Vancouver Sun: BCIC New Ventures Awards kick off Vancouver Startup Week

Published on Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Vancouver Sun article on the BCIC New Ventures Competition Winners, including UBC-affiliated Prollster.

A British Columbia startup that has created software to help agents around the world recruit international students took the top $100,000 prize in tech awards announced Monday.

Edvisor topped several companies that shared $300,000 in prizes in the BC Innovation Council New Ventures awards that kicked off Vancouver Startup Week.

Second prize of $55,000 went to Ziva Dynamics, a Vancouver software startup creating next-generation simulation tools used in everything from virtual reality in games to filmmaking and surgery simulation.

The $37,000 third prize went to ChangeHeroes, an online fundraising platform that has raised more than $1 million and funded 217 projects.

For Edvisor co-founder and CEO Nicolas Miller, the company grew from a realization he shared with co-founders Shelley Chen and John Kor that the process of recruiting international students was one that could benefit from technology.

“We all grew up studying in multiple countries,” Miller said. “The reason people study abroad is partly for the education, but a big part is the culture and learning how people around the world think.”

Edvisor’s software platform isn’t directed at students, but bridges communications among education agents around the world and the schools and educational institutes that serve the students they recruit.

“We built it to solve a lot of the challenges that exist in terms of sharing information among schools that recruit international students and the education agents in places like China, India, Brazil and other countries — they all sell courses locally and the students come to study in Vancouver and around the world,” Miller said.

“It’s so rare you find these big industries that haven’t been transformed by the Internet and technology, but this was one of them.”

Edvisor’s platform is a tool for agents and education institutes that already work together.

“We wouldn’t call ourselves an open marketplace because what we do is facilitate the working relationships between schools and agents, once a contract exists,” Miller said. “Schools already have working relationships with agents — with big schools that could be thousands and thousands of agents — and our platform makes that relationship work much more efficiently.

“Our platform has become the conduit for all the information exchanges between the schools and the agents that sell their programs abroad.”

To date the company, which launched at the beginning of 2014, has reached 700 agents across 40 countries and counts the world’s largest language schools among its users. Earlier this year, the Gastown company raised a seed round of $1.5 million in funding and has grown to 14 people.

The business is based on the software as a service (SAS) revenue model, with users paying a monthly subscription of $30 per user.

This year marks the 15th for the awards.

“The BCIC-New Ventures Competition helps fuel the growth of technology startups in B.C.,” Greg Caws, president and CEO of BCIC, said in a release. “Each year we are excited to see the ingenuity, innovation and initiative shown by the entrepreneurs in the program, and pleased to help accelerate the growth of their ventures.”

Other award winners include:

  • $22,000 BCIC Resource Industry Prize Package to Stem Shock, “a programmable non-GMO herbicide platform” to aid the fight against invasive or herbicide-resistant weeds;
  • $20,000 B.C. Bioenergy Network prize and $10,000 City Innovation prize to Recycle-Now, providing tailored recycling and education services in Vancouver;
  • BCTIA Centre4Growth Accelerator Program prize package to DoolyNoted, a platform for salespeople for notes, sharing information and other updates that are made automatically in their customer relationship management software;
  • Wavefront Wireless prize package to CamDo, which has hardware and software that extends applications for GoPro cameras, including deepwater and extended time-lapse; and
  • Plug and Play Tech Centre Prize to Prollster, an educational startup that adds social engagement, dubbed “social learning,” to online education.