Startup accelerator boosting disruptive technologies

In a room of startup founders and entrepreneurs, I corner Kevin Kliman of Toronto-based startup Instaradio to ask him about what makes his company stand out from the rest.

As I pull out my pen and flick over to another page on my notepad, I quickly switch on my voice recorder. Kliman casually glances at it.

“Once you get our app, you won’t be needing that,” he says. “We’re actually seeing it [used] with a number of journalists … As soon as you touch the button, Instaradio starts a radio broadcast, and [if you’re on] Twitter, you can automatically push your recording there.”

Kliman was at the launch of the second cohort of IdeaBoost, a startup accelerator that focuses on Canadian companies whose ideas may well transform the landscape of entertainment media. Instaradio landed one of six spots in the cohort, giving his team access to mentorship, networking opportunities, and up to $15,000 in funding for the startup itself.

What got Instaradio into this accelerator’s cohort is that it may disrupt the way radio is traditionally presented, Kliman says.

“When you think about how audio producing has worked … there’s a ton of value in having a specific frequency because there’s only a limited number of frequencies on the dial,” he says. “We want to open it up so there’s an unlimited number of frequencies and anyone’s voice can be heard anywhere around the world.”

Unlike podcasts or edited radio clips, the beauty of Instaradio is that it’s automatically uploaded and it’s raw. That creates a wide range of possibilities for public relations, quotes in the media, emotional messages that email just can’t quite convey, or just for anyone looking to get a message out, Kliman adds.

Instaradio wasn’t the only startup that is gearing up to change the face of mainstream media. IdeaBoost’s other five winning startups included: Motion Panels +, which animates the images in manga and graphic novels for mobile devices; BeMused Network, which connects general audiences looking to discover local performing artists; Wondereur, a collection of photojournalistic essays on artists on the iPad and web that also sells art directly to readers; ALERT-TV+, an online system that allows content producers to target their audiences and measure trends; and Lightning Platform, a Software-as-a-Service tool allowing independent developers to create games and apps and to be able to host them in the cloud.

IdeaBoost ultimately whittled down a shortlist of 15 companies to six finalists for the cohort, says Ana Serrano, chief digital officer of the CFC Media Lab, the group backing IdeaBoost.

“We’re really interested in how the entertainment media ecosystem is changing,” Serrano says. “There are some content players who are disrupting that space and there are also some enabling technology players who are disrupting that space. This cohort, we focused mostly on the platform plays and looked at a number of very different divergent product sets.”

And while many of these companies had the consumer as the end user in mind, some of them are also looking towards enterprise and SMBs.

Wondereur, which won an award from the Canadian Online Publishing Awards in 2012, promises to change the online shopping experience by selling art through visual storytelling. There is no longer a solid separation between content and advertising, according to co-founder Angelica Fox. She says she’s hoping IdeaBoost will help Wondereur expand into selling objects as well as art.

For Lightning Platform, the goal is to work with IdeaBoost to market it to app developers, get some feedback, and see how the business plan will develop from there, says Matt McPherson, head of operations. Ultimately, the startup aims to be a one-stop shop for developers to create the basic framework for their apps, later allowing non-technical people with no knowledge of coding to use a visual interface if they need to make changes.

This round of companies will spend the next four months working with IdeaBoost to get their projects off the ground. They’ll be pitching their business plans to the group’s founders, Corus Entertainment, Google and Shaw Media, when the program wraps up at the end of the summer.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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