A win-win for Green Shield Canada and Schlegel Villages
Supporting and investing in startups and high-tech companies are just two of the ways Green Shield Canada and Schlegel Villages are helping innovative tech businesses establish a foothold in the marketplace.
“We’re finding many larger companies are not specifically built to handle some of the new technological opportunities they face,” explains Adam Frye, WEtech’s director of business innovation. “They are very good at what they do but sometimes they need an outside viewpoint to tackle some of the innovation opportunities.”
At Green Shield, for instance, the company has launched a strategic innovation project designed to invest in new technologies while engaging and working with startups.
“We have always had a strong belief that investing in startups, particularly in health-related fields, is good for our company and good for our clients,” explains Michael Bradie, Green Shield’s leader of strategic innovation.
Last August, Green Shield invested $9 million in Mind BEACON, a company which has developed an Internet Cognitive Behavioural Therapy app which enables people suffering from mild to moderate mental health issues to instantly connect with a health-care professional.
“By working through the app, clients are able to access mental health advice from the comfort of their own home which helps reduce the stigma of meeting people face-to-face,” said Bradie. “If people feel comfortable accessing this advice and help, they are more likely to take advantage of it.”
Green Shield has also partnered with Maple, a telemedicine provider that enables clients to seek face-to-face advice in real-time through their iPhone or iPad, which today announced it will provide online COVID-19 screenings with a live physician to Ontario residents.
“We believe this service can cover off up to 70 per cent of what is covered by doctor or clinic visits which is good for an overworked health-care system,” said Bradie. “Instead of waiting two hours or longer at a clinic, Maple guarantees access to advice within two minutes through their app.”
Doctors aligned with the service are able to write prescriptions, if necessary, which can then be faxed to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice or even delivered to their home.
Green Shield has also invested $10 million to partner with Portag3, a venture capital fund, focusing mostly in the financial, insurance and health technology sectors.
As Bradie explains, it gives Green Shield access to venture capital funding as well as start-ups in a variety of sectors.
“It can open up many avenues for us in a very competitive marketplace,” he said. “We can’t maintain our position in a crowded marketplace without innovating and we have decided to bring our innovation ideas outside the company to benefit our clients as much as possible.”
Frye said that helping businesses adjust their business priorities or models is a large part of WEtech’s mandate.
“And when large companies partner with start-ups, they have an opportunity to help shape their products and their growth to match the needs of the organization and its stakeholders,” said Frye.
Schlegel Villages, a long term care provider in Ontario, recently began offering mentoring advice and support through a pilot program administered by the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) which provided four medical technology startup companies with access to health-care providers, professionals, family members and residents at one of their long-term care homes.
“The program was designed to allow these startups an opportunity to present their technology in real-life situations,” explained Lora Bruyn-Martin, Innovation Specialist at Schlegel.
“At the end of the program, we established an advisory panel which gave the startups feedback on their technology which, in turn, will allow them to fine-tune their products before taking them to a broader marketplace,” said Bruyn-Martin.
The startups included a company which is developing low-level laser therapy to aid with inflammation and pain in patients’ joints and another which is developing facial recognition technology to help monitor residents seeking to leave long-term care homes without supervision.
A third start-up is offering in-home sensors to monitor the daily routines of people living alone with automatic reporting to family members if those routines change dramatically and a fourth company which has developed QR codes for smart phones so that long-term care home staffers can become more familiar with residents in their care.
Bruyn-Martin said that Schlegel is considering establishing a second intake once they have fine-tuned their own program.
“I believe we will probably tweak it and do it again because it was very beneficial to us and to the companies who participated in the first round,” said Bruyn-Martin.
This is a space that WEtech believes it can be playing a major role in, especially in Windsor-Essex and Chatham Kent.
“WEtech is in a really unique position in terms of helping to create more collisions between large organizations, and the entrepreneurial community,” said Frye. “We have proven that we have the ability to help startups commercialize and rapidly bring products that scale to market through programs like Libro ScaleUP Tech Accelerator, and at the same time have proven to be able to define and solve challenges for large organizations through our corporate innovation programming, Innovation Catalyst. Now is the time for us to bring both together and really make some tangible impact on both sides. You will be hearing more and more about our newest program Ignition, that does just that in the coming months.”