Startup tech companies flourishing in Waterloo Region
Published Tuesday, October 2, 2012 5:54PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 2, 2012 6:45PM EDT
A new crop of smaller firms are hiring in Waterloo Region, with an estimated 1,000 high tech positions waiting to be filled at any given time.
That estimate comes from Communitech, a non-profit that is among the institutions that supports startup technology companies in the region through mentorship.
Startups like Maluuba, where they have developed an app for Android smart phones that can answer almost any question.
Joshua Pantony, CTO and co-found of Maluuba says “We build technology that can understand exactly what it is that you ask for and answer your question very precisely.”
The technology is similar to Apple’s Siri, but it doesn’t talk back.
And while Siri took about five years to develop, “We’ve been able to build something at a competitive level with that within the space of a year,” Pantony says.
The project began two years ago when four University of Waterloo (UW) students teamed up to create Maluuba.
Co-founder Kaheer Suleman says it started in an unlikely place, “We got together in a stairwell of the library and we formed the company.”
Then last fall the team won $25,000 to fund the venture from the University of Waterloo’s Velocity program, which provides mentoring tools for business-minded students.
Geoff McBoyle, associate vice president of academic and strategic initiatives at UW, says “We are attracting people who will certainly be key to the development to the economy of Ontario and Canada in the future.”
At Maluuba things are moving quickly. Around the same time the group received funding, Apple launched Siri.
“The same day that happened,” Pantony says, “We had two of the big players call us up. I’m not allowed to mention one of the names, but the other name is Samsung.”
That call led to $2 million from Samsung, and allowed Maluuba to grow to 23 people and secure office space next to Google, Desire2Learn and Communitech.
It’s yet another group of students that counts Communitech as a supporter, and the company says it’s key to talk openly with young entrepreneurs, especially with the troubles at RIM.
Communitech President and CEO Iain Klugman says it’s important to ask certain questions.
“What do we need to be doing to make sure that we don’t miss a technology cycle? What can we learn from some of the leaders that are coming out of RIM that have global experience?”
The team at Maluuba is now looking to fill five full-time positions and says they value all the help they’ve received and are confident it will foster even more innovative technology.
Pantony says someday “You’ll step into your car and you’ll ask it to drive you home. You’ll come to your fridge and you’ll ask your fridge what you can cook tonight. When you put your turkey in the oven, it will know exactly how long to cook it.”
Coming up in part three: Taking a look at Magnet Forensics, a tech startup company headed by a former RIM manager, that is also hiring.