Written by Doug O’Neill
Jason Muloongo likes to joke that the main reason he completed a degree in aerospace engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg was that he’d be able to say to people, “Oh, it’s not rocket science.” Humour and self-deprecation aside, Muloongo’s combination of academic smarts and his knack for innovation got him from South Africa to Canada not once but twice – before he even graduated.
Muloongo first visited Canada in 2012 when he was part of a team of South African student entrepreneurs who won the Education Category in the World Summit Youth Awards at the World Congress on Information Technology held in Montreal. He recalls how excited he was to be included in a panel session moderated by broadcaster Larry King. “That first, short visit to this country,” recalls Muloongo, “left me wanting to see more of Canada.
The young man got another opportunity to further his Canadian experience in 2014 when he was among seven student entrepreneurs from the University of the Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch University who were invited to Toronto to spend a term in Ryerson University’s incubator program DMZ. The tech start-up hub had just launched the South African fellowship program in 2014. “The purpose of this program was to develop business plans, network with professionals in the industry, benefit from mentoring, and gain international experience,” says Muloongo.
And this is where Muloongo quickly discovered the collaborative nature of Toronto’s start-up community: “One of the best things about the start-up scene in Toronto is people’s willingness to collaborate, especially in the early stages when we’re all just trying to find our way around. Other entrepreneurs really want you to succeed. So many innovators said to me, ‘Hey, I know someone who can help with that. Let me connect you.’ Toronto has so many deep resources, especially digital hubs where you can make great connections.””
Muloongo worked with an educational company for his first year and a half providing free online continuing medical education (CME) to over 130,000 medical practitioners in the Middle East and Africa. “Soon after that role I was tapped by Ryerson’s DMZ to work as a program manager for the Legal Innovation Web site, Family Assist Portal, which is part of the university’s Global Family Justice Initiative. The web site, currently under development, is an interactive online portal where families can obtain the information they need to facilitate faster, simpler and more affordable resolutions of their issues.”
Muloongo is quick to thank the Ryerson team for facilitating his enrollment in the federal government’s Start-Up Visa Program, which enables skilled immigrant entrepreneurs like him to develop viable business projects. Muloongo (a self-identified multi-tasker) devotes a lot of time these days on a new augmented reality (AR) business called Telligram, which he co-founded with fellow innovator Adam Camenzuli.
TelliGram is an online store that specializes in AR (technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world). “We create AR marketing material for businesses to increase their conversion rate with prospective customers,” explains Muloongo. “For example, an augmented reality flyer of a new condo will have a 3D rendering of the condo on the flyer and it will allow users to get a personal walkthrough with a realtor. The alternative would be a traditional printed flyer in your mail box which would likely end up in the recycling bin.”
The Telligram team has also started started selling AR-enhanced video greeting cards which Muloongo hopes will make for more authentic emotional connections than standard e-cards. “At the end of the day,” he says, “making great connections is what it’s all about it.”
Photo Credit: Doug O’Neill