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When it comes to driver education, most of us learn the rules of the road in our youth from an instructor or parent, drawing on those same early lessons over the next several decades on our daily commutes, road trips, service routes, and errand runs. Despite the potential safety risks that come with operating a vehicle, driving isn’t typically seen as an opportunity for lifelong learning.
But changing those attitudes could make all the difference in decreasing collisions, injuries, and fatalities on the road.
Edmonton-based start-up Medidas Digital is on a mission to improve road safety by gamifying skills development and behaviour change for drivers of all ages. In 2019, the company began building the TrypScore mobile app, which gathers and analyzes driver risk data and uses challenges, scoring, and incentives to enhance drivers’ awareness of their long-held habits and nudge behavioural improvements.
To encourage adoption, drive engagement, and maximize TrypScore’s impact on road safety, building real rewards into the user experience was key – and Medidas needed to incorporate this crucial pillar in its business model in a sustainable way.
“We had developed a combination of technologies not available anywhere else in the world: a unique, gamified experience to reduce vehicle collisions,” says Bill Bland, CEO and founder of Medidas Digital. “We needed to take a program designed around corporate social responsibility and incorporate an essential digital marketing component.”
Medidas wanted to leverage their rich, aggregated driver data and build out robust business intelligence and data visualization dashboards. These tools would be able to generate invaluable, anonymized consumer insights and marketing opportunities, which the company could offer corporate partners in exchange for socially responsible advertising spends and user-earned rewards to incentivize safe driving behaviours.
Bland and his team knew this was the right path forward for the business, but, as a start-up, their staff was lean and their resources were limited. To get the dashboards up and running, they needed highly skilled talent – and they needed it to be affordable.
Thankfully, Bland found Mitacs.
Mitacs is a not-for-profit that brings innovation within reach for Alberta organizations by helping to fill the skilled talent gap. Its programs provide a bridge between the private and post-secondary sectors, allowing companies to access academic experts and up-and-coming talent that can help them innovate, boost productivity, and grow.
Using a unique and proven paid internship model, Mitacs matches organizations in need of specific knowledge and skills with highly qualified post-secondary students – and provides funding to cover half the salary costs.
“The experience with Mitacs has been amazing,” says Bland. “It’s been very easy to use, and because we have a dedicated Mitacs Business Development Advisor, the level of support is huge – they’re more like a full-time partner to us. Mitacs has actually become engrained in our business as a major stream for our skilled talent acquisition.”
Through Mitacs, Medidas has been able to bring on several top computer software development and IT business analyst students from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology as paid interns to advance the dashboard projects.
“Our dashboards are coming to life because of these interns,” says Bland. “Mitacs interns are super-smart. They’re helping us accelerate really important projects that our existing staff just wouldn’t have the capacity in terms of time to complete.”
The interns’ impact has been felt deeply at Medidas – in fact, the company has hired on six of its former Mitacs interns as full-time employees to date, and they continue to seek out Mitacs students on a regular basis to support on new projects.
There are numerous challenges entrepreneurs and small businesses encounter when it comes to growth, Bland says, from fierce competition in the marketplace, to financing and cash flow – but the hardest part is accessing skilled talent.
“There are lots of barriers to entry, but Mitacs helps out with so many of them,” he says. “Especially when it comes to being able to recruit and invest in talent, Mitacs is critical. Through Mitacs, we’re able to bring in locally-trained interns, get them excited about what we do, and then hire them on.”
Bland says he is constantly encouraging other companies to get involved with Mitacs.
“It’s a win-win-win for everyone involved; the students get to apply their skills and work with experts in their fields, we get these really sophisticated tech resources as part of our team, and the Alberta tech community gets an opportunity to grow a strong, self-sustaining ecosystem of talent and opportunity.”
To learn more about how Mitacs can support your business, or to kick-start your talent / funding application, connect with a local innovation expert at Mitacs.
Register for our webinar tomorrow to learn more about Mitacs’ funding support for businesses!