[email protected] lab supports innovation with design tools

An early Christmas gift from Macromedia to the University of Toronto aims to take startup businesses out of the basement and into the world of rich media.

The gift comes in the form of a donation of 10 complete licences

of Macromedia Studio MX to the university’s [email protected] business incubator. The software packages include the latest versions of Dreamweaver MX, Flash MX, FreeHand MX and Fireworks MX, and is accompanied by the additional donation of ColdFusion and Flash server licences.

Karen Grant, managing director of the [email protected] program, said the software will allow them to “”provide additional tools to the companies that are in-house to accelerate their growth, to accelerate their product evolution or accelerate their sales delivery. It really depends on how the companies use it.””

The nearly two-year-old business incubator, which is currently supporting 11 growing businesses, is an offshoot of the University of Toronto’s Innovations Foundation which aspires to nurture growing businesses through the provision of basic facilities such as meeting space, colour copiers, and phone and computer systems. The [email protected] also offers small companies the chance to meet with business advisors as they hone their business plans and prepare for the future.

Grant noted that while the facility was originally established to support IT and Internet companies, they are already expanding towards being able to support other industries.

“”We now support business teams from biotech companies as well as IT companies, and in the future we see that we might be able to provide business teams from physical science companies. What we can’t offer is manufacturing facilities or wetlab facilities.””

What the facility can offer, however, is more than $20,000 worth of new media software with which their resident businesses can take the creative plunge.

Ray Miller, director of operations for Macromedia Canada, sees the availability of their software as giving burgeoning businesses a leg up on the competition.

“”Flash in particular . . . is the standard for rich media development. The Flash player is loaded on 98 per cent of all the Internet-connected personal computers out there. If they want to reach the largest audience, the big benefit for them is going to be using the tool that everyone has on their PCs. The technology is almost ubiquitous,”” said Miller.

The donation is unusual for Macromedia, but heralds their expansion into Canada with an auspicious partnership. Miller said he spotted the opportunity on a visit to the [email protected] lab.

“”It seemed like these people, right out of school and entrepreneurs, would benefit the most from our software. A lot of ideas at the [email protected] lab are right on the cutting edge. The whole place is just full of these really bright young entrepreneurs. Macromedia’s also a company built on innovations and we wanted to support that,”” said Miller.

The [email protected]’s ever-changing hotbed of ideas appealed to Macromedia as well.

“”The fact that there’s so much turnover inside the [email protected] lab, I could see it being long term, because there’s always going to be fresh new ideas there. . . . I’d love to see this run forever, it really depends on what the relationship is like between our two organizations,”” said Miller.

Grant hopes that partnerships like the one with Macromedia continue to develop between the [email protected] lab and other vendors.

“”It’s a constant effort to try to provide the latest technology to some of our companies. Our mandate is not really to underwrite their technical development, we’re really here to help them in their business development, but we’re constantly trying to sign agreements with appropriate vendors that can help provide either free or discounted products and services to our company,”” said Grant.

“”Perhaps the analogy is it’s like giving them matches when they’re trying to light a fire, instead of giving them toothpicks. Both of them will get them there but the matches are easier.””

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