10 to Watch 2016: Llamazoo

“In just a year, we’ve gone from two guys meeting over coffee with an idea to partnering with five major universities, signing up 1,500 beta testers and raising $500,000 in private equity financing...”

Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

The study of anatomy by veterinary students has typically involved more-or-less accurate 2D anatomy drawings and in-lab dissections. But it’s getting a lot more exciting, efficient and engaging thanks to LlamaZoo Interactive, a Victoria startup whose edtech solution is taking veterinary students into the digital realm.

LlamaZoo’s EasyAnatomy platform uses medical information from CT scans and MRIs to create detailed digital 3D models of animal anatomy. The platform marries interactive 3D with gamification and teaching methods based on cognitive neuroscience. Students become more engaged and universities can reduce the significant costs of running anatomy labs.

Via a pilot project, LlamaZoo has partnered with five universities in Canada, the U.S. and the E.U. and has 1,500 beta users worldwide.

A big sign of confidence in a new technology is a company’s ability to raise investment (LlamaZoo received $500,000 in private equity financing this year) and to win awards. The company was VIATEC’s Startup of the Year 2015 and a Futurepreneur award winner. Now, they’ve won a 10 to Watch Award.

Founders Charles Lavigne and Kevin Oke aren’t just focused on sales — these veteran video game developers, both from entrepreneurial families, want to create sustainable, meaningful solutions that make a real difference, something that proved elusive for them in the fast-moving gaming sector.

So when Oke’s girlfriend, a veterinarian, brought up the need for a 3D-anatomy app, the lights went on and LlamaZoo was launched. Today, Lavigne and Oke are focused on canine anatomy. Tomorrow, says Oke, it might be horses, farms animals, rabbits, birds, lizards…

Q&A with Charles Lavigne and Kevin Oke of Llamazoo

What’s the best business advice you have received?

Kevin: The VIATEC accelerator [program] made us do customer discovery. You make all these cold calls — and when you get to the point where potential customers are all telling you the same challenges, you know what you need to solve. It’s easy to think you can just build the software, but you have to listen to customers to get it right. They’ll tell you their problems and also lead you down all kinds of good paths.

What advice would you give to other businesses just starting out?

Charles: Test your hunches, don’t spend months building something then hope it does well. Hope is not a business model.

Kevin: Execution is everything. Your idea doesn’t need to be perfect, just get it out there, go through a cycle of experimenting with small projects, such as a landing page or an ad campaign. Just do something to test it.

Llamazoo Business Profile

Type of business: Edtech creator of a 3D digital platform for veterinary students studying anatomy

Year founded: 2014

Owners/principals: Charles Lavigne and Kevin Oke

Employees: 8

This article is from the April/May 2016 issue of Douglas.