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Once Upon a Startup – Spark Centre

Longan Vision was created in 2018 by McMaster University mechanical, computer and software engineering students Enzo Jia, Alex Shortt, Leno Shao, Martin Shi and Ash Liu, who had come to Canada from China.  The founding team created the Fusion Vision System (FVS), an augmented reality smart visor that attaches to a firefighter’s helmet to provide hands-free visibility. The FVS combines heads-up display technology with thermal imaging, multiple sensors, signal transmission tools and augmented reality technology to enable firefighters to see through dense smoke and share real-time information such as environment and health status updates and indoor localization information.



Longan Vision was first introduced to Spark Centre at a York Angel Investment event in 2019.  At the time, Longan Vision was looking for a way to continue their venture in Canada and for support to grow their business while here. At the event, an Angel Investor introduced Longan Vision to Spark Centre as a Regional Innovation Centre that could benefit their entrepreneurial path through its Startup Visa Program, a federal program through which international entrepreneurs in high-growth sectors can relocate, launch and scale their businesses in Canada.

“There are many places that offer the SUV program; however, Spark Centre is the only one that our team believed could truly benefit our business growth through their resources and training.” says COO Leno Zhao, “As an entrepreneur, the success of the business always comes first. The founding team sought a real home that could mentor our venture and provide a place for the founding team in Canada with a stable platform.”



Longan Vision was accepted to the Startup Visa Program, which was paramount for the founding members’ success in Canada.

“Without the successful submission and letter of support from Spark Centre, we would not have been able to work in Canada for longer than three years after graduating from University. The Work Visa and SUV program helped us stay and focus on the business,” says Zhao.

Part of focusing on business growth was making the right connections. Through Spark Centre, Longan Vision made valuable connections with their target regional customers and received feedback from industry experts at specialized events.  As Zhao puts it, “Without Spark Centre’s channels, it would have been hard for Longan Vision to generate conversations with the right people.”

Spark Centre also connected Longan Vision with its Advisors — experts in a wide range of sectors like sales, marketing, finance, investing and more — who were able to guide it through any challenges that Longan Vision faced throughout its startup journey.



Longan Vision is proof that with the proper support, growth is inevitable. Not only has Longan Vision grown in size with fourteen employees, but it has also launched pilot projects in both North America and Asia, including a pilot program with Durham College’s firefighting school. It has secured a 2.4 million dollar contract with Canada’s Department of National Defence, closed a global investment and built solid partnerships with large international companies for product and service collaboration.

Zhao had this to say when asked what advice he had for fellow international startups: “As an international startup, a local service that provides guidance is a must-have. It takes a long time for international startups to study policies, regulations and markets in a foreign country, particularly those with different languages and cultures. Finding a legitimate regional incubator will increase the startup’s survivability and stay on the right track.”




Spark Centre
Helping innovative companies start, grow and succeed. Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre is one of eighteen not-for-profit Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) that form part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). The centre works to improve competitiveness and visibility of Durham Region and Northumberland County as a world-class innovation cluster. Spark Centre works with clients to develop individualized plans for success. We connect start-ups to business and research networks, learning tools, business coaching, mentorship, and access to funding and investment.

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