which resold its first InkBlot deal last week. Among its direct sale customers Inkblot also names Toronto-based TribalScale.

At the end of the event, Sharma noted the ethnic diversity of this cohort’s leaders and teams, but acknowledged that there was not one female CEO presenting as part of this year’s class.

“What we didn’t see today was any female CEOs presenting,” he said. “That’s not right. We want to work with exceptional organizations in Toronto and throughout Canada.”

He announced that Techstars will be partnering with StandUp Ventures, The Big Push, Accellerate, BDC Women In Tech, Front Row Ventures, Women Founders project, the DMZ, #MoveTheDial, and Dream Maker Ventures to track and discover more female founders and women-led companies. Starting tomorrow, all of these new partner organizations will be invited to take offices inside Techstars at no cost. The companies will be also be able to use WeWork’s resources, including its event space.

On Thursday, it was also announced that Techstars it is now an affiliate of MaRS Discovery District. As an affiliate, MaRS will be connecting its founder network to Techstars’ worldwide resources, and MaRS-associated ventures will qualify for fast-tracked applications to Techstars programs across the globe.

“The entrepreneur’s journey is a perilous one, and having the support of seasoned mentors and programs around the world can make all the difference,” Yung Wu, CEO of MaRS. “This partnership will only help grow the Canadian tech eco-system and make us a leading destination for successful entrepreneurs.”

Watch the entire pitch event from the Techstars Toronto 2019 Demo Day here.

Image courtesy Techstars Toronto.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast