Written by Andrew Seale

If the digital point-of-sale systems, inventory management platforms, and payment machines are the never centre of a small business’s operations, the internet is the blood that provides the necessary energy. And like circulation, when the internet gets cut-off, it’s not long before the consequences compound. 

“Unless you're paying through the nose for an internet provider to handhold your internet connection, it's going to go down,” says Cameron Couch, founder of Ethica, a Toronto startup looking to tackle the problem of downtime and latency issues. “And it goes down more often than you think, in fact, it goes down about two hours a week.”

It only takes a bit of math to see that two hours a week over the course of a year adds up to a significant loss of revenue. Ethica’s solution? Hedge your bets. The startup’s CloudAccess software allows businesses – or anyone for that matter where internet uptime is critical – to get multiple connections, monitor those connections, and transfer between them as necessary to preserve your internet speed.

“If you're a restaurant owner and it's 7:30 pm, people are paying for their meals, you've got a cloud-based point-of-sale system and your internet connection goes offline, what do you do? Do you get the manual credit card machine? Do you still have a manual credit card machine? (What about) debit? You've got to send them out to go get cash or…” he says. “For the insanely low price of our software, you can actually mitigate that risk and put in a second connection and we will take care of monitoring how that traffic is being used.” 

There: internet supply diversified. “The likelihood that both are going to go down is very rare,” says Couch. “And every time I say that line, somebody reminds me of the blackout… but, I mean, at that point you have bigger problems than just your internet going down.” 

He admits it’s by no means a new business, there are companies out there doing this in the world of enterprise. But with 15 years of experience working at Toronto startups, Couch wanted to create a model that focuses on empowering small businesses. Ethica is Couch’s first time as a founder building something he feels “this strongly about.” 

“If you started something and 15 years ago, everybody knew about it because you were the only one starting something 15 years ago,” he says. “But now, I mean, we share an office space with seven other companies, all doing something that somebody believes in – and that’s just one room.” 

Even beyond tech, inspiration is everywhere in the city – new breweries, food trucks, the guy hawking coffees out of a window along Spadina. “He so exemplifies this city's ability to just have a dream and execute on that dream… it's amazing,” says Couch of The Coffee Lab. “He sits in this window by himself charging $2 a coffee.”

He’s cash-based, so maybe an outlier for Ethica’s business, but even still, it’s people like that with ideas that drive Couch – the entrepreneurs and freelancers and distributed workforces of the city that are only continuing to grow.

“Overspending on an internet connection is not something that I’ve got the patience or the ability to do – distributed workforces, people who work from home, people who rent desks at coworking spaces, all of those people need to have a better internet connection than just best effort,” he says. “The nice part is now you can have the data and you can hold your ISP accountable to the service level that they're offering – it keeps them honest.”

Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)