Canada’s leading thinkers reflect on how COVID-19 has changed our community, Canada and the world and changed the future forever.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
The COVID-19 pandemic has become just that for some startups operating among communities in Pile through the Ryerson Venture Zone in Brampton.
The Ryerson Venture Zone in Brampton is getting some of the best ideas for new businesses in the region. From screening software on COVID-19 for employers to an electronic scooter exchange system to an appointment booking system that uses artificial intelligence – innovators are solving the problems caused by the pandemic, right here.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Susan So lost her job in the corporate media during the company’s restructuring.
With experience in producing newspapers from Toronto Star, as well as an understanding of the technology sector, So turned to a Chinese company that developed a device for screening COVID-19.
“I knew enough about what can and can’t be done with consumers,” Soe said, explaining that she was concerned about data collection and privacy.
This led her to become a co-founder of FirstScreen, a friendly PHIPPA employee vetting system for employers to help its employees return safely to the office.
The software takes note of vaccination status, can track rapid tests and screens to detect symptoms, while confidential information is edited and stored separately from frame data.
“We give companies a choice,” she said, explaining that there are different options for surveys for unvaccinated employees that are conducted discreetly and separately at home.
So is working through the Ryerson venture zone, attracting businesses in Brampton, and is currently negotiating a contract with a supplier for rapid testing.
Another Ryerson startup, Scooty, hopes to set up an electronic bicycle and electric scooter exchange service in Brampton.
Receiving the green light from the city of Brampton for a mini-pilot program in Chinguakusi Park in the summer, Shoaib Ahmed and his team were shocked by the reaction of the community.
“We had more than 1,000 trips,” Ahmed said over a period of four to five days. “We don’t have a single scooter left.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic was not the cause of the project but a catalyst.
“It showed that the pandemic was forcing people to take to the streets,” he said. “It has expanded the development of this concept.”
One startup called Preparie is a program that connects home chefs with hungry customers, a solution to saving concerts to stop work in the midst of a pandemic. Another is a health care device, like a watch, that controls hand washing for those in medical facilities and medical facilities.
For Manny Abraham, the founder of rEVEN AI, the pandemic heightened the need for what he had already seen.
He developed a program for medical clinics to automate the processes of recording appointments, referrals and inquiries using artificial intelligence. He said many offices still require sending documents by fax or email to manually connect to the system.
With this technology, medical administrators save an average of seven minutes per client by manually sending documents and entering information into the system.
With the launch of virtual healthcare during the first wave, Abraham says the technology is helping to fill a much-needed void in the digital management of medical records.
Usha Srinivasan, director of the Ryerson venture zone, believes these startups have shown resilience and ingenuity in times of complete uncertainty.
The zone has five years of funding from the city of Brampton to help incubate technology startups in the city.
The first cohort of 10 companies graduated in August 2020, and another 14 companies are currently participating in the program.
“Sometimes innovation comes along,” Srinivasan said. “Entrepreneurship is born from this.”
STORY BY STORY: Since the start of the pandemic, entrepreneurs from Peel and GTA have come up with a wide range of innovations. Some of these ideas were developed at Ryerson. We wanted to find individual stories behind some of these ideas that directly affect people’s lives.