They say that you aren’t necessarily born an entrepreneur, but for Charles Lavigne and Kevin Oke, of LlamaZOO, it seems to be in their genes—Charles came from an entrepreneurial family, with both his parents running their own businesses, and Kevin’s father and grandfather were both entrepreneurs. For both Charles and Kevin, using their past experiences to bring their ideas to life and create new things was something that they were passionate about—which is why they created LlamaZOO.
LlamaZOO is an e-learning platform that marries interactive 3D with gamification and teaching methods based on cognitive neuroscience. Research shows that using interactive 3D in the classroom can make students more efficient, confident and engaged. “Any subject that requires understanding of spatial relationships and structures can benefit from our platform’s 3D visualization,” Charles explained. LlamaZOO’s first product, EasyAnatomy, caters to the fields of veterinary and animal science education by providing interactive 3D models of canines created by using MRI and CT imaging.
Charles and Kevin received support through the Spin Master Innovation Fund, a program run by Futurpreneur Canada and Spin Master Ltd. where innovative start-ups compete for up to $50K in financing as well as mentorship and access to exclusive workshops led by industry leaders. As entrepreneurs, Kevin explained that it can be difficult to foresee all the twists, turns and costs that will come up along the way. Programs like the Spin Master Innovation Fund not only help provide expert advice to new entrepreneurs, but also give entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect with others that are in the same boat. “Being able to spend some time with others in the same position was equal part knowledge-sharing, as well as a form of therapy,” Kevin described.
On top of being the financing received through the Spin Master Innovation Fund, LlamaZOO also landed a private equity investment. Their investor, who they met through their local accelerator, VIATEC, in Victoria, British Columbia, was looking to invest in projects that crossed over between healthcare and education. After spending a fair bit of time getting to know each other and discussing how the company worked, the entrepreneurs and the investor decided it was the perfect fit. “Eventually he wanted to invest and we went through the process of identifying characteristics of the deal, essentially a statement of understanding. We then each had our lawyers draft things up in a more formal way,” the pair explained. “The biggest take-away is that it takes longer to close a deal than you expect, but because we had a good relationship with him, it was fairly painless.”
Starting a tech company isn’t an easy thing to do. Charles stressed how important it is for entrepreneurs to really get to know their market opportunity and the problems customers have, and then focus on solving those problems to maximize the value you can provide. “You should also try to do something you know something about,” Charles said after explaining that the pair knew nothing about the veterinary space, but quite a bit about developing interactive software. “This will help you stay interested, because it’ll probably take longer than you expected.”
2016 looks to be another exciting year for Charles and Kevin as they are heading back to Toronto in the spring to catch up with some of the other Spin Master Innovation Fund recipients. This summer, they also look forward to launching EasyAnatomy software into schools.
To learn more about LlamaZOO, click here to visit their website.
Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada