The people’s choice award at the 2012 CIX went to two very different companies. The awards organizers hope to spur a wider market for SMB development in Canada.
Online clothing retailer Frank & Oak and wayfinding software firm Jibestream were dubbed Canada’s most innovative companies by an audience of more than 500 investors, entrepreneurs, and business analysts in Toronto yesterday.
The Canadian Innovation Exchange saw a real-time stock trading game taking place as its handpicked selection of the top 20 most innovative companies gave their best pitches to sway the audience. Frank & Oak took the prize with the most funny money raised at day’s end in the Digital Media category and Jibestream topped the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) category.
Frank & Oak launched its online menswear catalogue earlier this year and offers fashionable threads at a reasonable price to its members, rotating its products on a monthly basis. The retailer drives at a very specific demographic – males between the ages of 22 and 35, who work in technology or design.
Or as CIO Hicham Ratnani puts it: “The average guy, the guy who doesn’t shop every month and he’s looking for something affordable and something easy,” he says.
Despite being based in Montreal, more than 70 per cent of its 175,000 members are in the U.S. The retailer has a new business development involving pop-up stores and is partnered with Payfirma, another CIX Top 20 company to conduct its payment processing for both online and physical location sales.
“We’re primarily online and very much focused online. There’s just some opportunities when it makes sense to go on the ground,” Ratnani says. “We do it in a very precise moment and very precise event.”
Jibestream is looking to help people who are lost in malls, hospitals, or other large building greater than 10,000 square feet. More than that, its products present an easy-to-use interface for visitors to buildings that can allow helpful information to be accessed, a face-to-face videoconference to be conducted, or emergency messages to be displayed.
The group of startups featured at CIX has potential to be at the core of a vibrant small and medium-sized business market in Canada, says Robert Montgomery, CEO, Achilles Media Ltd. Achilles Media is the events company that partners to organize CIX.
“With all the maturation of the market and the coming of age of the entrepreneurial eco-system, this is one of the best places in the world to start a company,” he says. “We need a way to really take it forward.”
In last year’s CIX awards, Wave Accounting and WattPad walked away with people’s choice awards. Both went on to receive multi-million dollar seed funding rounds this past year. In 2010, BlueCat Networks nabbed the top innovator award. Today, it’s a multi-national company that collaborates with large tech vendors like Citrix and IBM, and is firmly on the radar of IT analyst firms.