Adrian Sluga joins Shapetrace's Advisory Board

It's our pleasure to announce that Adrian Sluga has joined our Advisory Board at Shapetrace.

Adrian is a Senior Vice President for Project & Development Services at JLL Canada, and oversees the Commissioning & Building Analytics practice across Canada.

Adrian brings with him almost 20 years of leadership and experience on large-scale, complex projects across a breadth of fields. Adrian uses his tremendous breadth of project experience, including more than $1.5B in construction project management and 20+ P3 projects, business acumen, strategic planning, and thought leadership to bring direction and experience to Shapetrace. 

Adrian was previously the President of HFM Inc. (sold to JLL), and held executive, senior, and project manager roles with HFM, Skyline International Developments, Cadillac Fairview, GWL Realty Advisors, and exp Global. 

Please join us in welcoming Adrian to our team! 

Adrian Sluga's LinkedIn profile, click here.

Shapetrace competed at the CNE Innovation Garage Pitch Competition 2016

Shapetrace competed at the CNE Innovation Garage Pitch Competition 2016 on August 21, 2016 under the Augmented/Virtual reality category. We were also given a booth to display our technology to the public.

While we did not win, we were told that we came close. Note to self: the general public and the judges probably wanted to see something more inspiring than an investor deck :). 

 Image 1: Ernest Yap on stage pitching.

Image 1: Ernest Yap on stage pitching.

 Image 2: Co-founders Ernest and Julien at the Shapetrace booth. 

Image 2: Co-founders Ernest and Julien at the Shapetrace booth. 

(Nearly) Symbiotic, xyHT Magazine - Apr 2016

AS LONG AS HUMANS HAVE BUILT ENVIRONMENTS, they have been surveying. And as the human imagination has spurred increasingly complex constructions, land survey tools and techniques have evolved to perform more precise and complex measurements.

Today, the design, construction, and real estate industries are adopting building information modeling (BIM) as a digital representation of the building process that includes 3D geometric representation tied to costs and schedule and enabled by human collaboration. The past few years suggest that BIM is fast becoming mainstream (although it was introduced in the 1970s).

Now underway is rapid information exchange fueled by desktop PCs and fast internet, which is accelerating BIM adoption, as well as a second acceleration based on mobile computing. Naturally, land surveying is evolving to accommodate the BIM environment.

Click here to read the full article.

Indoor Positioning, xyHt Magazine - Feb 2016 by co-founder Ernest Yap

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 12.25.24 AM.png

Imagine that you’re disembarking from an airplane at Chicago O’Hare airport. You have a connection to Seattle for an important customer meeting. Your smartphone begins to buzz; you’re informed that your connecting flight is pre-boarding.

But you’re not worried. Your smartphone provides indoor directions to your gate...Click here to read the full article at xyHt.

Click here for the full issue of xyHT Feb 2016.

Mapping as a Service, xyHT Magazine Jan 2016, by co-founder Ernest Yap

Shapetrace co-founder Ernest Yap writes for xyHt Magazine, a leading geospatial trade publication, as a subject matter expert and quarterly contributor. In this latest piece titled 'Mapping as a Service', he talks about a possible trend in aerial mapping in the form of a SaaS (software as a service) using Australian-based Nearmap as an example. Incumbents and newbies should take notice (he's talking to you, all you drone enthusiasts).

Mapping as a Service

Fueled by the convergence of cloud computing, digital automation, and internet distribution, subscription mapping creates new opportunities.

Subscription aerial mapping sets out to rid the industry of its dated legacies. One in particular is the commissioning of aerial mapping projects. The process can be bureaucratic, expensive, and subject to a long approval. This could lead to delays and inconsistency in data deliveries, which is especially critical for end-users whose aerial imagery needs are based on seasonal conditions.

A second legacy is... full article here.

For the complete xyHt January 2016 Issue, click here.

ShapeTrace Labs wins 2015 MaRS Upstart competition

(re-published from the MaRS Blog, June 4, 2015) 

On May 20, Entrepreneurship 101 held its ninth annual Up-Start! Competition. Eight companies from the 2014/2015 Entrepreneurship 101 series pitched for a chance to win $15,000 to support their budding startups. We asked this year’s winner, Ernest Yap, co-founder of ShapeTrace Labs, to share his journey with us.

I would like to recognize my fellow finalists who participated in MaRS’ 2015 Up-Start! Competition, along with the 70 groups who submitted applications. We are all at the beginning of our startup marathon, and it takes a lot of courage to plunge into entrepreneurship. It will take even more to persevere and venture into the unknown to change the status quo. To those who want to start any kind of initiative, I say, “Do it NOW,”  because you will learn just how strong, capable and resilient you are in the face of uncertainty.

For the longest time, I had dreamt of starting a business. I wanted to make a contribution to help people on my own terms, including building the best team and work culture, providing the best customer experience and developing an awesome product. Yet growing up, I falsely conditioned myself to believe that I wasn’t entrepreneur material. After all, I thought you had to have the “right background” to be a founder, as if it was something you were born with.

In 2012, something changed. 

At the time, I was a jet-setting, global salesman working for the largest tech company in my industry. I was promoted young, armed with an engineering degree, and recognized as an up-and-coming domain expert. However, I was frustrated and bored, and this was slowly rotting my performance from the inside out.

While searching the web one day, I stumbled on MaRS and its Entrepreneurship 101 (E101) program. I thought, “Wow, there’s a community resource dedicated to starting tech businesses? And they offer an introductory series of weekly classes dedicated to founding companies?” Best of all, it was free and had real entrepreneurs coming in to tell their stories. I enrolled immediately.

I have a vivid memory of one of my first E101 sessions when we were introduced to the lean canvas process. I thought, “You mean there are alternatives to a business plan?” For years in my corporate job, any forward-thinking ideas I had were met with a “write me a business plan and we’ll consider it”-response. With E101, it was extremely refreshing to learn that there was a process to quickly test your business hypothesis without breaking the bank. The idea of rapid iteration and agility was eye-opening, especially with the acceptance of failures as part of the learning process. However, it takes time to undo years of pre-conditioning.

I was still waiting for the “right time” to start up.

Over Christmas in 2013, with the support of my wife and our families, I took the plunge into entrepreneurship. Knowing that a founder’s chances of success increase dramatically when you have mentors, guidance and support, I sought an aggressive accelerator. I found the Toronto chapter of the Founder Institute.

The Founder Institute is an early-stage tech accelerator with regional chapters around the world and it implements the no-holds-barred startup style of Silicon Valley. Its main objective is for you to intensely validate your business idea through a “fail fast, fail often” methodology. If you survive the program, you come out with a customer-validated foundation of a company, a network of CEO founders, and most importantly, a close-knit cohort of founders to lean on. The Founder Institute served as the springboard for the next stage of my business by forcing me out of my comfort zone and pushing me to levels I didn’t know I could reach.

It was at this point that I returned to E101.

This time, the information presented was more meaningful as it served to enhance what I already knew. When I heard about the Up-Start! competition, I thought it would be a great experience to get feedback on my business and to practice my pitching skills. So I applied. At the Founder Institute, we had performed one- and three-minute pitches, but the challenge with the Up-Start! Competition was to draw out the right information to 10 minutes while keeping the story compelling.

Pitching to the judges at the 2015 Up-Start! Competition at MaRS

For this, I was thankful to have the help of Shelley Kirkbride, my MaRS advisor. As a founder, you are often stuck in the details of your business, but Shelley was able to pull me out of the weeds, talk at a higher level and guide me to appeal to my audience. She took the time to review my performance, and to be available when I needed help. A big part of our competition success can be attributed to Shelley. I also followed the Artful Science of Pitching framework by Frank Erschen, who was a guest lecturer at E101 and at the Founder Institute. His format and transitions on pitching made a lot of sense because they enabled a really great story while hitting the points that investors are looking for.

So what’s next for us after winning the Up-Start! Competition? 

My team and I are still an early-stage startup so the road ahead is uncertain, but we have the confidence to know that we’re moving in the right direction. We have a prototype and potential clients, so we want to iterate very quickly and take our product to beta within the next six months. The cash and in-kind prizes will buy us more time for more product iterations. Of course, the ultimate win for our company will be to find product-market fit and to get validation through increasing sales. This way, we can continue to build our contribution to the world and hire the smartest and most creative people to join our team.

To those who are thinking of starting up, there is no such thing as the right background or right time. Simply get started and get validation because in the process you’ll learn what you’re capable of. You’ll surprise even yourself.


Robot Revolution: xyHt magazine interview with Clearpath Robotics

A few months ago, I had a chance to interview Matt Rendall, CEO of Clearpath Robotics on behalf of xyHt magazine. Matt shared his thoughts on the future of robotics, how it relates to land survey, and why it's showtime for land and marine service robots.

His insights were truly remarkable. I too believe that the future is robots and that the revolution has already started. Read about his insights at the following link:

Link to xyHt Magazine, June 2015 edition.


Ernest Yap


The Problem with Geospatial and the Coming Revolution: Part 1

 Photo Credit: Lori McNee

Photo Credit: Lori McNee

I remember the days not so long ago when I was selling aerial mapping systems and software. My superiors would say that the horizontal market was saturated, but their "market research" showed huge vertical markets opportunities. “Pick one, travel, and sell”, they’d say. “Sell straight to the end-users”. So, I did as I was told, but with limited success and increasing frustration. I kept running into the same situation: the end-user only cared to make smart decisions faster. Geospatial data was simply another input into their decision-making process. They wanted a solution that took them to immediate action.

As a sales guy selling a machine that basically pumped out geospatial data, they got spooked by what it took to produce and support geo-information. That’s because there are roughly five or six stages for an end-user to get the information they want:

  1. Data acquisition with a geospatial sensor.
  2. Sensor data processing (e.g. georeferencing, point-cloud and imagery-product creation).
  3. Geospatial data creation (e.g. classification, orthophoto generation, or scan-to-3D model creation)  
  4. Broad analysis using geospatial data input in another specialized software. (e.g. GIS and/or BIM workflow input) 
  5. Analysis results are input into end-user process (e.g. compliance reports or work management system).
  6. End-user receives report and makes a decision to act (e.g. field crew work orders). 
  7. Repeat.

If you were an end-user, this is an expensive infrastructure to setup. You would have to invest in major capital purchases in sensors, computers, and specialized software licenses. You would need to hire different specialists for each stage to acquire the data, process it, analyze it. Then you would need to incorporate these results into your end-user work-process to (finally) make a decision that leads to action. No wonder end-users would rather pay large sums of money to a mix of consultants and geospatial firms! The stages and investment required are overwhelming! Most importantly, the time lag from acquisition to action was much too long. 

On the other end, makers of geospatial sensors and software generally sold generic mapping products to other specialists. Creating a specific workflow that directly addressed end-user requirements was deemed too specialized, too risky, and too small an opportunity. If your business was rooted in the last decade or so, this made sense, considering the expense to setup each stage. Why would you change it? Most companies didn’t and were too far removed from the end-user anyway.  

But we are now in the era of exponential technological growth and the democratization of information and things. We are witnessing the convergence of mobile, mapping, and robotics, which is knocking down the traditional stages, connecting companies directly to end-users, and completing the loop from survey to action faster than before. This is changing the world completely. Existing companies must adapt or die. 

(Part 2 will explore the convergence of technologies, why the biggest geospatial innovation are coming from computer vision research and not geomatics, and why the future is robotics.)

Ernest Yap (@geoernestyap) is the co-founder and President of ShapeTrace Labs. They are developing a cloud-based solution for construction managers that prevents errors from becoming fiascos, by comparing what was designed with what was built using mobile devices. They enable rapid quality control to verify built conditions before and after installations for an immediate scan-install-verify action loop. They are making sophisticated 3D technology easy by making it accessible and affordable, shifting the user role from surveyor to site worker, and doing weeks of analysis in minutes. We want construction managers to make smart decisions faster.

Observation: My BIM is not the Same as Your BIM

Observation: My BIM is not the Same as Your BIM

It's really apparent that Building Information Modelling (BIM) means something different for everyone. If you do a quick internet search, its definition is quite vague and open to different interpretations. Here’s an attempt at a definition: "BIM describes the lifecycle process to design, construct, and manage structures and places using physical and virtual representations." I’d like to mention the use of intelligent 3D models as the basis, but BIM includes temporal change and cost information, which means we get into 5D and higher dimensions. The reason for the vagueness is because there are so many stakeholders who are involved in different parts of the building’s lifecycle. Each provides their piece of the puzzle at different times, but rarely throughout the whole life of the structure.

For architects, BIM is primarily an intelligent, multi-dimensional design tool for creating a vision of a structure or place based on an owner’s requirements. For constructors, it is a centralized coordination platform to ensure that all managers and contractors are on the same page such that the construction succeeds. For facilities managers and owners, BIM isn’t central for them as it's simply another data source that helps them manage and maintain a building and its functions. Then, we can add an end-user component and future capabilities that take advantage of real-time mobile capability and the Internet of things (IoT).

For all parties to realize the full value proposition of BIM, it’s imperative that all stakeholders open their minds to the different challenges experienced by the other when they perform their specialized functions. This also means they must plan beyond their normal timelines. The biggest roadblock is cultural (institutional?), as we know that the setup of the construction industry is notorious for working in silos. And everyone has a lingering suspicion of the other, which is poisonous since construction is a team sport.

Desktop BIM was a step in the right direction; however, there are greater reasons to be very optimistic. Construction is transitioning to collaborative BIM enabled by cloud-based tools and real-time mobile capability. Project information is becoming more accessible to all site and office workers, and accountability is more apparent. We already see that collaborative BIM is enabling architects, managers, and constructors to collaborate on the same wavelength. Architects and engineers are creating the framework, and they are more aware that their designs are meticulously analyzed by constructors for coordination. Constructors, having experienced different designs, are telling architects and engineers if there are better methods to design. 

Now, its time that owners and facilities managers get more involved since BIM benefits them the most over the long-term. Owners and facility managers have to explains what they want so that constructors, engineers, and architects deliver the right information to them. On the flip side, constructors have to record the data necessary such that owners can create consistent building lifecycle plans with minimal surprises. Architects need to design for smarter construction and for simple management.

So the goal for the construction industry is when we all collaborate and can say, "My BIM is the same as yours".

ShapeTrace Labs has joined Sector 75 tech-startup incubator

ShapeTrace Labs has joined Sector 75, a new tech-startup incubator owned and operated by Pycap Venture Partners and Agile Offices They are providing a three-month incubation that includes:

  • Business development program that prepares our company for funding
  • Office space at 250 Yonge St, a downtown office tower attached to Toronto's Eaton Centre
  • Mentorship in finance, tech, marketing, strategy, law, and accounting  

We're not into fancy offices or perks. This is why we're excited:

  • We get to set a company rhythm by working in a shared space. We get to develop a real work culture. We can work smarter and faster. We can uphold accountability easier. It's amazing what face-to-face contact can do.
  • We get to work with other companies and help each other out. There will be be sense of competition and urgency. Creativity and innovation happen when diversity is crammed into a space.
  • We have access to mentors and contacts from the perspective of a VC, who can help us out of a jam or introduce us to people to help us grow smarter. There's no guarantee that Pycap will invest in us, but they certainly will know us better than a 20 min pitch deck and they will point out our weaknesses.

We appreciate the opportunity given to us by Pycap and Agile offices. 

About Us: ShapeTrace Labs develops mobile software to helps construction site teams prevent and detect errors by finding differences between the design plan and as-built condition with mobile 3D imaging. We make sophisticated technology easy, shift the role from specialists to site staff, complete weeks of processing in hours, and make it affordable such that all sites have access. 
We are democratizing quality control and as-built creation for construction.

Anyone Ready to Tango? We Are!

 Tango has arrived at ShapeTrace Labs

Tango has arrived at ShapeTrace Labs

It's a wonderful day at ShapeTrace Labs! Our Google Tango Development Kit has arrived. Tango, we're going to find out what a 3D-sensing tablet can do. Let's see if you can dance with ShapeTrace software...

Why we Changed our Company Name to ShapeTrace Labs

In Dec 2014, we changed our operating name to ShapeTrace Labs. We wanted a name that represented a team and told people what we did. Our company's proprietary technology is the ability to search a library of objects, trace their locations, sizes, and identifications, and compute spatial differences with respect to real-life conditions. "ShapeTrace" is the name of our core tech and software.

ShapeTrace Labs' logo is the representation of a single object that is misaligned between two images, which is what our core technology does: change detection.

The color "orange" was chosen as our primary color because it evokes energy, happiness, and creativity (orange is a mix of red and orange), which is balanced by a calming, brighter "blue".

We chose to add Labs to the end because we are heavy into geomatics R&D... And we think it sounds cool.

Ernest Yap's Article in xyHt Magazine, Jan 2015: Indoor Mobile Sensing Devices

 Image courtesy of Occipital Inc, maker of the Structure 3D sensor.

Image courtesy of Occipital Inc, maker of the Structure 3D sensor.

ShapeTrace Labs believes that the release of 3D sensing mobile devices will accelerate the democratization of mapping. However, this means the mainstream user will demand much more than map data: they want a solution that helps them make faster and smarter decisions.

Read an article on this topic written by Ernest Yap, founder of ShapeTrace Labs, in xyHt Magazine, January 2015.

Link to the magazine is here.

Five Important Things You Will Learn at the Founder Institute

First published Oct 13, 2014 in a newsletter for ShapeTrace supporters.

My entrepreneurial journey is like a bird learning how to fly. In the beginning, a bird has to build strength in its body and wings, and develop the confidence to fly. That’s why I am really happy this week because my new company has reached a milestone. I’m graduating from the first Toronto cohort of the Founder Institute, which is the world’s largest startup accelerator program focused on building enduring tech companies. The program adopts a CEO-sourced startup approach in Silicon Valley, and takes a founder from a business idea to a minimum viable company in an intense three month incubation period. By design, our class size decreased from 46 people to a final 10 founders as a result of the pace and intensity of the curriculum, which causes people to leave. Observing entrepreneurs have said that in three months, we’re getting a few years of experience, and they wished they had this when they were younger. Does that mean graduates are guaranteed success? Not even close, but at least we’re pointing in the right direction and a little less naive.

Here are five important things you will learn in the program.

Make sure you solve a painful problem and get validation. And more validation. And more validation.
All people can come up with business ideas, but only entrepreneurs will take action on them. And those few will learn that 99% of those ideas are not fit for a business. So how do you determine if your idea will lead to an enduring company? As one CEO mentor said, "Fall in love with the problem (to deeply understand it)". This problem should be so painful that when you have the right idea, people throw money at you to solve it. At the start, the best way to find out if your idea is great is to do customer validation. This means, you want to talk to as many potential customers and experts understand the root of the issue, then test whether they would buy your solution. Validation is so important to the Founder Institute that to remain in the program, you will easily talk to 100+ people.

However, you learn to be extremely careful because most people have a low “say-do” ratio: they will commit to something verbally, but will rarely follow through. On top of that, most people don’t know what they want. Thus, getting validation means asking smart questions to affirm your business idea, your revenue model, and getting a real commitment all at the same time. The best test is when people give you money immediately for your product or service (friends and family don’t count).

You get a taste of an entrepreneur’s life.
The Founder Institute program is designed to stress-test you and your business. The motive is to make you fail early and cheaply because there’s nothing sadder than to realize your idea is terrible five years later with no savings, a product no one wants, and strained personal relationships. During the program, you start to experience the emotional roller-coaster of running a business with the elations of small victories, bouts of self-doubt, long working hours, and the beginning of an obsession. You start seeing the sacrifices that you'll make to ensure that your business succeeds. But sacrifices are not solo efforts, and be careful not to alienate the things that are important to you such as your health and family. As a taste of things to come, the Founder Institute likes to say that running a real company is much harder than its program, and you begin to understand why.

You learn to execute and develop a sense of urgency.
You begin to develop high productivity-forming habits along with an increasing sense of urgency. By design, the Founder Institute program has you complete tough weekly assignments with vague instructions, forcing you to make fast, efficient, and smart decisions. Plus, it isn’t school so there’s no professor or teacher to spoon-feed you, to answer your questions, or to bargain with. As the CEO of a business, you learn to seek your own counsel and trust your judgement to make your own decisions since your startup team is waiting for a direction. You’re seen as the master of executing.

You learn that “good enough” is better than perfect, as long as you learn and iterate very quickly. The program curriculum touches upon all the basics of building a company in 12 weeks, which is much too fast for quality work. However, the point is that you’ve created a foundation, and you’ve developed the habit to improve rapidly.

You realize the power of peer advisory boards.
It's extremely helpful to have a peer advisory board with members at a similar place in their business. Being the leader of an organization is a lonely experience, yet you have to show a brave face to your subordinates. Peer advisory boards give you a forum to share your victories, express your fears, and ask for feedback with people who understand your business and personal situation. In addition, you’re often caught up in the details of your business that you may not see the big picture too clearly. As a result, the collective brain power of many people is more powerful than yours alone, and they bring you back to reality.

You will get a ton of business advice from mentors, clients, peers, and strangers: be open to all of it, then filter.
When you start a business, you start receiving advice from all directions. The Founder Institute assembles CEO mentors, who provide honest feedback on your business based on their start-up experiences. Usually, their advice is foundational and long-term. Your peer advisory board provides a more intimate evaluation of your present situation. Friends and families are vested in your success so they want to help with any advice they have. Of course, talking to potential clients is the most important activity to learn how to solve their biggest problems.

Yet, you have to take all the feedback you received and filter it because a little knowledge is dangerous, even if it comes from CEOs and clients. You have to re-interpret the filtered results since most people know what they dislike, but don’t know what they actually want. However, if you find yourself constantly defending the same position over the same issue with different people, then the problem is likely your stubbornness. Instead, open your mind, genuinely explore the advice, determine if someone has identified a problem that you haven’t, then make a decision. At this point, trust your gut and your judgement because you know your business better than anyone else in the world.

As I finish the Founder Institute program, I'd like to acknowledge all the people who have helped me along the way because no one can succeed alone. I’m glad it’s over because I’m eager to move forward and concentrate on building my company.  Just like a newborn bird, we’re testing our wings for flight, and we’re learning how to fly. We’ll see you in the sky very soon.