Hai Hu and Changhai Jiang, co-founders of Skyline have found a new home as Residents at Volta Labs. After going through the Innovacorp Start-up Visa Program, the pair has decided to stay in Halifax and take advantage of everything it has to offer.

For 17 years, these innovative minds have worked side-by-side – from freshman year in college to graduating with PhDs, then embarking on a startup journey with Skyline. The duo believe their revolutionary technology will change the way the world approaches retail shopping.

With big-name clients in China like Lenovo, they have nothing but high hopes for their North American expansion.

“The startup environment here is awesome, and I think it’s going to be an amazing journey starting from here.”

Hai Hu – CEO

Changhai Jiang – CTO

What is “Smart Retail”?

The term “smart retail” means optimizing and digitizing the exchange that happens during a retail transaction. Simply put, it makes buying things easier. Skyline’s technology is the bridge between physical locations and data-driven technology that ultimately leads to convenience for the customer. They do this through use of IoT (Internet of Things) technologies, RFID and facial recognition.

Their technology already has successfully piloted in a store in Shanghai, which allows customers to walk into a store, grab what they need, and just go. The items you take off of a shelf are instantly added into your digital “cart”, then charged to your account as you leave the store.

Check out the video below for a real-world demonstration:

Working with Lenovo, they have also developed technology to streamline customer repairs and part sales. This has helped transactions happen much more efficiently within about 200 repair shops in China.

Location, location, location (or is it)?

With tech companies, location doesn’t matter as much as it may seem. You could operate a successful tech startup anywhere. There is still a notion that successful startups belong at the stereotypical tech hub, and for many, this means joining an accelerator program out of Silicon Valley.

Skyline recognized that, as a B2B, they should go where it made the most sense for them to grow as a company. As sexy as Silicon Valley can seem from the outside, it just wasn’t best business move for the small company. Because of the cost of doing business there, the opportunities to explore options for their products were limited. For now, they will be making the most of their residency at Volta and taking advantage of the resources that come along with it.

Silicon Valley vs. Halifax

It seems like an optimistic comparison to make. With Silicon Valley pumping out A-List companies like Facebook, Apple and Google, how can quaint little Halifax compare?

Well, the glamorous Silicon Valley isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, at least for these co-founders. Having spent 6 months going through the Alchemist Accelerator, the pair recognized a lot of downfalls that it has for young startups.

“Although it’s (Silicon Valley) been a holy land for entrepreneurs and tech startups, we didn’t find it very attractive for starting a company”


Silicon Valley– “It’s over-expensive, in terms of everything”- Hai Hu 

For Skyline, the normalized fast-paced and overly expensive way of life that comes with Silicon Valley wasn’t very attractive. They found that this approach makes it easy for early stage companies to burnout. Limited resources dry up quickly and the expectancy to produce is pretty much a necessity in order to survive.

Halifax– “Such a vibrant and active entrepreneur society in Halifax.” – Hai Hu

Halifax is quickly becoming a hotspot for startups, with Volta at the centre of it all. Hu highlights the many aspects of being a startup in Halifax that helped finalize their decision to move his company to the East Coast.

He goes on to praise the fact that “Halifax has a unique advantage, in terms of its pool of talent.” Making note of the fact that Halifax can brag having:

  • 10 Universities nearby
  • Easy access to talent
  • Lower rent for office space
  • Vibrant startup community & network
  • Government support
    • Funding opportunities
    • Salary subsidies
    • Research grants


Is Halifax the Right Starting Place for You?

Volta offers a ton of resources for companies looking to grow or simply get off the ground. Find out how you could be eligible for $50,000 in resources, or join our community through our Network Program.

Apply Now

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