Written by Andrew Seale
In most households, there seems to be a correlation between the number of gadgets kicking around and the amount of time lost to finding said devices. And Marie Velechovsky’s household was no different. Between her husband, her daughter and her, tablets and cellphones sat, batteries slowing draining while cords stayed hidden in some long lost outlet behind the couch or under a table.
“My husband got very frustrated with misplacing all the devices and figuring out where the wires were,” explains Velechovsky. And failing to find something on the market that didn’t take up counter space or charge devices at a snail’s pace, her husband, Michael Fernandes, decided to design his own.
“He has a little bit of electrical experience… he does motorcycle modifications,” she says. What Fernandes didn’t really know at the time, was that he was building Vama Innovation’s first prototype, the Dock Me, a freestanding tower with shelves for charging and plenty of electrical and USB sockets.
“It was just amazing, people would see it, they would love it, use it, want to borrow it and wouldn't want to give it back,” she says. “So I thought, hey, we're onto something.”
Velechovsky and Fernandes started to wade into the patent application process but it was dense and required a lot of legwork. “It’s very hard to license something.”
They had some designs done, found a manufacturer and tried running a Kickstarter, raising $10,000. But it wasn’t enough. That’s when Velechovsky realized they needed more help if they were to take a proper go at launching the company.
While looking through StartupHERE’s resources she came across Innovation York's business accelerator AccelerateUP. Vama Innovation applied and got into the program in April 2017 completing it in September that year.
“We raised about $60,000,” says Velechovsky. “During that startup program, all the deadlines, goals and targets we were supposed to hit motivated (me) to do some pitching.”
They’ve since started to bring the Dock Me to trade shows like the GTA Home Show. It’s elicited a “huge response.” They’ve also leveraged other resources for startups including seminars from the Research Innovation Commercialization (RIC) Centre, and the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre.
“There are some great motivational teachers there who will walk you through certain things like narrowing customer base and how to approach customers if you're doing B2B stuff,” she says. “We've used a lot of the network… it's been very supportive and helpful for getting us to this point.”
Vama Innovation is currently in the midst of the manufacturing process with plans to deliver the Dock Me charging towers before Christmas. They also have other charging solutions in the pipeline. The company has set up an Indiegogo campaign which has raised over US$10,000 – 128 per cent more than they were looking for.
The support, says Velechovsky, is overwhelming at times.
“We started over two years ago… we didn't want to get our hands messy, we just wanted to sit back and collect royalties because we didn't know anything about business, especially manufacturing,” she says. But through the startup network, they quickly realized it was going to require their full attention.
“If you keep doing the same thing, you're not going to get a different result,” she says. “There's so much out there but you have to reach out and do the work.”
Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)