By Ariel Visconti
With the commercial launch of his innovative technology and two prestigious award wins, 2015 was one for the books for Hamilton-raised entrepreneur Matthew Sheridan.
President and CEO of Nix Sensor Ltd., Sheridan was recently named Ontario’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2015 Ontario Business Achievement Awards. The coveted award, presented by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, goes to a young Ontario entrepreneur who has built a unique and game-changing venture.
Sheridan was also previously recognized at the Ernest C. Manning Innovation Awards gala, where he received the David E. Mitchell Award of Distinction. The $25,000 prize is presented to a Canadian entrepreneur who has successfully developed and commercialized a groundbreaking innovation.
“Matthew is to be congratulated on building a truly innovative and successful business,” says Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) President and CEO Dr. Tom Corr. “This is also a tremendous example of Ontario’s innovation ecosystem at work, with various part of the system playing a role in the development of this company success story.”
Sheridan’s invention, the Nix Pro Color Sensor, is a true game-changer for identifying and matching colours. The handheld, diamond-shaped device acts like a real-life eyedropper tool. It blocks out ambient light to scan the colour of any surface, and sends an accurate reading to a user’s smartphone where it can be saved, organized into colour palettes and matched to paints from leading brands. Without the Nix Pro, design and colour specialists have to carry countless paint chips and fan decks to match colours, a subjective and often inaccurate method.
Since launching in February 2015, the Nix Pro has made a big difference to professionals across numerous fields including Paints and Coatings, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Printing and Packaging, Cosmetics, Food and Agriculture, Automotive, Special Effects, Textiles, and others. The device is now used in over 31 countries and has earned accolades worldwide from tech gurus at Gadget Review, Fast Company, TechCrunch, CES, The Next Web and more.
Besides being a revolutionary technology, the Nix Pro represents a true made-in-Ontario success story — illustrating how a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem can support the development of new ventures and young entrepreneurs.
The journey from eureka moment to commercialization involved numerous players in the innovation system along with OCE. Sheridan founded his company in 2012 when the Nix Sensor was just an idea. Venture Start funding from Hamilton’s Innovation Factory allowed him to hire a summer intern and build a prototype. The team then launched one of the first Canadian projects on Kickstarter, where they raised $70,000 to build the current iteration of the Nix Pro Sensor.
Sheridan and his team continued to receive entrepreneurial support and mentorship from The Forge in Hamilton, a start-up accelerator run in partnership between McMaster University, Innovation Factory and Mohawk College. The Forge is funded by Ontario’s Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLA) Program, managed by OCE. Nix Sensor graduated from The Forge after raising a major round of funding from angel investors, Wilfrid Laurier’s Startup Fund, MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) and BDC.
Despite opportunities to relocate to Silicon Valley or one of North America’s other renowned technology and start-up hubs, Sheridan and his team chose to stay at home in Hamilton. The start-up currently resides at McMaster Innovation Park and is proud that every Nix Pro Sensor is made locally. To achieve their goal of keeping manufacturing close to home, the team sought support through OCE’s TalentEdge Program, which enabled them to hire a PhD intern, Dixon Paez, to help develop a calibration robot. Automated calibration will allow the company to produce 1,000 units a day and ensure that quality is maintained.
The new year is shaping up to be just as promising for Sheridan as he focuses on sales and growing his start-up. Nix Sensor currently has eight employees and projects doubling in 2016. And to add sheen to colour, the company also recently closed a deal with a global leader in the cosmetics industry.