Launch Party – 10 Years of Calgary Startups

Yesterday marked the 10th Annual Startup Launch Party – Hosted by Startup Calgary. For the last 10 years,  Startup Calgary has been helping promote local innovators and their efforts to showcase future disruptors and give them a platform to help start their businesses and rally support from locals.

Launch Party is always a great time, but this year was something special – 10 years and they did not disappoint. Year after year, it has grown – but this year showed a staggering improvement. There were more companies, more startups, more support networks, and more attendees than any previous year I have seen. The hosts did a great job arranging the venue to promote a casual relaxed atmosphere while still focusing on what is important – networking and business promotion.

I was able to wander around, meet people both new and old and never did I feel like it was to crowded or cluttered, but more importantly I didn’t fee like it was empty either. It was bustling – much like Calgary’s entrepreneurs and startup ecosystem. I for one look forward to next year.


Location Sharing App Gets Huge Investment from Benchmark


If you think Google Maps and Facebook have the lock down on digital maps and location sharing, think again. French company Zenly just confirmed they have received $22 million in series B funding, largely in part from American angel investors Benchmark. The money is going to be used to open an office in San Francisco over the next few weeks and support product development. The investment is a big deal because it’s a departure from the usual American only investments; often forcing companies from other countries to move to the USA before receiving funding.

Location sharing has been attempted before but hasn’t caught on to the extent that companies like FourSquare had hoped. Zenly has been successful, particularly with teens, because of the ability to see where your friends are and who they are with simply by tapping on their profile. Zenly knows where the hot spots are before any other app simply because of GPS trending in your friend group. The app currently has 2 million users in 186 countries.

There are also social aspects to Zenly, which further engages the teen audience. They have added emoji’s as an update, and it’s easy to send an emoji ping to any friends on the app. Some emojis have specific purposes like telling the other person you are running late, and others are just for fun. The usefulness of the app goes beyond voyeurism when you are looking for a friends exact location at a festival or in an unfamiliar location. The location algorithm Zenly has put together is very precise and generally accurate.

One of the biggest hurdles of location sharing has been the drain on battery usage, and Zenly has worked on an effective solution over the past couple years. Location tracking is only enabled when another user or friend tracks you, so there isn’t constant battery drain on your device. Also as they expand, the map data building will be a challenge as the company is going up against the big dogs like Google, Apple, and Uber.

The big test now for Zenly is to see how they can do in North America, where people have seemed disinterested with location sharing for some time. They key to success will be with the teen demo, some of whom will have never even heard of apps like foursquare. If Zenly is successful at reaching this audience they could be the next big social media platform.

Driver’s Education App Raises $4 Million in Funding


Now more than ever people are wanting the convenience of doing what they want, whenever they want it. Online and app courses are gaining widespread popularity as people adjust to work and learn from home attitudes, and thanks to one mobile startup, this mentality now applies to driving education.

More and more drivers are relying on their phones to guide them, and with the launch of Aceable, this now extends to those learning to drive. The app initially raised $4.7 million in seed funding to develop the app in 2015, and has now delivered another $4 mil in series A funding after following through with a successful plan.

The key to the success for Aceable can be attributed to focusing on a totally new education space for technology learners. The tech-ed platform tends to be crowded, which is not saying a start up can’t improve on a targeted space. However entering an area not touched gives first in advantage.

The biggest hurdle for the app will be the approval process for states which don’t currently allow digital courses. But that list is diminishing as technology and app courses become commonplace. The company plans on expanding and developing curriculum beyond driving in the next year.