Supporting the Next Generation of Halifax Start-ups

By: Rebecca Rawcliffe

It may be summer but Dal-hosted innovation sandbox ShiftKey Labs is buzzing with activity from emerging entrepreneurs.

Based in the Goldberg Computer Science Building, ShiftKey is hosting seven teams from the Faculty of Computer Science all taking part in the NS Sandboxes Project Incubation Bootcamp.

From a Canadian Visa Superhero to an automatic meeting scheduler, teams are two thirds of the way through a three-month long provincial bootcamp to develop their innovation ideas.

Cutting-edge artificial intelligence

RovBOT uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence algorithms to understand the needs of individuals manoeuvring through the Canadian visa process. The idea is being developed by Computer Science graduate students Ruhi Madiwale, Dhivya Jayaraman and JeyaBalaji Samuthiravelu.

“Through Facebook Messenger, RovBOT makes the visa process easy by guiding users every step of the way, providing customised guidance”, says Ruhi Madiwale, Master of Applied Computer Science student and RovBOT Tech Evangelist. “We have trained RovBOT using publicly-available information from Citizenship and Immigration Canada(CIC) to understand individual needs and keep track of application deadlines and documentation.”

“As international students at Dalhousie who have all gone through making visa applications, we saw a need to make the visa process easier and more streamlined for those wanting to come to Canada. We hope that RovBOT can fill that gap and also offer tailored support for newcomers.”

Nurturing business potential

The aim of the bootcamp is to support teams of up to 3 founding members in the early stages of developing a product which has some business potential.

“Through mentorship, innovation-focused workshops and collaborative workspace, we are supporting the next generation of Halifax start-ups get off the ground”, says Grant Wells manager of ShiftKey Labs. “Sandboxes across the province are hosting teams with a diverse range of ideas; it’s amazing to witness the innovation and help in developing ideas which could have a real impact on day-to-day life.”

Connor Walsh, Computer Science alum, had an everyday workplace struggle in mind when developing automated meeting scheduler, Let’s Schedule.

“Identifying group availability for meetings is a common problem for most people in the workplace,” says Walsh. “This inspired me to think about developing a solution that goes beyond the traditional systems currently used.

“Let’s Schedule finds suitable group meeting slots by automatically looking at individual calendars and highlighting ideal times and dates for everyone, without requiring any manual input from users. The solution can be incorporated into existing calendar systems used in the workplace.”

Teams will go head-to-head in final presentations on August 24, with the most promising teams receiving prize money from a pool of $50,000.

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