Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) has opened its doors to four new companies that will take part of the school entrepreneurship program. The new batch includes, a maker of inclusive technologies for people with disabilities (Komodo OpenLab), an app transforming smartphones into child-friendly devices (KytePhone), a mobile app to locate and connect with others in evening hotspots (Electric Courage) and an electronic gift card provider (Virtual Next). These ventures join 41 other teams currently operating out of Ryerson University’s interdisciplinary workspace for digital thought leadership.
“I’m pleased to welcome Komodo, KytePhone, Electric Courage, and Virtual Next into the DMZ,” said Valerie Fox, Digital Media Zone Executive Director. “The addition of these forward-thinking businesses contributes to our mission to build Canada’s future as a global hub of innovation and economic development.”
Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone’s New Recruits:
Komodo OpenLab develops open and inclusive technologies that facilitate the daily lives of people with disabilities. Co-founded by Ryerson MBA graduate Mauricio Meza, the company enhances the accessibility of mainstream technologies by leveraging the wisdom of users and their communities through the use of open-source technologies and open standards. Komodo’s first product, Tecla, is a set of open software and hardware tools that facilitate access to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, for those who are unable to manipulate them due to disease or disability. Tecla users can control their devices using the highly customized interfaces with which they already familiar, such as their wheelchair driving controls or adapted switches. Unlike other assistive products and services, Tecla enables access to off-the-shelf products, including iPhone, iPad and Android devices, promoting the more sustainable development of inclusive, rather than segregated products and services for this segment of the population.
The first and only product of its kind, KytePhone is a free app that transforms any Android smartphone into a child-friendly device. Once installed, KytePhone safeguards a child’s mobile experience by allowing parents to control all aspects of that phone’s use, including who the child may call and what apps they have access to. Via an intuitive online dashboard parents can manage the phone’s activity, including monitoring who was called and how long apps were used. Parents can also view the phone’s location in real time. Once activated, the KytePhone interface cannot be removed without parental intervention, even after rebooting the phone. It is available for free download and will run on Android 2.2 or above. KytePhone was conceived by Renat Gataullin, a recent graduate from the YCombinator incubator program, considered the world’s most prestigious program for budding digital entrepreneurs.
Electric Courage is a mobile application that can make the difference between an average night out and a night to be remembered. The social app provides tools to help plan where to spend an evening on the town in Toronto by searching nearby spots and making suggestions based on user preferences, venue popularity, entrance waiting times and daily specials. Once inside a venue, Electric Courage also provides options for messages and live chatting to connect with others in the same location. Available for iPhone, Blackberry and Android, the app also keeps users in the loop on upcoming events at their favourite venues. Electric Courage was conceived by a team that participated in The Next 36 entrepreneurial training program and has recently partnered with a major liquor brand to co-promote its recent product launch.
Virtual Next is an innovative electronic gift card processing company that helps customer-facing businesses sell digital gift cards. With Virtual Next’s instant and convenient e-gift cards, businesses can leverage the power of the Internet and social media while cutting down on the time and resources required to sell, handle and ship physical gift cards. Instead, customers receive a personalized image of a gift card delivered electronically via e-mail, mobile phone, or Facebook. They can then choose to print out, present the e-gift card using a smartphone or redeem online at the store level. Virtual Next also provides businesses with detailed analytic tools helping them to determine conversion rates, sales patterns, and popular e-gift card designs, to better track sales patters and usage. Virtual Next’s current clients include spas, restaurants, hotels and retailers. Company co-founder Andy Lai graduated from Ryerson University’s Internet Technologies Management program in 2007.