Success Story

From flash cards to a life skills app for tablets and phones


By Ariel Visconti

Magnusmode founder and CEO, Nadia Hamilton.

For entrepreneur Nadia Hamilton, growing up with a brother with autism ignited a lifelong passion to help those living with cognitive special needs. Now she has built a company and developed an innovative mobile app that has the potential to help people with autism and other special needs all over the world.

Magnus Cards is an online and mobile app that uses a gamified approach to help people with cognitive special needs gain greater independence and confidence in a variety of life skills and activities. The app’s card decks were inspired by the flash cards Nadia and her family posted around their home to help Troy complete tasks.

Magnus Cards features card decks in categories such as Health, Shopping, Food, Cleaning, Social, Travel and Safety. Users are guided through step-by-step instructions on how to complete tasks by Magnus the wizard, whose humourous, playful approach is highly engaging. Points are awarded for completion, encouraging users to master skills through practice and memorization.

While Magnus Cards helps players with general tasks, the app also features card decks by corporate and community partners that help people with autism gain greater access to services in society. So far Magnusmode has partnered with museums, libraries and transit organizations in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto, and Hamilton is in talks with corporations in New York and across North America. The program has users around the world and will be launching a pilot within a school system beginning Fall 2015.

Beyond North America, Magnus Cards has received interest from Vietnam and other countries worldwide, demonstrating the global potential for growth and expansion.

“This is a very impressive example of how a creative idea based in one’s personal experience can sometimes be the inspiration for a highly successful business that can help many people,” says Dr. Tom Corr, the President and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence. “We are proud to have helped this company get off the ground and operating successfully.”

OCE is currently supporting Magnusmode through the SmartStart program, which is providing $30,000 to help the company through the early commercialization stage. The company has attracted mentorship and investment from Toronto-based impact investor Julie McDowell, and at the end of 2014, it closed an investment from the Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN) in Waterloo.

The company’s three full-time employees are presently concentrating on sales, marketing and product improvement based on customer feedback, and Hamilton sees creativity and innovation as an important part of Magnusmode’s future.

Nadia has seen first-hand that there are currently gaps in services for people with cognitive special needs. After her brother Troy graduated high school at age 21, he no longer had access to the same level of support. Magnusmode addresses these and other challenges.

“We want to create tools and services that meet people’s needs throughout their entire lifespan to fill in the holes,” says Nadia Hamilton, founder and CEO of Magnusmode. “Magnus has the potential to be a lifelong companion, tutor, guide, and friend for individuals as they transition through each life phase.”

Today, Troy is not only the inspiration for Magnusmode but is contributing to its success as a Key Product Tester.