Oombo was inspired by the lack of trust that frontline workers have in their equipment. In his final year of high school, Mark witnessed a car accident on a highway in which a responding officer struggled to deploy road flares around the accident in the rain. This led Mark down a rabbit hole of research through which he discovered that flammable flares produce harmful carcinogenic fumes and have a limited burn time of 30 minutes, while traffic cones and warning triangles depend on external light to be seen. Realizing that current traffic safety equipment is redundant, outdated and can be harmful to the environment, Mark set out on a mission to address these challenges by developing a reliable and adaptable technology that’s as tall as a standard pylon, as reflective as a warning triangle and as bright as a flammable flare but without the risk of combustion and far more efficient when time is of the essence.
During his first year at Ontario Tech University, Mark attended an orientation session at the University’s startup incubator, the Brilliant Catalyst. In that session, Mark first learned about Spark Centre and its entrepreneurial support and resources and booked a meeting with the Spark Centre team.
While establishing Oombo, Mark was primarily focused on the research and development of his Castor Beacon to ensure it was a reliable and innovative product. However, this innovation stage drew his attention away from the core fundamentals of business: validation and proving his concept in the market.
“I knew that I needed help validating my idea in multiple markets to ensure that my product was purposefully designed for those that need it the most.” Mark says, “In addition to validation, I quickly realized I needed to refine how I presented my idea. I struggled to market my invention because it resembled current traffic equipment even though its core design was fundamentally different.”
At Spark Centre, Mark participated in sales and marketing Masterclasses and engaged in one-on-one meetings with Spark Centre’s advisors — industry specialists in the areas of sales, marketing and business development — to help him refine Oombo’s sales messaging, marketing and to prove that his innovation had potential in the traffic safety industry.
“Spark Centre’s advisors’ friendly and supportive nature made me comfortable with experimenting and failing, which ultimately led me to grow my company.” Mark adds, “Spark Centre’s programs and services are designed to provide you with that opportunity: growth.”
Oombo has indeed grown. Having filed a utility patent for the IoT-Enabled version of the Castor Beacon in Canada and the U.S. and with a $30,000 grant from i.d.e.a Fund, Oombo has launched its Castor Pilot Program – Traffic Safety Series and is currently preparing to conduct a series of in-field pilot tests this Fall with local police, fire and public works departments and towing companies to test the full capabilities of the Castor Beacon. With the generated pilot data, Oombo will create and publish a comprehensive case study for each use case, after which it will begin to generate early revenue through pre-orders in the fourth quarter of 2022. Oombo also plans to raise a pre-seed round in the first quarter of 2023 and ship the first version of the Castor Beacon in the second quarter of 2023.
Reflecting on his startup journey — from a brilliant idea formed in high school to turning that idea into a viable product to incredible growth as a business — Mark had this advice for innovators and entrepreneurs:
“Have a grand vision of the impact you want to have on the world; however, don’t let that vision distract you from living in the moment. I found that focusing solely on the vision can create anxiety because you are focused on the probability of your vision materializing rather than the individual tasks that need to be done to get there.
Enjoy the ups and downs, and pay attention to your development as a business founder and how you solve the problems that come your way. As you do this, you will inch closer to your vision becoming a reality.”
For more information about Oombo visit https://www.oombo.ca/