This month’s spotlight highlights CoLab Software, a technology startup in St. John’s working to shape the future of mechanical design collaboration.
GlobalNL has connected CoLab Software with top Silicon Valley tech including: Group Manager at Tesla, Vice President at Google, Program Manager & Design Manager at Apple, Executive Director at The C100 and multiple venture capital firms. Below you can learn more about CoLab and their journey.
Imagine you are having someone design something for you; it could be a consumer product, a new office space or a complex piece of mechanical equipment. You might start by discussing your specifications with a designer, who would then use various design tools to produce drawings and models of your product.
But how best to share these visualizations with you and gather your feedback, particularly if you are not in the same location? The designer will likely either take screenshots from their design software and share with you via email or set up a web conference where they can share their screen of the model.
There are a few problems with this, namely, miscommunication of ideas, unnecessary delays and disorganized data sharing and feedback. In addition, you and the designer are likely not the only stakeholders; other third parties such as engineering firms, parts manufacturers and regulatory bodies may be involved in the design process.
Now imagine your project is only one of more than 10 projects the designer is working on. Is there a better way of doing things?
CoLab Software co-founders Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews faced this exact problem on a daily basis while participating in SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod Design competition, where they ultimately finished in second place.
“We lost countless hours to archaic design review processes and making decisions based on outdated 3D models” said Keating.
At first they thought that they just weren’t aware of or couldn’t afford the right tools. But following internships in Silicon Valley (Andrews for Tesla and Keating for Reflexion Medical), they realized that even some of the most innovative companies in the world were using the same inefficient methods to carry out design reviews.
Fortunately, CoLab is developing a solution. Gradient, which has been launched to a small group of early adopters, is the worlds simplest design review and issue tracking tool built specifically for mechanical design teams. Its secure, cloud based platform allows designers to create design review sessions, upload 2D and 3D files, invite reviewers, and create, assign and track issues.
CoLab is currently a team of six based out of St. John’s, NL with plans to expand to 10 by this summer. While the founders of CoLab got their inspiration for the venture from the Hyperloop competition, the business skills they needed to get started came from inside the province and the GlobalNL network.
Both Keating and Andrews were members of the Memorial Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) and Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s leading tech accelerator program. With the support of these programs and an experienced advisory board, they were able to overcome the early challenges associated with starting a tech company in Newfoundland.
So what advice does CoLab have for entrepreneurs?
Finding a diverse network of mentors is an absolutely crucial part of starting a startup. Mentors understand what is important, and having input from different fields can help ensure you understand the big picture (market, fundraising, technical, legal, etc).
Starting a new venture is a huge hurdle but the day to day operations can be equally as tumultuous. “Every single day will be different. You have to be nimble and setting daily, weekly and monthly goals is crucial to staying on top of it all” says Keating. An agile management structure can be as beneficial to the team as an agile development structure is to the product.
With 4,000 people working in 196 tech startups across the province it is no secret that the pace of entrepreneurship and technology in Newfoundland and Labrador is picking up. But there are still significant barriers, even in the software industry, where physical proximity to customers is not as critical. Keating identified finding software developers as one of the biggest challenges CoLab has faced; the province produces approximately fifty Computer Science and Engineering graduates each year, which is insufficient to create a competitive hiring pool.
“The dream is to grow the software industry in Newfoundland and Labrador to 10-15 Verafin sized companies, but right now we just aren’t producing the human resources locally to do that” said Keating. And while economic growth like that may take years to achieve, growing a strong network of people to make it happen starts right now.
You can get in touch with Adam and Jeremy via LinkedIn or email: