Canadian Startup OverAir Takes Home $25k as Top Prize in Pitch-off at Dx3 2013

Hamilton-based startup OverAir won $25,000 worth of financial and in-kind services at the Dx3 Conference in Toronto after being selected as the winners of the Intertainment Media live pitch-off.

Founder Ethan Do gave his three-minute winning pitch after being selected along with four other finalists during the second day of the conference. Intertainment Media received over 40 applications from startups vying to be part of the competition.

Do said the victory validated his concept and that most of the funds will be used to improve the team’s model and business plan for venture capital.

“It means a lot and it means that we have a concept that people are believing in,” said Do. “I’m very fortunate that I have 14 volunteers right now who are donating time anywhere between 8 and 40 hours a week and now I can actually reward them.”

OverAir uses near field communication (NFC) technology to enable brands to engage customers by providing those customers with physical tags, similar to quick response (QR) codes. Do calls NFC technology, “QR codes on steroids.”

Customers simply “tap” a tag on their mobile device and it can allow for a change of phone settings, a text or email to be created and sent, an app to be launched, or any number of commands to be executed. OverAir’s web management portal provides brands with real-time analytics for a function and they enable function changes during campaigns. Do told the crowd about Kraft Canada’s pilot project with NFC tags, where they found 12 times more user engagement than with QR codes.

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As one of the three judges, Intertainment president Anthony Pearlman said that the startups were evaluated on what stage their business was at and where the market was going. With NFC technology he said the possibilities in controlling functionality are “endless.”

“I looked at the ability to actually be able to manage and change the behavior of NFC tags through their web console and I found that very, very exciting,” he said. “Honestly, everyone that came up here had a really good solution, there was a lot of companies that tried to get in and it was very tough.”

Do said the company is currently one of the few businesses in Canada currently leveraging NFC technology and that the time is now to make the first large splash in Canada. The technology is predominant in the UK and the US, and OverAir has already been working on potential partnerships and white labeling.

The winning CEO also emphasized the quality of his four fellow finalists. “I think the competition was awesome. They have things that I never conceived,” he said. “I’m very thrilled to be in the company of really innovative people.”

That competition was as follows:

• Konrad Listwan-Ciesielski, CTO, Kira Talent: infuses video into the recruitment process to allow organizations meet their candidates via video. Organizations can record video questions and send them to candidates who can then respond via video using their webcam. Kira Talent helps organizations find the hidden gems in their talent applicant pool in an easy-to-use, cloud-based platform.

• Bijan Shahrokhi, Head Honcho,Virtual Next: allows merchants to offer mobile prepaid and loyalty cards to the customers using ophone, passbook and google wallet. Customers can use their auto-reload function, topping up their balance whenever it is low.

• Adam Jarczyn, CEO, HOVR.IT: makes it easy to find online retailers for the things you love! Simply hover over an image of a product, and using image recognition, we will find retailers offering you similar items.

• Laura Miller, CEO, DanTeb Enterprises: provides mobile battery charging stations in high traffic public places. These stations are outfitted with interactive digital media features that are sold to advertisers as a means to engage with customers in a unique, out-of-home environment.