Written by Andrew Seale
A summer poring over handwritten washroom cleaning logs was enough to spur computer engineering student Cole MacDonald to build a better way to keep tabs on washroom facilities. From MacDonald’s perspective, property managers could automate their needs with a few sensors on their dispensers and at the doorway to track foot traffic.
So he developed a prototype sensor to monitor paper towel levels and toilet paper, and pitched it to the entrepreneurship class at Queen’s University where he was studying computer engineering.
“That's when we met,” explains Nathan Mah, the soon to be co-founder of Mero Technologies. It was December 2016 and Mah was in the midst of his master of entrepreneurship and innovation.
MacDonald’s concept struck Mah as a simple solution in a space few technology companies were actually paying attention to. Plus, there was room to grow. He thought it was pretty odd for a large property management company with hundreds of facilities and assets and over billions of dollars in management to have “the same cleaning record practice as a 7/11.”
Mero Technologies was certain it could change that.
The pair brought the idea to a pitch competition before the school year was out, won it, and with a small amount of seed money in hand, started massaging the idea. It wasn’t long before they were validated.
“We cold-emailed (the Kingston-based franchise for ServiceMaster Clean) and they were like ‘we'd love to try to the product with you guys,’ ” he says. After that, they added the City of Kingston, the LCBO, and their alma mater, Queen’s University.
“The nice thing about Kingston is Kingston people like to do business with Kingston companies,” says Mah. “Building from that small network and outwards has been pretty valuable for us.”
They’ve since translated their success in Kingston to Toronto, moving into York University’s YSpace innovation centre in Markham. “The diversity of thought in YSpace is great – digital marketing agencies, clean tech, consumables, consumer products, IoT…” he says. “Talking about your company to all these people who aren't in the same industry as you, makes you better at communicating.”
Mero Technologies also participated in a hardware accelerator in Berlin. But building the company in Toronto has been a part of the plan since day one.
“Toronto was always the ideal destination,” says Mah. “You look at the size of the facilities here, it's just a massive increase, and the whole smart building movement and connected devices for IoT, it's a trend that a lot of buildings can't ignore anymore.”
Places like Pearson Airport and the Rogers Centre offer a lot of potential, with Mero Technologies targeting buildings greater than 50,000-square-feet with a lot of traffic fluctuations throughout the day.
He says their solutions allow property management to take a holistic view of their buildings and notice details surrounding demand, like, for instance, maybe one of their buildings needs more cleaners around 3pm on a Monday.
“Those types of insights and the ability to do that have never been offered for this industry before,” he adds. “It's nothing sexy but it's always a need, and always will be.”
Photo Credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycamp.com)