#OttawaInc: Solink

Nov 11, 2015

Year company was founded:     2009
Number of employees:               20
What They Do:                             Fraud Prevention

The surveillance industry has remained virtually unchanged for years. Set up a camera, record footage and access the content after an incident arises. Although the hardware has evolved, the uses for this visual data have been narrow in scope: mostly loss and fraud prevention.

Ottawa’s Solink is on a crusade to change that mindset. In addition to saving companies time and money for fraud investigations; the company believes that the hours and hours of gathered video footage can offer key insights into the operations of a business.

By combining cloud storage, big data search capabilities and mobility, Solink says it’s on the brink of transforming what they call “a stagnant industry”; and by landing premium brands like Tim Horton’s, the firm is well on its way. Invest Ottawa spoke with Solink CEO, Michael Matta, about their new vision for the surveillance space and how Ottawa is a “melting pot” of tech talent.

How do you explain what Solink does, to people outside of the tech scene?

We empower brick and mortar businesses to use data to reinvent their entire operations. What differentiates us from other data-analytics software companies is that we’ve successfully made surveillance video a source of insight. We focus on security applications that combat fraud proactively. In the future, we see every department using video to make data-driven decisions: marketing, operations, even HR.

What was the light bulb moment that sparked the idea?

Mike Matta

Mike Matta

It’s estimated that 70% of all Internet traffic is video (YouTube alone ingests over 300 hours per minute). Yet few realize that off-line video is orders of magnitude larger than online video. Surveillance cameras are ubiquitous – every store, bank, restaurant, airport has dozens to thousands of cameras throughout their footprint. But video is treated as an afterthought; like an insurance policy. After an incident, footage is passed to law-enforcement or security personnel to show evidence of bad things happening after they have happened. However in general video is ignored most of the time.

It’s baffling that this rich data is at our disposal but seldom used. We decided to fundamentally change the way people use surveillance video by paying attention to all the data around it. In the same way Google delivers content based on your historical interests, geolocation, pageviews, frequency of access – we aim to narrow the information from thousands of hours of video to a user’s specific needs.

What words would you use to describe the Ottawa Ecosystem?

Melting pot – The Ottawa tech scene is a great embodiment of our Canadian culture. It’s a diverse and eclectic group of talented people who won’t accept flawed, conventional wisdom. It’s cool to see a diverse group have such common understanding of the startup struggle. There is an amazing support system between entrepreneurs, mentors, and advisors to listen, nod and say “you aren’t crazy”.

Competitive – Ottawa has a talented and niche community of builders, hackers, and hustlers that are in high demand.

Conservative – There has been amazing success stories in Ottawa but Canada’s venture community is, in general, quite conservative. I wish investors in Ottawa (and Canada) thought bigger and invested earlier stages with more cash. Often that means taking the long view – understanding that hard problems take time to disrupt, get to product-market fit, and achieve scale. In return, big problems have massive upside potential.

Which resources in Ottawa have helped you grow and scale your business?

Wesley Clover (our investor) – Terry Matthews is the most relentless person I’ve ever met. He wants to see more grand-slams in Canada. He has a long term outlook and thrives on having focused vision. The Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) partners and invests in audacious ideas. We have leveraged IRAP in order to fund many ideas. Their affinity to invest in experimentation at an early stage is a big advantage for Canadian entrepreneurs.

Why do you think Ottawa is a great place to grow a business?

You get smart people that are highly driven, and get to enjoy a great quality of life. One of our Ottawa newcomers recently told me “you have to spend time in Ottawa to understand its beauty”. There is a different vibe in every neighbourhood. There is also a lot of realism in Ottawa- the ability to discern hype from reality. Bravado and chest pounding can only take you so far – eventually product, customer and team is all that’s left.

Read more about Ottawa’s ecosystem and startups here

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