Written by Andrew Seale
Near the end of university Kevin Wong and his entrepreneurial friends faced a tough choice: go the, same route as their heroes – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Michael Dell – and drop out or continue their degree at University of Waterloo.
“We had conscious discussion about it,” says Wong. “We had started getting more serious about wanting to start our own business.”
But they stuck with it and for their fourth year systems design engineering project they ended up laying the groundwork for Nulogy, the company the same four friends – Wong, Jason Yuen, Sean Kirby, and Jason Tham – would still be running 14 years later.
Naturally, 14 years is a long time and the company, which provides cloud-based services and automation for the customized packaging industry, has evolved.
“When we started in 2002, we cleared the family room of the sofa and TV at Tham’s and brought in our university computers working together, the four of us plus Jason’s father,” he says. Today the company has 150 employees, and has worked with more than 400 brands. It has an office at Queen and Bathurst.
But the focus remains: eliminating supply chain waste.
“One of the most complex parts of the supply chain is the last mile before the products reach retailers and consumers,” he explains. “There’s a huge amount of work that goes into customizing mass produced products for these retail and consumer markets… it’s complex and (creates) a lot of waste.”
Nulogy’s cloud-based software helps tighten the process.
“Supply chain has become a very hot part of the cloud technology landscape, there’s a lot of interest in seeing how the internet and cloud computing can transform supply chain,” says Wong. “The marriage makes a lot of sense.”
In addition to keeping pace with industry changes, Nulogy has also seen Toronto’s startup ecosystem converge. When Nulogy opened its first real office, they picked the at the time undeveloped Liberty Village area.
“It was a very different feel… now Kobo is in there, and there’s more development of the work- personal life integration,” he says. Yet again, the company has found itself amongst another growing startup cluster in the Queen and Bathurst area.
“It’s taken off now,” says Wong. “If you want to connect with someone, do a coffee, connect, talk startups, whatever aspect of it – invariably it’s super convenient to meet up around in that cluster because everyone is working there.”
Nulogy drew a lot from the ecosystem in the early days with support from MaRS and Ontario Centres of Excellence.
“Being in a community like Toronto is great because there are a lot of people you can learn from (that can) mentor you on that journey,” he says. And then of course there’s his co-founders, his friend and teammates that’ve stuck together for a decade and a half, something Wong says is probably Nulogy’s greatest achievement.
“All four of the founders are super engaged in the business, good friends, our kids are now friends, they go to the same school, all the same birthday parties…” he says. “It’s not just business for us, it’s personal.”