Smartpods has raised $750,000 in equity financing to help it battle one of society’s great health problems: sitting.
The Dieppe, N.B., company makes tables that have work areas that automatically rise, fall and move from side to side to get users off their butts.
Its technology controls the movement of the working space, and it is finding customers among corporations and government.
Having graduated in November from the Launch36 tech accelerator, the company late last month closed $250,000 in funding from BDC Venture Capital, part of the Business Development Bank of Canada, and $500,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.
BDC Venture Capital customarily gives $150,000 convertible notes to the best graduates of Canadian accelerators.
But it is now giving larger amounts to hardware companies, and Smartpods is the first to qualify.
“Hardware companies need more money (than software companies),” said Nicole LeBlanc, associate director of strategic investments and partnerships at BDC Venture Capital.
She added that a prerequisite of receiving the $250,000 allotment is to “have another funding partner who can help them along.”
Smartpods is the brainchild of Leon DesRoches, the company’s CEO and founder.
Having worked for more than a decade as a physiotherapist, DesRoches understands that one of the greatest health issues in the world is that too many of us sit at our desks at 9 a.m. each day and remain there until 5 p.m.
“We truly lose people from nine to five,” said DesRoches in an interview.
“It’s not just health that’s being affected. It’s affecting productivity. That’s why businesses today are paying attention to health and wellness. It’s affecting people’s productivity.”
About four years ago, DesRoches decided he had to come up with a solution.
People ignore devices that ping them every 20 minutes or so, reminding them to move. Other techniques tended to fail as well.
So he devised a table with a work area that automatically moved to encourage mobility among desk-bound staff.
The company partnered with another from the Moncton area, MotionFab, to design the desks and develop a prototype.
Their desks, which are manufactured in Moncton, are attractive, can be customized to users and hide unsightly wires.
Two years ago, they developed their first prototype. They tested the product on 22 Blue Cross employees and analyzed their biomechanics and work output.
They learned employees were more productive, happier and suffered less pain than those sitting at traditional desks.
They got similar results when they tested the product at Moncton’s 911 call centre.
“When they work on Smartpods, they don’t hit that three o’clock wall that is very common with desk users,” said DesRoches.
His timing has been good because large organizations are realizing the problems created by a sedentary workforce.
For example, the federal government has launched its Office 2.0 program, which demands all workers should have a desk with standing and sitting positions.
At $2,500 each, the Smartpod desks are designed to meet the needs of high-end employees and professionals who are desk-bound much of the day.
The target market would be architects and accountants.
DesRoches has previously raised about $1.5 million, including financing from government programs.
Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.