October 26, 2020

Welkom.U: The App that is Streamlining Settlement for Newcomers to Canada

A Canadian flag flies in front of the country's parliment buildings


Picture this: You’ve arrived in Canada as an international student, just a few days before your first day of class. You arrive at the airport and consider a long to-do list: Where can you exchange your money for Canadian dollars? Where should you start looking for housing, and where can you stay in the meantime? Is there a resource centre at your school that could help you — if so, where should you look?

Oluwatosin Ajibola doesn’t have to imagine — he’s lived it. As an international student at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), he experienced firsthand the complicated and often overwhelming process of coming to Canada as an international student. It’s what inspired him — along with fellow UNB international students Ifeoluwa Williams, Olamide Ojolo, Olubukola Abiola and Sosan Babajide — to found Welkom.U, an app focused on improving the relocation and settlement process of newcomers to Canada.

Their goal is to create a “one-stop-shop” for newcomers staring down a complicated settlement process, and they’re sharing their work as part of the Community Solutions Network’s Virtual Collision Day — a chance for emerging technology companies to meet and network with community leaders. We’ve broken down some of what they’ll be sharing below.

A Challenging Process

“As an international student, you arrive maybe two, three, four days before school, and it’s almost impossible to get all the information you need and hit the ground running,” says Ajibola. “That’s what we’re trying to solve — how can we help people to get everything they need in order, ideally before they arrive.”

Ajibola says that the app will aim to address five core issues: accommodation, financials, social isolation, winter readiness and community integration.

That means simplifying the process of finding a place to stay, exchanging money, meeting people at school and in the wider community, getting ready for a Canadian winter and generally understanding how to move through the community they’ve just joined.

“As a group, we were inspired by our experience as international students, because we have first-hand experience of those pain points,” he says. “But ideally the app will work for any newcomer to Canada looking to navigate the relocation and settlement process.”

A “One-Stop-Shop”

Eventually, users will be able to use the Welkom.U website or app to access the services they need from the comfort of their home country, before even stepping foot in Canada.

“Welkom.U will create an end-to-end process, gathering all of the information, resources and contacts newcomers will need in one easy-to-access location,” explains Ajibola. That means working with Canadian universities, different level of governments and existing newcomer organizations.

“We want to give visibility to existing organizations doing good work to help newcomers to Canada,” says Ajibola. “We also want to share information from different schools and levels of government that can be difficult to find and navigate.”

To that end, the start-up is currently in conversations with Canadian financial institutions, post-secondary schools and community organizations to create what Ajibola calls a “one-stop-shop” for everything a newcomer to Canada would need.

“Our dream is to provide these services so that even before you land, you’ve seen where you’ll be living, you know how to get there, you’ve converted your local currency into Canadian dollars, and we’ve set you up with a ‘first friend’ who can take you around the area and introduce you to other people,” he says.

Connect and Grow

Currently, the company is in the third-month of Venn Garage, a 12-month incubation program for New Brunswick-based startups, and just a few weeks away from launching their website. Later this year, they will participate in The Network’s Collision Day in the Atlantic region for a chance to meet and network with community organizations that could help make Ajibola’s plans for Welkom.U a reality.

“I think the Collision Day is a very important event,” he says. “To get to meet new people, gain more visibility, and share what our journey has been like so far is extremely valuable.”

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