innovate niagara

Powering What's Next

Helping entrepreneurs with leading edge ideas start, grow and succeed.

What is Innovate Niagara?

Innovate Niagara connects innovators to the people and programs required to bring their innovations to market through a suite of in-house programs, resource partners and network of incubation facilities. Our site is designed to showcase how we streamline an entrepreneur's path from concept to prototype to profitable business — all in one place — helping to drive the growth of innovative clusters in the Niagara region.

We facilitate networking, collaboration, prototyping, and business development through:

  • business advisory services;
  • entrepreneurial training course;
  • business and industry networking event;
  • business-academic collaboration opportunities;
  • additional business tools and resources.

Message from the CEO

Welcome to the fourth annual edition of Innovate Niagara’s Year in Success digital publication, where we highlight the successes of our clients and partners from 2016.

This year we will be entering our ninth year of operations, having supported over 600 entrepreneurs start, grow and succeed since our inception. Founded in 2008 as nGen – Niagara’s Interactive Media Generator, we transformed our operations and expanded our mandate to become Innovate Niagara in 2013. This transition enabled us to work with clients regardless of their industry in order to help entrepreneurs scale their companies.

Our support and strength in the interactive digital media (IDM) industry continues to help grow this space in the Niagara Region as our IDM incubator, the Generator at one, continues to operate at capacity in its sixth year. We have also many successful graduate companies such as Fourgrounds Media, morro images and PixelNAUTS, who continue to grow within the Niagara region, attracting and retaining talent, and creating even more business opportunities.

This year we also continued to celebrate the successes at our other network of business incubation facilities – the Goodman School of Business BioLinc, and the Educational Research and Innovation Hub (ihub) – along with our partnership with Niagara College’s Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Centre.

Brock University’s BioLinc incubator started their third year of running the Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship Program for Niagara youth entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 29, with increased collaboration with ncTakeOff, the on-campus entrepreneurial activities at Niagara College. BioLinc opened in September 2013, and has been a valuable resource for student entrepreneurs, researchers, and companies within the region and beyond.

The Educational Research and Innovation Hub (ihub) has grown over the last year to include more than twenty Portfolio Companies and an extensive network of educational, industry, and community partners. The ihub hosted a wide variety of events that connected its educational technology portfolio companies with students, educators, and researchers, including the CONNECT Conference. CONNECT is Canada’s largest education technology conference, attracting close to 2000 participants, and countless exhibitors and sponsors, to share best practices and expand the horizons of education technology.

Niagara played host to many events and conferences this past year of which Innovate Niagara was proud to be a part. With help from our Business Analysts, the 2016 edition of IGNITE Niagara saw high caliber pitches from some of Niagara’s best and brightest entrepreneurs; we were especially proud when one of our clients was also announced as the Grand Prize winner.

At Innovate Niagara, we have also expanded our focus over the last two years to spend time supporting established businesses in Niagara. In 2016, We were able to help twelve small- or medium-sized enterprises with projects valued at up to $5,000 worth of one-on-one support toward strategic marketing or business development activities. Due to the success of these projects in the first year, we have since increased the scope of this program to 15 projects in year two.

Innovate Niagara’s mandate is to continue to help entrepreneurs with leading-edge ideas to start, grow and succeed, regardless if a company is at an early “idea” stage or if they are an established business looking to pivot or grow. Entrepreneurs inspire us. They are the backbone of this region and our country, and we look forward to continuing to support these community leaders in 2017.

Jeff Chesebrough
CEO, Innovate Niagara

the Generator at one 5 Year Anniversary Party

Innovate Niagara was an extremely helpful in a growth phase for our company. They helped guide us through various funding programs that greatly assisted in our ability to scale internationally. The whole team there has been a wonderful resource!”Link2Feed

Our Success in Numbers

our year in numbers - innovate niagara year in success
June 2011 through December 31, 2015

Message from the Board Chair

2015 was a proud year for the Innovate Niagara Board of Directors, as we celebrated the continued successes of the Innovate Niagara network of incubators and the far-reaching successes of Innovate Niagara’s clients. We were also pleased to establish the Patrons of Innovation program, honouring prominent community ambassadors of innovation and entrepreneurship in Niagara, including former Innovate Niagara Board Members, industry leaders, and community builders. The program was launched with a reception celebrating the inaugural cohort of Patrons, including Nick DiPietro, Rosemary Hale, Jack Lightstone, Joe McCallum, Dan Patterson and Terry O’Malley.

After focusing much of 2014 on cultivating a responsive strategic path to support Innovate Niagara’s needs, 2015 was a year of activation. With Innovate Niagara’s growth in incubator and service partnerships, expanded client reach, and community outreach initiatives, Innovate Niagara is solidifying itself as a leader in the province. The Success In Numbers graphic contained herein quantifies how Innovate Niagara continues to deliver on a strategy that reflects the unique and diverse needs of innovative Niagara businesses.

The Innovate Niagara Board is largely made up of private-sector representatives from a diverse cross-section of industries; our members’ unique views and hands-on experience with an array of clients and organizations is helping us forge Innovate Niagara’s practical, client-centered future.

I am proud of Innovate Niagara’s continued success in powering leading-edge ideas and implementing strategic-focused planning. On behalf of the Board, I look forward even more of Niagara’s innovative entrepreneurs succeeding in 2016 and beyond.

Albert Iannantuono
Board Chair, Innovate Niagara

Niagara's Regional Innovation Centre

As Niagara's Regional Innovation Centre, Innovate Niagara had a very busy year in 2015, working with many interesting and talented entrepreneurs to help their leading-edge ideas start, grow, and succeed. Our innovative clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and specializations, and all have great enthusiasm and determination. Our analysts and advisors worked with 236 startups, including 169 new clients from around the Niagara Region, and a few from outside of Niagara.

Innovate Niagara client locations within the Niagara Region

Our business advisory team worked closely with each client to help them understand their market through research, or how to pivot if there was no viable market. Business advisors also helped clients find programs that would assist them in product development or hiring new staff, and made valuable introductions to other entrepreneurs, service providers, funding partners, researchers, and other potential partners.

In 2015, we saw the number of startups founded by youth (under 30 years of age) continue to increase, in large part due to our partners at Goodman School of Business BioLinc's Kickstarting Entrepreneurship and Niagara College TakeOff programs.

Our clients varied by industry, with a half of our clients representing the Digital Media and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) area.

During the year, we delivered valuable opportunities for learning and networking by running and partnering on a combined 43 events with close to 2,300 attendees. The events were held in St. Catharines, Thorold, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham and Grimsby and included:

  • MaRS Entrepreneurial Training workshops
  • Interactive Digital Media Town halls (partnered with Interactive Ontario), and Mashup networking events
  • Learn@lunch / workshop sessions with topics such as The Value of Video Marketing; Employee Experience; Targeted SEO and Social Media Strategy; B2B Sales Strategies for Startups; and Branding and Storytelling.
  • With the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce we launched the inaugural Ignite Niagara Pitch Competition hosted at the brand new First Ontario Performing Arts Centre. Local entrepreneurs applied, and five finalists were selected to pitch their businesses and ideas to a panel of judges (“Fire Starters”). The top prize was $10,000 in business support services from companies around the region.

Other projects:

With the support of National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, we launched a pilot program that provided one-on-one business & marketing strategic advice to small and medium sized companies in the Region. We helped 9 companies to to solve their immediate business challenges through mentoring services from executives with rich backgrounds in contract manufacturing, marketing, business-to-business sales, and strategic planning.

In 2015, Innovate Niagara was designated for Canada’s Startup Visa program. The program is dedicated to foreign entrepreneurs with the potential to build innovative, scalable companies that contribute to the global economy. Through our network of incubators, Innovate Niagara can support growing companies meeting the eligibility requirements of Canada’s Start-up Visa program, with intellectual property in the areas of Interactive Digital Media; Education Technologies; or Biotechnologies.

Regional Advisory Services Fund. In 2015, we were able to provide to 6 clients who had a founder aged under 30, funding for special projects that brought a significant impact to their business. Examples of projects completed were marketing & branding, media launch, website development, mobile optimization.

As we approach five years of serving leading-edge entrepreneurs as Niagara’s Regional Innovation Centre, 2016 promises to be even better as we plan our new events, and continue to work with our fantastic partners in providing services to small and medium size companies in addition to our startup clients.

N'ora Kalb
Director of Operations

Clients by industry

Become a Client

Innovate Niagara helps entrepreneurs in high-growth industries to start, grow and succeed. Founded on the principle of "innovation through collaboration", Innovate Niagara is a Regional Innovation Centre, providing a single access point to match clients with services to suit their needs through a suite of in-house programs, resource partners and network of incubation facilities.

As a Regional Innovation Centre client, you will have access to tailored business advisory services at no cost; entrepreneurial training activities, including mentorship opportunities and hands-on workshops are offered at a variety of convenient times. You will have exclusive access to client-only events, with reduced or waived event attendance fees. Supplemental one-on-one meetings with our business analysts and service providers scheduled at mutually convenient times will help your leading edge idea start, grow, and succeed.

Apply now!

2015 Client Success Stories


Principle/Founder name(s)

Daniel Bordenave

Year founded


Business description

BISEP focuses on creating new technologies and devices to enhance human performance in sport, exercise, and rehabilitation. BISEP’s first device is a rehabilitative mechanism that attaches an individual’s wheelchair to their walker. The Ambulation Retraining Mobility Mechanism (ARMM) increases the frequency, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of ambulation training in retirement homes, long-term care facilities and any other healthcare facility.

With the official product launch planned for early 2017, the ARMM has already gained support from Innovate Niagara, Brock University, Niagara College, Bridges Community Health Centre as well independent healthcare professionals. BISEP’s future plan include manufacturing the ARMM device in the Niagara Region as well as constructing other novel devices to enhance human performance and efficiency.

Milestones/Successes to date

Winner Blueprint Business Competition 2016

  • Fogler & Rubinoff Award
  • Nitsopoulos Award
  • Fan Favourite Award

Winner ITTAC Business Competition 2016

  • Fan Favourite Award

Finalist IGNITE Niagara Competition 2016

Collaborative advanced manufacturing project with Niagara College, funded by collage and Niagara Region 2016

Collaborative research study with Brock University Faculty of Applied Health Sciences 2016

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Innovate Niagara has been incredibly supportive. The knowledge and expertise I have received from the Business Advisory Services team has been extremely beneficial and a major reason that BISEP has had successes to date.

From simple mentoring meetings to establishing local partnerships with major organizations, Innovate Niagara is the only hub (in my opinion) that has been able to provide such unequivocal support, insight and motivation.

With access to intelligent and experienced business advisors, Innovate Niagara makes it easier to develop a sensible path for the future for your business and to get to where you want to be. Having a true pride and dedication to helping businesses and industries flourish in the Niagara Region, this hard-working team makes Innovate Niagara the place to be if you want your innovative business to succeed.

Black Wings Effects

Principle/Founder name(s)

Masoud Reza Aziminajjar
Amin Kasraians
Shamim Shahramnia

Year founded


Business description

Black Wings Effects is a full-service VFX studio that creates content that tells the full story. Using state of the art technology and techniques we make the impossible possible.

We have experience and expertise in the feature film industry as well as commercials, television productions, video games and motion graphics. Our collaborative approach enables clients to be part of the creative process producing content that brings your ideas to life. Black Wings Effects creates visuals that stimulate our senses, excite viewers and inspire us to believe that what may seem impossible is possible.

Black Wings Effects is a brand born out of MRA Studio Sdn. Bhd. Its CEO and founder, Masoud Reza Azimi has 21 years Graphic Design and VFX experience. Masoud pushes himself to produce more challenging art both technically and creatively. With a presence in both Toronto and Niagara, Black Wings Effects collaborates with their clients around the globe to create and experiment until the project is complete and brings what was once an idea to life.

Our services include Conceptual design, look development, on-set supervision, 3D animation/CGI, matte painting, compositing and finishing.

Milestones/Successes to date

Working with giant companies in past few years like Volkswagen, BMW, MINI, Kia and Hong Liong Bank was our great achivements. Also cooporating with WE ARE KIX back in Malaysia brought us many opportunity like working with Viper Challenge (Obstacle Course Event) in Asia which at the moment we are negotiating for their very first TV Show for 2017.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?


Principle/Founder name(s)

Ransom Hawley and Mick Higgins

Year founded


Business description

Caddle is a digital marketing smartphone app and website that pays consumers for their engagement, feedback, and purchases. It enables clients to target and educate their consumers, while deriving insights, soliciting real-time feedback, and incenting purchase. It's essentially a holistic campaign, start to finish, on one platform!

Milestones/Successes to date

Partnerships with major companies such as Ferrero, General Mills, South St. Burger, Mars, Pepsi, Danone, Campbell's, and Home Hardware. In the first week of launch Caddle was the #1 trending app in the App Store and was ranked in the Top 20 Free Shopping Apps!

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Innovate Niagara helped turn my idea into a reality. Their incredibly knowledgeable and helpful staff helped me with everything from securing funding, to legal support, to sourcing a tech company to build the platform right here in St. Catharines (Symetric Productions).

Being an entrepreneur means...

In my limited experience, being an entrepreneur means freedom to create and build something that you believe in and have a passion for. It's signing up for an adventure that challenges you, exhilarates you, and ultimately is a big part of what defines you... and at the end of the day it's more fun.

Falling Squirrel

Principle/Founder name(s)

Dave Evans, Founder and Studio Director.

Year founded


Business description

Falling Squirrel Inc. is both an independent game studio and a creative service provider. As a studio, we create compelling story-driven game experiences with the specific goal of pioneering advances in narrative design and audio based game mechanics for the visually impaired. Falling Squirrel founder, Dave Evans, has over 15 years of combined game and film industry experience and offers freelance creative directing, writing and design services for game developers.

Milestones/Successes to date

May 2016 - Finalist in Ignite Niagara pitch competition.
Aug 2016 - Secured OMDC IDM funding for prototype of blind accessible video game, The Vale.
Oct 2016 - Finalist at Game On Ventures (Interactive Ontario) Game Pitch Competition.
Dec 2016 - Completed game Prototype for “The Vale”.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

From the creation of early business plans in 2014, to recent success with grant applications and pitch competitions, Innovate Niagara’s personal mentorship and sponsored workshops have been invaluable in filling the many business development gaps within our creative focused company.

Iron Will Raw

Principle/Founder name(s)

Matt Bonanno

Year founded


Business description

Iron Will Raw is a local manufacturer of premium raw pet food based in Welland, Ontario. The company selects only Canadian, locally sourced meats from federally or provincially licensed meat plants across Ontario and throughout Canada. Iron Will Raw also has a private label sector and manufacturers raw pet food for other companies in the Ontario market.

Milestones/Successes to date

Over the last 3.5 years Iron Will has grown very rapidly and is quickly becoming a recognized household brand. Iron Will Raw recently expanded from a 400 sqft production space into a new 9600 sqft location allowing for an increase of production capacity by over 500 percent. To help distribute the product, Iron Will Raw has increased retail store relationships by tripling the number of stores that stock the brand in only one year. Iron Will Raw is now available in close to 50 retail locations across Ontario and more retailers are being added weekly. Iron Will has also expanded its management team and workforce and is always looking for hardworking and dedicated team members.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Innovate Niagara has been very professional and courteous since Iron Will Raw was introduced almost two years ago. They have been a very big asset in the company’s success and have helped Iron Will Raw make many professional and industry connections. Innovate Niagara has facilitated opportunities including grants, seminars, relevant articles, strategic partnerships, professional mentors and even played a role in Matt Bonnano’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the year nomination. Innovate Niagara understands the struggles behind being an Entrepreneur and is always there to offer insight, leadership and lend a helping hand.

Principle/Founder name(s)

Bob Lytle

Year founded


Business description

Do you really Know Your Customer? We do. analyzes Open and Public Data on the world around us. Gathering information from multiple sources, we create a complete and unique picture of customers for Financial Services firms, insurers, and researchers who are looking to understand more about the market and grow their business. We add predictive analytics and compelling interactive technologies to our Advanced Business Data, helping clients understand trends and the overall prospects for the companies in their portfolio.

Milestones/Successes to date

January 2016: filed our first patent for Open Data decisioning
April 2016: engaged initial customer pilots
June 2016: founding business partner - Brock Centre for Business Analytics
August 2016: awarded Ontario research grant for Text Mining Analytics
November 2016: selected by AIG Insurance as one of Canada's Top Ten Innovators

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

We would not be as far along in business - and maybe not in business in Canada at all - if we had not come to Innovate. As a Regional Innovation Centre, Innovate and its portfolio incubators delivered on the promise of solid business consultation, delivery of crucial business support services, and shepherding of the Startup Visa process for our founder, a US immigrant.

Here’s what we get:
A business home, filled with encouragement and challenge;
Industry, commercial, and service provider contacts;
Legitimacy in the market from Day One - a critical component of our early success;
An opportunity to give back to the centre with our unique skills;
We are surrounded by and supported by, a stellar cast of characters who are part of our extended family story. This is the stuff of business life, to enjoy who we work with and look out for each other.


Principle/Founder name(s)

Neil Lane, Meghan Chayka

Year founded


Business description

Stathletes is a sports analytics company that statistically breaks down multiple facets of a player's game, providing unique and accurate insights into their performance

Milestones/Successes to date

Incorporated in 2010, there are now more than 50 Statletes employees behind the data used by top tier leagues, teams and athletes. We're proud to serve all major North American hockey leagues, their partners and affiliates with exclusive data, reports, insights and visualizations.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Consistently helped with exposure to government programs and provided advice.
Accessed Career Focus funding to aquire 2 employees.
Accessed CDMN Soft Landing Program for market expansion.


Principle/Founder name(s)

Steve Black

Year founded


Business description is a free educational website that teaches older adults and others with limited computer skills how to use the most popular websites and apps on the Internet.

Milestones/Successes to date

  • 20% month-over-month traffic growth over 400,000 visits in November.
  • Over 400 library and nonprofit partners use to teach digital literacy.
  • Published over 1100 tutorials across 100+ courses.
  • Cashflow positive with small team of 5 full-timers.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Innovate Niagara has provided guidance and hands-on assistance that has helped us secure multiple grants. They have also offered free access to valuable workshops on a variety of important topics that have helped our team expand our knowledge base.

Being an entrepreneur means...

To me, entrepreneurship is creating something out of nothing. It’s about taking a leap of faith towards an idea, building something, nurturing it, embracing challenges along the way, and showing the determination to let nothing stand in your way.

The Violin Group

Principle/Founder name(s)

Michael Violin

Year founded


Business description

Pursue perfection. Nothing less.

At the Violin Group, we are a dynamic team of forward-thinking individuals who fiercely strive to redefine the status quo of our industry. We are driven to surpass expectations in every project, at every turn.

"What if ... "

It was this mentality that drove Mike Violin to found The Violin Group in 2008 - and it is this same philosophy of challenging the status quo that continues to drive the company forward today.

After finding success early in his career - first as an electrician, then as a project manager - Mike Violin's penchant for design, building and creativity was left unfulfilled. So, armed with a logo consisting of a stylized version of his last name sketched on a dinner napkin, Mike set out to build a company that would operate a cut above the competition.

With decades of experience, training and know-how, The Violin Group prides itself on a tireless passion for its trade and an uncompromising pursuit of perfection - all while balancing classic principles of design with leading edge technology.

In a world where "close-enough" is often the standard, The Violin Group completes projects that break barriers, defy expectations and demonstrate a quality of work that is painstakingly precise.

At the heart of this drive for performance excellence is a team of innovative individuals who relentlessly push the company to find the smartest solutions possible. Their combined passion, experience and dedication to hard work are a reflection of the company's values and allow The Violin Group to function as more than the sum of its parts.

However, quality and craftsmanship are only part of the equation; the company also takes a zealous approach to customer service and client collaboration. Striking this perfect balance of quality and service helps The Violin Group create a custom-tailored vision for every project and leave a lasting impression that has become the company's signature.

The Violin Group has come a long way since Mike's first sketch on a dinner napkin, but his team remains committed to his original "What if" mentality. Their genuine passion for the work- and the distinct mark of precision and quality - still permeates every project The Violin Group has a hand in.

Milestones/Successes to date

The first Violin Power project is scheduled to be completed is Q2 2017 at LEED certified, organic, Southbrook Winery – 136KW Solar Installation.
The Violin Group have had many successes to date such as rewiring of the CN Tower, and High Speed wifi for Tim Horton’s Field.

How has Innovate Niagara / the Generator at one helped you?

Innovate Niagara has played an important role in helping us decide ‘next steps’ for our company. When operating in such disruptive industries (telecom, fiber optics, and renewables) it is essential for us to have as much information as possible to make the decisions necessary to stay ahead of the curve for our clients. Innovate Niagara has also helped us optimize our online presence which will assist us in continuing to reach our goals.


Platinum Partners

Gold Partners

Silver Partners

Editor & Content Director
Tamara Jensen

Form & Affect

Photo credits
The Innovate Niagara team, Open Concept Films, Giant Shoe Creative, Fourgrounds Media, Fab Formisano

Contributing writers
Steve Boese, Jeff Chesebrough, Albert Iannantuano, Tamara Jensen, N'ora Kalb, Dan Lynch, Dino Miele

Innovate Niagara
1 St. Paul Street
3rd Floor, Suite A301
St. Catharines, Ontario
L2R 7L2