An innovator in simplifying sophisticated numerical queries landed a big boost in May when it was named winner of the Alpha Exchange Innovation Campaign. EidoSearch, the brainchild of Xiao-Ping (Steven) Zhang, a Ryerson University professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and former M&A investment banker David Kedmey, out-pitched a coterie of impressive entrepreneurs to take home top honours—and the lion’s share of a $100,000 prize pack—at the Innovation Campaign’s live pitch-off held during the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery12 show in downtown Toronto.
Presented by Backbone
magazine, the competition pitted 10 of the country’s brightest against each other. The contestants each had 10 minutes to sell their ideas to a panel of nine top experts in research, software and professional services. Judged on the genius of their innovation and ability to execute and succeed, EidoSearch president David Kedmey proved his company had the right stuff in what the judges noted was a close, competitive race.
Xiao-Ping (Steven) Zhang and
David Kedmey of EidoSearch
The company he co-founded with EidoSearch CEO Zhang helps financial professionals perform sophisticated financial research using example patterns, such as past stock trends, historic housing starts or market volatility. The company’s cloud-based service allows financial analysts to do deep queries of numerical data with a few clicks, avoiding the traditional programming requirements.
“What we’re doing is taking tasks that would previously require a ton of programming and sophistication and making it very straight-forward,” Kedmey said. “It’s literally a couple of clicks.”
Kedmey said the research that can be performed by the Software-as-a-Service would typically take days, weeks or even months, but can instead be performed in a matter of seconds. EidoSearch integrates with existing third-party databases and financial analysis software, and combines advanced techniques like content-based information retrieval (CBIR), statistical signal processing and adaptive filtering, and computational intelligence used for high-end applications like military radar detection, neuroscience and next-generation video and image search.
Kedmey and Zhang came up with the idea while attending the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, while Zhang was on sabbatical from Ryerson. The project drew from the pairs’ disparate experiences in finance and computing, Kedmey said. “I think where a lot of great companies are built—or at least where great ideas come from—is through that sort of cross-pollination, and when the skills and the capabilities line up well, it’s very powerful,” he said. “It’s like an ‘ah-hah’ moment. It’s very exciting.”
Competition judges saw the power of that cross-pollination and the opportunity for EidoSearch to fill an important need for its financial analyst. As grand prize winner, EidoSearch received $20,000 in cash, and a year-long Center 4 Growth entrepreneur accelerator package from the B.C. Technology Industry Association (BCTIA), valued at $22,000. This includes a year of coaching from a CEO-in-residence, access to monthly legal and finance clinics, and free registration to 10 growth workshops. In addition, EidoSearch will receive four months in the Ryerson University Digital Media Zone, where it will receive space, equipment and mentorships valued at $8,000; $34,000 in HP servers, PCs and printers; and $3,000 worth of new business attire from Harry Rosen.
Kedmey called winning the competition “a wonderful thing, because...it’s always rewarding when a group of people outside the company see the value we see.”
He said the cash will be used to support efforts to recruit development talent to help in product improvement. “The resources are significant. We’re really looking forward to linking up an HP (CloudMatrix) server and cash is always wonderful, but also so is the mentorship and connections.
“There’s a psychic benefit too,” he added. “I went to present to the Golden Triangle (Angelnet) that night, and winning meant a lot because people love momentum. I could tell you why I believe in this company, but I’m a founder, of course I believe in it.”
Although unanimous in selecting EidoSearch as the champion, the judges found it to be a difficult decision. The panel consisted of: Jos Schmitt, CEO of Alpha Group; Darin Graham, president and CEO of ORION (The Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network); Stephen Callaghan, Ontario regional vice-president at Export Development Canada; Donna Teggart, director of external communications and brand at Ceridian Canada; Perry Dellelce, founder and the managing partner of Wildeboer Dellelce; Chris Dulny, partner and national technology sector lead at PwC; Valerie Fox, executive director of the Ryerson Digital Media Zone; David Rozin, RBC senior account manager for IT and clean tech in the Greater Toronto Area; and, Geoff Kereluik, vice-president of commercial sales at HP Canada.
“This was tough,” said Alpha Exchange CEO and primary sponsor Jos Schmitt. “I was honestly amazed by the quality of the pitches.”
Milan Vrekic and
Tony Abou-Assaleh of TitanFile
Selected as runner-up—and awarded $5,000 in cash from Wildeboer Dellelce, $6,000 in servers and PCs from HP Canada, and a $4,000 Center 4 Growth entrepreneur accelerator package from the BCTIA—was Dartmouth, N.S.-based TitanFile.
Founded by software engineer Milan Vrekic and Tony Abou-Assaleh, a computer scientist specializing in information security, machine learning and infrastructure, TitanFile uses military grade encryption to send and receive files over a secure connection. Customers can use TitanFile to send files that are too large or too confidential for e-mail, and confirm the identity of the recipient before granting access to the file.
The cloud-based service rests on the principle of organizing documents around people and context, making it ideal for legal services firms, health-care facilities and those requiring a high degree of confidentiality for their paperwork.
“We’re passionate about bringing security and privacy to everyone,” said Vrekic, the company’s CEO, adding that TitanFile helps to bring enterprise-grade security to SMBs at a price point they can afford.
Vrekic said the company will be using its prize winnings to further its patent efforts to protect its intellectual property.
As winner of the Alpha Exchange Innovation Campaign, EidoSearch will be closely followed over the next year in Backbone
The final ten
Ten of Canada’s best and brightest early-stage companies competed in the live pitch-off at OCE Discovery12 in downtown Toronto. Each had only 10 minutes to prove to the panel of nine expert judges that it had the most innovative idea, combined with the executive team, business plan and direction to succeed.
The finalists in the top 10 represented a cross-section of technology products and services, covering the needs of a mix of industries. All are just starting the journey to success, having a ready-to-sell product and complete business plan, but less than $2 million in revenue. The 10 finalists were:
EidoSearch offers a SaaS solution to turn complex financial searches into a few simple mouse and keyboard clicks. CEO David Kedney said his company’s software has the opportunity to democratize data for finance professionals.
The result of four years of research, Gazaro uses artificial intelligence to provide market insights that can help retailers “right price” their inventory to increase sales. CEO Alexander Rink said his software delivers insights retailers need to make a sale before a customer moves on.
TitanFile uses military-grade encryption to deliver enterprise-class security to SMBs needing to transfer confidential or large documents. Co-founder Milan Vrekic said his solution, launched in 2011, efficiently organizes security around people and context, not files and systems.
Founder and executive director Clifton van der Linden said Vote Compass was developed to improve electoral literacy. Based on an individual’s responses to a series of propositions specifically developed for a given election, the software generates a real-time analysis of the participant’s political views and compares it to candidates.
Deepak Dutt, CTO of Zighra, presented his technology which uses mobile phones to help quickly respond to false positives when credit cards are red flagged for fraud, and to allow users to identify transactions with a high risk of fraud through crowdsourcing.
Co-founder Derrick Fung called Tunzey an online platform for independent musicians and their fans. Designed to “gamify” the promotion of independent artists through fan rewards and community clout, Fung said his company brings the promotion component missed by online distributors.
Visualize.me CEO Eugene Woo said Venngage helps media outlets and marketers overcome the problem of data overload by offering a tool to simplify the creation of infographics, in the same way Wordpress democratized blogging. “The content marketing segment is ripe for disruption,” he said.
“Let’s stop adding and start filling,” Harpaul Sambhi, Careerify founder and CEO, said of North America’s more than three million job openings. Careerify taps into social networks to create unique social graphs that help recruit top talent.
Jenny Tcharnaia, co-founder and CFO of TriMirror, said her company’s solution helps clothing retailers overcome the slump in online sales and a one-in-three product return rate. “Seeing is believing,” she said of the product that lets users create an avatar with their specific measurements and try on a clothing retailer’s inventory with life-like texture and flow.
An online platform for selling and sharing university notes. Co-founder Jamie Wang said NoteWagon was designed to facilitate peer-to-peer learning. He said his company’s social network-like platform already has 66,000 users and aims at becoming a popular network for university students.
View videos of Top10 finalist presentations and judges
Follow the Alpha Exchange Innovation Campaign till April 2013