Ottawa-based Coral CEA has invested $120,000 in four companies located at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ), and Coral CEA is reviewing possible investments in even more firms at the DMZ. “We are attracted to teams who are ‘getting it done’ versus talking about innovation and we want this type of collaboration to set a new standard in Ontario,” says Brian Forbes, Executive Director at Coral CEA. Forbes believes the DMZ has taken a hands-on approach with entrepreneurs that is a perfect fit with Coral CEA.
At the DMZ Coral CEA has invested in:
- ARB Labs Inc. designed a software application that that allows any video display to create an immersive 3D effect — without the need for goggles or glasses
- Greenguage Inc. developed a software tool for smartphone and Web that blends mobile technology with the green movement allowing monitoring of Corporate Social Responsibility efforts
- HitSend Inc. offers an online platform to enable and enhance community-based change by tapping into the community’s collective voice
- ViaFoura Inc. created a cloud-based plug and play user engagement and gaming platform for online content sites
“Coral CEA’s funding will allow us to add two more people to our current staff of five. The DMZ and Coral CEA are not just paying lip service to innovation, they are not just talking, they have a plan of action,” says Warren Tanner CMO at HitSend. He adds, “There is no better business school than starting a business and that is exactly what we do.”
The DMZ launched in the spring of 2010 with over 6,000 square feet of downtown Toronto office space. In just over a year and a half, the DMZ has almost doubled in size and has assisted more than 190 innovators to incubate and accelerate 38 startups, launched more than 61 projects and fostered over 350 jobs. The DMZ is a centre for creativity, collaboration and innovation that acts as a catalyst for cross-pollination of skills. The focus is on the commercialization of software applications.
Ryerson students use the DMZ as a home base to establish new companies. “Young people work in a business realm that never existed before and they naturally embrace collaboration and open innovation like never before. Coral CEA brings the Open Innovation ecosystem to our companies and that is a crucial addition,” says Valerie Fox, Director of the DMZ.
“Ontario’s creative environment, world-class education system and proven business experts are second to none,” says Brad Duguid, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Innovation. “Collaborations like this are the key to success. That’s why we helped establish Coral CEA and why we’ve made it easier for entrepreneurs across the province to get the help they need to succeed; while creating jobs and prosperity for all Ontarians.”
The Conference Board of Canada rates Canada 14th out of 17 nations for innovation. Innovation is the ability to turn knowledge into new products and is the crucial factor that will allow Canada to compete in the global economy. “Canada is a resource-rich nation, including knowledge resources. We also have a rich history of innovation, especially in communications. Communications innovation helps refine knowledge resources, adding value for global export,” says Forbes. Coral CEA has assisted more than 50 companies to capitalize on innovation.
Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy became aware of Coral CEA and encouraged collaboration with the DMZ. In a recent speech Levy called on universities to better educate young people on how to create their own businesses and take their innovations to market. “Youth are the primary users of digital media but lack the skills to turn ideas into reality,” says Levy. He believes schools must to do three things:
- Connect innovators to each other, and to business, at the earliest stages
- Teach innovators how to be their own bosses
- Support research that leads directly to markets and economic benefit
Coral CEA has also partnered with Ryerson in a first-ever study on innovation in Ontario. The research team of the Ontario Cross-Border Technology Innovation Ecosystem (OCTIE) released preliminary findings in October 2011 stating that the more entrepreneurs network, especially with social networking, the more investment money they acquire. “Socializing your ideas enables more focused targeting so that entrepreneurs align with capitalists that better understand their value — which results in better valuations. Social networking enables an entrepreneur to reach people they could not have by other means,” says Forbes.
“We need to embrace Open Innovation and collaboration,” says the study’s primary author Professor Wendy Cukier, Vice President of Research and Innovation at Ryerson University. “The DMZ at Ryerson fosters innovation with a lean methodology and small teams that are very focused on going to market. Ontario will see action from our collaboration with new jobs, companies and applications,” says Forbes.