As Matthew Sheridan watched his interior designer mother haul around heavy bags of thick colour fans and struggle to match swatches of colours in different lighting, the idea for his company Nix Sensor began to take shape.
Putting his McMaster University engineering studies to work, Sheridan eventually came up with a prototype for his first product; a small handheld optical device paired with a smartphone app that could provide reliable colour measurement in any conditions.
After launching a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013 (one of the first few Canadian firms to do so on the platform), the company brought its first product–the Nix Pro–to market a year later.
The Nix Pro became almost an overnight sensation and garnered international success, especially with industries where correct colour is key, including textiles, health and beauty and even food and agriculture. But the largest customer segment for Nix is businesses involved with paints and architectural coatings: paint retailers, paint contractors and interior designers. Paint retailers liked that they could purchase the Nix Pro as a white-labelled product, which they could then provide to their paint contractors and customers.
Nix’s chief operating officer Marc Directo is buoyed by the fact that the company now has customers in 51 countries and admits that their plan to focus on international markets was worth it.
But despite an impressive track record in a relatively short period of time, they acknowledge the importance of managing their growth properly weighed heavily on them.
“We got to a point where we wanted more flexibility with working capital,” explains Directo about the need for a line of credit from Nix’s bank. “But because of the nature of our business, we didn’t have historicals or a long track record of execution and performance.”
How EDC helped
Nix was on the verge of expanding its product line with the Nix Mini, a scaled down version of Nix Pro, which could sell at a cheaper price point, making it attractive to a much wider consumer base than the Pro. When the company received a large order for the Mini from a customer in Mexico, Directo and his team needed the additional working capital in order to fill the order.
With the help of EDC and the Export Guarantee Program, the company was able to officially launch the Nix Mini and gain a strong foothold in Latin America.
Directo says EDC support was critical in helping the company expand at the speed it wanted to.
“It’s very comforting to have a government-backed agency helping small organizations like ours reach their export goals and enter new markets faster than they otherwise would be able to,” he says.
Nix has received a number of recognitions and awards for its products, including the German Design Award in 2018 and the Red Dot Design Award in 2017. Directo is focused on continuing to add innovations to Nix’s products that will expand their use into other areas of a painter’s job.
“The first part is getting colour confidence using our device. And then how do we enable that information to flow to different aspects of a painter’s workflow, such as ordering paint from the app or communicating colour to clients in a retail store? These are some challenges we’re working on.”
It’s good to know there is an agency like EDC rooting for the little-guy SMEs, allowing us to play on the same level as larger organizations. If we didn’t have EDC backing us then we arguably might have moved quite a bit slower
EDC service used
Our Export Guarantee Program can help your bank provide you with additional access to financing.
We share the risk with your bank by providing a guarantee on the money you borrow, encouraging them to increase your access to working capital.