Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector

Torontonians who are shaking up the tech sector

20-year-old André Bertram co-founded HelpWear, a medical device company that makes a wearable heart monitor

Photographs courtesy of FleishmanHillard Highroad

Company HQ: Victoria and Shuter
Founded: 2015
Employees: 7

How it works: “We make the HeartWatch, a clinical-grade ECG monitor that operates 24/7. If you have a heart attack, we contact emergency medical services with your medical history, a summary of the event and your location.”

Eureka moment: “When we were at Danforth Collegiate together, my co-founder, Frank Nguyen, got home from school one day and found his mother at the bottom of the stairs with a broken leg. Doctors determined a minor cardiac event had caused the fall. Frank and I are hacker types, so we said, what if we built an Apple Watch–type device that could detect abnormalities like these?”

How much you spent initially: “We started with $1,000 in funding from the Brookfield Institute through Ryerson.”

Your turning point: “Dr. Linda Maxwell, the executive director of the Biomedical Zone at St. Michael’s Hospital, first met us when all we had was a 3-D-printed prototype and a big idea. She gave us an office and connected us with some of the top clinicians in the world.”

Your big-time backers: “The Biomedical Zone, St. Michael’s Hospital and Ryerson were our first major backers. The University of Waterloo Faculty of Engineering and the Conrad Centre have also been major supporters, and we’ve received hundreds of thousands in grants. We joined UBC’s Creative Destruction Lab, and Y Combinator connected us to investors in our seed round. We went on Dragons’ Den, too, and got $100,000 total from all six Dragons.”

The best advice you’ve received: “Hire people who are 10 times better than you are.”

The worst advice you’ve received: “A lot of mentors say you shouldn’t launch a product or raise money until you’re ‘ready.’ There is no such thing as ‘ready.’ If you don’t just go for it, you’ll never get anywhere.”

Tech jargon you hate: “Acronyms. If you tell me you’ve built an ‘AI ML DSP platform leveraging blockchain,’ go home. That means nothing.”

If you weren’t running a start-up: “I’m a vegetarian with two cats and a rabbit. I wanted to be a vet, but I just can’t give an animal a needle.”

App you can’t live without: “Snapchat is my go-to communication platform. I have 3,800 friends on there—even my investors.”

Your tech role model: “My uncle Hub. He built a company called Microart. I admire how he treats people: he respects everybody, from janitor to CEO.”

Your go-to office outfit: “In Toronto, I wear a suit. Working in San Francisco, I wore a suit and was laughed at.”

Coolest thing in your office: “We’re always blasting horrible pop music on our Amazon Echo. Luckily, the glass is soundproof.”