Two Atlantic Canadian companies have been accepted into the inaugural Canadian cohort of Google for Startups Canada -- a three-month virtual accelerator targeting businesses in the seed and series A funding stages.
Halifax-based Eyeread and Curv Health, which has offices in Halifax and Toronto, will be among nine companies to complete the program. The accelerator was originally meant to be held in person, but COVID-19 has forced it to go virtual.
Eyeread is the corporate name for Squiggle Park and Dreamscape, which are gaming platforms designed to teach children to read. Curv uses machine learning to analyze videos of people in motion, then uses that information to develop fitness routines to prevent or treat injuries.
Eyeread CEO Julia Rivard Dexter said in an interview that she sees the accelerator as an opportunity to capitalize on Google’s product-development expertise: “I feel like we’re already [a market leader] in terms of our competitive advantage, but this is an opportunity to go further,” she said.
Last week, Eyeread received word that Google had accepted it as an official partner, meaning that the company has integrated its products with Google’s platform and has at least one million users.
As an example of the type of integration that Eyeread’s new partner status entails, Rivard Dexter cited Google’s “single sign-in” protocol. The technology allows users to log into a battery of Google-affiliated services with a single account.
She added that she hopes participating in the accelerator will help Eyeread deepen its working relationship with Google: “Given that our focus is scaling our user base, one of the most exciting pieces is to work closely with Google teams to develop growth strategies and growth channels.”
Curv Health CEO Shea Balish said his main goal for the accelerator is to upgrade the Curv team’s healthcare expertise and improve its machine learning technology -- two fields in which Google is a world leader.
“If you’re working in machine learning and you’re working in healthcare, Google is one of the companies that makes the most sense [to partner with],” he said. “In particular the [Canadian] Google headquarters in Waterloo has a specific interest in healthcare... that makes it a no-brainer.”
Balish said he is specifically hoping to find ways to make Curv’s AI more cost effective, citing the potential cost savings created by machine learning as a sometimes-overlooked feature of the technology.
He said that COVID-19 has helped create new opportunities for Curv to market itself; many physiotherapy patients who would have previously visited clinics or hospitals for treatment can no longer safely do so, making Curv’s AI-generated workout plans a potentially appealing substitute.
“Many therapies can be facilitated with asynchronous digital tools, so COVID has created this physical separation and it’s really a perfect time for digital therapies to take off,” said Balish.
Eyeread has benefited from a similar phenomenon. With many parents in Canada and the United States keeping their children home from school because of the pandemic and some American school boards still relying on distance learning, Rivard Dexter said COVID-19 has been a boon to educational software.
And because teachers do not have to pay for Squiggle Park and Dreamscape, but parents do, converting users into revenue has become easier.
“For education technology generally speaking, COVID was exceptionally helpful,” she said. “But for us in particular, it’s been even more beneficial for our company. That sounds wrong when you’re talking about a pandemic, but in terms of the growth, it’s been hugely important.”