We have all heard a lot about how the past few pandemic-riddled years have impacted people and places like never before. There are so many stories being pumped out about unprecedented times, the impact it has had on the people and the planet, and the unparalleled shift that it has caused our economy. This unprecedented time also brought us uplifting stories of hope and joy, from building communities, to acts of kindness around the world, and so much more. There has been an uptick in positive news and do-good attitude to look forward to as we work together to keep our communities safe. In the meantime, entrepreneurs have been churning over innovations that strive to aid those looking to build and recover from these past few years, and Southwestern Ontario has seen an incredible contribution from the tech and innovation ecosystem towards to renewal of our economy.
In watching innovators do what they do best, solving problems and thriving through hard times, TechAlliance launched the London innovation Challenge, a London Community Recovery Network project funded by the City of London. In response to the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, we recognized that rebuilding and revitalizing our community necessitated an equally unprecedented response, and that’s where innovators stepped in. The London Innovation Challenge aimed to accelerate and scale select London-developed solutions. With six winners throughout two challenges each receiving a $20,000 investment, customized business advisory services, and a suite of other benefits from TechAlliance, we addressed the recovery and renewal in areas of focus identified by the London community – Investing in people, driving prosperity, and fostering community.
Through these challenges, clear contenders arose to take on innovation and change systems within our community. Our winners developed new products, created jobs, and helped hundreds of businesses and students with their innovations. Let’s reflect on the impact that these London Innovation Challenge winners have had in reimagining systems for people and strengthening business health right here in London.
The impact of Challenge #1: Reimagine Systems for People
Locorum is a business rewards platform for local merchants with a goal to expand locally, foster entrepreneurship at every level, and reach more business owners in London by building a system that removes barriers for local shopping and small businesses. Capitalizing on their innovation through the push for local and small business support during the pandemic, Locorum has added over 720 businesses to their platform. Not only are they continuing to strengthen local small businesses, but they play a large role in encouraging Londoner’s to continue to shop local and make a difference. “At Locorum, we believe technology has the power to make real change”, says Co-founder and CEO, Jeff Duke, “It is awesome to see our region creating initiatives like the London Innovation Challenge to support the local community and the growing technology industry in our region”. With the growth and advancement of their local-focused tech, London will continue to see this innovative system have a big impact in the lives of local businesses and shoppers alike.
A platform to facilitate inclusive and equitable hiring practices in organizations, Zersent’s software highlights and removes cultural insensitivities, biases, and misused language from job postings to ensure inclusivity remains important and actionable within the talent acquisition process. Through the innovation of their platform, they truly embody what it means to reimagine systems for people, putting job-seeking individuals and equity-driven companies at the forefront of their creation. Through the London Innovation Challenge funding and advisory support, Zersent has been able to focus on the curation of their education platform, working on series of webinars and podcasts to create evergreen, accessible content for the education of hiring organizations and job seekers. These educational resources focus on the needs of our communities, providing access to topics such as understanding and utilizing adequate Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) plans. “The London Innovation Challenge has been an amazing opportunity for us to really make an impact in London and get invaluable guidance as we continue to scale and grow”, says Founder, Aniket Bhatt. “Through this process, Zersent has been able to promote sustained and inclusive employment growth throughout London”.
Caring Support is a dedicated healthcare talent acquisition platform designed to connect employers with skilled workers. They are reimagining the standard healthcare systems, using technology to revolutionize their industry, optimize the hiring process, and improve the overall performance of the sector.
“Being the recipient of the first London Innovation Challenge was the highlight of 2021 for Caring Support” said Joseph Jongsma, President of Caring Support, “The recognition came with considerable growth for our company in London and the surrounding areas, while also helping increase our presence in the media and, as a result, strengthening our brand”. Since winning Challenge #1, the problem-solving venture has added innovative features to the platform, including a post-secondary institute channel that works as a central resource for academic institutions to communicate with employers for student positions. Thanks to the dedicated work from Caring Support along with the London Innovation Challenge win, this comprehensive platform for healthcare employers, workers, and educators continues to connect the industry and provide value across Ontario, including new collaborations and developments that will continue to contribute to the recovery of the city post-pandemic.
The impact of Challenge #2: Strengthen Business Health
Founded at the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic because of the problem its founders saw and solved, In The ClearZone is a supercharged air purifier manufacturer that allows businesses to have easy and affordable access to proper health and safety protocols. Leveraging patented technology, In The ClearZone’s purifiers actively mitigate viruses and allergens while remaining sustainable and environmentally friendly. Through the funding and advisory opportunities offered with the well-deserved win of the London innovation Challenge, In The ClearZone has been able to increase their marketing efforts and add valuable members to their ever-growing team. They have spent their efforts on developing the Healthy Building Certification for Indoor Air Quality, a program to allow certification to businesses in London (and soon to other nearby cities) to validate their air quality certification and, in turn, encourage people to return to safe indoor activities in their local area. “Our focus has been on long-term sustainable answers using the recommendations and input for the international leaders in health and air quality”, said Jenessa Olson, Co-Founder of In The ClearZone, “This certification helps businesses work together to demonstrate their effort to bring people back together safely”. The strength of business health currently relies on the health of business owners and consumers as we wade through another wave of Covid-19 in Ontario, making In The ClearZone an apt recipient of the London Innovation Challenge, innovating for the safe return of economy-boosting activities and work.
As a recruitment and certification management software designed for human resources professionals and staffing agencies, Labourly leverages AI and custom algorithms to connect qualified talent to employers for available positions. This focus on streamlined recruitment is an asset to the health of all local businesses, as talent acquisition has become increasingly more difficult throughout the pandemic recovery. The London Innovation Challenge has helped Labourly create inroads with the business community in London. Being recognized for their innovative and impactful solution created an excitement-fueled push of new features and use expansion for their platform and has opened doors for introductions to business leaders in the field through streamlined advisory services. Since receiving their win, the Labourly team has kickstarted a new onboarding cohort with hundreds of professionals coming through the system. They have been able to create employment streams and remove barriers for more companies and organizations to hire, and have truly impacted the London talent pool with opportunities that have been made by their innovation.
SizeWize is a digital Software as a Service tool that allows online retailers to provide accurate clothing size representations to their customers, leading to minimal returns (therefore minimal waste), and extensive cost savings for all users. Helping small businesses create new revenue from hesitant buyers while simultaneously reducing clothing waste in landfills, SizeWize’s implementation into London-local businesses is an unbeatable opportunity to strengthen business health for online clothing retailers in our region. Through the funding and advisory in the London Innovation Challenge, SizeWize has been able to hire more developers, leading to quicker growth and more implementation into online stores by developing a streamlined system for store integration. This development allowed SizeWize to work with more brands and varying clothing categories, with data already proving the increased revenue for participants. Since winning the London Innovation Challenge, SizeWize is well on its way to being integrated into one of the biggest e-commerce giants, Shopify, where they will be able to support thousands of clothing brands across Canada through a streamlined, simple app install process.
The recovery and renewal of London’s economy relies on innovators and entrepreneurs to stand out and solve problems as they arise. With a strong community built around the innovation and technology ecosystems in our region, we understand that the journeys of these ventures are impactful and imperative to the health of our economy. It is with absolute pride that we showcase these companies, knowing that they will continue to provide strength and recovery for our region through groundbreaking innovation and care. The London Innovation Challenge allowed TechAlliance to see and support the incredible work in our community, and as we celebrate their forward-thinking successes, we recognize the true impact that the London Innovation Challenge and everyone involved has had on London, and we couldn’t be more thankful.
Thank you to all applicants, participants, adjudicators, and community members involved in the London Innovation Challenge, and congratulations to the inspiring ventures who are showing our region what it truly means to reimagine systems for people and strengthen business health.
To learn more about the London Innovation Challenge, go to www.techalliance.ca/londoninnovationchallenge