iMerciv – 16 June
iMerciv is a Toronto based start-up leveraging crowdsourcing and AI to empower pedestrians with personalized navigation and actionable data in real time for safe, convenient and accessible trips.
Navigation technologies were never built for pedestrians. Existing navigation apps are run on routing engines that have been built and optimized for vehicular travel and do not consider all the variables that can affect pedestrian travel. People are not cars, so why should we navigate like them?
MapinHood runs on iMerciv’s custom AI routing engine that is built for the flexibility of pedestrian travel, resulting in the most personalized and inclusive navigation experience. For example, MapinHood can generate a user the safest path home at night based on lighting, crime and accident data, or provide the most accessible route to a user in a wheelchair using gradient and accessibility relevant data.
The leadership team has bootstrapped the development of MapinHood with revenues from a previous product and were awarded Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility grant to help with the development. The company also recently made the cut for this year’s Next AI cohort – A Next Canada accelerator program. The beta version of the MapinHood app was recently released on the Canadian app stores and is available to download on both Android or iOS. In light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, they have also just released new updates on MapinHood that help the public practice safe physical distancing via an ‘avoid crowds’ setting in the app, with more features coming that can help with estimating wait times at retailers and protecting vulnerable communities.
To maximize the total impact and adoption of the platform, the team will be leveraging marketing and PR channels including social media and via their strategic partners which include the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Abilities Center Canada, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, Be My Eyes, Walk Toronto, Microsoft, Mars Discovery District, University of Toronto, and Next Canada.
Achieving concentrated critical masses in each city as the app rolls out is the largest hurdle iMerciv faces. They aim to overcome this by leveraging their strategic partnerships with the local community to help with user acquisition via joint marketing campaigns. They also intend to grow their user base with app store optimization, referrals/invites, PR and Press Coverage, and Paid advertising.
iMerciv has six full time employees and is managed by Bin Liu and Arjun Mali, who have been long time friends and founded iMerciv together. Their mission is to empower those living with vision loss through smart wearables and innovative assistive technologies. The duo has been working together for over 5 years and have previously commercialized a wearable for the blind, BuzzClip, in over 30 countries which allowed iMerciv to bootstrap MapinHood in 2019. The pair has also raised over $1 Million in non-dilutive funding so far.
Bin is the CEO and is focused on everything product related and has always been a tinkerer in all aspects of tech. Arjun is the COO and is focused on everything operation related, and is usually the one responsible for marketing, generating revenue, and engaging with key stakeholders. Erik Tillberg, the CTO, has a background as a full stack developer. He graduated with a Masters in Computer Science from U of T and has built GPS based mobile apps in the past.
iMerciv was incorporated in August of 2014. The company has raised just over $1M, excluding sales revenue. The sources of funds include grants, pitch prizes and awards. Some notable awards include Microsoft AI for Accessibility Award ($250K USD), Telus National Pitch Winner ($100K), and Grand Challenges Canada ($250K). They are now looking to raise a $500,000 USD Pre-Seed round in order to scale the MapinHood platform to multiple cities in North America and they feel that they are uniquely positioned to grow during and after this pandemic and become the go-to navigation app for non-drivers.
The Pre-Seed Round of $500,000 would fund iMerciv’s key activities connected with further market penetration, optimizing their user funnel, validating their growth engine and allowing for the addition of key employees and talent, including a UI/UX Designer, a Full Stack Developer, and a VP of Communications/Marketing. The expected runway of the funding is 18 months. They also expect to run a series of experiments to confirm product market fit by focusing on user retention and engagement and to have scaled the platform to all of Canada and the first few major U.S cities.
iMerciv plans to generate revenue from MapinHood via:
Location Data Analytics
By providing actionable anonymized location data, i.e. foot traffic, and additional insights such as state of condition or infrastructure to public and private sectors including Cities & Municipalities, Commercial Real Estate & Retail, and Residential Real Estate (Walk Scores/Ratings).
Location Based Advertising
Overall, there is much greater scope, time, opportunity, etc., for a pedestrian to engage with a merchant rather than an individual speeding past in a car.
Map and Routing API
Since their data is focused on walkable spaces and the routing engine accounts for more variables, they have a distinct differentiation from existing map API services like Google Maps. They can provide richer map and routing API services at a competitive cost as their datasets are pedestrian or ‘last mile’ focused.
Premium features with additional datasets will be provided to users for monthly subscriptions.
Customized interactive maps for large outdoor venues like zoos and exhibition grounds.
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