We enjoy speaking to people that have moved to—or moved back to—New Brunswick for new opportunities. In today’s post, we introduce one such individual, Tony Daye, CEO of Loft1.
Loft1 is bringing New Brunswick innovation to the ordinary whiteboard with an exciting new software solution. Loft1’s software transforms any existing whiteboard and marker, in real-time, into a completely digitized set of notes that are both editable and searchable.
ONB had to learn more about this exciting startup.
ONB: Let’s begin with some details about the Loft1 solution.
Daye: Our software allows businesses and students to start and share whiteboard sessions in seconds, without the need for a special display or stylus.
People don’t like change, so the real challenge is how to deliver new technologies while preserving the traditional paradigm — ‘business as usual’. The basic whiteboard remains a mandatory piece of the meeting puzzle, and typically it’s an impromptu process. I’m a fan of the idea of some technologies out there that have attempted to capture information. That said, existing digital display boards have failed to deliver a truly useful set of advantages.
What we’ve consistently discovered through our strategic partners, primarily large multinationals in the U.S. is that roughly five out of six have some type of digital display board in the room, though use a basic whiteboard instead. The feedback provided was that existing digital display boards are simply a pain to use and don’t perform well. Early discussions with our early adopters shed a lot of light on just how much market demand there was for what has now become Loft1’s software.
Loft1 allows anyone to write on a basic whiteboard with any dry-erase marker and view the text on your smartphone, tablet or laptop in real-time. You’re seeing what’s being written on an analogue whiteboard—a physical board with no interface—and within seconds it’s replicated on your device.
Are you focused on any particular industry?
We’re focusing on the two largest market needs, within two major groupings; post-secondary education and enterprise. In the business space uses will certainly include almost all office functions, but we understand the significance of the value that Loft1 brings to R&D professionals. If you’re doing a blue-sky session or an R&D meeting, you’d end up taking a picture and be stuck with an image you can’t search or edit, or may never even look at again. Our technology allows the ability to search. You’ll have a meeting and weeks later, may not be able to recall certain details, but if you remember you talked about a blue cow, you could type “blue cow” into your computer or phone, and the correct document will appear.
In addition, we have real-time document sharing and offer the ability to edit so you can add annotations or insert new text. We’re really addressing a software functionality need while not imposing change. You can still pick up a regular marker, but now you’ll have tools to help you really benefit from it.
Old school tools with new school tech benefits.
Exactly. You can imagine the benefits in the post-secondary education space or even in K-12. You can pay attention, and process what’s being talked about knowing there will be a record of the class notes. You can still add your own notes in real-time, but you can focus on listening acutely and on really processing what’s being said. You’ll have a takeaway of what’s written on the board complemented by your own notes.
What was the spark that drove Loft1’s creation?
The need was obvious right from university where before an exam you would have a TA come in and say “this equation will be on tomorrow’s midterm” and it would be fairly complex, and you’d have to really pay attention. To write it all down you could often miss something or not have the time to process what was being presented while you copied notes.
There’s enormous potential for Loft1 and the partners we have. We’re at the point where customers are asking for the product. We’re working hard to finalize every detail and get it into customer’s hands quickly.
It looks like in order to keep up with demand you’re looking for more people to join the team.
Yes, we’re looking at some immediate hires; software engineers and developers. Ideally, it will be a mix of people with subject matter expertise and talented programmers. We’re always looking for brilliant individuals; that could be someone fairly novice or someone with strong experience. For the right individual, there’s always a place. We’re definitely offering well above average salaries, and looking for exceptional people with that spark in their eye.
Are you from New Brunswick?
Yes, I grew up in Fredericton and attended the University of New Brunswick (UNB). My background is in Electrical Engineering. Immediately after university, I moved to Halifax to work for about 12 years. From there I spent time in California, still in the Smart Grid space, prior to returning home.
What brought you back?
We had a unique opportunity with Loft1. Our Co-founder and CTO, Roman Kulyk, was previously the Co-Founder and CTO of another successful company in the Smart Grid space. We had known each other for a few years prior, and when we began to think about this technology it was clear just how much of an immediate market need there was.
Roman is a well-known, accomplished, brilliant individual who’s very hands-on. He’s highly immersed in the technology development and he’s an excellent problem solver. We’re creating some very cool IP in-house. This will help us maintain an edge over current competitors, and over forthcoming competitors.
How competitive is your space?
There are a number of competitors from different spaces. Some are hardware technologies; they’re easier to go up against because they’re not as nimble on the software side and often more difficult to use. On the mobile app side, the technologies continue to be rudimentary in nature. So there’s a huge gap there.
What role has ONB played with Loft1?
ONB was instrumental in bringing Loft1 to New Brunswick; it’s been a very responsive organization and has been an excellent partner thus far. You’ve helped us find the right people within government for a number of business needs we’ve had, including general business advice. I think with ONB dealing with investment attraction as well as export development under one roof, there will be even more support moving forward.
What would you say have been the biggest obstacles for Loft1 so far?
Nailing our proof of concept. When it comes to funding, we need to articulate that we do what we say we’re going to do. First and foremost, we needed to be able to prove to ourselves that the problem we were looking to solve was actually solvable. It was difficult, but we are thrilled with the results.
That’s good for two reasons. It means we won’t see a lot of competition in terms of being able to readily take this on. There are plenty of smart people out there but this is a really challenging area that we’re tackling and have managed to get early success in. We’ve tackled it and proven to ourselves that it’s a viable technology, and since then we’ve been able to proceed and mature with our product. Proving it to ourselves was the big one, and that’s been conquered.
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Cover image: Loft1