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By Holly Knowlman of The Working Group. Originally posted on the Huffington Post

Thirteen select early-stage technology startups have been chosen to participate in Toronto’s inaugural NEXT program (#NEXTTO).

The ‘pop-up’ accelerator program, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, helps startups find the path to product-market-fit. With help from a posse of expert mentors, Cohort ‘0’ will spend the next five-weeks honing their customer development skills, pitching to investors and getting ready to apply for the world’s top accelerator programs.

Brant Cooper, author of NYT Bestseller ‘The Lean Entrepreneur’ was on hand at the program launch to welcome the teams and urge them to ‘be the change they want to see in the world.’


Kevin Dewalt, a ‘founding father’ of customer development and CDMN ‘Premier Mentor’ also spoke to the group from Beijing to prepare the cohort for the hard work ahead.


Hosted by MarS Discovery District and The Working Group, #NEXTTO takes Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad program and repackages into an intensive flipped-classroom style course. With hands-on mentoring, teams will secure an understanding of their customer development strategy, market size, competitors, Minimum Viable Product, fundability, and pitching.

Meet NEXT Toronto’s Cohort ‘0’

SKYBO (www.skybolive.com): Ready for the quantified car? SKYBO is ‘Fitbit for your car,’ enabling drivers, mechanics and small businesses to gain access to cars across North America. The aim is to improve the driver experience via preventative maintenance, data and entertainment across both web and mobile applications..

Brew Box Co. (http://thebrewbox.co/ ): Beer enthusiasts helping fellow beer lovers get their hands on some of Ontario’s best craft beers to discover their perfect pint. Brew Box is powered by a powerful data backend allowing micro breweries to connect and learn about beer drinkers like never before. Cheers!

ThinkNation (http://thinknation.ca/): So, you think you can code?  ThinkNation is the first cloud-based testing and analytics platform that allows companies to evaluate and analyze programmers’ performance in real-time to improve hiring decisions. ThinkNation plans to become the ‘LinkedIn for programmers,’ building a database of programmers to reduce the talent shortage.

Siebu (http://siebu.com/): Merchants are tired of being locked-into homogeneous ecommerce templates, paying monthly SaaS/licensing fees which add up for a solution that doesn’t scale with the business. Siebu solves these problems with a highly customizable ecommerce platform which listens and adapts to customer needs.

Lifestats (http://www.thelifestats.com): If your life had a data backend, Lifestats would be powering it. Lifestats is an analytics platform to share, compare and discuss your numbers. It integrates across social platforms for friendly competition for those who love to share. You know who they are.

Sampler (http://www.thesamplerapp.com/): Sampler is marketers’ dream. It allows them to reach consumers at critical stages of purchase decision.  Integrating into Facebook, the application  encourages the Facebook fans of a brand to recommend a product sample to friends via Facebook.

SpeakMe (http://www.speakme.com/): SpeakMe is ‘Vine for long-form content’.  SpeakMe allows for social video experience where users collaborate in global discussions about anything and everything they care about by location. Users can follow, share and promote the best content.

LocaWoka (http://locawoka.com/): Helps busy people outsource their errands and tasks to trusted, reliable individuals seeking supplementary income within their neighbourhoods.

ArtLocal (http://www.artlocalapp.com/): ArtLocal is your guide to the contemporary art scene. Visually preview and navigate to all of the artwork on sale in your city in real-time on your iPhone based on your tastes.

GrowWell: Helps health and wellness clinics grow. They turn marketing & patient data into easy-to-understand, actionable insights that help clinic owners more effectively grow their business.

Commisioner.io (http://www.strikingly.com/commissioner): Amateur sports management made easy! Streamlining the organization and communication of amateur sport leagues and events via a strong data dashboard and web-mobile application.

Utility Health: Doing ’rounds’ will never be the same. Utility Health is an effective task management tool aiming to disrupt the archaic way physicians keep track of their rounds and engage with patients. It increases physician productivity, reduces mistakes and increases engagement of hospital administration.

OhZone: OhZone is a next generation payment solution that offers instant, secure and contactless payment experience for day to day transactions to unbanked individuals.

Making kids’ spending more manageable and traceable, OhZone offers a simple-to-use mobile payment solution that simplifies the way parents handle kids’ pocket money.

About NEXT:

One of UP Global‘s key entrepreneurial programs, NEXT runs over the course of five weeks with 3 hour sessions designed to take promising startups through the more difficult early stages of the entrepreneurial journey and prepare them for a tangible milestone, such as an accelerator, investment, or sustainable product launch.

NEXT Toronto is organized locally by Nathan Monk (Senior Strategist, MaRS), Chris Eben (Partner, The Working Group) and Holly Knowlman (Marketing Manager, The Working Group). Contact the organizing team: toronto@swnext.co
NEXT Toronto is supported by MaRs, The Working Group and 
CDMN – The Canadian Digital Media Network. NEXT has already held 60 programs globally since starting in November 2012 with plans to run in 40 cities globally during the spring of 2014. For more information, visit swnext.co or follow us on Twitter @SWNext.