Jaza Secures $750K in Equity Funds

The Jaza Energy team at work in Tanzania.

The Jaza Energy team at work in Tanzania.

Jaza Energy, an Atlantic Canadian company that helps to bring sustainable electricity to African villages, has raised $750,000 in equity funding to help it increase installations.

The company said over the weekend it received $100,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and $100,000 from members of the Maple Leaf Angels network, the largest network of angel investors in Toronto. The remaining $550,000 came from private investors. Jaza has also secured $450,000 in additional funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

NBIF had previously invested in Jaza Energy in 2016, as part of an initial $226,000 round.

Founded in 2015 by Jeff Schnurr and Sebastian Manchester, Jaza Energy sets up central charging stations in African villages that have never had electricity. Like another New Brunswick company, Mbissa Energy, it aims to provide people with enough sustainable power for lights and phones, so their businesses can operate more efficiently and their children can study after dark.

The company, which was one of the 20 tech companies named to the Canadian Innovation Exchange last year, is now using the money to continue its mission of connecting 1 million households to electricity within five years.

“This is a huge milestone for us here at Jaza,” said Schnurr. “We’ve got a great group of investors ready to help us take the company to the next level. Our team is now head down working on both our hardware and our approach to getting more and more customers electrified.”

Read Our Recent Coverage of Mbissa Energy

The funding is the latest step in a company that began when Schnurr was working on a not-for-profit organization in Tanzania that planted trees in a reforestation effort. He had been working on this project for several years when a woman said to him, “Trees are great, but where can I recharge my cell phone?” Schnurr realized the greatest social good he could perform would be to help bring electricity to people’s homes.

The company is now establishing central hubs in villages that produce sustainable electricity using solar power. Each station allows as many as 100 households to come and recharge batteries for their homes. The customers pay up front for the batteries, which can be swapped out and carried home, and last for about 40 hours. It means they no longer have to burn kerosene lamps at night or travel to other jurisdictions to charge their phones.

Schnurr said only about 5 percent of the people in rural Tanzania have access to electricity, and that there are an estimated 1.2 million people globally that don’t have electricity.

So far the company has operations in Tanzania, which Schnurr describes as its “launch market.” Jaza hopes to bring in neighbouring countries as early as next year.

Asked where his employees are based, Schnurr thought for a moment and said Jaza has an office in Sackville, N.B., engineers in Halifax and about 11.5 employees in Tanzania. “When you’re working across so many cultures and so many people, geography is just an idea,” he added.

In Tanzania, the company hires only women as technicians staffing the charging stations. “It’s a pretty interesting paradigm because girls now grow up in these communities thinking, ‘Hey my dad’s a fisherman and my mum is a technologist in the energy station.’”

With the new funding, Schnurr and Manchester hope to accelerate their installations and eventually move into direct hookups to people’s homes. 

“The beautiful thing about the price of solar now is that it’s the cheapest way for us to do it,” he said, adding that it’s great that the first wave of electricity in these villages is from a sustainable source. “It’s really just the perfect time in history for us to do this.”

 

Disclosure: NBIF and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Luna, Pelagis Win Blue Solutions

Innovacorp has awarded two Nova Scotia ocean-tech companies $50,000 each through its Blue Solutions Start-Up Challenge.

The Nova Scotia venture capital and innovation agency said in a statement Thursday that Luna Ocean Consulting and Pelagis Data Solutions won the competition after pitching their prototypes and business models to a panel of judges.

Luna and Pelagis both specialize in collecting and analysing data but do so within different ocean sectors.

Luna, founded by Gregory Trowse, tracks water flows for tidal energy projects. Engineers can use this information to optimize the location and power output of tidal turbines. The system could be used, for example, with Cape Sharp Tidal Venture’s in-stream tidal turbines.

The company said its technology can reduce turbine failures and improve energy predictions, which lead to lower operational costs.

Pelagis, founded by Glenn Laughlin in Sydney, provides a resource management and analytics platform for ocean food producers.

“Blue Solutions opened doors to collaborate with many other Atlantic Canadian start-ups, each with a common goal towards supporting growth and innovation in our ocean-based economy overall,” said Laughlin.

“We plan to use the funding from the competition across three initiatives: engage with academia and industry associations, acquire our first customers, and maintain our momentum by leveraging the ocean tech community and collaborating with other start-ups.”

This was the second round of the startup challenge for Luna and Pelagis after winning $10,000 during the first round in October. The first Blue Solutions Challenge received over 47 applicants after its call for submissions in September and offered $200,000 in cash prizes.

Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency accepted applications from all over the world for Blue Solutions, which is an effort to find innovative solutions to problems in the ocean sector.

The competition aims to build on the ocean technology sector across Atlantic Canada and attract new founders to the start-up community in Nova Scotia.

Disclosure: Innovacorp and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Jobs: Manifold, Springboard Atlantic

In this edition of Jobs of the Week, we’re highlighting openings for an office administrator at Springboard Atlantic and a lead front-end engineer at Manifold.

Springboard Atlantic works with 19 colleges and universities across Atlantic Canada to try to amplify the economic impact of their research and development capacity. The organization acts as a dating service between industry and academia. It also offers funding and other support for faculty and students creating new companies.

Manifold, which closed a US$15 million ($18.7 million) venture capital deal late last year,provides a single platform on which developers can access a range of services, thereby simplifying the process of building digital products. Software developers often need an array of services that they can incorporate into their products to accelerate the development process. But finding and accessing all these services can be cumbersome.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Springboard Atlantic

Office Administrator

We are looking for an Office Administrator to join Springboard Atlantic's central office team. Springboard Atlantic is a not-for-profit corporation that represents the network of 19 post-secondary institutions doing research in Atlantic Canada. The central office is a team of 5 who are based in Halifax, NS and Fredericton, NB and support this network. We are a diverse team who work together to fulfill an exciting mandate and we are passionate about innovation and getting ideas to market.

The Office Administrator reports to the President and CEO and is responsible for the efficient administration of Springboard’s central office. This primary role will encompass all general office administration including receptionist duties, meeting coordination, and member support. There will also be time dedicated to supporting our President and CEO. In addition, the administrator will be tasked with data management that supports our needs. If you are not already social media savvy you will have the opportunity to learn and support our communications strategy.

This job might be for you if:

You communicate clearly. You write well. You speak eloquently. You can explain just about anything to anyone, in writing, in person or on the phone.

You have very strong computer skills, and you are especially good with excel.

You are obsessed with details and organization, you like to figure out how to make processes better.

You are comfortable working with minimal supervision. You are capable of prioritizing multiple tasks efficiently and working individually and in a team. . . .

Read the full job description here.

Halifax

Manifold

Lead Front-end Engineer, React/Redux

At Manifold, we’re an ambitious and well-funded startup, making it compelling for developers like you to break your deployments free from the closed ecosystems of cloud providers. We connect applications, wherever they are hosted, to independent cloud services made by developers who care.

We are looking for an experienced, collaborative front-end engineer to inspire us, teach us, and bring our React architecture and coding forward.

Our partially distributed engineering team is fun-loving, knowledgeable, and extremely productive. We’re organized to let you explore and grow a variety of skills and capabilities, with many opportunities to make a significant impact. Many of us have strong ties to the open-source world, and have experience building tools at companies like Heroku, Red Hat, and Canonical.

We value diversity and supporting a distributed culture. Gender diversity is currently about one quarter. About half of the company work outside of the home Halifax, Canada office, including the product and engineering leaders.

Responsibilities

Help lead a friendly, supportive engineering culture that encourages you and the entire company to improve as engineers, teams, and people.

Be a model and mentor for building well-architected, performant, well-tested, and understandable code.

Prevent and manage technical debt. Help us find the right corners to cut for speed, and the right problems to invest in for maintainability.

Be passionate about our mission, and help us imagine Manifold’s future. Work closely with design and product in short design-first iteration.

Be curious. Learn, practice, share, and improve our knowledge and best practices in technologies, security, engineering, design and collaboration. . . .

Read the full job description here. 

Global Mentoring in Social Ventures

Stephanie Pronk: 'Around the world people are searching online for training in social entrepreneurship.'

Stephanie Pronk: 'Around the world people are searching online for training in social entrepreneurship.'

Common Good Solutions has been helping the region’s social entrepreneurs since 2012. Now the Halifax-based mentoring and consulting company is pushing ahead with marketing its online training platform for social entrepreneurs, before others emulate the idea.

CGS started its Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) platform in March last year and later introduced it to the world at the Social Enterprise World Forum in New Zealand.

SEI chief operating officer Stephanie Pronk said running a social venture — one that prioritizes people and the planet as well as profit — is particularly challenging.

“Social entrepreneurs are trying to sell, just like any other business, and do the social aspect, which is hard,” Pronk said.

CGS decided to create their online training tool after realizing there were many groups looking for help that couldn’t get what they needed due to budget and time commitments. CGS decided that online training would be especially useful for social entrepreneurs in rural areas and developing countries.

Pronk believes the SEI is the first site in the world that provides action-based modular content — information accessible on demand for particular problems — for social entrepreneurs.

So far, entrepreneurs have shown the most interest in courses about social procurement (selling to government and bigger corporations) and measuring the social impact of work. Sales training and marketing are also popular, and the staff are currently expanding their sales content.

JEDI Launches New Cohort for Indigenous Accelerator

Curriculum is being developed with help from all over Canada and the U.K. The latter is further ahead in social enterprise development, especially in Scotland, Pronk said.

The creators hope the online learning tool will lift people around the world out of poverty by enabling them to grow their own social ventures. They’re aiming for the tool to help bring a million people out of poverty by supporting 100,000 users globally by 2030.

“Although a great deal of progress has been made in alleviating poverty in the last 70 years, in 2013 there were still 2 billion people living on less than US$3.20 a day,” Pronk said.

“In developing countries, internet connectedness is growing. We felt this could provide a better way for organizations to access this assistance.”

Now they need to get the site established before the idea is copied. In the last year they’ve hired a team to push it forward and now have five full-time staff focused on SEI who, incidentally, are all aged under 30.

“We have IT and marketing expertise. Now it’s a race to market,” Pronk said.

Use of the site is being fuelled by the fact that CGS’s existing partners in the U.K. and Canada — groups like Momentum in Calgary, the Canada Business Network, and the University of New Brunswick — are buying content.

Pronk said these partnerships are key to the success of the site.

“Our partners have deep networks in their communities and we can augment the training they offer. It helps us expand our impact.”

The site has users in 14 countries and offers more than 60 courses as well as help from expert coaches. So far the site has received 3,400 course enrolments. Novice entrepreneurs can often obtain free training through sponsoring organizations.

Pronk said the site is also acquiring users through word of mouth.

“The site has had international exposure through our work in Scotland and New Zealand. And around the world people are searching online for training in social entrepreneurship and happening upon our site.”

Globally, there is more and more interest in social entrepreneurship, she said.

“Our research shows that social ventures are finding more customers, and governments at all levels are increasingly keen to support and buy from social ventures.

“I hope the site inspires people to see that social entrepreneurship is a great tool to make change in the world.”

Vesuvius’ Campaign Raises US$119K

Halifax-based game maker Vesuvius Media’s crowdfunding campaign for its latest board game has drawn US$118,563 in commitments, making it the top-grossing tabletop game on Kickstarter over the holiday season.

Vesuvius said in a statement Thursday that the campaign for the game Dwar7s Winter ended Jan. 15 with 1,689 backers. The original goal for the campaign had been US$15,000.

The statement said TabletopAnalytics.com rated Dwar7s Winter as the top-rated board game on the crowdfunding site over the Christmas period. The game also ranked in the top 10 of Kicktraq's Hot List, which includes all Kickstarter projects, during the same period, said the release.

“This is amazing!” Luis Brueh, the designer and illustrator of Dwar7s Winter, said in the statement. “We had so much fun with this campaign. We received great character ideas from backers. I loved sketching them out and bringing them to life.”

The second game in a series, Dwar7s Winter is a hand-building, worker-placement, resource-management game with tower defence elements for one to four players.

Eggcitables Wins 100 Seed$ Event

In the first game of the series, Dwar7s Fall, players prepared for the harsh Winter while defending their kingdoms against ogres. In Dwar7s Winter, players work to survive against the elements and battle scary monsters.

“Dwar7s Fall is our most popular board game, so there was a lot of anticipation for the next season in the Dwar7s series,” said Konstantinos Manos, Vesuvius Media's CEO and Lead Game Designer. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we couldn't be happier.”

Dwar7s Winter was successfully funded in the first 10 hours of its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Late pledges are available for a limited time in the Vesuvius Media Web Shop. Production is scheduled to start within the next few months and games are estimated to be delivered in August.

Much like Dwar7s Fall 2nd edition, Dwar7s Winter is text-free and the rulebook will be available in several languages. Players eager to get a sneak peek can play the game online on Tabletopia.com. A seven-minute quick start tutorial is available on YouTube by the Cardboard Stacker.

In December 2016, Dwar7s Fall surpassed its crowdfunding goal with 1,622 backers worldwide pledging US$82,479 during a three-week Kickstarter campaign. A third print run is now in production as it has been picked up by distributors in the United States, Brazil, France, Russia, Greece, and China.

The third and fourth games in the series, Dwar7s Spring and Dwar7s Summer, are in development.

5 Takeways from SkySquirrel Deal

SkySquirrel CEO Richard van der Put

SkySquirrel CEO Richard van der Put

The significance of SkySquirrel Technologies’ transformative deal announced last week far outweighs the number attached to it. The transaction will send ripples through the AgTech sector in the region and points to a few important trends in the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

CEO Richard van der Put announced that the company had raised $3 million and would use most of it to finance a cash-and-stock acquisition of its Napa Valley-based partner, VineView Scientific Aerial Imaging.

As separate companies, they had produced imaging and data for the wine industry — possibly the highest-margin segment of the agricultural sector. Now they will be a single company called VineView, based in Bedford, N.S., with offices in northern California and France.

Here are five takeaways from the announcement:

1. Atlantic Canada is getting some serious strength in AgTech data analytics. In 2016, Fredericton-based Resson raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors and opened a Silicon Valley office. Partnering with Monsanto was huge for Resson, which already worked closely with McCain’s Foods. Now the new VineView has a Napa Valley base, staffed by its new CSO Matt Staid and his CFO wife Melissa Staid. These two companies are well-positioned, well-connected and adequately funded.

2. SkySquirrel finally has IP. Resson was always seen as the stronger company because its intellectual property had been developed in-house by CTO Rishin Behl. In the SkySquirrel-VineView partnership, VineView owned the IP and data while SkySquirrel specialized in using drones and cameras to collect data. It was like the Nova Scotia company owned the Brinks truck while VineView owned the gold inside. Now SkySquirrel owns the whole kit and caboodle.

Read About Another Big Life Sciences Deal: Nautilus' Exit

3. Corollary to No. 1: We’re getting serious strength in AgTech overall. Resson and the new VineView are just two high-flyers among the East Coast AgTech companies. Having raised $8.5 million two years ago, Halifax’s TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture is close to completing its indoor farm in Guelph, Ont. It’s interested in AI and data analytics in its farms. Two young Fredericton-based companies are gaining loud plaudits hither and yon. Pfera, which tells horse owners when their mares will give birth, won New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition and the regional BioInnovation Challenge. And SomaDetect was a co-winner at the Fierce Founders bootcamp in Kitchener and won US$1 million at North43 in Buffalo.

4. M&A is becoming more common (and Atlantic Canadian companies aren’t always the sellers). Two years ago, Halifax’s Metamaterial Technology bought the business of Silicon Valley peer Rolith Inc. to accelerate the development of its manufacturing facility. Now SkySquirrel has merged with VineView, with the Canadian partners in the driver’s seat. Conclusion: A select few Atlantic Canadian startups have the ambition and access to capital to grow through acquisition.

5. There’s a reason they call it “hard”-ware. Building a business around devices is difficult. There are usually bigger, better-financed competitors who can do it better. SkySquirrel began as a drone company and now it's focusing on the gathering and interpretation of visual data.

Startup Moncton Launches

Startup Moncton is the latest addition to the Startup Canada Community, a grassroots, non-profit that aims to provide infrastructure and connect startup communities across the country.

Said Debbie Collins, the founding entrepreneur of Startup Moncton: “We foster an atmosphere of inclusivity, welcome diversity, and encourage more entrepreneurs to act as a community leader.”

Startup Moncton is part of a movement that brings together entrepreneurs and community stakeholders to build and connect the startup ecosystem in Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview.

Many community organizations have partnered with Startup Moncton including Opportunities New Brunswick, 3+ Corporation and NBCC Oasis. Startup Moncton will use these partnerships to grow and advance the province’s startups.

 “We're so excited to have Startup Moncton as part of this provincial strategy that helps local entrepreneurs,” said Raphael Albert, a Business Development Associate with ONB.

Eggcitables Wins 100 Seed$ Event

Hannah Chisholm

Hannah Chisholm

Eggcitables, a company that makes a vegan egg substitute from chickpeas, won the $10,000 cash prize at the third annual 100 Entrepreneurs Planting Seed$ pitching competition, an initiative put on by the Halifax non-profit, 100 Seed$ Atlantic.

Hannah Chisholm, founder of Eggcitables, will mainly use the winnings to finalize her chickpea recipe so it has the same texture, smell and taste as an egg and with more nutritional value than current egg substitutes.

“I was really excited to even hear that I was a finalist and now that I’m here and got to actually pitch my product and then actually win, I am just really excited,” said Chisholm after she won the competition.

“The first on the to-do list is to incorporate . . . and work out the legal situation. Then I’ll develop a marketing plan to get this thing going.”

Chisholm was one of three finalists who presented at the event, which was held at the Halifax Public Library.

The other finalists are Elwood Pens, a handmade wooden pen company from New Glasgow and Creative Urban Timber, a custom furniture business that uses locally sourced live edge wood from firewood lots to make custom, modern furniture.

The annual event sells 100 tickets to folks in the startup community at $100 per head. That money makes up the $10,000 prize that is awarded to the company with the most successful pitch.

Read the Latest on Last Year's Winner Aurea

100 Seed$ was started in response to Ray Ivany’s Now or Never report which said only 12 percent of youth between the ages of 16 to 24 aspire to start their own business. The micro-funding pitching competition was the organizers’ solution to improve that statistic.

“It gets better and better every year,” said Allyson England, one of the co-founders and organizers of the event. “The pitches are awesome and I’m just happy to see more young people in entrepreneurship.”

The 2018 event was the third pitching competition held by 100 Seed$, which in November, registered as a non-profit organization and formed an advisory board which includes Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Don Mills, the chairman of Corporate Research Associates. 

The past winners of Seed$ competitions were Canada Cold Press Juices in 2015 for its idea to make juice from wasted fruit in local orchards and Aurea, a cleantech company that outfits small-scale wind turbines to high rises, in 2016. 

Yanky: Wiping Runners’ Runny Noses

It’s an unflattering problem for runners everywhere. You work up a sweat, your face is dripping and your nose starts leaking like a faucet. With no tissues or towels, you turn to the next best thing; the sleeve of your shirt or a good ol’ fashioned snot rocket.

Ryan Jacobson, a Fredericton marathoner who’s fired hundreds of these mucus missiles himself, found a way to put an end to them.

He developed the Yanky, a stylish-handkerchief that clips on to a retractable reel that athletes can clip on to their waistbands. It’s a more presentable way to wipe your nose while you work out and the simplicity of its design is why runners worldwide are adding Jacobson’s invention to their workout gear.

“I think that’s appealing to people – it doesn’t beep, it doesn’t sing a song,” said Jacobson, the Founder and President of Yanky Sports. “You wear it, go for a run, play tennis, and wipe your golf-ball with it and that’s it. It’s a simple solution to a common problem.”

Its simple design is attracting notice beyond New Brunswick. For example, Jacobson is showcasing the Yanky at the PGA merchandise show in Florida at the end of January.  

The idea for the Yanky came out of necessity for Jacobson, who is an avid runner. After years of encouragement from family and friends, Jacobson started the company, which now serves over 20 retail locations locally and throughout Canada.

In addition to retail and online sales, Jacobson promotes the Yanky heavily through social media. He has nurtured solid leads in the U.S. and Europe by connecting with athletes on platforms like Instagram. Jacobson collaborated with professional boxer Brandon Brewer to create a plaid Yanky, a nod to Brewer’s fan base dubbed “The Plaid Army”.

Read About the Latest Cohort at Fredericton's JEDI Accelerator

The company has been gaining traction in terms of consumer interest and retail partners. It is in talks with The Running Room as the Canadian retailer is interested in stocking the Yanky online during a trial period.

In the meantime, Jacobson is working through different industrial design trademarks to secure his IP as well as looking for other avenues to get the Yanky to global markets.

Yanky Sports is also one of the five companies that will take part in Ignite Fredericton’s Export Igniter this month. The program, which is the first export accelerator program in Atlantic Canada, helps growth-stage companies build a comprehensive export strategy.

“I want this to be a global thing,” said Jacobson, “I want to see Yanky sports as a household name.”

Jacobson was able to start Yanky Sports through programs and resources at Opportunities New Brunswick and Ignite Fredericton, where he was given a $20,000 startup loan and introduced to mentors within the province’s ecosystem.

“Beyond the financial support, it’s the community that you get put into that I really can’t put a dollar value on.”

Student VC Event Needs Startups

Ellen Farrell

Ellen Farrell

Ellen Farrell is looking for a few startup founders or CEOs to help with an international venture capital event for students this spring.  

The entrepreneurship prof at St. Mary’s University’s Sobey School of Business is hoping to find two or three startups interested in pitching at the international Venture Capital Investment Competition, which SMU is hosting in March. The startups would be required to pitch to the competitors in the student event, then work through the day with the teams as they try to put deals together.

The VCIC is a tri-continental organization that hosts competitions at universities around the globe, and the SMU tournament will be the first ever held in Canada. It’s designed to teach students about venture capital and the funding of startups.

Farrell said there are residual benefits for the entrepreneurs that help out as they will learn a lot about the VC process and rub elbows with experts in the field.

“This opportunity is an brilliant role-playing drill for entrepreneurs seeking to raise funding in the future," said Farrell in an email. “Entrepreneurs receive a very effective immersion in venture capital: vamping up their pitch decks, responding to multiple term sheets, conducting mock negotiations with top graduate level students, and having lunch with a panel of venture capitalists."

Venture Grade – the $200,000 VC fund overseen by SMU students -- will host the competition March 2 and has already received applications from Dalhousie, University of New Brunswick, Memorial University of Newfoundland, University of Toronto and Wilfrid Laurier University.

At the VCIC, student teams are given an imaginary $100 million to invest. They must pick one of the pitching startups to back. Real venture capital investors serve as a panel of judges to assess which teams do the best job.

Farrell is looking for companies in need of about $2 million to $4 million to pitch, but would also like to hear from companies needing more or less than that.

The judges include Atlantic Canadian investors Gerry Pond of East Valley Ventures, Lidija Marusic of Innovacorp, Chris Moyer of Pelorus Venture Capital and Brenda Hogan of the Ontario Capital Growth Corporation. Farrell said the organizers continue to add judges from across Canada. 

One entrepreneur will receive the  “VCIC Regional Start-up of the Year” award, and Farrell said that the history of the VCIC shows that about one-quarter of the participating startups go on to get funding.

Any interested entrepreneurs should contact Farrell at Ellen.Farrell@smu.ca.

 

Disclosure: St. Mary University is a client of Entrevestor.

Sequence Names Michael Phillips CSO

Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips

St. John’s-based Sequence Bio has named Michael S. Phillips as its new Chief Scientific Officer.

Phillips brings more than 25 years of experience in large-scale genomic projects, drug target discovery and leading research teams to the job.

Sequence Bio, which made the announcement Tuesday, plans to lead a large-scale genetic research project in Newfoundland and Labrador, called the NL Genome Project. This community-based initiative aims to create a powerful drug-discovery platform to help with the identification of diseases and drugs that could treat them.

Phillips has extensive expertise leading large research groups in academia, biotech, pharma and hospital settings for drug target discovery, biomarker research, clinical diagnostics, and technology development. Most recently, he was VP Genomics at Genomics Medicine Ireland. He was responsible for developing a state of the art clinical genomics laboratory, building highly skilled teams and contributing to the company's scientific direction. He has published over 70 articles in leading peer-reviewed journals and delivered hundreds of international presentations on his work.

"We are incredibly proud to have Dr. Phillips and his international expertise with population genetics research projects join the team,” said Sequence CEO Chris Gardner in a statement. “He recognizes Sequence Bio's unique opportunity to innovate drug discovery and embraces our participant-centric approach to benefit the people of Newfoundland & Labrador.”

As Chief Scientific Officer, Phillips will lead all scientific development projects and genomic and precision medicine research for Sequence Bio. He joins the team full-time as it prepares for a period of rapid expansion and growth in its operations. 

EhEye Raises $500K, Led by NBIF

James Stewart: 'I contacted 33 people for every $15,000 that I raised.'

James Stewart: 'I contacted 33 people for every $15,000 that I raised.'

EhEye, the Saint John company that uses artificial intelligence and data analytics in video surveillance, has raised $500,000 in funding after courting 250 potential investors.

CEO James Stewart said in an interview Tuesday that the round was led by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, which came in with $150,000. EhEye raised the same amount from friends and family. As well as these equity investments, the company borrowed $100,000 from Business Development Bank of Canada and received other funding from the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency and NRC-Irap.

“I contacted 33 people for every $15,000 that I raised,” said Stewart with a laugh. A former auxiliary policeman with a PhD in data analytics, Stewart said he was spurred to get out and meet investors by  Isaac Souweine, General Manager of the Montreal-based accelerator FounderFuel, who has become a personal mentor.

EhEye has produced technology that notifies authorities if there is something suspicious caught on the video. In other words, it can recognize someone wearing a ski mask or carrying a gun in a crowd. At a packed stadium, it can even recognize if someone is carrying a backpack and later is walking around without the backpack.

The company was a finalist in NBIF’s Breakthru competition last year, and won several other awards. It was a co-winner of the Grandmothers’ Choice Award, a pitching competition in which a panel of grandmothers chooses the winners, at Startup Fest in Montreal last summer. Through that win, Stewart was introduced to Souweine, who helped to connect the company with investors and customers.

“Artificial intelligence is an emerging tool often associated with cybersecurity,” said NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury in a statement. “This is one of the first instances we’ve seen where a company has leveraged AI for personal security, and we’re proud to support them. EhEye’s widespread potential for positive impact on the wellbeing and safety of both people and infrastructure is incredibly promising.”

Feds, Emera Fund Smart Grid at UNB

The past few months have been active for EhEye, which now has a team of nine people with offices in Saint John and Fredericton. It’s hiring more people.

In September, the company deployed its minimum viable product to its first customer, Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. The initial product had the ability to recognize weapons or public disturbances. EhEye has since tapped the Build in Canada Innovation Program (through which the federal government adopts innovative Canadian products) to work with a sea port and an airport.

Stewart said EhEye plans to release its version 2.0 in March, and add a couple more early adopters to its client list through the first quarter.

Meanwhile, he’s already looking forward to the next funding round, and is reconnecting with some of the venture capital investors he approached last year.

“I have developed a lot of relationships,” said Stewart. “I knew very little about fundraising so I was targeting the wrong level of VC. I’m meeting with one of them next week. He knows how gritty we are and what we’ve gone through. We’re still too early for them but he’s told us what we need to do to be prepared for them.”

 

 Disclosure: NBIF, ACOA and BDC are clients of Entrevestor.

PEI-Based Nautilus Bought by Croda

Russell Kerr: The deal will lead to a new R&D centre for marine-based natural products.

Russell Kerr: The deal will lead to a new R&D centre for marine-based natural products.

Charlottetown-based Nautilus Biosciences Canada Inc., a marine biotechnology company, said Monday it has been purchased by the British specialty chemical-maker Croda International Plc for an undisclosed price.

Founded in 2007 by University of Prince Edward Island Professor Russell Kerr, Nautilus focuses on using marine microbial organisms to discover new bio-medical materials and other products. East Yorkshire-based Croda now plans to use Nautilus’ operations and patents for applications across all its market sectors. Including the UPEI lab it works with, Nautilus has a staff of about 30 people. 

Listed on the London Stock Exchange, Croda has a market capitalization of £5.8 billion ($9.9 billion) and in calendar 2016 had sales of £1.2 billion. The company is so acquisitive that it has a tab on its website to show the companies around the world that it has purchased.

“We have enjoyed a very positive and collaborative relationship with both Croda and the University of Prince Edward Island for a number of years and have always been impressed with Croda’s drive to develop the opportunities from marine biotechnology,” said Kerr in a statement. “Becoming part of the Croda group will provide Nautilus the resources and support to establish a key centre for the research and development of marine-derived natural products.”

He added that the P.E.I. operation aims to provide Croda with new products that it can sell. Nautilus has worked closely with Croda for the past six years, developing specific applications for skin care, hair care, and crop care.

The company said Croda intends to establish the base at UPEI as a Croda Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology. This location has already attracted and facilitated partnerships with many other biotechnology-based companies, said the statement, and Nautilus has exclusive global access to the Marine Microbial Library, which is based at UPEI.

Created at UPEI, Island AquaTech is Prepping its Prototype

“This is another clear example of how sustainable innovation is underpinning our growth plans,” said Croda CEO Steve Foots. “With Nautilus as part of the Croda Group, we further expand our expertise in biotechnology. The Nautilus team that will join us have extensive knowledge and expertise in marine biotechnology, also known as ‘blue biotechnology.’”

The Nautilus sale is the latest in a spate of exits in P.E.I. in the past year. In June, Charlottetown-based iWave Information Systems Inc. sold out to San Francisco private equity fund Sverica Capital Management LLC, after almost three decades as an independent company. Last April, global education publisher Scholastic purchased online literacy company Ooka Island.

PEI BioAlliance CEO Rory Francis described the Nautilus purchase as “another important success story for the PEI Bioscience Cluster”, which two years ago announced the establishment of Natural Products Canada.

“Croda’s investment in Nautilus and Prince Edward Island is a great return on everyone’s commitment,” said Francis. “It’s how a cluster works. The Croda Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology will be an outstanding addition to the PEI Cluster and Atlantic Canada’s expertise in ocean technologies, strengthening the Atlantic proposal for an Oceans Supercluster in the region.”

Planting Seeds Win Was Aurea’s Start

Cat Adalay

Cat Adalay

Since winning the 100 Seeds Atlantic pitching competition last year, Cat Adalay, the founder and CEO of Aurea Technologies, has taken off with her company, which aims to outfit high-rise buildings with modular wind turbines.

In an interview Adalay discussed how 100 Seeds, a pitching event in which 100 attendees donate $100 dollars to make up the $10,000 cash prize, was the first step in launching the business, which she started in December 2016.

“Before we started at 100 Seeds, this was just a concept,” said Adalay, who took home the prize money at last year’s competition. This year’s Seeds competition is happening today at the Halifax Public Library. The competition was previously called 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$. 

“That really kick-started it for us. It wasn’t just the money. It validated the idea and made us realize we were on to something.”

Her company is developing small-scale wind turbines to power high-rise buildings. The turbines are positioned on to buildings so that they are directly in the path of the natural wind tunnels that form around tall buildings.  

The system can be retrofitted on to existing structures or installed during construction and, when paired with an energy storage system, has the potential to run a building entirely off-grid.

Learn about the 100 Seeds Event Taking Place Tonight

In the spring, Adalay took the company to Kitchener, Waterloo, where she was accepted into Communitech’s Fierce Founders accelerator program, a six-month learn-by-doing program that helps female-led companies to scale.

The program gave Adalay more than $30,000 in funding to grow Aurea’s brand.

“It was an incredible experience and they wanted us to stay but we felt coming back to Halifax was the right choice for us,” said Adalay.  

“There is a lot of talent here that tends to be more affordable than Ontario, and there is decent funding here in Atlantic Canada for the stage we’re at,” said Adalay. “In Toronto, it’s so competitive so it’s sort of hard to make yourself heard in such a big ecosystem.”

Adalay, who developed an interest in renewable energy in her teens and even built a generator at 17, has been working on completing the prototype turbine while also raising $61,000 in non-dilutive funds.

“This prototype has been the sole focus of Aurea since we started,” said Adalay, who also explained the advantages of renewable wind power. 

“Solar is great for residential homes but when it comes to high-rises, wind is the answer.”

Building developers and industry professionals, who Adalay won’t name yet, have taken interest in outfitting their projects with Aurea’s turbines. Its modular system makes it easier to repair and adaptable to different building designs. Most important, it cuts down on carbon emissions, something building managers have to consider in this age of climate change.

In the next few months, Aurea plans to complete its prototype and start to raise pre-seed rounds of funding.

 

Disclosure: Cat Adalay is the daughter of the owners of Entrevestor.

An Immigrant Entrepreneur’s Lessons

Pernille Fischer Boulter: 'It baffles me there’s not a better system in place to take advantage of (immigrants') insights.'

Pernille Fischer Boulter: 'It baffles me there’s not a better system in place to take advantage of (immigrants') insights.'

The need to develop international sales is a hot topic in the region. Entrepreneurs often need to work hard to win introductions. When Danish-born Pernille Fischer Boulter arrived in Nova Scotia, she wrote letters introducing herself to 100 of the province’s top CEOs.

In her new book, Tales from an Immigrant Entrepreneur, the author describes how this enabled her to meet influential people, including John Risley, then CEO of Clearwater Fine Foods.

Pernille, the founder of Kisserup International Trade Roots, has worked on export development with small, micro and medium businesses in 90 countries. But when she arrived in Chester in 1998, after marrying Canadian entrepreneur Keith Boulter, she struggled to find what she wanted – a sales job in an IT company.

“I’d worked in a high-paid, high-stress sales job in Europe (for American computer manufacturer Commodore). I’d been responsible for hundreds of dealers, budgets of millions of dollars, profit and loss responsibility and daily international contact,” she said.

“Now, my contacts were limited to my husband and the people I called or tried to initiate contact with.”

Most of the 100 CEOs she contacted did respond, although some were dismissive. Stephen Wetmore, a former CEO of Canadian Tire and Bell Aliant, was helpful. He said she wouldn’t find an IT job in Atlantic Canada. He said the region didn’t yet think of Europe as a possible market, and that its IT companies hadn’t grown large enough to hire someone with European experience.

“Focus larger and focus on multi-sector,” he advised. That message was echoed by others. It’s advice Pernille is still grateful for.

John Risley led her to several opportunities, including with Lee DeWolfe, who ran Hawboldt Industries, an engineering and fabrication firm in Chester that Risley co-owned. Hawboldt made propellers and winches for fishing trawlers. Pernille helped the company enter the oil and gas sector by finding leads in the North Sea.

After TopLog, Yeloglu Moves On and Up at Microsoft.

Many challenges in trade relationships result from differing perspectives, she said.

“I was in the Netherlands, matchmaking for a Nova Scotia delegation, when two Dutch business people said, ‘We really like Canadians, but we like doing business with Americans better.’

“They said Canadians are so polite, you never know what they think. They never really say no, they never really want something.  It’s always balanced, no excitement, no rejection.”

Pernille promotes diversity among her own staff and regularly offers immigrants work experience.  She believes immigrants are a huge, unrecognized resource for Canada.

“Immigrants have a lot of knowledge and it baffles me there’s not a better system in place to take advantage of our insights,” she said.

“Companies will hire Kisserup to brief them on the cultural differences between Canada and China. Meanwhile, there’s a huge, untapped immigrant community. Many immigrants would love to share what they know if only there was a formal way of doing so.”

In 2007, Kisserup developed a searchable database through which potential exporters could find immigrants with relevant experience. But, she said, the private sector didn’t take up the idea. She would like to reinvigorate the project and take it national.

“I envision matching businesses that don’t have transition planning with immigrant entrepreneurs who might take over companies,” she said.

“I’d also make funding available so small and medium-size enterprises could pay an international business graduate or immigrant for a year to help with their business development, international marketing, and social-media development.

“I’d set up a program to help small businesses achieve global certifications. These certifications are the main hindrances for businesses looking at exporting.”

She believes immigrating to Nova Scotia made her an entrepreneur.

“If I’d stayed in Denmark, I would probably not have started my own company,” she said. “I believe anyone can develop as an entrepreneur in the right environment, with the right people and the right support.”

JEDI launches New Accelerator

The Joint Economic Development Initiative is starting the new cohort of its accelerator for indigenous entrepreneurs today, with a special focus on scaling and exporting.

JEDI, a non-profit that aims to foster Indigenous economic growth, said the 10-week program will accommodate seven companies, ranging in specialties from software development to 3D printing.

Unlike previous iterations of its accelerator, this program took in companies that are already well positioned for high growth with strong, validated business plans.

“This accelerator will take people from the point of market validation to full-blown go-to-market activates,” Mark Taylor, the Shipbuilding Strategy Manager at JEDI, said in an interview.

JEDI, which has partnered with organizations like BDO Canada, Lockheed Martin and BMO, will help companies create pitch decks, protect their IP, and learn hiring procedures. Taylor said the cohort will focus on exporting, global reach and investment.

“This particular cohort with have a huge emphasis on raising investment,” said Taylor. He added: “Throughout the whole process, they have to be knocking on doors, raising funds, whether it’s with angels, government funding, what have you.”

Taylor also discussed the obstacles Indigenous entrepreneurs face, pointing to how negative perceptions and property laws make it difficult for entrepreneurs to raise capital.

“To date there has not been a lot of interaction between traditional investment sources and indigenous entrepreneurs,” said Taylor.  

“The starting point is giving them more opportunities, and doing a better job to get Indigenous entrepreneurs with their very innovative ideas in front of angel investors and seed stage venture capital opportunities, as well as educate the banks to adapt their rules to understand that reality of property ownership.”

Genesis Centre Launches Diversity Program 

The organization shows entrepreneurs how to navigate those obstacles and works with its partners to shed light on the challenges. In November, JEDI received $2.2 million in funding, which helped the non-profit evolve its accelerator.

Taylor hopes that by focusing on scaling and exporting, the province’s next big exit will be an Indigenous-owned company.  

“We’ve heard a lot of great stories of the non-Indigenous community in Atlantic Canada and we’re working hard to create more Indigenous success stories.”

The companies in the new cohort are:

  • Lunney Development, a software development company founded by Katie Lunney.
  • PLATO Testing, a network of Aboriginal software testers.
  • Aboriginal Millennium Health Products, a biotech company founded by Roche Sappier that uses “raw forest resources” for products that treat different ailments.
  • Smak'nis Maritime Security, a marine security and safety training company founded by Adam Kennedy.
  • Woolastoq Marine, a marine-focused 3D printing company founded by Monty Paul.
  • Atlantic Hydrogreens, a hydroponics company founded by Cody Brooks.
  • And Down to Earth Productions, co-founded by Michael Stemm and Andrew Martin, which uses drone technology for video production.

Both Down to Earth and Atlantic Hydrogreens were runners up in JEDI’s pitch competition at its last accelerator program. 

We’re Ramping Up Survey Campaign

We’re about to ramp up our campaign to ask the founders and CEOs of Atlantic Canadian startups to take two minutes to complete our 2017 survey.

We’re working with partners across the region to enhance our annual analysis of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. We believe it will help improve the ecosystem.

Now we need your help. We’ve already received responses from a lot of founders, and this week we will be contacting founders who haven’t responded, asking them to take two minutes to answer the 18 questions in the survey. You can find our survey here:

All your answers will be 100 percent confidential – we publish aggregated data but never divulge information on individual companies. You can find the survey here:

We aggregate the data we collect and produce a report on the state of the East Coast startup community. We can't stress this enough: we only reveal aggregated data and your data will be completely confidential. We sell this report to clients, who use the information to help shape the ecosystem. It’s a pillar of Entrevestor’s business model and helps us to continue providing news for you.

A few notes on the survey: We’re asking for metrics as of Dec. 31, 2017.  If there is information you choose not to reveal, just leave the slot blank.

The companies we’re targeting are majority-owned by Atlantic Canadians, commercializing technology and producing a product for the global market. We use the term “startup” but we’re not just looking for new companies. Most of the companies are several years old.

Many thanks to those who have already filled out the survey, and thanks in advance to everyone who completes the survey.

Proposals for $15M Fund Sought

Innovacorp is calling for proposals from private fund managers to oversee an early-stage venture capital fund – a fund whose value has been boosted by 50 percent.

The Nova Scotia government’s VC agency said last month it would invest $10 million in an early-stage fund. But when it released its request for proposals on Friday, Innovacorp said the fund will actually be worth $15 million.

The announcement is part of a two-track policy to provide both early-stage and follow-on funding for Atlantic Canadian companies. The Nova Scotia government in 2014 said it would invest $25 million in a private fund manager, as long as the manager brought in additional capital.

Last month, the government announced it would sink $15 million into Halifax-based Build Ventures, which makes follow-on investments of about $1.5 million to $3 million in companies across the region. The investment will be the first commitment to Build’s second fund, which is expected to be worth $50 million to $75 million.

Innovacorp said at the time it would also channel money into an early-stage fund – initially outlining a $10 million investment and now saying it will be worth $15 million. The announcement Friday did not say the early stage fund manager will have to bring additional capital into the fund.

Creating two funds was recommended to the government by the selection committee responsible for evaluating responses to Innovacorp’s 2016 request for proposals for a fund manager, said the statement. The committee will remain in place for the new process.

“It was important to enable Build Ventures to continue to provide follow-on capital for the most promising startups in Atlantic Canada,” said Gilles Duruflé, a selection committee member and consultant for venture capital and private equity funds and governments across Canada. “It is also important to ensure Nova Scotia’s start-up community continues to grow, which is why we need to bring an additional new private-sector-managed fund for early stage start-ups to the region.”

The deadline for proposals is Feb. 15. 

 

Disclosure: Build Ventures and Innovacorp are clients of Entrevestor.

Jobs: Dash Hudson, Modest Tree

Dash Hudson has posted an opening for a Sales Development Representative while Modest Tree Media is looking for an Intermediate eLearning Software Developer in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Modest Tree is a Dartmouth-based Software-as-a-Service company that offers 3D simulation and training software with its Modest3D suite. In today’s column we’re highlighting its search for a software developer to create and design eLearning training solutions.

Dash Hudson, which is also a SaaS company, helps corporate clients optimize their visual marketing strategies.  With its platform, Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for their clients to manage, source and engage with the online traffic of their photos and videos.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Description

As a Sales Development Representative, you are a critical piece to the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. You will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel food, publishing, consumer electronics, and many more…

Responsibilities

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.
Assign leads to specific Account Executives.
Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.
Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.
Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral.
Track the performance of daily outreach: emails sent, opened, clicked, and responded to.
Follow leads through the outreach process, and closing gaps where any lapses may occur.
Funnel unreached companies back into the outreach process. . . . 

Read the full job posting here.

Borden, Ont.

Modest Tree

Intermediate eLearning Software Developer

Description

We are looking for a passionate developer who enjoys a good challenge and is able to contribute to the design and development of innovative eLearning training solutions. 

To be an ideal candidate, you will have the following skills and attributes:

Must have at least 3 years’ experience in programming web applications using Java, C# or C++.

Must have developed and integrated at least two eLearning courses over the last 3 years…

Responsibilities

Work closely with team members to define and create effective and creative interactive eLearning training solutions

Consistently write, translate, and code products according to specifications and best practices

Identify and resolve bugs efficiently

Assist in identifying, defining and documenting development requirements and specifications

Assist in quality assurance activities, as required…

Read the full job posting here.

Genesis Launches Diversity Program

Michelle Simms: The Women in Tech peer group now has more than 100 members.

Michelle Simms: The Women in Tech peer group now has more than 100 members.

The Genesis Centre, the venerable startup house in St. John’s, will launch a new diversity program on Monday to offer support to more startups founded by women and immigrants.

Dyanna McCarthy, who has worked for the past four-and-a-half years with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, will head up the three-year program. She will be charged not only with developing curriculum to support female and immigrant founders but also researching what other jurisdictions have done to promote entrepreneurship in these groups.

“The diversity program is a really exciting one for us,” said Genesis Centre CEO Michelle Simms in an interview. “When we look back at the 20-year history of the Genesis Centre, if we had started companies founded by women at the same rate as companies started by men, we’d have almost twice the number of companies we have now.”

Simms said the Genesis Centre – which this year will move from its base on the Memorial University campus to new digs in the Battery complex near Signal Hill – has been interested in diversity for some time. It sought and received provincial funding to develop the program.

Four years ago, Genesis began a Women In Technology peer group, which has expanded to more than 100 members. Simms said the peer group is large enough now that it is developing sub-committees, such as one group for female CEOs and another for female software developers.

”We’re building an environment where these women can move easily into C-suite roles because they have a strong network around them,” said Simms.

Read How Myrna Gillis Has Raised Over $11M for Acqualitis

With the new program, McCarthy will oversee networking and educational events and deploy services to support founders from groups that have been under-represented in tech entrepreneurship.

The research aspect of the job will look into different places in the world that have had success in nurturing female and immigrant entrepreneurs. Chile, for example, has been a hotbed of female entrepreneurship. Simms and McCarthy want to know how these places ended up with so many female founders and replicate their best practices in St. John’s. “We want Dyanna to get on the phone and talk to these people,” she said.

The Genesis Centre, which has a total of 11 tenants, has been working with several exciting startups headed by women and immigrants, said Simms. One of the hottest companies on the rock is HeyOrca, whose CEO is Malaysian-born Joseph Teo. Emily Bland, who headed Enactus Memorial’s world championship team, is working on a company called Project SucSeed. And Judy Reid, who’s been involved in call centres since 1992, has established an automated service for realtors called Clientime.

Outside the Genesis alumni, Startup Canada last year named Anne Whelan,​ ​President​ ​and​ ​CEO of ​Seafair​ ​Capital​ ​Inc. of St. John’s, its national Entrepreneur of the Year.

Simms wants more of these success stories in the St. John’s and Atlantic Canadian communities. 

Read About HeyOrca's Success in Raising Capital and hitting $1M in ARR

 

Disclosure: The Genesis Centre is a client of Entrevestor.

SimplyCast Updates its 360 App

Saeed El-Darahali: 'We built all these hooks to make it more dynamic.'

Saeed El-Darahali: 'We built all these hooks to make it more dynamic.'

Clients of SimplyCast would have noticed a big change in their SimplyCast360 application yesterday.

The Dartmouth-based company, which aims to simplify and automate communication flows for businesses ranging from startups to enterprises, revealed the worldwide update of its 360 Marketing Automation Manager with the new Automation Flow Editor.

The 360 communication application lets users map out day-to-day interactions by channeling communication channels (emails, texts, voicemails) into one interface. The 360 system also allows users to automate responses to business correspondents.

The upgrade gives the program new features, an updated interface and quicker loading times. Some of the new features will allow users to track and check histories of different interactions. 

Founder and CEO Saeed El-Darahali, who aims to list SimplyCast on a stock exchange late next year, said one of the biggest things with the update is it’s simpler to use.

After TopLog, Yeloglu Moves On and Up at Microsoft

“When we started the technology about four years ago, it wasn’t as sophisticated as it should be so we built all these hooks to make it more dynamic,” said El-Darahali in an interview.

“Non-profits are using it, governments and banks are using it, so everyone is using the system now, where in the past it required people with a little more programming experience to use it.”

SimplyCast, which started in 2010, has customers in over 175 countries and has a little under a million users in its database. In September, the company released its 9.0 version of its multi-channel platform. That update allowed businesses to increase engagements and strengthen relationships with clients.

The new update for 360, which launched in 2013, took over two years and over $1.5 million to complete. El-Darahali said customer feedback has been great and clients are pleased with the user-friendly features.

SkySquirrel in $3M Raise and Merger

Emily Ennett at the Startup Halifax event Wednesday

Emily Ennett at the Startup Halifax event Wednesday

SkySquirrel Technologies, the Bedford, N.S. company that uses aerial imaging to improve vineyard productivity, has raised $3 million and merged with its Northern California research partner VineView Scientific Aerial Imaging.

The new company will be known as VineView and will change its business model so it uses high-altitude images taken from airplanes to map entire grape-growing districts. Previously, the company used drones to capture images of individual farms. What’s more, the combined company will own all the intellectual property, or IP, associated with its business.

Emily Ennett, SkySquirrel’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, announced the transaction at Startup Halifax’s showcase of tech companies at the Halifax Central Library on Wednesday night.

"We realized that we’re not that great at building drones, but what we are good at is providing grape-growers with extremely high-quality data,” said Ennett. “What we are good at is detecting grape vine diseases that nobody has figured out how to do and what we are good at is developing data products that grape growers are really excited about."

SkySquirrel began as a drone company in 2012 and three years ago decided to focus its efforts on providing data and imaging services to the wine industry, which is worth $20 billion annually in Europe alone. Early in its development, the company struck a partnership with St. Helena, Calif.-based Vineview, which owned invaluable IP used to collect data on vineyards.

For the past year, the companies have been in talks about merging, and SkySquirrel carried out the deal by raising $3 million in capital -- $1 million from Innovacorp and $2 million from an unnamed private investor.

Richard van der Put in the early days of SkySquirrel

In an interview after the announcement, SkySquirrel CEO Richard van der Put said the new funds will be used in part to finance the merger. VineView co-founders Matthew and Melissa Staid will receive a mixture of cash and equity in the new company to carry out the merger. Van der Put said there will be some capital left over to use as working capital. He is now talking to other potential investors and hopes to announce a follow-up funding round in a few months.

The merged company will be headquartered in Halifax with offices in Napa Valley and Toulouse, France, two of the world’s biggest wine markets.

Van der Put will remain as CEO, and Matthew Staid will serve as the company’s Chief Scientific Officer.

“This has been a very important deal for us,” said van der Put. “We now have access to all the IP that we were licensing from VineView before. And they have a very important client base in the Napa and Sonoma areas.”

The Halifax company, which now employs 21 people, also gains important staff in the Staids. As well as being an expert in agricultural imaging, Matthew Staid conducts research with NASA, where he has worked on the Moon Minerology Mapper.

“After working in partnership with Richard and his team for the past few years, we are excited to officially join forces with SkySquirrel and combine our two companies,” said Matthew Staid in a press release. “Together we will be able to scale globally and offer our customers enhanced data solutions.”

Van der Put said the company’s new strategy came about last summer when VineView developed imaging technology that could map large areas from planes with the same resolution that it formerly got in a single field from a drone. It means that VineView can now map a wine-growing region like the Napa Valley once a week and get all the data needed for all the vineyards in the region.

Said Ennett: “We are very eager for the new harvest season to take place and for the new VineView to take Flight.”

 

With reporting by Jennifer Lee. 

 

Making Lobster Fishery More Efficient

Jim Richard, left, and Mark Lowe

Jim Richard, left, and Mark Lowe

When Premier Stephen McNeil toured the Volta Labs startup house in Halifax last month, one company that seemed to catch his eye was SeaSmart Technologies, a new oceantech company based in Mahone Bay.

SeaSmart is the sort of company that oceantech proponents had in mind when they conceived of the supercluster. At the outset, its technology will improve the efficiency of a traditional industry — the East Coast lobster fishery. But as it grows, its founders believe it can use the data it collects to produce predictive analytics and it hopes to improve other industries, such as the crab fishery in Asia.

Led by CEO Mark Lowe, the SeaSmart team has developed “smart lobster traps” that contain sensors to tell whether lobsters have entered the trap. The system tells fishermen, while they are still on dry land, whether there is enough product in their traps to justify going out to sea to harvest them.

“It’s a decision-making tool,” said vice-president Jim Richard in an interview Tuesday. “If we get the information in their hands on whether they should go out, they can decide whether they should go out for four hours or eight hours or wait for another day.”

Going out to check lobster traps is always expensive, given the labour and fuel costs. Richard estimates the North Atlantic fishery between Newfoundland and Boston goes through $300 million to $400 million in fuel each year. By telling fishermen how much they’ve caught, SeaSmart can reduce costs and the industry’s carbon footprint.

The product can even tell fishermen late in a trip whether the traps they laid earlier that day are full or empty — meaning they can be harvested or relocated.

“All of a sudden they’ve doubled their productivity for that day without even leaving the fishing ground and going back to the wharf,” said Lowe. “Because there’s no limit on where they put their traps, once you find a really hot zone they want to concentrate on it.”

The product can also tell lobster buyers back on the wharf and the processing plants what a day’s overall catch will look like, so they can plan before the boats return.

Island AquaTech Prepares its Prototype

Lobsters tend to go where the underwater biomass is located, but that biomass moves around the ocean floor. The company is looking into using the data it collects to make predictions on how the feeding grounds move to improve the profitability of the industry.

The SeaSmart team — which includes mechanical engineer Jordan Braun and electrical engineer Sam Harrison — is now testing the product in tanks, and is planning open-sea testing in the spring. Lowe has had discussions with accelerators in New England but is reluctant to accept equity investment (which many accelerators require) before he raises the value of the company. SeaSmart has just gone through the Propel ICT accelerator and will present at the group’s Demo Day in Fredericton on Jan. 23.

Last year SeaSmart was a co-winner of the Marine Technology Entrepreneurship Competition in Halifax, which secures the company a relationship with the marine technology community in Qingdao, China. Lowe, who is also a founder of Lobsters Made Easy, said the connections could prove useful because the Chinese are huge buyers of seafood and SeaSmart wants to expand internationally.

“For all the traffic in lobster, it’s a small industry compared to the crab fishery and most of it is in Southeast Asia.”

CarbonCure Lands 16 Installations

Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies, whose technology reduces CO2 emissions in the making of concrete, plans installations in 16 facilities owned by Atlanta-based Thomas Concrete this year.

The Halifax cleantech company said in a statement Tuesday the installations will help Thomas further establish itself as the world’s largest supplier of concrete made with this CO2 recycling technology. Thomas now uses the CarbonCure system at 22 plants.

"CarbonCure Technologies is continuously seeking opportunities to assist the concrete and cement sector to create scalable solutions to reduce emissions today,” said CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven in the statement. “We are honoured to partner with forward-thinking international organizations like Thomas Concrete who are integrating CarbonCure across their broad fleet of plants.”

CarbonCure recycles carbon emissions by liquefying CO2 from local industry and mixing it into wet concrete. Its system can be retrofitted into any concrete processing facility.

Find Out How CarbonCure Made our 2018 Outlook

Not only does this process cut down on the amount of CO2 released into our atmosphere but it also improves the structural integrity of the hardened concrete because the CO2 converts into a hardened mineral when it’s blended into the cement.

Said Alan Wessel, CEO of Thomas USA: “Thomas’ growth has been maneuvered by prioritizing consistent quality for our customers and using CarbonCure’s technology really aligns with that.”  

The company has also been a key partner in CarbonCure’s efforts to win the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a $20 million global challenge to accelerate businesses that specialize in repurposing carbon emissions.

“Thomas Concrete has been an incredible partner as we lead the global carbon utilization industry, which is expected to be worth $1 trillion by the year 2030, and reduce global emissions by up to 15 per cent,” said Niven.

CarbonCure is one of the 23 semifinalists for the competition, which has also been dubbed as the Nobel Prize for cleantech. 

LaunchDal Seeks Collide Applicants

LaunchDal, Dalhousie University’s business accelerator program, is taking applications for its Collide Winter 2018 program, which is set to start on Jan. 25.

The program is open to anyone with a business idea and is free. 

Participants will attend four pitching sessions and present their business idea as it currently stands. After taking the idea through a series of workshops and fireside chats, participants will have the chance to take part in the Pitch Competition.

The top teams from the program pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win prize money to launch their business. First, second and third place are awarded $3000, $2000 and $1000 respectively. 

Applications are due Monday, Jan. 22. Apply for the program here.

Appili To Work on Anti-Bioterror Vaccine

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

Appili Therapeutics has struck an agreement to work on a vaccine that could protect people against a potential bioterror threat.

The Halifax drug discovery company said Monday it signed a licence agreement with the National Research Council of Canada to help develop ATI-1701, to vaccinate against tularemia. The vaccine will protect against bacteria called Francisella tularensis, which can cause tularemia, a highly infectious disease also known as rabbit fever.

People can become infected with tularemia through tick and deer fly bites, drinking infected water or by simply inhaling the disease if it becomes airborne. This is why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists F. Tularensis (the bacteria that causes the disease) as a Category A pathogen, a bacteria that poses the highest threat to national security and public health.

“Francisella tularensis is a very infectious bacteria,” Sean McBride, Appili vice-president of business development, said in the announcement. “A small number (of bacteria) can cause tularemia disease. If used as a weapon, the bacteria would likely be made airborne for exposure by inhalation.”

He added: “People who inhale an infectious aerosol would generally experience severe respiratory illness, including life-threatening pneumonia and systemic infection, if they are not treated,”

Aerosolized F. tularensis was studied by the Soviet Union during the Second World War and the Cold War for military purposes. The Soviets also developed a vaccine, but with limited effectiveness.

PEI Drug-maker BioVectra Expands Role with Keryx

The NRC’s ATI-1701 compound was developed through genetic engineering and has shown a strong immune response to the F. tularensis strain.

“The NRC has developed an elegant attenuated vaccine that is showing dramatic results, better than the current vaccination,” Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan said in an interview.

Wayne Conlan led the team that developed NRC’s ATI-1701 compound. In the statement, he said: “It is very rewarding to see our team’s research on this vaccine progress from our labs to the next stage of development. We are delighted to partner with Appili on this important program designed to protect the health of Canadians exposed to bioterror threats.”

Part of the funding to develop the vaccine is from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a part of the U.S. Department of Defense, which has invested $6.2 million into a five-year program to develop the tularemia vaccine.

The licence agreement with the NRC grants Appili -- which has raised money from Innovacorp and through the investment boutique Bloom Burton  & Co. -- exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the tularemia vaccine.

Under the agreement, Appili is responsible for the preclinical and clinical testing to evaluate the safety of the ATI-1701 vaccine in humans as per the guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada.

The vaccine won’t be commercially available for another 3-5 years but Sullivan says this is the right step to hinder the development of a tularemia bioweapon.

“It’s one of the goals of the West to develop the tularemia vaccine in case there is a bioterror attack,” said Sullivan. “We want to minimize the threat of a bioterror weapon to a point where the adversary doesn’t even bother making one.”

4 To Present at Startup Halifax Event

Saar Fabrikant, CEO of B4Checkin

Saar Fabrikant, CEO of B4Checkin

Startup Halifax is hosting an event to showcase the many startup success stories from this province on Wednesday at the Halifax Central Library.

The event, called An Insider’s Look at Startup Success, is free and will include presentations from at least four different homegrown companies. John Hamblin, the organizer of the event, is hoping to add two more companies to the roster.

Here's a quick look at the companies listed to present, and the most recent Entrevestor stories on them:

B4Checkin

B4Checkin is a Software-as-a-Service company that offers a wide variety of solutions for the hospitality industry. Its clients can manage hotel check-ins, reservations, transactions and bookings on one simple platform and, most recently, installed its tech in two large American casino hotels.

B4Checkin Books Sales with US Hotels

Blue Light Analytics

Blue Light solves a problem in the dental industry regarding the light that is used to cure resin (the material used for fillings etc.) in dental procedures. Its product checkMARC helps ensure dentists are curing dental resin for the appropriate amount of time. Last year Blue Light partnered with industry giant, 3M Corp, to expand sales in the United States.

BlueLight, 3M Form US Partnership

SkySquirrel

SkySquirrel Technology caters to some of the most prestigious wine brands with their crop diagnostic technology for vineyards. By using drones, SkySquirrel is able to detect diseases in grape vines.   

SkySquirrel Enters Dublin Accelerator

Aqualitas

Aqualitas is a cannabis producer in Liverpool that uses an all-natural aquaponics system involving a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers. Aqualitas has raised nearly $11.5 million since its inception three years ago and is also researching ways to improve on the aquaponics method.

Aqualitis Set To Raise, then Launch

The event will take place at the Halifax Central Library on Wednesday Jan. 10 at 5:30pm to 8:30. Register for the event here

Propel Names Demo Day Pitchers

Propel ICT, the regional accelerator, has revealed the companies that will pitch at its demo day on Jan. 23 in Fredericton.

Eleven companies will definitely pitch at the event, which will feature a pub crawl to Fredericton craft breweries. Two others are eligible to pitch, though they may not be able to due to previous commitments.

Dubbed Pints and Pitches, the event is an opportunity to combine the traditional regional demo day with a tour of Fredericton’s craft brewers. You can sign up to attend here

The event will begin at Planet Hatch, where BrewHopper buses will take groups to four different craft breweries to listen to two or three different pitches, all while sipping on some of New Brunswick’s top craft beer. After 20 minutes at one bar, you hop back on the bus and go to the next one until you make your way back to Planet Hatch.

Pints and Pitches had been set for last month, but had to be postponed because of weather concerns.

All the grads of the Propel Build cohort (for scaling companies) are eligible to pitch at Demo Day, and the more promising grads of the Launch cohort (for new companies) can present as well.

Here are the startups pitching, including Entrevestor articles on some of the companies:

Build Cohort:

Guild, Halifax

Headed by CEO Colin Gourlay, Guild has developed administrative software for the association management industry, and has already found clients in the space. Specifically, it targets professional colleges, which are the organizations that oversee the credentials and membership of licensed professions. The product automates the process of digitally registering and renewing memberships and collecting fees. It helps members to update their qualifications.

Guild Solutions Banks $500,000 in sales

SnapSuite, Toronto

SnapSuite has created an online dashboard that helps small and medium-sized businesses manage their processes. From a single platform, business owners can carry out such tasks as controlling inventory, dispatching instructions to workers or providing quotes to clients. The goal is to help SMEs eliminate the most time-consuming inefficiencies, increase productivity and view real-time reports.

SomaDetect, Fredericton

Founded by Bethany Deshpande and COO Nicholas Clermont, SomaDetect helps dairy farmers check the health of their herd quickly and precisely while testing the quality of their milk. Deshpande’s patented technology sends a laser beam through the milk as each cow is milked, instantly recording the fat content and somatic cell count, both of which indicate the presence of the disease mastitis and the quality of the milk. The farmer has the data instantly for each cow twice a day. The company has won several competitions across the continent.

SomaDetect Winns US$1M at 43North

SomaDetect Making Waves in US

TripNinja, Halifax

Trip Ninja serves people who want to travel to several different cities in a single trip and don’t care about the order in which they visit these locations. CEO Andres Collart’s team has created a product that takes someone’s travel dates plus the cities they want to visit and plots the trip to find the lowest-cost flights. The company is partnering with online and traditional travel agents to provide better service to multi-stop travelers.

TripNinja Lines Up Deals with Major Partners

Launch Cohort

CoLab Software, St. John’s

Founded by Memorial University grads Jeremy Andrews, Adam Keating and Roy Brushett, CoLab is developing collaboration software for people working with 3D designs. Its product Gradient allows mechanical engineers, interior designers or others to work in different cities on 3D designs in real-time, rather than sending one another PDFs of two-dimensional images.

Hyperloop Success Leads to Creation of CoLab

Unicare, Miramichi, N.B.

Unicare Home Health Care Inc. provides home care services to several New Brunswick communities, and is now developing a digital product. It is owned and operated by Lisa Williams, who is a member of the New Brunswick Home Support Association. She has recently become involved with the Education and Training Committee for New Brunswick that worked to establish a standardized training curriculum for all home support caregivers.

SafeAlert, St. John’s

Headed by CEO Kyle Goulding, SafeAlert is designing a mobile app that will help companies monitor the safety of employees who work alone in remote locations. The product can be installed within 24 hours of placing an order, is customizable, affordable and scalable.

Upfront Tickets, Halifax

UpFront plans to use blockchain in a ticket-management system for concerts. Co-Founders Conor Daly and Kyle Gardiner want to use blockchain to create an identity for each concertgoer, and the ticket would be added to a digital wallet attached to that identity. By working with concert ticket sellers, UpFront aims to get rid of ticket scalpers and make sure customers are not buying fraudulent tickets.

SeaSmart Technologies, Mahone Bay, N.S.

SeaSmart is developing hardware products that would allow lobster and crab fishermen to check their traps from the safety of dry land. These fishers often go through the time, expense and risk of going to sea to check their traps, only to find too little harvest to justify the trip. SeaSmart, headed by CEO Mark Lowe, would let them check the traps from home on a mobile device.

Passiv, Fredericton

Co-founded by Brendan Lee Young and Brendan Wood, Passiv aims to help retail investors do index investing with a brokerage account. Their accounts are consolidated into one easy-to-use dashboard, with automatic notifications when something needs your attention. Passiv works off of accounts in Questrade, the fastest-growing online brokerage in Canada.

Prooflo, Fredericton

Prooflo provides website designers with immediate, stress-free feedback on their designs. The company’s website indicates it is planning a launch in 2018, and is now gathering names of users to test the product.

The following companies have been chosen to pitch, but may have conflicting engagements:

Zambara, St. John’s (Launch Cohort)

Zambara, founded by Jason Trask, has developed a product that helps providers of group benefits to identify members who are under-insured and thereby increase sales to these customers. In the next year, Trask hopes to build on the product so Zambara will help families have an easier time claiming policies after someone with life insurance has died.

Zambara Targets Group Benefit Plans

Securicy, Sydney (Build Cohort)

Securicy, headed by serial entrepreneur Darren Gallop, is a software-as-a-service product that helps enterprises navigate the complex routes to make sure they are compliant with their clients’ and partners’ cybersecurity standards. This field is so complex that even tech entrepreneurs are often asked for material they’ve never heard of.

Securicy Ramping Up Paid Beta Tests

 

Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor. 

Jobs of the Week: 2 at Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson is looking to hire a CFO and Account Executive in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service business here in Halifax that helps corporate clients optimize and manage visual marketing strategies.  Its visual intelligence platform, Vision, provides a one-stop solution for their clients to manage, source and engage with the online traffic of their photos and videos.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

CFO

Description

As CFO, you will work closely with the cofounders (CEO and CTO) to deliver financial clarity that enables the company to confidently pull levers for rapid growth…

Responsibilities

· Equity fundraising.

· Create briefing documents for approaching new prospective investors.

· Maintain strong, ongoing relations and communication with existing investors.

· Own all lender relations.

· Identify and where appropriate access all available leverage sources.

· Maintain strong, ongoing relations and communication with existing lenders.

· Ensure maximum visibility regarding future revenues and cash levels (support CEO in sales forecasting process).

· Maintain rolling 12-24 month pro formas.

· Ensure management is regularly briefed on and understands budget expectations.

· Implement policies and controls over budget vs. actual performance…

Read more about and apply for the CFO position here.

Account Executive

Description

As an Account Executive, you will work with our incredible sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world…

Responsibilities

Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.
Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.
Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.

You can learn more about the job here.  

After TopLog, Yeloglu Moves On & Up

Ozge Yeloglu

Ozge Yeloglu

Two years as a data scientist at Microsoft in Toronto has taught Ozge Yeloglu the importance of enterprise sales — something she wishes she’d known more about when she was running Halifax-based data analytics startup topLog.

Yeloglu is known locally for being a co-founder and CEO of topLog, a venture that made life easier for IT operations teams by analyzing the events that take place over IT systems and identifying anything unusual. TopLog ran for three years before folding in 2016.

Yeloglu then joined Microsoft as a data scientist working in fintech. Since September, she’s been the chief data scientist leading Microsoft’s artificial intelligence team in central Canada. She and her staff work with sales teams and clients building cloud-based solutions using Microsoft’s Azure Data Services.

In her leadership role, she is also working with startups and finding ways for Microsoft clients to work with the young companies.

At Microsoft, she’s learned that enterprise sales, which focus on high-volume or high-dollar sales often over months or years, are complicated.

“I’ve learned about enterprise sales by working with banks, governments, insurance companies,” she said. “I’ve realized you need to be where your clients are — remote selling is not feasible. You need to build relationships.”

Not that she didn’t build relationships at topLog. Yeloglu visited Silicon Valley to get to know potential investors and partners and she succeeded in raising seed money. The company went through Launch36, the early Propel ICT accelerator. In some ways, the learning curve at Microsoft has been similar to the one she experienced at topLog.

“We were so lucky to get into Volta (the Halifax incubator for startups). It’s not just about a cheap rent; it’s about networking, connections, mentorship. Also, we did accelerator Launch 36; that was very useful, too.”

Volta Academy Applications Open Till Jan. 17

Originally from Corlu, near Istanbul, Turkey, Yeloglu came to Halifax in 2005 to take her masters in computer science at Dalhousie.

When she joined Microsoft she had to leave Nova Scotia, which was not easy.

“I worried about leaving Halifax. I loved life there, loved living in the Hydrostone area. But we now live in Etobicoke. We walk our dogs by the lake and are 25 minutes by train from downtown.”

She is still learning about life in a big corporation and says she may return to entrepreneurship one day. She keeps in touch with the Atlantic scene by volunteering with Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic as a mentor for Halifax entrepreneurs.

“I know the challenges of entrepreneurship,” she said. “Adaptability is important, being able to learn many things at once. That helps at Microsoft, too — being comfortable with things I don’t know and having the drive to learn and keep growing.”

Looking back, she says there were several reasons for topLog’s demise, including, perhaps, raising investment too early.

We're Watching These Atlantic Canadian Companies in 2018

“Another main thing was enterprise sales. We didn’t know how to sell our product to enterprise companies and our product was designed for enterprise companies. None of us had that specific experience, and our investors and mentors didn’t have experience in our specific market. . . . Technology and product are great, but if you can’t sell it, it doesn’t matter.”

She expressed surprise that no regional university has yet taken up Gerry Pond’s challenge to create a program for teaching international sales. Pond, a well-known New Brunswick-based investor, offered $500,000 to any Atlantic Canadian university that would do so back in 2015.

But, she said, perhaps sales is best learned in the workplace.

“Now I’m seeing how Microsoft salespeople close deals. Learning from them is a whole different experience. . . . As I said, I’ve learned how much of sales is relationship building.”

Business Model Contest Seeks Entries

Canada’s Business Model Competition, which aims to steer student-led startups away from failure, has opened applications for its sixth annual competition in March.

Dalhousie University, which initiated the event in 2013, is currently accepting video submissions from student-run businesses for the competition, which begins March 2.

To apply, teams no larger than five must submit an eight-minute video that concisely explains the idea, problem and solution to their business model.  Video applications are due on Jan. 28. To read more on the requirements, and to check out sample video, click here. You can click here to apply.

Last year, more than 80 applicants from 20 Canadian universities applied to the competition, with about 30 teams making the cut.

The top three winners of the 2018 competition will split $50,000 and in-kind prizes. The top winner advances to the International Business Model Competition in May at Brigham Young University in Utah.

Both the Canadian and International competitions place a particular emphasis on the use of the lean canvas model and stress the importance of fostering connections with potential customers and partners to grow a business.

The top three winners at last year’s CBMC were:

The Landmine Boys, now Demine Robotics, is a group from the University of Waterloo who built a robot that safely removes land mines.

Axem, a company from Dalhousie, created a wearable device that tracks athlete’s brain activity.

RockMass Technology from Queen’s University, collects and analyses data from different rock structures. 

What’s Ahead in 2018? Funding News

A look-ahead to the New Year for the Atlantic Canadian startup community draws attention to the financing of our most successful companies. The companies I’m watching this year either raised money in the last couple of years, or could be raising money this year. Or both.

During the holidays, I thought a bit about what the highlight of 2018 will be for the East Coast startup group. There are pre-scheduled events that will capture attention, but the big news events this year will probably focus around financing. Maybe it’s that way every year — our readers flock to articles about venture capital funding. But this year there are a few wrinkles that will make it different from other years.

For the past two years, there have been more big VC rounds — announcements of funding ranging from $4 million to $18 million. There will be a few more of those announcements this year, though it’s difficult to say which companies will announce these so-called Series A rounds.

What will be interesting will be to see what announcements come from companies that had big raises in 2016. The companies that had big funding rounds last year — like Affinio and Manifold of Halifax — are now putting that money into action. But the companies that raised in 2016 will hit some interesting milestones.

Halifax-based TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture (which raised $8.5 million in 2016) is due to open its major indoor farm in Guelph, Ont. in June. Resson of Fredericton, which raised US$11 million, is completing the beta tests of its agricultural analytics system and anticipates a full launch this year. St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, which raised US$3 million, is on track to demonstrate this year how it can use genetic research in drug discovery.

Check Out our Review of the Good and the Bad in 2017

There are a couple of companies that haven’t announced big rounds recently but bear watching. One is CarbonCure of Halifax, which is a semifinalist in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The four-plus-year international competition will name finalists in February. If CarbonCure makes the cut, it will be in the running to walk away with US$20 million.

Then there is SimplyCast, the Dartmouth company that specializes in multi-channel marketing. For years, CEO Saeed El-Darahali has indicated he wants a public listing for the company. If the public markets remain strong, there will be more attention paid to SimplyCast listing next year.

“We are planning a listing in mid to late 2019 as we finalize some major projects in 2018,” said El-Darahali in an email Wednesday.

These are some of the companies that are on my radar this year, and of course there will always be the companies that outperform expectations and come out with surprising announcements.

Here’s one final thing to keep in mind: The regional accelerator Propel ICT has the stated goal of producing the first IT company in Atlantic Canada valued at or above $1 billion. Saint John investor Gerry Pond, the driving force behind Propel, has stated publicly that he believes a tech company in the region will hit that mark in 2019. Pond made the statement a few years ago, but if he’s right, we’re within 23 months of seeing it happen. We could see some signs in 2018 of big news on the horizon.

Energia Seeks 2018 Cohort Applicants

Joe Allen

Joe Allen

Energia Ventures, an accelerator in Frederction, is seeking companies in the energy, cleantech and cybersecurity sectors to apply for its 2018 accelerator program. 

The program, which is now accepting applications, will run from April 30 until Energia’s demo day on July 20. Participants can expect intensive mentoring, funding for their startups, programs, and business support.

“Energia offers early-stage companies the mentorship, guidance, support and access to investors to truly accelerate their business,” Energia Managing Director Joe Allen said in statement.

“The end goal is to create stable, high-growth potential companies worthy of venture capital investments on a compressed timeline.”

There is no cost to participate at Energia Ventures, which grew out of the University of New Brunswick's Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program. Instead, the successful applicants for the program are granted seed funding in exchange for equity in their company.

The program will operate in Fredericton, so successful applicants will need to be based out of the city during that time, though Energia can help locate accommodations, and assist with visas for any international applicants.

Energia encourages interested startups to apply through F6S, an online tool that links startups across the globe with programs and funders. The deadline to apply for the program is February 5. 

 

Read Our Coverage of Energia Alumni:

Mbissa Energy Set To Expand in Africa

Trispectra Creates Product To Help With Power Outages

Stash Explores Energy Storage Systems

Beauceron Moves Past Adopter Stage

NBIF Extends R3 to 3-Day Event

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has unveiled the new format of its biennial R3 event, extending the celebration of New Brunswick research to three days for the first time.

The conference, running from April 10 to 12, will also be the first R3 event that will have a theme. Given the aging population in the region, the organizers have chosen the theme of Innovations in Aging.

 “Aging is a topic that poses a unique urgency for our province,” said NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury. “The opportunities are endless for innovations in care options and support systems. We want to get people talking and making connections. Collaboration is the key to solving such a complex challenge.”

The three-day event starts on Tuesday, April 10, at the Frederiction Playhouse. The first night will showcase talks from New Brunswick researchers foucsing on aging populations.

On Wednesday and Thursday, there will be a conference at the Fredericton Crowne Plaza that will feature a keynote address, success stories, and workshops for government, industry and researchers.

The conference will wrap up on Thursday evening at the Fredericton Convention Centre with the R3 awards gala. Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks and an expert on ageism, will present the keynote speech at the gala that focuses on themes of age and aging.

The R3 awards, which are now in their 10th year, will honour five New Brunswick researchers who specialize in innovations around aging and for the aging population. Three of the five honourees will receive $50,000 in NBIF research funding, and one public choice recipient will win $15,000.

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor

2018 Resolution: Fill Out Survey

Now that we’re into the new year, we’re renewing our call for founders and CEOs of Atlantic Canadian startups to take two minutes to complete our 2017 survey.

This annual exercise is a win-win for the region. The region gets leading-edge data on the startup community, and the survey helps to finance the cost of producing daily news on startups.

Our 2017 survey comprises only 18 questions and can be filled out in a jiffy. All your answers will be 100 percent confidential. You can find the survey here:

We aggregate this data and produce a yearly report on the state of the East Coast startup community. We can't stress this enough: we only reveal agregated data and your data will be completely confidential. We sell this report to clients, who use the information to help shape the ecosystem. It’s a pillar of Entrevestor’s business model and helps us to continue providing news for you.

A few notes on the survey: We’re asking for metrics as of Dec. 31, 2017.  If there is information you choose not to reveal, just leave the slot blank.

The companies we’re targeting are majority-owned by Atlantic Canadians, commercializing technology and producing a product for the global market. We use the term “startup” but we’re not just looking for new companies. Most of the companies are several years old.

Many thanks to those who have already filled out the survey, and thanks in advance to everyone who completes the survey.

Island AquaTech Preps Prototype

Island AquaTech Co-Founders Dylan MacIssac, left, Brett McDermott, and Jordan Sampson.

Island AquaTech Co-Founders Dylan MacIssac, left, Brett McDermott, and Jordan Sampson.

What started as a class project for the three engineering students at the University of Prince Edward Island is rapidly showing signs of becoming a viable business.

Island AquaTech is the creation of three engineering students who designed a machine for the oyster farming industry as a part of their end-of-year project during their second year.

“We were paired with a client to build a solution for a real industry problem,” said co-founder Jordan Sampson in an interview from Charlottetown.

Sampson, along with classmates-turned-business-partners Dylan MacIssac and Brett McDermott, built a device that flips oyster cages, which is a critical and labour-intensive task for fishermen in the industry.

In oyster farming, the shellfish are grown in floating cages that need to be flipped often during growth to kill off parasites like barnacles, algae and mussels. When the cages are flipped, these parasites are exposed to the sun, which kills them.

“Currently the cages are all flipped manually, usually by two or three guys and (the cages) weigh about 200 or 300 pounds,” said MacIsaac. “They also work right up until the ice forms. They’re basically doing 200-pound dead lifts for 10 to 12 hours a day.”

With help from UPEI and Synapse, an accelerator at UPEI, the students were shown just how big the potential market is for their oyster-flipping technology.

The province’s oyster sector reportedly had its biggest catch this year. According to Statistics Canada, the industry produced 3,422 tonnes of farmed oysters in 2015 alone. P.E.I. is known for its Malpeque oysters and produces roughly 30 per cent of the farmed oysters in Canada.

To date, the young company has raised $55,000 in non-equity funding with $20,000 from Springboard Atlantic and $25,000 from Innovation P.E.I.’s Ignition Fund. The co-founders plan to use the funds to help produce their prototype.

Ocean Executive Adds 2 International Clients

The team is also enrolled in the Creative Destruction Lab in Halifax and completed the first session in November.

Sampson said the CDL program has opened their eyes to the business side of the machine and said the company has a lot of catching up to do in terms of business knowledge.

“It made it very clear to us that we were the underdogs in the room.” said Sampson who will return to Halifax in January for the next CDL session. “They’ve been helping us with the business side and helping us get to market.”

The co-founders, who all grew up on the Island, built everything on-site at UPEI. They took advantage of the resources from the university’s engineering department and worked on the prototype between their classes.

In 2018, the company will finalize its boat attachment design and iron out last-minute kinks — the team tested its last prototype before winter and with good success.

“The concept is definitely proven — there are just a few small changes that need to be made,” said Sampson.

As the ice settles on the oysters in the Malpeque Bay, Island AquaTech is working to make the growing process much simpler (and certainly less cold) for P.E.I.’s fishermen.

Said Sampson: “We had one guy say to us: ‘I don’t care how it works, as long as it gets me out of the water.’”

Jobs Postings: CoLab, Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson is seeking a Sales Development Representative while CoLab Software needs a new Lead Developer in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service company in Halifax that designed a platform to help companies optimize their visual marketing strategies. It is looking for a Sales Development Representative to manage its outreach strategy to potential customers in a number of industries.

CoLab, based in St. John’s, is a SaaS company that developed Gradient, a design review platform that operates in real-time. It is looking to hire a Lead Developer to direct a small team in developing an initial product for early adopters.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Description

As a Sales Development Representative, you are a critical piece in the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. You will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel food, publishing, consumer electronics, and many more. 

Responsibilities

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.
Assign leads to specific Account Executives.

Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.
Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.
Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral.

Track the performance of daily outreach: emails sent, opened, clicked, and responded to.
Follow leads through the outreach process, and closing gaps where any lapses may occur.
Funnel unreached companies back into the outreach process. . . 

Read more about the posting here

St. John’s

CoLab Solutions

Lead Developer

Description

We are recruiting for a lead developer with strong python and web development experience to help us create an initial product for our Early Adopter Program participants. You will lead a team of 3-4 developers while also making major contributions of your own. 

We're looking for someone that's willing to take on more risk/responsibility in return for:

- high growth potential
- creative license
- an open, collaborative, engaging, enjoyable and flexible work environment
- the opportunity to be a leader
- a stake in our success with competitive compensation
- pizza . . .

Read more about the posting here

Happiest of Holidays to Our Readers

We'd like take this opportunity to wish all our readers, advertisers, clients and friends the happiest of holidays. We're shutting down until Jan. 2, and are looking forward to a great holiday. We hope all of you have a great break as well. 

2017 Has Been Great for Entrevestor

Jennfier Lee: A great addition to the Entrevstor team.

Jennfier Lee: A great addition to the Entrevstor team.

Before we take our year-end break, we want to update our clients and readers about our progress in 2017.

It’s been a wonderful year for Entrevestor, and the highlight has been hiring a tremendous young reporter, Jennifer Lee. Jennifer is a graduate of the King’s College School of Journalism and she’s a great addition to our team.

With Jennifer, Carol and I all hard at it, we’re producing more stories on Atlantic Canadian startups, and they’re reaching more people than ever. In its six-year history, Entrevestor has published more than 3,000 blogs, and more than 1,000 of them were published in 2017.

As of November, our number of readers had increased 49 percent year-on-year and our pageviews were up 31 percent. We’re reaching readers beyond Atlantic Canada – about 30 percent of our sessions were initiated by readers outside the region, and 13 percent of them were outside Canada. In Montreal, for example, our readership increased almost 60 percent since November 2016. Both Toronto-based Betakit and PEHub, Thomson Reuters’ private capital publication, both picked up Entrevestor articles on several occasions.

One of the highlights of the year was working with our marketing partners Charcoal Marketing to put on “Atlantic Canada's Startup Industry - By The Numbers” – the luncheon in Halifax that presented our most recent data. We’re looking forward to working with Charcoal more in the future.

Many thanks to all our clients and readers – and especially to the startup founders and staff. Entrevestor is growing only because you’re growing your businesses so rapidly. May it continue in 2018.

The Good and The Bad in 2017

At Entrevestor, we’re about to take our annual Christmas-to-New-Year’s break, so this column will try to sum up what’s been good and bad in the startup ecosystem in the past year. The community grows each year, but here are some high and low points for the ecosystem that leap out for 2017:

GOOD NEWS

Startups are joining the oceans extravaganza. We’re seeing the first evidence that Atlantic Canada can produce waves of oceans-related startups. Last year we identified 414 startups in Atlantic Canada and 19 of them could be considered “OceanTech” companies. Today we’re looking at 36 startups in the oceans space, and they’re popping up in the broader startup programs.

Dozens of companies applied to Innovacorp’s Blue Solutions competition. Seaformatics of St. John’s went through the Propel ICT accelerator in 2016, and SeaSmart Technologies of Mahone Bay attended this year. The Startup Yard at the COVE marine industry park in Dartmouth will open next year. The oceans supercluster steering committee has made provisions for startups to help its members develop new technologies.

Startups and the Halifax business community are linking up. In Fredericton, tech startups are a pillar of the business community. In Halifax, the region’s business capital, startups have been outsiders, moving in different circles than the corporate establishment. It’s hindered the innovation community’s growth because support of traditional industry is essential for a startup community. (Brad Feld, author of the book Startup Communities, refers to them as “tentpole industries” because they elevate everything around them.)

There are more bridges now. The oceans supercluster has the potential to link startups with established companies, and the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic has named businesspeople like George Armoyan, Ken Rowe and Rob Sobey as fellows. It’s a healthy development.

BAD NEWS

We may not be keeping pace with the rest of the country. The Atlantic Canadian startup community is a bit like Andre De Grasse. No one would argue that the Ontario sprinter isn’t fast. The problem is there are other guys who are faster. Similarly, Atlantic Canada is producing fast-growing startups, especially in IT. The problem is the Toronto-KW Corridor, Vancouver and Montreal are producing more startups that are growing faster. This matters because of the ever-increasing race for late-stage capital, and East Coast companies have yet to join that race. There are some startup founders with colossal ambitions for their companies, and it will be a shame if they have to sell prematurely because of lack of funding. Note that I said this “may” be a problem. It’s too soon to say there’s trouble, but it bears watching.

There’s still no sales program at an East Coast university. As of New Year’s Day, 800 days will have passed since Mariner Partners chairman Gerry Pond offered $500,000 to any Atlantic Canadian university that sets up an international sales program. Yet we’re no closer to having a sales program. No university in English Canada offers a full sales program at its business school, even though Canadian businesses big and small are screaming for sales talent. Any one of our business schools still has an opportunity to offer the first such program in the country, but it’s doubtful any will overcome the bureaucratic inertia to seize this golden opportunity.

There it is — more good than bad, but still things that need some work. Many thanks for reading this column this year. Have a great holiday and we’ll be back Jan. 2 (the 801st day since Pond made his offer).

Five Named to Export Igniter Cohort 2

Amanda Betts, CEO of eChart Healthcare

Amanda Betts, CEO of eChart Healthcare

Five New Brunswick growth-stage companies will join the second cohort of Ignite Fredericton’s Export Igniter in January to learn how to build a viable export strategy.  

Cleantech, sporting goods and natural beauty products are what some of the companies will bring to this 12-week program. The five companies are:

  • Anointment Natural Skin Care Inc: This Sackville-based company has been making all-natural body products with a focus on pregnant women or new moms and babies for nearly 15 years.
  • Yanky Sports International Inc: This company, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary in January, offers a solution for runny noses for athletes. The ‘Yanky’ is a clip-on handkerchief that runners or other athletes can use as an alternative to a shirtsleeve.
  • eChart Healthcare: Based in Frederiction, eChart creates connective healthcare between senior care facilities and families. Its software-as-a-service solution digitizes patients’ charts into a cloud-based system for health-care practitioners to easily share and record patient information.  
  • WEnTech Solutions Inc: WEnTech is a waste-to-energy SaaS company that helps engineers find the most efficient way to turn waste into energy. The company, which went through the Propel ICT accelerator, won $176,000 at the Breakthru competition last spring.
  • The Best Deodorant in the World: The name speaks for itself. This New Brunswick company sells an all-natural deodorant called PitShield. The formula has been in the works for over six years and is packaged in biodegradable wrapping.

Export Igniter – the first export accelerator program in Atlantic Canada – helps companies prepare for navigating the landscape of international business. The companies will be paired with mentors, students and other professionals to learn how to reach new markets and develop a comprehensive export strategy.

 “The participants in the first Export Igniter cohort have experienced sustained growth resulting in nine full-time-equivalent jobs,” Adam Peabody, Investment Attraction and Growth Specialist with Ignite Fredericton said in a statement Wednesday.”

“We’re confident this year’s cohort is poised for similar success and look forward to working with them.”

Zambara Targets Group Benefit Plans

Jason Trask: 'The pace of change is what I like and what scares me.'

Jason Trask: 'The pace of change is what I like and what scares me.'

Jason Trask’s journey to San Francisco has followed a long, hard and often personal road, but he hopes it will eventually lead to clients and funding for his fintech startup.

Trask is the founder and CEO of Zambara, a new St. John’s company that has developed a product that helps providers of group benefits identify members who are under-insured and thereby increase sales to these customers. In the next year, he hopes to build on the product so Zambara will help families have an easier time claiming policies after someone with life insurance has died.

Zambara is a young company with only two Canadian clients. But last week it was chosen as one of nine companies to attend the Canadian Digital Media Network’s Get There: San Francisco program, which will be held in the California city in February. (The other Atlantic Canadian companies invited are Halifax-based Guild Solutions and Moncton-based Fitiv.)

A serial entrepreneur, Trask understands the need for this product because he spent more than a decade in the financial services industry, and because his family had to go through the pains of claiming on a life insurance policy.

“A little more than four years ago my father passed away,” he said in an interview Wednesday, explaining he had to help his mother make the claim. “Seeing how that process worked, even with all the advisers we had involved, I really saw that there were major problems. And that was the final catalyst to get this going.”

Zambara’s current product is aimed at group benefit providers — the companies that sell life, injury and disability insurance to unions, associations and corporations for their employees or members. The product searches for people within these groups who are under-insured — for example, a 50-something executive with young children and only $100,000 in life insurance. By identifying under-insured members, Zambara helps the providers sell more suitable products to existing customers.

GroupThinq, which makes software for consultants, gains an international client base.

“What really makes this interesting for the broker is that . . . we’re not introducing them to new customers or leads,” said Trask. “What we’re doing is helping them build a stronger relationship with the people they already know and who know them.”

Trask said the company expects to sign up four more clients — two Canadian and two American — early in the new year. Overall, he hopes for “a couple of dozen” customers in 2018 and to work with them in developing a more comprehensive product. He envisages a tool that will ensure that life insurance policy-holders have all the information they need and take all the proper steps to ensure their families can claim with the fewest hassles possible.

Trask admits “that’s a big nut to crack” so he decided to launch the initial product that identifies the under-insured, then work with clients on the broader product.

Zambara is Trask’s second attempt at developing a tech company. During the dotcom boom, he began a company that would allow students to buy and sell books and chat online. The company failed and now he’s back. As with the past company, he is working out of the Genesis Centre in St. John’s. And he has just completed the Launch program of the regional accelerator PropelICT.

“I had to learn a new lingo,” he said of returning to the entrepreneurial fray after 15 years. “The business models are different (than 15 years ago). I really like it and it scares me, because things move so fast. The pace of change is what I like and what scares me.”

Feds Unveil 2 Innovation Programs

The federal government has announced two new programs in the last week that should channel hundreds of millions of dollars into startups and innovative companies.

Last week, the government launched Innovative Solutions Canada, under which 20 federal departments will spend $100 million annually to work with innovative companies to develop new products. And on Monday, the government announced that the Business Development Bank of Canada will pump $400 million into venture capital funds through the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative. One-eighth of the CVVI funding will be dedicated to funds that promote diversity, such as funds run by women or operating in emerging sectors.

“The goal of VCCI is to support the growth and scaling up of our best startups to turn them into global champions,” Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, said in a statement. “This program will support Canadian firms in creating the jobs of today and tomorrow. I am also very proud of the fact that this new initiative is putting forward concrete steps to promote diversity and gender equality in the innovation ecosystem.”

These are the latest programs launched by the federal government to encourage growth in innovative industries and reduce Canada’s dependence on resources, especially fossil fuels. The government in 2018 will name about five projects that will divide $950 million in funding for the so-called “supercluster” projects.

Here is a look at the two latest announcements:

Innovative Solutions Canada

This program is similar to the Build In Canada Program in that they both use federal funds to procure innovative products built by Canadian companies. The difference is that in the Innovative Solutions programs, federal departments will work with small and medium-sized businesses to develop new products to solve the departments’ pain. BICP targets products that are already on the market.  

The 20 departments and agencies will set aside 1 percent of their research and development expenditures for the initiative. Some departments have already posted the problems for which they are seeking solutions. For example, the Canadian Space Agency wants a big data and artificial intelligence solution for autonomous space systems, and the Department of National Defence is looking for advanced coatings that can protect personnel from chemical or radiation threats.

Qualifying companies will be able to post their details beginning on Jan. 18, and sign up to receive notices whenever the departments post additional projects.

"The Innovative Solutions Canada program announced today will help Canadian companies gain early customer traction while also allowing Canadians to benefit from the adoption of homegrown innovative solutions," Sandi Gilbert, Chair of the National Angel Capital Organization, said in a statement.

Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative

Earlier this week, the government also announced it would contribute $400 million to the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative – a successor to the $400 million Venture Capital Action Plan launched in 2013.

VCCI will be managed by BDC over three years and will be awarded to VCs that meet specific criteria. Every fund that accepts money from the program will have to produce at least twice as much money from other sources, so the total value of the program will be more than $1.2 billion.

The government is trying to encourage diversity within the innovation community, so recipients will have to report on the gender balance of the fund managers and entrepreneurs they support.

The program will comprise two streams:

  • Stream 1 will allocate $350 million to funds-of-funds, with the goal of supplying late-stage capital. Proposals will be favoured if they meet additional criteria, such as supporting the long-term ecosystem and underserved sectors and regions.
  • Stream 2 will allocate $50 million for alternative investment models. These models must aim to provide returns to investors while supporting groups that traditionally have been under-represented in the VC community. These may include women-run funds and emerging sectors.

It’s still not known whether the CVVI will directly benefit Atlantic Canada. There is no “fund of funds” (an investment body that provides capital to a range of fund managers) in the region, but Build Ventures, the regional VC fund, may qualify as it supports the regional ecosystem. Build Principal Rob Barbara said the group is studying the federal announcement. 

 

Disclosure: Several federal departments and agencies are clients of Entrevestor. 

Feds, Emera Fund Smart Grid at UNB

The federal government and Halifax-based Emera Inc. have committed more than $4.3 million to develop smart grid expertise and infrastructure at the University of New Brunswick.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a press release Wednesday saying the organizations are working on clean energy technologies that will advance Canada’s efforts to build a clean economy.

“The partnership we’ve formed to become leaders in advanced smart grid technologies is having a global impact,” said UNB President and Vice-Chancellor Eddy Campbell in a statement. “Our success would not be possible without our government and industry partners. After more than a decade of work by many researchers and students here, UNB is now playing a key role in advancing the transformation of conventional power grids around the world.”

Centred in New Brunswick, the Smart Grid Initiative is developing a range of products that utilities can use in their grids to accommodate the coming revolution in electricity production. Its proponents applied for federal supercluster funding but did not make the short-list. They have said they are looking for funding from other sources.

The goal of the smart grid movement is to use cutting-edge technology in the grid to optimize the introduction of new electricity generation and monitoring technologies. Add in improvements through data analytics and mobile applications, and you can understand that in the future the electricity grid will be far more than a series of wires.

Trispectra Is a Shining Example of a Smart Grid Startup

With the money committed by the federal government and Emera, UNB will build on existing Smart Grid expertise and refine its technology. 

The Government of Canada is contributing more than $2.8 million through ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, as well as $82,100 through NSERC. Emera Inc. is providing $1.4 million.

The project includes designing, building, testing and demonstrating a suite of Distributed Energy Resource solutions for commercialization by industry and implementation by utilities.  Emera, the parent company of Nova Scotia Power, will deploy and test the project results within its system network at its subsidiary Barbados Light and Power. After testing in a real-world environment, the results will be refined and validated through industry players, users, suppliers, regulators and others. 

The Smart Grid Initiative began several years ago when Siemens signed a deal with NB Power to work together on the energy system of the future. Over the years, it grew with Emera and UNB joining the initiative. The four organizations today form the pillars of the Smart Grid Initiative.

Spring Loaded Cited in Forbes Article

The Dartmouth-based company that developed a bionic knee brace has been listed in a Forbes article titled, “The Top Seven Startups for Souped-Up Senior Care”.

The American business magazine praised Spring Loaded Technology’s shock-absorbent knee brace Levitation and commended its potential to meet a real need in Canada, where seniors outnumber children under 15.  

The carbon-fibre brace is equipped with a hinge that absorbs stress and assists muscle movements.  The brace is ideal for seniors who struggle with joint pain or for athletes with sports injuries.

The article came about because John Hamblin, a Halifax resident and investor in Spring Loaded, recently gave a talk at a convention on the silver economy in the U.S. He mentioned Spring Loaded in the speech, and a reporter in the audience asked him about the product afterward.

Headed by CEO Chris Cowper-Smith, Spring Loaded has raised several million dollars from such groups as First Angel Network and Innovacorp, and was named to the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program at Wilfred Laurier University in the fall.

Other companies named in the article were Rendever, which provides VR tech to seniors and Steadiwear for its product Steadiglove that helps ease motor control for people with Parkinson’s and tremor disease.  

Ocean Executive Adds 2 Clients

Halifax-based Ocean Executive, which provides an online marketplace for the seafood industry, has signed enterprise software licensing agreements with two major clients.

The company said in a press release Tuesday that it has signed deals with Ocean Perfect, a live seafood supplier based in The Netherlands, and an oyster company based in New York City, Empire Oyster.

Ocean Executive is offering a Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, product and will build private online marketplaces to support these clients’ existing businesses. Securing new clients is a major step in its plans to build a network of buyers and sellers in the seafood industry, thus creating a transparent, online market with benchmark pricing.

The company, which has named December “Cyber Seafood Month”, also said it has signed its marketing partnership with Undercurrent News, the leading news source for the international seafood industry. Ocean Executive Founder and CEO Mike Budreski previously discussed this partnership in an interview in October.

Rovault Plans Pilor for its Seafood Processing Technology

“We’re convinced that the future of the seafood industry is trending towards technology advancements in the sales process, and Ocean Executive is offering an enterprise tool for traceable, transparent sales and purchasing to seafood professionals around the world,” he said in the release.

By connecting buyers and sellers online, OE aims to eradicate supply-chain inefficiencies and supply market players with more real-time information about seafood prices.

On the OE platform, sellers post their product offers, providing a range of details such as species, format, location and sustainability certificates. Buyers can bid and sellers can counter-offer until they make a match and a purchase order is sent out to finalize transaction.

OE only collects a commission on a successful match and takes 0.5 percent of the total from both parties.

As of October, Ocean Executive had raised a total of $380,000 in equity financing, including $250,000 from Innovacorp

OE also offers a marketing subscription for USD$199 per month to showcase offers on Undercurrent News. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Undercurrent News and presenting our industry-leading online marketplace to their global audience,” said Budreski.

GroupThinq’s International Traction

Rob LeBlanc: 'We now have 25 small business owners.'

Rob LeBlanc: 'We now have 25 small business owners.'

GroupThinq is a Halifax startup that has been in stealth mode for a few years, and its coyness is surprising when you consider the international traction it’s gained.

The company, which grew out of Ekistics Planning & Design, has created a cloud-based software that helps consultancies with project management and other tasks associated with accounting. The product is now being tested with about 100 consultancies, including some in foreign countries such as Australia and Norway. And GroupThinq is looking at a full launch in the new year.

Ekistics CEO Rob LeBlanc, who presented the company at the recent Volta Cohort funding competition, said the idea for GroupThinq began about five years ago when his consultancy was doubling its headcount in a year. Such rapid growth exposes “cracks in the foundation” of an organization, said LeBlanc in an interview, and he needed a tool to perform various tasks.

“Originally, I thought it was project management . . . but I learned it was two things,” said LeBlanc. “First, there’s a missing step before accounting — it’s called project accounting. It’s a more finely grained level of accounting. And the other thing is overall collective intelligence. If you give the team the information they need to manage the budget, it can revolutionize how you can manage a consulting company.”

LeBlanc said his team spent about a year building out the software, first for internal use and then the Ekistics team began to use the GroupThinq software about two years ago. The goal was to give the entire team the tools they needed to make smart, cost-effective decisions in the projects they were working on.

Volta Labs Seeks Applicants for Academy

“We saw a very significant jump in productivity and profitability at year-end,” said LeBlanc. “I attribute 90 per cent of that to the software. We now have 25 small business owners in here now, rather than 25 staff.”

LeBlanc is now working with a team of four on GroupThinq, and lately they have expanded the functionality to include an educational program that teaches professional processes. In fact, he said seven universities are now using the curriculum to teach professional practice. The plan now is to use the curriculum as a Trojan horse for potential clients — in other words, as consultancies take the courses to improve their operations they will be persuaded to subscribe to GroupThinq to apply what they’ve learned.

LeBlanc said he has so far invested about $300,000 in the product and has taken on no outside investment. He did pitch for the Volta Cohort funding and wouldn’t rule out further attempts to attract investors. An investment of $500,000 would help the company operate over two years, he said.

GroupThinq is now on the cusp of a full release of its first product, and the team is giving some thought to what Version 2 will look like.

“We have some very ambitious plans in Version 2,” said LeBlanc. “We’re looking at artificial intelligence to mine the data the software produces, to give you the equivalent of a CFO to tell you about the company. In 2018, the plan is to work on the AI piece.”

Jobs of the Week: UpFront, Forestry

Job openings at UpFront Tickets and Forestry.io lead our Jobs of the Week column today.

Halifax-based UpFront Tickets uses blockchain technology to improve online ticket purchasing. By working with concert ticket sellers, UpFront aims to get rid of ticket scalpers and make sure customers are not buying fraudulent tickets.

UpFront is hoping to hire a lead developer to assist in designing and building its multiplatform web application.

Forestry.io, a Charlottetown-based content management system for static web pages, is looking for a growth marketer to join its team.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

UpFront Tickets

Lead Developer

Description

· Participate in establishing UpFront’s technical vision and lead/work alongside a second developer on all aspects of our technical development and implementation.

· Collaboratively Design, Prototype, Build, & Launch multi-platform web applications

· Direct the company’s strategic technical direction and development goals

Qualifications

Desirable Full Stack Knowledge
React / React Native
MERN Stack
JavaScript
HTML & CSS
RESTful APIs
Security Conscious design
Unit testing & modular design principles
Blockchain / Ethereum Knowledge is a Plus . . . 

Apply for the job here

Charlottetown

Forestry.io

Growth Marketer

Description

Loves startups and wants to build a great company.
Metrics driven, process oriented and analytical. We run growth experiments where we form a hypothesis and track the resuls. An analytical background could be an asset (science degree, etc).

Responsibilities

Understanding and reporting on company key metrics
Prioritizing and running growth experiments with the team
Tracking metrics from growth experiments
Identify and maximize marketing channels that are most successful
Distributing content produced by our team and tracking it’s success . . . 

Apply for the job here

Allen Leads UNB’s Accelerators

Joe Allen: The former NBIF Exec has joined the TME team.

Joe Allen: The former NBIF Exec has joined the TME team.

The entrepreneurship program within the University of New Brunswick’s engineering school has bolstered its management team by selecting Joe Allen to head its accelerator programs.

The J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, commonly known as TME, announced Friday that Allen has assumed the role of Managing Director of Accelerator Programs. Allen had previously served as Director of Investments for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

In his new role, Allen will be responsible for overseeing Energia Ventures, the accelerator focused energy, cleantech and cybersecurity startups, and the Summer Institute, the design-focused program for a range of entrepreneurs.

“What UNB is doing within the startup ecosystem is miles ahead of everyone else,” Allen said in a press release issued by the university. “I’m particularly proud to be involved in the accelerator space with the J. Herbert Smith Centre and its tremendous Technology Management & Entrepreneurship programs – the leadership and innovation here is just incredible.”

The TME program has been expanding for the past few years, adding programs and bringing on new staff. For example, David Foord, the former Chief Operating Officer at Atlantic Hydrogen, has recently joined the team as an assistant professor.

Over the last five years, more than 70 startups have emerged from TME.

Energia Ventures began a year ago and has held one cohort that features four graduates -- Stash Energy, Beauceron Security, Mbissa Energy Systems and Trispectra Innovation. In January, the accelerator will accept applications for its second cohort.

The Summer Institute is a three-month program that helps entrepreneurs with ideas to progress until they have a business.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Joe join our team,” said TME Chair Dhirendra Shukla. “He brings a wealth of connections in the venture capital community, integral experience in working with startups and a diverse background in economic development.”

 

Click on the images below to read Entrevestor’s articles on the graduates of Energia Ventures:

Beauceron Moves Past the Adopter Stage. 

Stash Explores Energy Storage Systems. 

Trispectra Aims to Help Fix Power Outages.

Mbissa Plans to Expand in Africa.

New Co-Owner at ConnexionWorks

ConnexionWorks, Saint John’s collaborative co-working space, is welcoming a new owner.

Jayne Taylor, ConnexionWorks’ current facility director, will join Heather Acker and Doug Jenkens as one of the co-owners.

“I have enjoyed my role [as facility director] over the past 11 months and was taken out to supper by the three co-founders where I was advised of this new opportunity,” said Taylor, in an email to Huddle. “I took a few weeks to think it over but knew this opportunity may not come up again in the future. I love that I can help entrepreneurs and be a community partner.”

Taylor will be taking over the shares of Brendan Bates, one of ConnexionWorks’ founding owners alongside Acker and Jenkins. Bates, who is the vice-president of office interior design firm Toss Solutions, says he’s decided to step away from the company after three years to focus on other projects. However, he will sit on the ConnexionWorks’ board and help on the volunteer basis. . . . 

Read the full story on Huddle. 

5 Strengths in NB Startup Ecosystem

The rest of Atlantic Canada has a lot to learn from New Brunswick about developing startups.

That’s the conclusion that I came to after a quick visit to Fredericton this week. It’s an impression that’s been percolating for several years. All four Atlantic provinces can point to successful innovators and support organizations. But here are five features that make New Brunswick special:

HotSpot Parking in Fredericton

1. Public-Sector Early Adopters. Finding early customers is utterly critical for young businesses and New Brunswick – Fredericton in particular – does a better job of helping than any other province. The region has too few established businesses to serve as early adopters, and most governments are resistant to new technology and can’t be bothered to assist local innovators. The New Brunswick government and City of Fredericton have been early supporters of such companies as HotSpot Parking, TotalPave and AppDigenous Development. I hear far more praise among New Brunswick entrepreneurs about working with the public sector than any other province.

Melvin Nash and Melissa Lunney at the JEDI offices.

2. Support for Indigenous Entrepreneurs. Fredericton is home to the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or Jedi, which runs the only tech accelerator for native entrepreneurs that I know of. It’s about to launch a new cohort in January, focusing more on scalable businesses than before. Plato Testing is employing First Nations people from across the country in its software testing business. Trevor Bernard, Fredericton-based CTO of blockchain company Braveno, was a finalist this year for the Startup Canada Indigenous Entrepreneur Award.

Lisa Pfister, centre, won the 2017 Breakthru competition

3. Support for Women Entrepreneurs. The province’s Breakthru competition this year had four winners, each receiving more than $200,000 to develop their companies. Three of these four were companies headed by women. Five of the 10 Breakthru semifinalists were female-led companies. A new wave of female entrepreneurs, like Lisa Pfister of Pfera, Bethany Deshpande of SomaDetect and Natasha Dhayagude of Chinova Bioworks, is joining a group of business veterans like Andrea Feunekes of Remsoft and Jill Green of Green Imaging Technologies.

Members of the UNB TME Summer Institute

4. University of New Brunswick’s TME program. There are some good university entrepreneurship programs in several universities in the region. What’s special about the Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program is that it is positioned in the heart of the engineering school. It means UNB doesn’t have to work hard to link researchers to business development people — they come together in TME.

5. The N.B. Small Business Investor Tax Credit. There is a problem with funding for new businesses in Atlantic Canada — the region’s angel investors are tapped out. There have been few exits in the past five years so individual investors don’t have money to invest. New Brunswick responded to this problem three years ago by improving its tax credit for investments in small businesses. New Brunswick investors get a tax credit of 50 per cent on investments of up to $250,000 — the most attractive investment tax credit in the country. Among the other Atlantic provinces the highest rate is 35 per cent, and maximum allowable investments are $100,000 in P.E.I. and Labrador and $50,000 in Nova Scotia.

So is New Brunswick a startup Valhalla? Not quite. It suffers like the rest of the region with a small economy and expensive air travel. And the rivalry between its cities can grow tiresome. But in these five areas, New Brunswick is an example of how to get things done.

 

 

Disclosure: UNB is a client of Entrevestor.

BioVectra Expands Role with Keryx

Charlottetown drug manufacturer BioVectra Inc. announced Thursday it has signed a manufacturing agreement with Boston-based Keryx Biopharmaceuticals.

BioVectra will supply Keryx with a key ingredient for its Auryxia tablets, a medicine that treats people with chronic kidney disease.

BioVectra plans to manufacture and supply Ferric Citrate, the active pharmaceutical ingredient, or API, in Auryxia for Keryx, which develops medicines for people suffering from renal disease.

“BioVectra has been manufacturing the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Auryxia since 2003 and we believe they will be a great partner as we continue to expand the supply chain for Auryxia,” said Melissa Bradford-Klug, the Chief Business Officer of Keryx.

BioVectra will prepare for the anticipated growth in the Ferric Citrate API supply needs by expanding production at their headquarters facility in Charlottetown. In September, BioVectra opened its flagship 21,000-square-foot warehouse to accommodate the growing global demand for its services. 

“We are very pleased to bring an agreement of this magnitude, creating highly skilled jobs, to Charlottetown,” BioVectra President Oliver Technow said in a statement.

“This partnership is a pivotal step in our journey as BioVectra. It is a shining example of the innovation, talent and determination we have cultivated in the Atlantic Canada region.”

BioVectra has over 45 years of experience in its field and was founded in 1970 by J. Regis Duffy, the then Dean of Science at the University of Prince Edward Island.

In 2013, BioVectra’s founders sold the company for $100 million to Questcor Pharmaceuticals of Anaheim, Calif.

Helping Female Victims to Connect

A Saint John programmer has responded to the #MeToo movement by developing an app to help sexual assault victims search for other victims of a single predator.

Raven Blue, a user experience developer and father of two girls, has been thinking about his product, PerpTag, (http://www.perptag.com) for a while, and the outcry over sexual misconduct spurred him to develop something to help women.

He admits that this product treads on dicey legal and ethical grounds, and he is now in consultation with law enforcement and sexual assault survivor support groups on how to proceed with its launch. Overall, he believes it’s “exciting” to be part of a movement that is empowering women to take action against sexual violence and harassment.

“I have two daughters so it’s great to be in a time where we’re seeing a shift in a balance of power,” said Blue in an interview this week. “I was raised by a single mother so I always like to see women’s causes becoming more tangible.”

Raven Blue

Blue has recently launched his own freelance venture, which helps businesses create user experiences for their apps. On the side, he likes to pursue his own projects for the good of the community. He has developed a working prototype of PerpTag, which is one such community project.

PerpTag is a web application that lets a sexual assault victim search to see if other women have been attacked by the same perpetrator. On the site, the woman can type in the first and last names and phone number of the assailant. PerpTag then uses algorithms to produce a coded hashtag attached to this individual, and the victim can place that hashtag on social media, chats, blogs or other places.

PerpTag does not store the name of the perpetrator. But if another woman types in the exact same name and phone number, the algorithms will produce the exact same hashtag. The two (or more) women could then connect using the hashtag, support one another and possibly pursue legal action together.

Blue says the system does not publicly identify alleged perpetrators, and is designed to help a victim learn if her perpetrator has assaulted other women. He admits that he has to discuss the project with experts in the field and is waiting to hear back from law enforcement officials and support groups.

“I think the key to moving forward is to understand the legal risks and the ethical risks and I’ve reached out . . . to see what I could learn.”

Blue’s efforts with PerpTag have already generated a discussion beyond official organizations. When Blue posted details of the project on the New Brunswick Startup Community Facebook page last week, he received both encouragement and questions about whether this could identify an alleged assailant without due legal process.

“The connectivity of this could be huge,” wrote Joanna Killen, a member of the Saint John startup community. “I think that taking all this feedback about liability early on is how you will be able to create a risk-reduced way for survivors to gain support and traction for taking down the predators. There is power in numbers and this is an innovative way to help women find the support they need.”

Volta Academy Seeks Applicants

Applications are open for the 2018 Volta Academy, a program put on by Halifax-based Volta Labs that helps future founders take their “big idea” and turn it into a viable startup.

Volta Academy, the newest program put on by Volta, wrapped up its first session this week. Beginning in September, the 11-week program welcomed 18 participants ranging in age from 15 to 55, and helped them to learn how to validate their ideas, outline an MVP, and grow a scalable startup.

Students received over 36 hours in training, with guidance from six Volta mentors and a session from McInnes Cooper.

"Participants came from a variety of specialties, some had early-stage companies, while others just had great ideas," said Jenn Earle a spokesperson with Volta. "There were SaaS solutions for agencies, the music industry, education, financial planning, legal, and insurance. Others had hardware solutions to help with medication adherence, carpal tunnel, and efficient solar electric vehicle charging."

The 2018 Volta Academy will take place once a week on Mondays from 5:30 to 8:30 pm for 11 weeks at Volta Labs. The deadline to apply is Jan. 17 and the first session will be on Feb. 5.

The cost to attend is $200 or $150 if you’re already a Volta member. You can apply for Volta Academy here

Mbissa Energy To Expand in Africa

Caleb Grove, centre, is helping to bring sustainable electicity to Mbissa, Cameroon.

Caleb Grove, centre, is helping to bring sustainable electicity to Mbissa, Cameroon.

Mbissa Energy, a Fredericton-based startup devoted to delivering electricity to remote areas, showcased its mini-home that is 100 per cent solar powered last Thursday.

The showcase, open to investors, partners and media, demonstrated how Mbissa Energy’s business model could help improve the lives of people in under-developed countries by harnessing the power of renewable resources like solar energy.

Mbissa Energy installs a centralized power hub within community centres. Local residents can come to the centre to collect “munong micra”, which translates “fire of the foreigner”, and bring it back to their homes.

Caleb Grove, the founder of Mbissa Energy, started the project two years ago in Mbissa, a small island in the Northwest region of Cameroon, in West Africa. Grove lived for nearly a decade on the island, where his parents were missionaries.

Living in Mbissa, Grove saw how his community-centralized model is better suited and more sustainable for such communities than other developmental efforts.

“We’ve seen enough of people going in to a place and driving an industry to the ground and putting people out of work,” said Grove in an interview.

“We’re that missing link in social development that makes this whole thing work, not just today but next year and the year after that.”

Mbissa Energy built 40 renewable energy installations in homes, clinics, and businesses on and around Mbissa, and services over 240 people. Grove also helps to train locals to maintain the technology for when his team leaves.

Grove’s team installs a centralized solar station for locals to charge batteries that can power generators at their home. Buyers can fall into one of four customer tiers based on their specific needs and power requirements.  

“They carry their battery, which is about the size of a motorcycle battery, drop it off at the charging station and then when it's charged they can take it back to their farm, or home and use that electricity for about a week.”

The cost is roughly $30 a month for lower tier customers who live well below the poverty line of almost $2 a day. Some higher tier customers have the energy source installed on their own property.

For 2018, Grove said Mbissa Energy will get off the island and expand into communities in Northwestern Cameroon where there is a market potential of nearly 300,000 people. Grove says Mbissa Energy hopes to capture about 40 percent of that market over the next three years.  

Grove plans to return to Cameroon in January to train another team of technicians to finish installations across the entire island of Mbissa.

Mbissa Energy was launched out of the Masters in Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program at the University of New Brunswick and received $15,000 in funding from Energia Ventures, the university accelerator.

Grove said he wants to start a crowdfunding campaign to help support his 2018 goals but the funding isn’t what fuels his drive.  

“I would keep doing this even if I didn’t make a penny.”

 

Read our recent report on the expansion plans of UNB's TME program.

UNB, Mitacs, Hatch Launch Program

Planet Hatch, Mitacs and the University of New Brunswick have partnered to offer a new pilot program called Accelerate Entrepreneur for UNB graduates or postdoctoral students pursuing entrepreneurial ventures.

Accelerate Entrepreneur is open to all sectors like manufacturing, technical innovation, business processes, IT, social sciences, and design. The program aims to bring young companies out of the idea stage.

“Our business programs have been gaining momentum in providing student entrepreneurs the experiences and connections to take their business plans from idea to live launch,” Devashis Mitra, the Dean of UNB Faculty of Business Administration, said in a statement.

“Including Mitacs in the partnership will expand our offerings to a broader group including post-graduate and post-doctorate students from a variety of disciplines.”

Mitacs is a national non-profit organization the helps bridge the gap between academia and industry.

“This pilot program will support university-based entrepreneurs who are solving research problems, which in turn, will have positive impacts on our economy and our society,” said Alejandro Adem, CEO and Scientific Director of Mitacs.

Anyone interested in attending Accelerate Entrepreneur or checking their eligibility for the new program can email Mitacs local representative Valerie Bonnardel-Vacque at vbonnardel@mitacs.ca. 

Guild Solutions Banks $500K in Sales

Once you understand Guild Solution's target market, it’s easy to comprehend the upside of this young Bedford startup.

Guild, which is set to graduate from PropelICT’s Build cohort, has developed administrative software for the association management industry, and has already found clients in the space. Specifically, it targets professional colleges, which are the organizations that oversee the credentials and membership of licensed professions. Examples would be the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia – if you want to practice this profession, you have to a member in good standing of the group.

These organizations have a problem. It’s hard to administer all the data that they’re responsible for. What Guild’s software does is provide cloud-based software that allows simple collection, distribution and updating of that data.

“If you consider that 20 percent of the North American workforce needs to be licensed in order to do their jobs, that puts it in perspective in terms of how big that market is,” said Founder and CEO Colin Gourlay in an interview.

For about 20 years, Gourlay has headed Electric Playground Media, a Bedford-based digital consultancy that now employs six people. A few years ago, Electric Playground did a small project for the Nova Scotia College of Medical Laboratory Technologists, which wanted to find some way to put its membership data online. Once Gourlay’s team completed that task, it began to get requests from other such bodies.

“They liked it so much that we got referrals and we got other clients,” he said. “It is a substantial market and none of the products that were already on the market were really serving it.”

The team has spent a couple of years refining a product that automates the process of digitally registering and renewing memberships and collecting fees. It helps members to update their qualifications. It can export customized data reports and submit them instantly to the Canadian Institute for Health Information – a process that normally takes days or even weeks.

Rovault Set to Pilot Its Seafood Technology

Guild Solutions now has eight customers, and 4,400 users are now on the platform. It expects to sign two more customers by the end of the year. Most customers are in Nova Scotia and it’s about to sign its first clients in Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan. The company has already banked $500,000 in revenue from these customers, and has signed contracts that will bring in about $470,000 in revenue in the next five years.

Gourlay is also doing all the startup stuff, like raising money and going through an accelerator. So far he’s tapped friends and family and Innovacorp for a total of $160,000 in initial financing. And he’s just finishing the Propel ICT Build cohort, the segment of the regional accelerator caters to growth-stage companies. In the first quarter of 2018, he hopes to raise about $750,000 to $1 million, which will help the company cover the costs of attending major trade shows and conducting other sales.

Meanwhile, Gourlay has the task of managing two companies, which he says he manages with, “Just a lot of hours.”

He added: “I have a fantastic team here at Electric Playground and we just have a really good system for getting things done. The two companies actually complement each other quite nicely.”

Keeping Roads Safe Teams With Telus

Josh (left) and Angus Poulain: Set for exponential growth.

Josh (left) and Angus Poulain: Set for exponential growth.

Halifax-based Keeping Roads Safe has partnered with national cellphone carrier Telus with the goal of keeping drivers off their phone while they’re on the road.

Co-founded by the father-and-son team of Angus and Josh Poulain, KRS has developed a piece of hardware called DriveCare, which is installed on a vehicle’s power source and communicates with a free-to-download app on the user’s phone. DriveCare locks the user’s phone while he or she is driving and doesn’t unlock the device until the ignition is turned off (unless the driver is dialing 911 or preprogrammed safety numbers).  

Following a business-to-business model, the company has teamed up with Telus Canada to monitor fleets across Canada. Together, they have installed DriveCare in over 8000 Telus-monitored vehicles.

DriveCare also connects with a web-platform so users can track their distance and speed. 

Other transport or delivery companies like FedEx, Amour Transport and Midland have also expressed interest in the product, said the co-founders.  In fact, KRS’s customer base of several thousand users is “about to grow exponentially very soon,” CEO Angus Poulain said in an interview.

In 2018, the company is planning to roll out DriveCare to a consumer market with an app that can communicate with wireless features in a car, eliminating the need for the hardware device.

“So it can connect directly to the Bluetooth in your car, and then we can do all our magic from there,” said CTO Josh Poulain, who developed the initial prototype.

KRS began in 2011 after two members of the Poulain family were in a four-vehicle accident because another driver ran a red light while texting and driving. They walked away with minor injuries but Angus felt determined to find a way to discourage drivers from checking their phones while on the road.

“Our biggest focus was to keep the roads safe,” said Angus Poulain. “Our biggest play with the consumer side is to just have them using the app — it’s primarily to protect families.”

NS Commits $15M to Build's Second Fund

The company has raised undisclosed amounts since 2011 among family and friends and a few local doctors who were interested in the product. The Poulains are currently in the middle of their first Series A funding.

Working with Grant Thornton, KRS aims to raise $10 million to hone the app and get the product to the consumer market across the globe.

“Texting and driving is a global epidemic,” said Angus Poulain. “We’re planning on having a big presence in Canada but we’re also going to get into European markets.”

Josh and Angus recently travelled to Europe to promote DriveCare, which supports up to 24 different languages and is patent protected in over 150 countries.

Angus Poulain said companies from Australia, Switzerland and Mexico have also expressed an interest in the technology.

The team also partnered with the behavioral sciences department at Dalhousie University to study whether adding a gaming element to their tech would resonate with consumers. By offering rewards and a competitive point system, DriveCare incentivizes distraction-free driving.

“We need to know how to keep them engaged and keep them coming back,” said Josh Poulain.

Build Opens Fund II with $15M from NS

Patrick Keefe: 'We are heads down and focused on this.'

Patrick Keefe: 'We are heads down and focused on this.'

Build Ventures, the Atlantic Canadian regional venture capital firm, has officially started building its second fund with a $15 million commitment from the Nova Scotia government.

The provincial government and its VC agency Innovacorp announced the commitment to Build on Friday. The government will also devote $10 million to another fund for early-stage investments to complete its longstanding commitment to provide $25 million to VC funds.

Build invests in scaling companies and so far its first fund has backed 14 companies with initial investments of $1.5 million to $3 million each. It’s the only organization in the region meeting this need, and it will need to close its second fund to ensure there’s a funding body for companies that are starting to scale.

“It means that we are now in the fundraising phase for Fund 2  . . . which we’re targeting at $50 million to $75 million,” said Build Partner Patrick Keefe in an interview on Saturday. “We are heads down and focused on this.”

NS Commits $2.25M tp Volta Labs

In July 2014, the Nova Scotia government signaled that it would ask for private sector fund managers to set up and manage a fund or funds in the province. The government would contribute $25 million, but the managers would be required to bring in capital from other sources as well.

So far, Build II is developing the same way Build I did -- with a $15 million commitment from Nova Scotia. Build then attracted funding from other governments and private investors for the first fund: $15 million from New Brunswick; $10 million from Newfoundland and Labrador; $2.5 million from Prince Edward Island; $10 million from the federally owned BDC Capital; $5 million from privately owned Technology Venture Corp. of Moncton. There were also a few other private investors.

Keefe said it is “far too early” to say that the second fund will have a similar makeup, though he and partners Rob Barbara and Patrick Hankinson will approach these parties about the second fund. Keefe added that the VC industry across the country is trying to encourage more private sector investment and Build is hoping to attract backing from pension funds, insurers and money managers.

This time, he said, the team will be able to showcase the portfolio of companies it has assembled in the first fund over four years.

“It helps to have a track record,” said Keefe. “It’s always more difficult to be a startup fund manager. . . . Unfortunately, four years is not enough time to fully evaluate the fund, given that it’s a ten-year fund.”

With US$9M, Affinio Eyes More Brands

The first fund does not yet have any exits, but several of its companies have shown their strength by booking major funding rounds led by VCs from Silicon Valley or Ontario: US$15 million by Halifax-based Manifold; US$12 million by Fredericton-based Resson; and US$9 million by Halifax-based Affinio. Build has also invested in Halifax-based Dash Hudson, which has been profitable since the spring.

While Build is continuing with its fundraising, the Nova Scotia government must now continue the process of selecting an early-stage VC manager – a process that’s now taken three-and-a-half years.   The goal is to have this yet-to-be-named fund providing rounds of, say, $50,000 to $200,000 while Build can provide seven-figure rounds.

“Build Ventures already plays an essential role in developing Nova Scotia’s venture capital ecosystem, and moving forward it will be able to continue to provide follow-on capital for the most promising start-ups in Atlantic Canada,” said Gilles Duruflé, a selection committee member. “To ensure Nova Scotia’s start-up community continues to grow, it is also important to bring a new private-sector-managed fund to the region to support early stage companies.”

 

Disclosure: Build Ventures, Innovacorp and the Nova Scotia government are clients of Entrevestor. 

Propel Delays Demo Day Until Jan. 23

Propel ICT has postponed its Fredericton Demo Day.

Due to concerns about the weather, the regional ICT accelerator said Friday that the Pints and Pitches event scheduled for Tuesday night will now be held on Jan. 23. You can sign up for the event here.

“We were really looking forward to getting together in Fredericton, but the weather is not on our side,” said a Propel blog, festooned with snowman and happy face emojis. “Snow, freezing rain, and traveling is never a fun (or safe) mix.”

Pints and Pitches is an opportunity to combine the traditional regional demo day with a tour of Fredericton’s craft brewers.

The event will begin at Planet Hatch, where BrewHopper buses will take groups to four different craft breweries to listen to two or three different pitches, all while sipping on some of New Brunswick’s top craft beer. After 20 minutes at one bar, you hop back on the bus and go to the next one until you make your way back to Planet Hatch.

The pitchers will be the five companies that went through the Build Cohort, which is designed for growth-stage companies, and some of the stars from the Launch Cohorts in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s. The Launch Cohort is intended for companies that are developing an idea and looking for a product-market fit. 

Jobs: CloudKettle, Dash Hudson

Two openings at CloudKettle and a posting from Dash Hudson steal the headline of our Jobs of the Week column today.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service company that developed a platform to help companies optimize their visual marketing strategies. It is looking to fill the role for an Account Executive to work with the sales team in lead generation, sales outreach and progress tracking.

CloudKettle is a consulting company that helps business-to-business SaaS companies build their revenue. It is looking to hire a part-time office manager and a marketing automation manager for its Halifax location.

The candidate for the Office Manager would work for 20 to 24 hours per week and would be responsible for organizing the team calendar and coordinate team meetings. The Marketing Automation Manager is a full-time position. The candidate will have to work with team members, vendors, and clients to prepare them for growth. He or she will also ensure the stability of their clients’ HubSpot ecosystems.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

Description

As an Account Executive, you will work with our incredible sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world.

Responsibilities

Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.
Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.
Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.
Review and qualify inbound leads.
Manage CRM and sales pipeline.
Assist in creation of custom marketing and sales materials.
Liaise between sales, product & marketing teams.

Apply for the job here

Halifax

CloudKettle

Office Manager (part-time)

Description

Overall ownership of the team calendar: based on awareness of business activities and associated requirements to address competing priorities.
Overall coordination of team meetings: from preparing material, to logistics, to confirming and communicating with attendees (both in advance and follow- up).
Including coordination of travel and associated meetings/events.
Be aware of senior team members’ obligations and accommodate same in schedule planning.
Record, transcribe and distribute meeting minutes.

Qualifications

Three years experience working as an office manager or executive assistant
Ability to achieve goals and meet deadlines in a fast-paced environment.
Ability to perform and prioritize multiple tasks with excellent attention to detail.
Demonstrated problem-solving and strong decision-making capability.
Very strong interpersonal skills and the ability to build relationships.
Strong written and verbal communication skills.

Apply for the job here

Marketing Automation Manager

Description

Helping clients acquire new leads through better calls to action, landing pages, and workflows
Optimizing clients’ marketing automation efforts to improve how leads are nurtured and the number of leads that mature to a marketing status and eventually sales
Developing documentation and training for clients’ marketing automation instances to help ensure they are well-maintained

Qualifications

2 – 3+ years of hands-on experience managing an implementation of Hubspot
An excellent understanding of email marketing concepts and metrics
A proficiency in reporting on digital marketing performance
A Bachelor’s degree or college diploma

Apply for the job here. 

Peace by Chocolate Aims for Top 5

Tareq Hadhad

Tareq Hadhad

The Hadhad family, operators of Antigonish-based Peace by Chocolate, have got their treats into Sobey’s stores across the Maritimes in time for the holidays. Next year, they intend to expand nationally and into the U.S. All of this comes less than 18 months after the Syrian chocolatiers began operating in Canada.

The Hadhads arrived in Nova Scotia as refugees from Syria and formed Peace by Chocolate in a small barn in Antigonish in August 2016. Success was immediate and accelerated when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the chocolate in a speech he gave to the United Nations in the fall of that year. Trudeau’s praise precipitated so many orders the company was forced to shut down its website for a while.

The box of 15 chocolates now sold by Sobey’s features white, milk and dark chocolate. Ingredients include local fresh organic honey and pure juices.

“Our chocolate caters to Canadian and Syrian tastes. It includes traditional Syrian ingredients such as pistachio, cashews, almonds, hazelnut, coconut, orange, cherry and strawberry,” said Tareq Hadhad, the face of the company.

The family’s history makes their current success particularly heartwarming, and Canadians have embraced the family and their entrepreneurship.

In Syria, Tareq’s father Assam was a chocolatier, running his own thriving export business in Damascus for 20 years. Assam shipped chocolates to countries such as Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon. But the Hadhad chocolate factory was destroyed by bombs in 2013. The family fled to Lebanon where they lived for three years as refugees.

The family have jumped at the chance to start over and contribute to their new community. Peace by Chocolate’s popularity since opening in Antigonish has meant rapid expansion. The company recently moved from the barn into a large Sobeys-owned space and now employs 35 people.

Their treats were initially supposed to be on Sobey’s shelves in September, but were delayed by two months because of the time needed to perfect quality controls and adapt equipment imported from Europe.

NS Commits $2.25M to Volta Labs

Tareq said that next year will see further expansion nationally and into the U.S., with new channels for distribution and enhanced online shopping. He said the family’s ambitions include becoming one of the top five chocolate companies in Canada within five years.

Tareq said the experience of building a chocolate company in Canada has offered new perspectives.

“Canada has provided our family with other deep meanings for chocolate, life and success,” he said.

“We feel honoured to have our product be our ambassador to Canadians and the world. . . . We weren’t focusing on the real value of Peace in our company in Syria. . . . By sharing our business and social values with millions of Canadians we are reflecting our traditions, and we feel proud for Peace by Chocolate to be a Syrian family tradition as well as made in Canada.”

Expounding on the theme of peace, the Hadhads have also designed their own peace logo T-shirts, introducing them on Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace. Like the chocolates, the T-shirts can be purchased from their website. Hadhad said they have plans to expand the clothing line.

Province Raises NBIF Funding 20%

The New Brunswick government is increasing its five-year funding for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation by about 20 percent in an effort to further boost innovation in the province.

Premier Brian Gallant announced Wednesday that his government would increase funding for the organization by $10 million over five years. The money will be used to expand the foundation’s role in supporting research and development and venture investments.

“To grow our economy, we must foster innovation so New Brunswick businesses can compete on an international stage,” Gallant, who is also the minister responsible for innovation, said in a release. “To strengthen education and healthcare in New Brunswick, we must also foster innovation so we can deliver these vital services and opportunities to New Brunswickers.”

In May, Gallant announced $45.6 million in funding for NBIF over four years. That works out to $11.4 million per year and allowed NBIF to devote $1 million annually to its Innovation Voucher Fund, which helps businesses work with researchers to develop new products.

NBIF Portfolio Company RtTech Unveils Transformative Deal

With Gallant’s announcement on Wednesday, the NBIF funding is closer to $13.4 million a year, though Milbury said in an email that actual spending in 2017-18 will be closer to $14 million.

“We continue to work to secure additional funding from GNB and other sources to ensure we can meet demand and realize our five-year vision for NBIF,” he said.

NBIF is a private, not-for-profit corporation that supports start-up businesses in New Brunswick and fosters research and development. It promotes innovation in the province through venture capital investments and through its Research Innovation Fund in support of publicly funded universities and colleges in the province.

In venture capital, the foundation invests funds through its Venture Capital Fund for scaling companies, and its Startup Investment Fund in support of early-stage businesses.

According to the NBIF’s 2016-17 annual report, the organization invested in 29 different companies in the 12 months to March 31, 2017. The two funds invested a total of $4.6 million, whereas in the 2016 fiscal year, NBIF had invested a total of $3.8 million in 22 companies.

“This additional investment enables the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation to continue to help even more startups, entrepreneurs and researchers deliver meaningful impact on New Brunswick,” said Milbury in the statement. “Continued investment in innovation is essential to supporting the province’s economic growth and well-being.”

Daily Planet Features Chancellor

The Chancellor of the Universe, a game created in Halifax that features machine learning, augmented reality and robotics, has been featured on the Discovery Channel.

Three weeks ago, we featured an article on Brave New World, a Halifax web development company that has added a robotics division to its business. The company is developing a mixed-technology game called Chancellor of the Universe.

At first glance, it’s just another board game, but there’s one difference – it features a robot (called the Chancellor) that uses machine learning to understand the people playing the game. The Chancellor rules the universe and players have to try to overthrow him. Players can not only interact directly with the Chancellor but can use an augmented reality feature on their phones to enhance the experience.

The Discovery Channel this week featured the Chancellor on its Daily Planet segment, showing the development team in the BNW office playing the game. Click on the image to view the click.

 “We're doing something completely crazy,” Brave New World CEO Mike Rizkalla explained in the clip. "We're doing something that's never been done before."

Brave New World’s grand vision is that this robot will just be the first step in a line of mixed-reality, robotics-based games. The robot will just be a platform, and the company will release new games so players can remove the Chancellor’s outer shell, replace it with another exterior. The player will end up with a whole new game with a different-looking robot.

RtTech Software Sells Cipher Product

RtTech Software of Moncton has sold a key product to Bedford, Mass.-based Aspen Technology, providing a capital injection for the company and the growth of two operations in the Moncton area.

Aspen said in a statement Tuesday it purchased RtTech’s Cipher Industrial Internet of Things software and associated assets for an undisclosed price. The buyer will bring on board RtTech CEO Keith Flynn and seven other Moncton-based employees to continue with this business.

Meanwhile, RtTech itself will continue to build its business with the products it has been selling since the beginnings of the company six years ago.

“This is a phenomenal exit,” said Flynn in an interview this morning. “It had the unanimous approval of all our shareholders.”

RtTech’s IIoT applications help large industrial companies monitor and make decisions on energy consumption and operations using data captured by sensors installed in the plant’s machinery. Its main products are RtEMIS, which can pinpoint when and where part of a system is using excess energy, and RtDUET, which allows companies to examine specific processes to find the cause of downtime and poor utilization issues.

The company had released a cloud-based product in 2015, but then learned it was difficult to scale the product profitably. So a big part of the work in 2016 was reworking the product so it would meet demand.

Flynn said in the interview that for a few years the company has had two divisions – the R&D division working on the Cipher product, and the established portion dealing with RtEMIS and RtDuet. He added that Operations Manager Jeff Milton has been promoted to President of RtTech and will oversee the company going forward. “RtTech is in good hands,” he said.

Trispectra Developing System for Power Outage Alerts

Aspen said in the statement the Cipher software it is buying delivers on the IIoT promise of high performance connectivity for a range of industrial equipment without having to rip out existing apparatus. It spares industrial users the expense of having to build their own IIoT systems to tap the productivity gains associated with having machines communicate with one another and react in real-time.

That makes the solution, which is based on Microsoft’s Azure Internet of Things platform, an affordable option for a range of industrial customers.

Aspen Technology, which has 2100 industrial clients, plans to integrate Cipher into its aspenONE software to enhance its modeling and machine learning abilities.

“The acquisition of RtTech Software technology delivers another essential piece in support of our asset-optimization strategy,” said AspenTech President and CEO Antonio Pietri in the statement. “Combining RtTech’s capabilities with AspenTech APM software will offer our customers comprehensive solutions for Industrial IoT, Analytics and Machine Learning, with both on-premise and cloud-based deployment options.”

Though the value of the deal was not announced, the deal is undoubtedly good news for RtTech’s shareholders. Flynn was unable to provide any information on whether the proceeds of the sale would remain with RtTech or be distributed to investors.  

RtTech in 2015 raised $2.5 million in funding from McRock Capital, a Toronto-based venture capital fund specializing in IIoT enterprises. As of March 2017, RtTech had received a total of $1.25 million from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, making it the largest single investment target of the provincial innovation agency. In 2012, the company also raised $250,000 in funding from individual investors, including the founders of ADM Systems Engineering, the Saint John company from which it was spun out in 2011.

As of February, RtTech had customers in 28 countries and now the Cipher team hopes to continue to grow its client base with the help its new payment.

“We look forward to being a key part of AspenTech’s Asset Optimization strategy, leveraging our best-in-class Industrial IoT and cloud-based technologies,” said Flynn in the statement. “ AspenTech will also provide us with the go-to-market capabilities to bring Cipher to a broader range of customers.”

NS Commits $2.25M to Volta Labs

Premier Stephen McNeil at Volta on Tuesday.

Premier Stephen McNeil at Volta on Tuesday.

The Nova Scotian government has committed $2.25 million to the expansion of Volta Labs, which plans to triple the size of its facility in downtown Halifax.

The government’s contribution to the startup house follows on a $2 million commitment announced by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Innovacorp in September. The government bodies are helping to establish a major tech hub in the Maritime Centre in Halifax as a cornerstone for the city’s innovation district.

The funding comes as Volta prepares to triple its size, and thereby triple its capacity to house and mentor high-growth companies. The organization said in July it had signed a lease to take out 60,000 square feet of space in the Maritime Centre. The startup house this winter will take over the ground, mezzanine and second floors of the 19-storey office tower on Barrington Street.

Premier Stephen McNeil toured the existing two-storey facility on Tuesday with Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers, meeting several entrepreneurs and learning about the operations.

“Thank you for taking the risk,” he said to one group of founders attending the Propel ICT cohort at Volta. “I hope you all get rich, and that you provide jobs for the next generation.”

Volta Labs was established in 2013 by a group of emerging entrepreneurs and is now a cornerstone of Halifax’s innovation district.

MyMem Proceeds with Funding from Volta Cohort

The expansion will make Volta one of Canada’s largest technology hubs. The expansion will include more office space for startups of all stages and sizes, and a new event space on the Barrington Street level. The investment will also support operational costs related to the expansion over the next three years.

More than 50 early-stage companies have worked out of Volta Labs since its inception in 2013, and more than two-thirds of them are still in business

“This investment will help us support entrepreneurs and create a home for the technology community in Halifax,” said Rodgers in a statement. “As Volta expands and our startup community grows, we will continue to be the place where high-potential founders come together, learn from each other, and build globally competitive companies. This is key to building Halifax’s innovation district.”

 

Disclosure: The Nova Scotia government is a client of Entrevestor. 

CarbonCure Client List Passes 80

Dartmouth-based CarbonCure Technologies, creator of a process that buries carbon dioxide in concrete, has partnered with St. Louis-based Breckenridge Material Company and Eastern Missouri Concrete to lift its number of concrete-producing partners above 80.

The new partnerships allow the American companies to recycle waste carbon dioxide into concrete to increase its environmental, material, and economic performance, CarbonCure said in a release.

The rapidly growing company said the CO2 is permanently converted into a solid mineral within the concrete, and the addition of CO2 also improves the compressive strength of the concrete, allowing producers to unlock operational savings.

The release said CarbonCure is part of a growing industry of CO2-utilization technologies that aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2030.

CarbonCure’s concrete-producing partners include several of the world’s largest vertically integrated cement and concrete companies.

CarbonCure is one of 23 semi-finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge, which has been called the Nobel Prize for climate technologies.

A family company for four generations, Breckenridge supplies aggregates, ready mix concrete and building materials to customers in metropolitan St. Louis. The company has recently quadrupled in size and reached a revenue of over US$100 million. In partnership with CarbonCure, they seek to increase their share of the growing green building market in the St. Louis area.

Eastern Missouri Concrete has been supplying ready mix concrete to customers in the St. Louis metropolitan area and surrounding communities since 2008.

HotSpot Closer to Regional Vision

The logo of Fredericton startup HotSpot Parking is about to become very familiar to Haligonians, as the company has won the contract to offer mobile parking services in Halifax.

The four-year-old company — whose radiating parking meter logo is already a fixture in most cities in the region — was named Friday as the provider of mobile parking services to the 3,000-odd parking meters in Halifax. The city-owned meters went live with HotSpot on Monday, and the Waterfront Development Corp. is now working with HotSpot to bring its meters onstream as well.

What this means is that HotSpot now has operations in every city in the Maritimes except Sydney. The company really wants to add Sydney and St. John’s, N.L. to its portfolio so that it can move toward an integrated transportation product for Atlantic Canadian citizens.

“We're excited to provide a Maritime-wide solution launching . . . with Halifax Regional Municipality and Waterfront Development that will allow us to really innovate in the new year,” said CEO Phillip Curley in a Facebook post on Friday. “This support from our neighbours is cherished and we’re happy to rise to the occasion and provide the best parking/mobility solution that can be made.”

HotSpot started in 2013 with technology that allows the remote payment of parking meters. Drivers can feed the meter without interrupting their shopping or meetings. Or merchants can use a cellphone to pay a customer’s parking, rather than have the customer run out of the store to feed the meter and never return.

Curley and his team have advanced their system so it produces invaluable data for businesses.

Hyperloop Success Was Driving Force for CoLab

HotSpot provides its service free to municipalities, and individuals pay $2 a month to use the service. Last winter, the company began to work with the Moncton transport system, so that people could use their phone to pay for the bus as well as feed the parking meter.

Curley is now watching how the service unfolds in Moncton in the hope that existing parking customers will have a convenient way to pay for transit and may take the bus more. It can also collect data to tell transit authorities whether, for example, the buses are going near people’s final destinations.

Curley was unavailable for an interview late last week, but in recent discussions he’s outlined a vision of developing a company that helps Atlantic Canadians with transport issues regardless of which city they’re in. The HotSpot app can now help a Monctonian pay for a bus trip in his or her home town, or pay for parking during a trip to Charlottetown or Fredericton.

One other thing about HotSpot and Curley: This is a CEO who’s not giving a minute’s thought to raising capital. In the past, he’s tapped the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation for $250,000, but now what Curley wants is revenue, revenue, revenue. And with that revenue, he hopes to build out his pan-Atlantic provinces transport product.

Rovault Plans Pilot for Its Seafood Tech

Halifax-based RovaultAI has designed a marine camera solution that could potentially save $2 million per year for some of the region’s seafood plants.

The algorithm-based visual recognition software is specifically designed for the oceans sector and identifies species based on size, growth and health. Rovault plans to integrate its technology into shrimp processing plants to help increase the yield in an industry where usable meat is often wasted.

Co-Founder and CEO Ehsan Lavasani said the technology caught the eye of Louisbourg Seafoods while he was presenting it at a local pitching competition. The Cape Breton fisheries company invited Rovault to come to its processing plant.

While spending time on the factory floor in July, Lavasani learned that Louisbourg loses about 60 percent of its shrimp during processing.

Low yield is common with shrimp because the crustacean is so small and its delicate meat is encased in a shell. Good meat is often destroyed and wasted through the peeling and sorting process.

Louisbourg processes nearly 70,000 to 100,000 pounds of shrimp every day but only 25 percent of that shrimp is used, which is common in most shrimp processing plants. 

Lavasani said even the smallest increase in shrimp yield can boost revenues substantially for shellfish processors.

“Even if you can increase the yield by a conservative 1 to 3 percent you can increase revenue of $20 000 a day which is $2 million for one plant.”

To achieve this, Rovault plans to add a step to the production line where its advanced camera will scan the rejected shrimp pile and filter out more good meat.

Rovault is committed to getting its technology to market through its partnership with Louisbourg and plans to pilot its first prototype with the company this coming spring.

Ashored Wins $6,000 for Smart Buoy Project

Lavasani is confident the solution solves the problems for this market but validating the technology to the industry has its own challenges.

“As everybody knows, the seafood industry is very traditional and they do things the way it’s been done for centuries,” said Lavasani. “They use technology but only to facilitate what they already have. They don’t really seek new technology.”

Rovault has to work closely with the people in rural fishing comminutes though they are often reluctant to implement new technology that could replace human jobs.

“It’s their way of life and you want to be on their good side.”

Rovault recently raised $25,000 in non-dilutive funding through Innovacorp’s Blue Solutions Startup Challenge and $10,000 through Dalhousie University’s LaunchPad competition. In November, the company also received a $25,000 equity investment from the Volta Cohort pitching competition.

Lavasani said visual recognition software customized for the ocean sector is a new application for this technology and the $50,000 in total funding has given him confidence the technology can make fisheries more efficient. 

“As a founder of something you have to dedicate all your time and energy and effort to something that doesn’t exist,” he said. “That’s the hardest thing—having to believe that you can create something out of thin air.”

Trispectra Aims To Help Fix Outages

Emmanuel Albert: 'Utilities understand they need a product like ours.'

Emmanuel Albert: 'Utilities understand they need a product like ours.'

Trispectra is a Fredericton startup dedicated to solving a problem common to pretty well every electrical utility – quickly finding and identifying faults on their grids.

The company is made up of a trio of University of New Brunswick engineering grads who have embraced the work of New Brunswick’s Smart Grid Initiative in a big way. They are working on a solution that will help utilities find outages on their grids more quickly, and eventually help to reduce power interruption.

The company has been going for about three years, but it pivoted 18 months ago to develop a system of sensors that can go on the network of powerlines. These sensors, which are powered by the wires they sit on, can tell the utility’s headquarters where there’s a problem in its grid so it can be fixed quicker than is currently the case.

It’s a little-known fact that utilities don’t have the ability to detect a power outage as soon as it occurs. They find out there’s an issue when customers phone to say their power has gone out. Then they send out crews to try to find the problem. Once a crew locates the problem, they have to identify it and hope they have the right equipment to correct it.

“Our solution was to provide a sensor-based monitor system that would provide a map of the power lines and detect faults,” said CEO Emmanuel Albert in an interview. “We can alert the utility if there’s a fault – not just location but also the type of problem.”

New Brunswick's Smart Grid Initiative Is Gaining Momentum

Albert, CFO Shawn Cunningham and COO Jamie Willar have built out several laboratory prototypes and are now working on a full working prototype of their product. Not only will the system alert the utility if there is a problem, it will also assess the state of each wire, saying how much it’s sagging or swaying, or what its temperature is.

By analyzing the data produced by this system, Trispectra hopes to produce a predictive feature that can identify wires where problems could occur so they can be upgraded before there is an outage.

So far, Trispectra has been working in the Energia accelerator at UNB, which provided $20,000 in non-dilutive funding and introduced the company to such mentors as Pierre Mullin of Siemens Canada.

The founders’ main focus now is to perfect certain components that will go into the sensor mechanism, and they are talking with potential manufacturers about ironing our sundry kinks in the design. Once these problems are sorted out and the product has gone through alpha tests, Trispectra hopes to run two pilot projects with municipal electricity providers in the second and third quarters of 2018. Albert has already spoken with utilities about the product.

“The feedback we’re getting is that they understand the product,” said Albert. “They think this is a problem that needs to be resolved. What we’re trying to do is not just make a cool technology with no customers – utilities understand the need for a product like ours.”

Acadia Award $10K to Startups

Three environmental studies students at Acadia University won $6000 to help launch their business Highway 101, a mobile food truck that serves healthy produce sourced from local farms.

Emilia Ganslandt, Gillian Hollebone and Alisha Christie won first place at the LaunchBox Start It Up program last month, in which 16 teams developed business solutions to solve industry problems in just 28 hours.

Start It Up is a two-day workshop that takes its participants through a Lean Canvas Model to solve an industry problem. At the end of the workshop, teams present their ideas to a panel of judges with a chance to win cash prizes totaling $10,000.

The workshop was coordinated by the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre, which manages LaunchBox.

Findlay MacRae, the Executive Director of Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre said the competition is designed to challenge participants to build on their entrepreneurial skill sets including problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication.

The second-place team won $3500 for its solution to connect students to retired seniors who want to stay in their homes and need help maintaining their property.

Third place, $500, was awarded to a team for their solution Cultiv8, an app designed to harmonize a work/life balance.

Over 50 participants took part in the program, which is open for anyone to attend. The teams included Acadia students and alumni, community members, four students from Horton High School and a very entrepreneurial 12-year-old. 

Jobs of the Week: Dash Hudson, NBIF

In our Jobs of the Week column today, we’re highlighting Dash Hudson’s search for a Sales Development Representative and New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s opening for an Investment Analyst.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service company that developed a platform to help companies optimize their visual marketing strategies. It is looking for a Sales Development Representative to manage its outreach strategy to potential customers in a variety of industries.

NBIF is searching for an Investment Analyst to manage its growing investment portfolio and review potential investment opportunities. NBIF is a non-profit private investment corporation that has invested $85 million into startups and research development.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Description

As a Sales Development Representative, you are a critical piece in the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. You will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel food, publishing, consumer electronics, and many more. 

Responsibilities

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.
Assign leads to specific Account Executives.

Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.
Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.
Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral.

Track the performance of daily outreach: emails sent, opened, clicked, and responded to.
Follow leads through the outreach process, and closing gaps where any lapses may occur.
Funnel unreached companies back into the outreach process. . . 

Read more about the posting here

Fredericton

New Brunswick Innovation Foundation

Investment Analyst

Description

This individual will play a pivotal role in managing and growing our investment portfolio, and review prospective investment opportunities to positively impact business development.

Responsibilities

Review and examine incoming investment opportunities
Determine investment strategies that positively impact business development and the New Brunswick community
Conduct financial analysis and the due diligence required to make sound investment decisions
Actively support our investee firms
Monitor market trends, opportunities, and risks. . . . 

Read more about the job here.

Smart Grid Project Gains Steam in NB

While Atlantic Canada’s nautical types are pushing ahead with the oceans supercluster proposal, there’s another major initiative in the region that has captured less attention but still offers great potential.

Centred in New Brunswick, the Smart Grid Initiative is developing a range of products that utilities can use in their grids to accommodate the coming revolution in electricity production. The work has been going on for about five years, and recently received a push from its application for federal supercluster funding.

The initiative didn’t make the shortlist of proposals that will divide $950 million in federal supercluster funding (the oceans proposal was the only Atlantic Canadian finalist), but the Fredericton team is continuing with the hopes of tapping other federal programs for funds.

Senior members of the smart grid team say that just applying for the supercluster program helped to sharpen their focus.

“Originally, this was a bit more university-driven, and then the supercluster came out and there was the demand for it to be industry led,” said Pierre Mullin, vice-president of Digital Grid Software Solutions, at Siemens in Fredericton.

“One message that industry is giving the federal government is that we’re really good at doing research here in Canada but we’re not very good at commercializing that research.”

Like the oceans initiative, the smart grid program is not a single project. It’s many projects that aim to improve the distribution and consumption of electricity — from generators to consumers and all the networks of wires in between.

This distribution model is changing as large- and small-scale renewable producers are brought on to the grid. Soon storage systems will change the industry more, and some household generators may even be able to sell surplus electricity to the grid.

Shukla Mulls What's Next for TME Program

The goal of the smart grid movement is to use cutting-edge technology in the grid to optimize the introduction of these new technologies. Add in improvements through data analytics and mobile applications, and you can understand that in the future the electricity grid will be far more than a series of wires.

The work began about five years ago when Siemens signed a deal with NB Power to work together on the energy system of the future. Over the years, it grew with Halifax-based Emera and University of New Brunswick joining the initiative. The four organizations today form the pillars of the Smart Grid Initiative.

UNB, which has opened the Emera & NB Power Research Centre for Smart Grid Technologies, now has about 22 graduate students doing research on these projects, said professor David Foord, who has been working on the research. The plan is to increase that number to 60 graduate students, many of whom would go on to become employees for the private-sector partners in the initiative.

The work will include some specialized institutes in Fredericton, such as the Institute of Big Data, which could work on data analysis to improve efficiency, and the Institute of Cybersecurity, to make sure that smart grids cannot be hacked.

Foord added that the plans include working with startups — such as Fredericton-based companies SimpTek Technologies and Trispectra — which can develop and implement the innovation needed to improve the efficiency of the grid.

Participants in the plan say the market for these products is huge because all utilities realize they have to keep abreast of the tsunami of changes about to hit their industry.

“What we’re facing is a pretty disruptive change in the way the electrical power grid works,” said Mullin. “And we’re seeing (government) policy impact on that as well. Utilities are facing challenges in that if you don’t keep your eye on the ball you could be facing some serious changes in your business.”

Ashored Wins $3000 from LaunchDal

Aaron Stevenson

Aaron Stevenson

Ashored Innovations, a young venture that aims to help automate the lobster and crab fisheries, captured the $3,000 first prize at Dalhousie University’s Collide Fall 2017 Pitch Competition on Thursday night.

LaunchDal, the university’s entrepreneurship program, awarded a total of $6000 to three early-stage businesses at the event.

Ashored is developing an “intelligent buoy”, which can be used to locate lobster or crab traps at sea. The buoy’s rope is coiled on the trap until the fishing boat approaches, which reduces the risk of whales becoming entangled in the gear. There is a backup system in case the buoy doesn’t deploy, decreasing the risk of lost traps. And the system collects data, which can be used to improve operations.

On Sunday, Ashored also won $1000 at Dalhousie’s Launch Oceans event, a weekend-long program for oceantech entrepreneurs that follows the Startup Weekend format.  

Aaron Stevenson, Founder of Ashored, said the recent winnings will allow the company to build its prototype and begin testing the buoy with a few partners.  

“Coming into this program has opened my eyes to see how big and how strong the startup community is in Nova Scotia,” said Stevenson, who is attending the MTEI program at St. Mary's University.  “It really opened my mind to what’s possible for an Atlantic Canadian company to achieve out of here.”

KNIT, which is proposing a social network for the elderly, won the $2,000 second prize at the Collide event, and Si Connectors, which is making an inexpensive device that can fix broken phone or computer chargers, took home $1,000 for third place.

The competition is the final event that rounds off the Collide fall program.  Collide is a series of workshops and pitching sessions to help individuals build and potentially launch a company with the chance to win prize money.   

NBCC Offers Cybersecurity Program

The New Brunswick Community College has announced it will offer a one-year program in cybersecurity beginning next September. By introducing this advanced post-grad program at its Saint John Campus, NBCC, in partnership with CyberNB, aims to help meet growing demand for cybersecurity expertise in New Brunswick.

“This new program will provide graduates with the skills and knowledge that industry is seeking and help expand the cybersecurity infrastructure in New Brunswick,” said Marilyn Luscombe, CEO and President at NBCC in a statement this week.

CyberNB, a special agency of Opportunities NB, said that New Brunswick is the Canadian hub of cybersecurity and the first province to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

Allen Dillon, the managing director of CyberNB said “partnering with academia and industry is a critical component of our strategy to help mitigate the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals.”

The new program will provide graduates with the skills and knowledge that industry is seeking, and help expand the cybersecurity infrastructure in New Brunswick.

Prerequisites for this program are a diploma or degree in network administration or computer science or equivalent experience in network administration.

Aqualitis Set To Raise, Then Launch

Aqualitas, the Liverpool cannabis producer, is set to close a $6.5-million funding round with private investors next month, with the hopes of getting to market next year.

The close of this funding round will bring the total equity capital raised by CEO Myrna Gillis to about $11.5 million — an audacious number for a three-year-old Nova Scotia startup. But the interesting part of the story — at least for a column about startups — is what she has done to differentiate Aqualitas from the 73 other cannabis producers in Canada.

“We’ve got a great project and people who are familiar with the industry know we have something very special in this team,” said Gillis in an interview on Tuesday.

An interesting aspect of Aqualitas is its research and development subsidiary Finleaf Technology, which is receiving $2.5 million of the money raised by the parent company. It is developing proprietary technology for use in the cannabis industry that Gillis says could be exported to other producers. Finleaf was in the local tech news recently as it was accepted into Innovacorp’s Cleantech Accelerator Program, which could bring the company as much as $50,000 in financing, and was a $25,000 winner of the Spark West competition.

TruLeaf Plans To Bring AI, Data to Vertical Farming

The R&D unit is solving a common problem in aquaponics (a branch of aquaculture in which the effluent from farmed fish provides nutrients for hydroponically grown plants, then clean water is returned to the fish tank). Growing flowery plants and fruits in aquaponics is a challenge because it’s difficult to make sure the plants get enough potassium and phosphorus to nourish them, and to make sure these chemicals don’t return to the fish tank and harm the fish.

Working in a fully staffed lab at Acadia University, Finleaf has devised a delivery system that can solve this problem, ensuring plants get enough nutrients and the fish are protected from toxic chemicals. As it preserves water and avoids harmful runoffs, aquaponics is a growing industry, especially in parts of the world where fresh water is becoming scarce.

Aqualitis is now waiting for Health Canada approval for its growing facility for medical cannabis in the former Bowater land outside Liverpool. Assuming it receives regulatory approval soon, it hopes to produce a sample stock in the first quarter of 2018 and be in production next summer.

The excitement about the company is shown in the amount of money it has raised, and also the success it’s had in international competitions. Aqualitis applied to pitch to Arcview Group, an umbrella organization for investors in the cannabis industry that gets 1,500 to 2,000 applications from entrepreneurs each year. Aqualitis made it through several rounds of the Arcview competition, and last summer placed second at the group’s finals in Las Vegas.

Cannabis is, of course, a hot sector, but Gillis looks forward to diversifying the company’s crop and using its technology to address food security. Aqualitas, whose board and C-level executives are mostly women, wants to develop more facilities in the provinces so that more food can be grown indoors with minimal environmental impact.

Said Gillis: “Food security is not just lettuce and fish, so we’re going to have a variety of crops.”

Gardner Named to Biotech Panel

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner, the co-founder and CEO of Sequence Bio, a Newfoundland and Labrador genomic data company, has been appointed to the newly created federal Health/Bio-sciences Economic Strategy Table.

“Canadians are known for finding the better, smarter way - and it’s time we brought that thinking to health care,” Gardner said in a statement. “I’m proud to join this team of disruptors to drive real, meaningful change that will improve the health of Canadians while promoting our innovation sector around the world,”

Sequence Bio plans to lead a large-scale genetic research project in Newfoundland and Labrador, called the NL Genome Project. This community-based initiative aims to create a powerful drug-discovery platform to help with the identification of diseases and drugs that could treat them.

“At Sequence Bio, we’re striving to transform drug discovery and develop more effective, safer medicines. We’re taking a new approach by engaging research participants in the research process and in their own healthcare by returning findings about their genetic makeup.”

The Health/Bio-sciences Economic Strategy Table, a group of about 15 CEOs and leaders in the health and bio-sciences field, will set growth targets and help develop strategy to grow the sector.

The strategy table will meet regularly and present a report of findings and recommendations in 2018.

Bringing Life to the Island Sandbox

Darren MacDonald:

Darren MacDonald:

Like the other managers of Nova Scotia’s innovation-promoting sandboxes, Darren MacDonald is an entrepreneur. He’s an ergonomist with more than 20 years’ experience of design thinking and seeing experiences from the perspective of the user. It’s a skill set he shares in his role as manager of Cape Breton’s Island Sandbox. 

“I try to teach user-centred design—how to ask good questions, look at data. If you work on design thinking, your solution may change from your original idea. That’s part of the process of looking at a problem from different angles,” MacDonald said. 

A Cape Bretoner born and raised, MacDonald left the island in 1991 and returned 15 years later, having worked as an ergonomist in 42 U.S. states and every Canadian province. He’s worked across many sectors and now pursues his work as an ergonomist through his consulting company Creative Variant.

But his main focus is the sandboxes. Nova Scotia’s sandboxes were set up three years ago at groups of post-secondary institutions as places where students and others could get together, swap business ideas on specific themes and collaborate on forming startups.

There were four initial sandboxes, and that has now grown to seven. They focus on sectors including agriculture, ICT, social innovation and product development.  

The province’s sandboxes are designed to emulate those at Boston’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and MacDonald said they are important because they fill a unique niche in the very early stages of idea development. 

“Students are building valuable skill sets even if they don’t launch businesses immediately, even if they don’t become entrepreneurs for 20 years,” he said. “And we are feeding students into accelerators like PropelICT and Common Good Solutions. We have all had companies go into those programs. 

“One of the winners of the recent Volta Cohort (a new micro fund for Atlantic Canadian early-stage companies) was one of our teams from Shiftkey Labs.  They are creating MyMem,  an app that helps people with dementia remember key events in their lives.” 

MyMem AimsTo Roll Out App in 2018

MacDonald and the other sandbox managers are hoping such successes will encourage the provincial government to maintain their funding. In 2014, the government gave each group $150,000 per year for three years.  This has now been extended to March 2018.

“We have funding until March, and the rest is in the hands of the province to see what they want to do,” said MacDonald, whose sandbox focuses on clean technology, as well as supporting entrepreneurial international students and new Canadians, and social entrepreneurship. 

He said the sandboxes have been focusing on collaboration with the aim of being maximally useful and cost-effective.  

“This past year, we came together and worked across boxes,” said MacDonald. 

“We had workshops and lectures and bootcamps. It was great to bring students from all the campuses together. We’re running various events and don’t want to duplicate or coincide.

“We are about to launch an app that will help us coordinate and collect data around our events. We’ve found our rhythm. The programing is becoming more consistent across campuses.”

The sandboxes are also focusing on getting non-business students involved.

“It’s easy to get business students excited, the challenge is to get students from other faculties keen to explore opportunities and problems,” he said.  “A lot of ideas sit in engineering or biology and liberal arts programs.” 

The outreach extends to high schools. MacDonald said that Island Sandbox is partnering with Brilliant Labs and the Cape Breton Partnership to run a hardware hackathon in a high school in Richmond County. 

The father of a nine-year-old boy, MacDonald intends to remain on the island whatever becomes of the sandboxes. Cape Breton’s innovation community is growing and gathering momentum and he intends to remain involved. 

“It’s nice to be part of the change happening in Cape Breton,” he said.

PropelICT To Host Pints and Pitches

Instead of startups pitching to one big audience, the folks from PropelICT have partnered with BrewHopper to offer something very different for its coming Regional Demo Day.

Pints and Pitches, which will take place in Fredericton on Dec. 12, is the new spin on the regional ICT accelerator’s big Demo Day, where about a dozen startups from around the region pitch to investors, alumni, and supporters.

In past Demo Days, companies pitched their ideas as a formal presentation to a large audience. This time around there will be a more casual vibe, brought on by lots of craft beer.

“It’s like a high-end pub crawl for startups,” said Sarah Murphy, a Propel entrepreneur-in-residence. “We wanted to try something new this year. Based on feedback from past years we wanted to offer something more interactive and engaging.”

The event will begin at Planet Hatch, where buses will take groups to four different craft breweries to listen to two or three different pitches, all while sipping on some of New Brunswick’s top craft beer. After 20 minutes at one bar, you hop back on the bus and go to the next one until you make your way back to Planet Hatch.

“The companies get to interact much more intimately with everyone who is there,” said Murphy. “They have to give their pitch four times but then they also get to have conversations with four different groups of people when they’re finished. And then we all get together at the end.”

Pints and Pitches will feature the members of the Build cohort, which comprises more advanced companies, and some of the leading startups from the three Launch cohorts, for early-stage companies. All the Launch graduates will have an opportunity to pitch at the Local Demo Days in the cities where they took the program: Fredericton on Dec. 4, Halifax on Dec. 5 and St. John’s on Dec. 6. Companies that present during the Local Demo Days could be chosen to pitch at the pub crawl the following week.

Propel wanted to give the region a more fun and casual event with Pints and Pitches and allow the companies to interact more with the community so they can spend time with everyone who sees their pitch. 

“We think about companies from Newfoundland or some of the other regions who don’t always get to get up to things, so its nice that they are getting this fun opportunity to go and they can actually spend time with everyone,” said Murphy.

To register for Pints and Pitches and the Local Demo Days, click here.

Densitas, EnvoyAI Ink Distribution Pact

Mohamed Abdolell

Mohamed Abdolell

Densitas, a software company that analyzes the density of breast tissue, has signed a contract that will help integrate its flagship product DM-Density into customers’ imaging systems.

The Halifax company signed the integration agreement with Cambridge, Ma.-based EnvoyAI, an artificial intelligence distribution platform, which is dedicated to incorporating software like DM-Density into health care systems.

“They are already integrated in healthcare systems so we can rapidly penetrate the market through that platform and leverage the already-established foundational framework they built over many years,” said Densitas CEO Mohamed Abdolell in an interview. “This way our entry into the market is a lot more rapid.”

Densitas’ technology works by processing images from mammograms to analyze breast density. It is an important factor in the mammography process since dense breasts can easily mask cancerous cells as healthy tissue. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of breast cancer so if doctors are aware of a patient’s breast density, they can better allocate their time and resources to ensure she gets appropriate care.

The software is now used in Nova Scotian hospitals and clinics so any woman who has mammography tests in the province will have her information processed by DM-Density.  

Abdolell andSullivan Tout US Biotech Ecosystem

The software is set to be deployed throughout Canada through the Build in Canada Innovation Program, under which the federal government purchases and tests technology from Canadian innovators.

Densitas recently signed a contract with BCIP for $565,069 and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will test its technology.

“It’s a great validation that the market is ready for this type of technology and we’re coming into the market at the perfect time for that,” said Abdolell. He also said there has been increasing patient-awareness around breast density and its role in breast-screening procedures. 

DM-Density uses machine-learning technology, meaning the software, through the use of algorithms, is able to process the information and provide personalized data.

Densitas says its ability to support appropriate patient management based on an individualized risk profile has the potential to radically change breast cancer screening.

“It’s an appropriate care issue – you don’t want to expose women to unnecessary screening,” said Abdolell. “This can help to avoid that.”

In 2015, Densitas raised $250,000 in venture capital funding from Innovacorp and other private investors to launch DM-Density. Since then, Abdolell said, the company has raised undisclosed amounts of funding and is committed to raising more. He also said the technology has been approved by Health Canada and is pending approval from the FDA.

Densitas recently won the Innovation Award at the 2017 Discovery Awards in Halifax, where it was competing against local companies Kinduct and QRA Corp.

Moving forward, Abdolell said Densitas is focusing heavily on commercialization.

“We’re excited to move forward,” said Abdolell. “The opportunities are immense. Our position (in the province) is going to demonstrate a huge value because we can do this type of work here in Nova Scotia.”

Densitas, EnvoyAI Ink Distribution Pact

Densitas, a software company that analyzes the density of breast tissue, has signed a contract that will help integrate its flagship product DM-Density into customers’ imaging systems.

The Halifax company signed the integration agreement with Cambridge, Ma.-based EnvoyAI, an artificial intelligence distribution platform, which is dedicated to incorporating software like DM-Density into health care systems.

“They are already integrated in healthcare systems so we can rapidly penetrate the market through that platform and leverage the already-established foundational framework they built over many years,” said Densitas CEO Mohamed Abdolell in an interview. “This way our entry into the market is a lot more rapid.”

Densitas’ technology works by processing images from mammograms to analyze breast density. It is an important factor in the mammography process since dense breasts can easily mask cancerous cells as healthy tissue. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of breast cancer so if doctors are aware of a patient’s breast density, they can better allocate their time and resources to ensure she gets appropriate care.

The software is now used in Nova Scotian hospitals and clinics so any woman who has mammography tests in the province will have her information processed by DM-Density.  

The software is set to be deployed throughout Canada through the Build in Canada Innovation Program, under which the federal government purchases and tests technology from Canadian innovators.

Densitas recently signed a contract with BCIP for $565,069 and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will test its technology.

“It’s a great validation that the market is ready for this type of technology and we’re coming into the market at the perfect time for that,” said Abdolell. He also said there has been increasing patient-awareness around breast density and its role in breast-screening procedures. 

DM-Density uses machine-learning technology, meaning the software, through the use of algorithms, is able to process the information and provide personalized data.

Densitas says its ability to support appropriate patient management based on an individualized risk profile has the potential to radically change breast cancer screening.

“It’s an appropriate care issue – you don’t want to expose women to unnecessary screening,” said Abdolell. “This can help to avoid that.”

In 2015, Densitas raised $250,000 in venture capital funding from Innovacorp and other private investors to launch DM-Density. Since then, Abdolell said, the company has raised undisclosed amounts of funding and is committed to raising more. He also said the technology has been approved by Health Canada and is pending approval from the FDA.

Densitas recently won the Innovation Award at the 2017 Discovery Awards in Halifax, where it was competing against local companies Kinduct and QRA Corp.

Moving forward, Abdolell said Densitas is focusing heavily on commercialization.

“We’re excited to move forward,” said Abdolell. “The opportunities are immense. Our position (in the province) is going to demonstrate a huge value because we can do this type of work here in Nova Scotia.”

Halifax Slips in Tech Talent Ratings

Halifax has slipped two places to eighth spot in CBRE ranking of Canadian tech talent markets, as the strong hiring boom of 2013-2015 lost its oomph.

CBRE Canada last week issued the report titled Scoring Canadian Tech Talent, which ranked Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver as the top three centres for human resources in technology in Canada. Halifax had claimed the No. 6 spot in the same report last year, but has fallen in the past year due to a lack of employment growth in 2016.

The report is not completely gloomy about the tech community in Halifax, and it highlights the startup community and the opportunities created by the nascent oceans technology initiative.

“The presence of Volta Labs has helped to develop the tech sector in Halifax and spark entrepreneurial action,” said the CBRE report. “The Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) is developing a $20 million institute on the Harbourfront to support ocean technology development and commercialization. Marine Bio-Tech has found a home in Halifax due to its accessibility to open waters and deep-water dock access.”

CBRE rates 10 cities based on several metrics, and in the major categories, Halifax places eighth in tech talent employment, sixth in education, seventh in high-tech clustering and fourth in cost competitiveness.

The report said there were 11,000 people employed in tech positions in Halifax in 2016, an increase of 25 percent over five years, better than the national growth rate over the half-decade. The numbers are disappointing given that Halifax had shown signs of accelerating growth in the 2016 report.

The CBRE report includes a category called the “Momentum Growth Rate”, which charts growth or shrinkage in tech employment in the two most recent years. In the report last year, Halifax had the second-strongest momentum in the country as tech employment in the city increased 54 percent over two years to 2015. In the 2017 report, the category actually showed a decline of 6.7 percent.

Halifax rates as having a “good” pool of tech talent, the lowest rating in the survey. CBRE assesses talent based on the number and concentration of software engineers who have graduated from leading institutions and have at least three years of job experience.

Halifax performs best in the cost comparisons to other cities. CBRE assesses the costs of operating a 500-person operation in terms of office rent and salaries, and Halifax is the second-least expensive. It says Halifax is about 23 percent less expensive than the highest-price market, Calgary. Only London, Ont., is cheaper.

Halifax also performs well in the educational rankings, though there may be cause for concern. Some 36 percent of the city’s work force have university degrees, a level exceeded only by Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. But the CBRE report also assesses the coming growth rate in the number of people with degrees over the next five years, and Halifax comes in dead last with an expected growth rate of 10.2 percent.  

With US$9M, Affinio Eyes More Brands

Tim Burke, left and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke, left and Stephen Hankinson

Halifax-based Affinio has announced a US$9 million (C$11.4 million) Series B funding round, with which it hopes to gain deeper penetration brand advertising for its consumer-analytics solution.

The venture capital round – the second-largest this year in Atlantic Canada – was led by Toronto-based Round13 Capital, a new investor in the company. The other participants in the round are Whitecap Venture Partners of Toronto and Halifax-based Build Ventures, both of which invested in Affinio previously.

In an interview, CEO Tim Burke said the funding will help Affinio to deepen its relationship with major partners and add new ones. The company now has about 70 clients, including such global enterprises as Unilever, BBC Worldwide and Paramount and it wants more of a similar scale.

“We’re talking about major channel partners, those who have massive amounts of consumer data,” said Burke. “They own the data and we’re overlaying our technology on top of theirs.”

Burke, CTO Stephen Hankinson and a few other co-founders started Affinio about five years ago as a company that could monitor social media data and present a visual analysis that would help users understand consumer intentions. In its first few years, the team targeted largely advertising agencies, which found the technology useful because Affinio would supply the data it collected on social media.

More recently, the company has found a more profitable market by working with major brands, especially in the consumer packaged goods and media sectors. These companies have their own data, and lots of it. The Affinio system can work with that data and also with social media, bringing machine learning and visualization platforms to a range of data to understand the market.

2016 Was a Record Year fro Equity Funding

The money raised in the current round will be used to build out the sales and development teams, allowing for further growth. Burke said the company now has about 60 employees and the team envisages doubling that by the end of 2018. He also said the company has just about doubled revenue in 2018, and expects to continue that pace of growth in 2018.

The funding by Affinio means that for the second year in a row, at least three Atlantic Canadian startups have booked funding rounds of more than $8 million. Halifax-based Manifold, which helps software developers assimilate a range of services, raised US$15 million in September; and another Halifax company, Metamaterial Technologies Inc., announced an $8.3 million funding round in April.

Affinio's Series B round comes two years after Affinio raised a $4 million VC round from Whitecap, Build, New York-based Social Starts, New York-based BRaVeVentures , and several angel investors. Before that, Build backed the company in its $1.5 million seed round in 2013.

That means the company has raised upward of $15 million in five years, and Burke said the company may not be finished courting venture capital investors. The company’s current plans envisage using this round to finance growth over the next two years, after which it may seek an even larger funding round.

Said Burke, “We are tracking toward a Series C after fulfillment of this 18- to 24-month plan.”

Radient360: The Art of Development

“Thro' Spindrift Swirl, and Tempest Roar” by Mel Patey

“Thro' Spindrift Swirl, and Tempest Roar” by Mel Patey

Late in an interview about his SaaS product for the oil and gas industry, Steve Taylor began to describe bringing in artists on his staff to enhance the software development process.

Taylor is the CEO of radient360, the St. John’s startup that announced a $3.3 million funding round from Build Ventures and Killick Capital last week. He thinks deeply and with originality about the management of his four-year-old company, and that outside-the-box mentality may be one reason the company is on track to record 1,500 percent revenue growth over two years.

A case in point: Taylor knew he had artists on staff so he proposed collaborating on an oil painting with the theme of “the original Newfoundland risk-taker.” He envisaged fishermen in a dory, putting their lives on the line to catch fish that they couldn’t see but believed were beneath the surface. It meshed well with the idea of entrepreneurship, he thought.

The result was a painting by admin staff member Mel Patey titled, “Thro' Spindrift Swirl, and Tempest Roar”. She collaborated with several staff members to produce the work, which now hangs in the radient360 office near the St. John’s airport.

“We wanted to find out, how is art influencing the product and the user experience?” said Taylor. “We think you lose something if you only focus on the technology.”

Taylor says the creative process encourages his development team to come up with better products. They are now meant for an industry rarely associated with the arts – the oil and gas sector. The product helps to simplify workflow processes in the industry, where there are often vast amounts of data that are inaccessible to workers in the field. Radient360 allows executives in an office and workers in the field to communicate and access all the information they need, and updates data in real time. That can lead to 40 to 60 percent cost savings.

Hyperloop Success Leads to Creation of CoLab

Taylor said the number of customers is now “in the 10ish range”, but the company is extracting increasing revenue from its client base. It increased revenues 500 percent this past year, and the team expects 300 percent growth next year.

Unlike most other Software-as-a-Service companies, radient360 books its customers for an extended period of time, which allows it to introduce customers to a range of services and extract value from each contract. He said the company is “just getting started” in sales to petroleum companies.

In three to five years, radient360 hopes to bring its core technology to other industries with similar requirements, such as utilities, mining and logistics. “The oceans supercluster is very interesting to us because it is a way for us to find players we can collaborate with,” said Taylor.

The company now has 35 employees, and Taylor believes that number will grow. He said he looks for employees who embrace the three core values in the company’s culture – empathy, truth-seeking and value-creation. These traits help employees not only work well with one another but also to perform better when dealing with clients. If the employees can empathize with customers’ pain, he said, they do a better job of selling to customers, and that helps to move more of the company’s technology. And radient360 is on a mission to get its tech out to customers.

“Technology is like ripe fruit,” he said. “It’s only ripe for a certain period of time and you better make sure you move it while it’s ripe.”

Hyperloop Success Leads to CoLab

Adam Keating, left, and Jeremy Andrews.

Adam Keating, left, and Jeremy Andrews.

There’s a lot of buzz in St. John’s right now about a young company called CoLab Software, and a big reason is the story of how this startup started up. 

Founded by Memorial University engineering grads Jeremy Andrews and Adam Keating, CoLab is developing collaboration software for people working with 3D designs. Its product Gradient allows mechanical engineers, interior designers or others to work in different cities on 3D designs in real-time, rather than sending one another PDFs of two-dimensional images.

Andrews and Keating got the idea for the product while competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop competition – an international contest to see which team of students could create the fastest ultra-high-speed ground vehicle. Their team, Paradigm Hyperloop, came second behind a German team at the 1,200-team competition in August. It gave them the idea and gumption to create CoLab.

“Before Hyperloop, I was a little bit nervous about what we could do,” said Keating, CoLab’s COO, in an interview in a St. John’s coffee shop last week. “Doing well in the competition has given me the confidence to do ambitious projects like this company.”

The team from Memorial competed in two SpaceX Hyperloop competitions, first in a team with five other universities, and then in the most recent event in partnership with students from Northeastern University in Boston.

In both cases, they encountered a big problem working on designs with teammates in other cities. It was a cumbersome process to capture designs in only two dimensions, distribute and discuss them, then go back to the 3D model to implement the changes the team had agreed on. They tried to find software that would allow them to work on 3D designs in real-time, but there was none.

Radient360 Closes $3.3M Round from Build, Killick

So after winning the silver medal in the international competition, they set up a company to solve this problem for all users of computer-assisted design, or CAD.

Gradient lets collaborators view a 3D design from any angle, create notes on issues and track them, and chat together over VoIP.

There are about 5 million CAD users in the world, and the number is growing all the time. The team is now trying to determine which is best niche to target as its initial market, and is leaning toward interior design and furniture manufacturing.

CoLab came into existence a few months ago, and the five-member team has already signed up two paying early adopters. It hopes to have five of these adopters to test Gradient as it builds out the full product. It is then looking at a full launch next year.

The company, which is now going through  the Propel ICT cohort in St. John's, secured $10,000 by winning the Mel Woodward Cup, Memorial University’s entrepreneurship competition in April. It has lined up $250,000 in non-dilutive financing and is working on an initial $125,000 round of equity financing.  Once they build up a larger customer base, the duo hopes to go to work on a larger funding round.

“It’s going to be a really interesting winter,” said Andrews, the company’s CEO. “In April or May, we hope to have about 20 paying customers and then we hope to raise a round of about $1 million.”

Techsploration To Back More Women

Techsploration, an organization that aims to attract young women to science-related careers, is expanding its scholarship program with the launch of its 20 Scholarships to Celebrate 20 Years campaign.

The campaign has already received more than $20,000 in total scholarship commitments, marking the organization’s largest scholarship total to date.

“Our aim is to help remove financial barriers to post-secondary education for our alumnae and young women in our region who want to pursue a career path in science, trades, or technology,” said Arylene Reycraft, the Executive Director of Techsploration. “In many cases, career paths in those fields are uncharted territory for women, and we want that to change.”

Techsploration works with young women in Grades 9 through 12 to encourage and support students with an interest in science. The Halifax non-profit’s scholarships and bursaries provide financial support for young women in Nova Scotia to further their post-secondary education in fields where women are typically underrepresented.

Dal Seeks to Double Female Computer Science Students. 

“I was awarded the first Techsploration scholarship in 2002,” said alumna Margaret Davidson in a statement. “I was one of two women in my program. This scholarship helped me focus on doing my course load, instead of worrying about how I would make my tuition payments.”

Organizations such as Acadia University, Dalhousie University, REDspace, and Digital Nova Scotia contributed the scholarships, which will be awarded for the coming school year. Organizations interested in contributing to Techsploration’s scholarship campaign can do so until Feb. 20.

Techsploration made the announcement at its annual launch and 20th anniversary kick-off to an audience of industry sponsors, alumnae, teachers, role models, and volunteers. Additional details on each individual scholarship will be available in January.

IP Seminar to be held at Planet Hatch

Charlottetown-based life sciences incubator Emergence and Fredericton’s Planet Hatch are teaming up to host a workshop focusing on intellectual property strategies for startups.

Noel Courage, a partner with the Ontario firm Bereskin & Parr LLP Intellectual Property Law, will conduct the 45-minute presentation. It will be followed by a Q&A session and an opportunity for one-on-one follow-up discussions with Courage.

The event will take place at Planet Hatch this Wednesday. You can register for the workshop here.

Courage, a Dalhousie and Memorial University graduate, has more than 20 years of experience working with startups, helping them to protect their IP. His practice focuses on the patenting and licensing of mechanical, chemical and biotechnology inventions.

According to Emergence Director Martin Yuill, the growth in the number of Emergence clients from across the Atlantic region has created the demand for this IP seminar.

“Emergence is witnessing unprecedented interest from bioscience ventures across Atlantic Canada,” said Yuill. “This IP event is a direct response to the growth in the number of Emergence clients in the region, and from New Brunswick in particular.”

Shukla Mulls What’s Next for TME

Dhirendra Shukla: 'I'm super-pumped.'

Dhirendra Shukla: 'I'm super-pumped.'

In the Engineering Faculty at the University of New Brunswick, there’s a lot of talk these days about what they refer to as “TME Next” or “TME 5.0”.

A familiar abbreviation on the Fredericton campus, TME stands for Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship. It is the university’s flagship entrepreneurship program, a 29-year-old program that now counts 540 students among its participants. Like some of the startups it produces, TME has been doubling in size recently, and now its overseers are wondering what the next stage of growth will entail.

In an interview in Old Head Hall, the faculty’s headquarters that has the feel of a 1920s schoolhouse, Dhirendra Shukla said the options include a PhD program in entrepreneurship, a ramping up of its Energia accelerator, a program to help mature companies grow, or all of the above.

“We are thinking about what’s next for us,” said Shukla, whose formal title is Dr. J. Herbert Smith ACOA Chair of TME. “Some are calling it TME Next. Some are calling it TME 5.0.”

In the late 1980s, UNB received funding to offer programs in entrepreneurship, and TME ended up in the engineering school. That turned out to be a fortunate development because UNB became adept at converting its engineering research into young businesses.  Since it started, TME has had four different heads, which is why the faculty is referring to the next phase as TME 5.0.

Since 2014, TME has produced 65 startups, including such high fliers as Resson, the agtech company that received US$11 million in venture capital last year. Shukla admits some of them are in the very early stages and may or may not last, but adds that’s simply the way of startup life.

EChart Ahead of Schedule in its 3-Year Roll-out Plan.

He said the current TME program has four pillars:

  • Academic. TME has offered a diploma to students throughout the university for years. Last year, it added a Master’s degree, and there are now 13 students taking this course. Shukla said the total enrollment in TME has increased 97 percent each year since 2007.
  • Research. The program’s R&D component is focused on the development of the “smart grid” in New Brunswick. This project, led by German industrial giant Siemens, NB Power and UNB, is developing new ways to assess and balance power demand and supply in the province’s electricity grid.
  • Experiential. The first component of this is the one-year-old Energia Ventures accelerator, which specializes in cleantech and cybersecurity. Shukla beams with pride when describing this facet of TME, noting that at least four of its first six companies now have attracted paying customers and/or investment. “I don’t think we’ve seen any other accelerator that has shown the success that Energia has,” he said. The second component is the Summer Institute, a three-month summer program that has special strength in culture-based ventures. Nine-tenths of the latest Summer Institute entrepreneurs were women.  
  • Engagement. Shukla said a major part of the TME mission is to help entrepreneurs throughout the university and beyond to prosper. The program offers a range of seminars, funding to new companies and promotes female leadership.

UNB is now trying to figure out how to build on this program. A PhD in entrepreneurship would be the first of its kind in the region, and the university is one of several groups in Atlantic Canada wondering what it can do to help mature companies grow. The faculty has just added an assistant professor David Foord as a Director of Innovation, and will soon name a new managing director of Energia.

“Now what we’re doing is building capacity to add greater scale to what we do,” said Shukla. ”I think we’ve got a strong team … and I’m super pumped and growing further.” 

Bahr-Gedalia Makes 3rd Top 100 List

Ulriike Bahr-Gedalia: Hopes 'young female leaders, including my daughter, see that the possibilities are endless'

Ulriike Bahr-Gedalia: Hopes 'young female leaders, including my daughter, see that the possibilities are endless'

A Halifax CEO, who is paving the way for more women to succeed in ICT, has been recognized for the third year in a row as one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women.

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, who has been President and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia since 2013, was named Thursday to Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 by the Women’s Executive Network.

In her nearly five years running the Halifax-based non-profit, Bahr-Gedalia has helped to grow the organization as well as advocating for diversity in DNS and across the province.

“I am exceptionally proud to represent the digital sector and Nova Scotia with this award, and hope that young female leaders, including my daughter, see that the possibilities are endless, if you embrace risk and take on new challenges,” said Bahr-Gedalia.

Bahr-Gedalia, a native of Germany who's worked in five countries, is the first female president and CEO of DNS and under her leadership the organization has seen many other firsts.  

She has increased the number of women on DNS’s Board of Directors, implemented gender-neutral language in the by-laws and advanced programming for women in the tech sector. DNS has almost doubled the number of members it serves from 60 to over 110 since Bahr-Gedalia took over.

Planting Seed$ Plans To Award $10,000 To Another Young Entrepreneur

She established the Digital Diversity Awards, which celebrate female involvement and gender diversity in the digital industry. What’s more, she has pushed national collaborators to enhance the profile of Nova Scotia’s leaders and had DNS join the Information and Communications Technology Council as the first East Coast representative in 25 years.

Bahr-Gedalia said her business philosophy revolves around smart decision-making and “approaching challenges with a positive attitude and without fear.”

DNS increased its funding from organizations like the Status of Women Canada, which funded the Women Leaders Fueling the Digital Economy initiative.

The 36-month project aimed to increase the participation of women in senior level positions in the growing ICT sector and was the first project of its kind for the province.

Among her many accolades, Bahr-Gedalia was also featured in Canada 150 Women, which featured profiles from 150 female role modes in Canada including, Elizabeth May, Kim Campbell and Hayley Wickenheiser.

At the top of the list of her many achievements, Bahr-Gedalia said she will always be the most proud of her family.

Moving forward, Bahr-Gedalia plans to increase DNS’s work around the province, strengthening networks for the Nova Scotian tech sector and inspiring others take on her inclusive philosophy that earns her titles like the Top 100.

“I am not a woman in tech and business,” she said. “I am a human being in tech and business.” 

EChart Ahead of Curve in 3-Year Goal

Amanda Betts: Set out to keep families of elderly patients informed.

Amanda Betts: Set out to keep families of elderly patients informed.

EChart Healthcare of Fredericton has set a lofty three-year goal for its Software-as-a-Service product for seniors’ homes, but CEO Amanda Betts is undaunted by the task once she considers her first-year projections.

Surveying the young company’s current pipeline of new business, she believes eChart will hit its 2018 targets in July rather than at year-end due to strong customer response.

The company’s product is now being used by seven or eight seniors’ homes in New Brunswick, up from three in August. And Betts is optimistic about its sales given that she knows of no other product that helps both facilities and the families of their patients in the way eChart does.

“Our goal is to cover 10,000 beds by Year 3 and we don’t see that as being a real stretch,” said Betts in an interview Tuesday. “We’re already on target to meet our 2018 goals way ahead of schedule.”

Betts created eChart to solve a problem she experienced at Autumn Lee, the retirement home she runs with her family. The problem was that patients’ records were all kept on paper – reams of paper that filled row upon row of binders in the facility’s offices. Staff had to fill out endless forms, file and retrieve the records, and the residents’ family members couldn’t easily access them.

So Betts developed eChart, a cloud-based solution that simplifies the process of recording and sharing patients’ charts. Staff can enter all the data they need on to a tablet as they make their rounds of the home. And the information is available to family members, recognizing their right to be kept apprised of all developments in the patient's care.

“I really think we’re solving a problem with our platform,” said Betts. “There’s a gap that needs to be filled. There hasn’t been a lot of new technology within our sector to help us do our jobs and that’s why we’re meeting this need.”

Biotech CEOs Tout Benefits of US Ecosystem

When she began to work on the project a few years ago, Betts investigated what digital products were available to improve efficiency in seniors’ homes. What she found was a lot of solutions that helped with the administrative or financial side of the business. But there was nothing that helped to improve medical records and to keep family members informed about their loved ones’ well-being.

Betts and her five-member team have been developing and testing the product, and they consider 2018 to be Year 1 in terms of a sales strategy they hope will gain customers across the country. So far, she has financed the company from her own resources, and with the assistance of a number of organizations, such as Ignite Fredericton and the Pond-Deshpande Centre at University of New Brunswick. The company has also graduated from Propel ICT’s Launch accelerator. Now that eChart is gaining clients, Betts is looking at taking on equity investment, though she will only say she has spoken with potential investors.

As the company progresses, Betts has plans to use the data that the company collects to improve the health of the elderly. She’s already begun discussions internally and with organizations specializing in Big Data.

“We’re not doing anything at the moment, but we have some more exciting things planned,” she said when asked about what she plans to do with the company’s data. “We plan to explore personal health predictive analytics and genetic testing. We have a really incredible technology team that bought into the discussions on this and they see the value of the data.” 

JEDI Lands $2.2M in Funding

The first cohort of JEDI's aboriginal business accelerator in 2016

The first cohort of JEDI's aboriginal business accelerator in 2016

Fredericton-based Joint Economic Development Initiative has received more than $2.2 million in funding from the federal and New Brunswick governments to continue to support indigenous entrepreneurs.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a statement last week announcing the funding, which it said would help JEDI continue its work supporting Aboriginal participation in the New Brunswick economy. Its programs include community economic development, workforce development, and partnerships with the public and private sectors.

Mark Taylor, the Shipbuilding Strategy Manager at JEDI, said the funding “confirms long-term support for the innovation and business incubation work of JEDI. It also comes at an important time as JEDI evolves to offer both an Indigenous Business Incubator and Indigenous Business Accelerator.”

The JEDI Indigenous Business Incubator Program is a new program that the Fredericton-based non-profit began offering in October. The 10-week program accepts budding entrepreneurs with a business idea and guides them to the point at which they are ready to go to market. The incubator provides skill training, mentorship and support with connections to JEDI’s resources. The companies that complete the incubator program will attend the JEDI Indigenous Business Accelerator, which will begin in January.

“This two-year funding agreement from ACOA and the Province of New Brunswick provides us with additional financial stability and allows us to focus our efforts on helping our Indigenous clients,” said Alex Dedam, the President of Joint Economic Development Initiative, in a statement. “The support that we receive from our funders is crucial to our continued work and carrying out JEDI’s vision of striving for full Indigenous participation in the New Brunswick economy.”

The federal government is contributing a total of over $2 million, including about $1 million each from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and ACOA’s Business Development Program. The Government of New Brunswick is also contributing $210,000 toward the initiative.

Jedi, which is governed by the four tribal councils of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Business Council, began in 1995 and launched its business accelerator in early 2016. The goal was to apply lean startup principles to a cohort of Aboriginal enterprises with a concentration on ICT and cleantech innovation. 

 

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor. 

Radient360 Closes $3.3M VC Round

Mark Dobbin: Backed seven companies in the last 2 years.

Mark Dobbin: Backed seven companies in the last 2 years.

Radient360, a St. John’s company that has developed mobile software for oil and gas companies, has closed a $3.3 million funding round from Build Ventures and Killick Capital Inc.

The company has developed a Software-as-a-Service solution that helps major oil and gas companies with such tasks as in-field inspection, maintenance, and logistics.

This funding increases the growing number of St. John’s companies that have booked multi-million-dollar funding rounds, all of which Killick has participated in. In the last two years, the St. John’s-based investment group of the Dobbin family has been involved in seven figure rounds by video production software maker Celtx, genetics-based healthcare company Sequence Bio, marketing agency software provider HeyOrca and now radient360.

“Radient360 has built a strong foundation in Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil and gas sector,” Killick Founder and President Mark Dobbin said in a statement. “Now they can take that insight and expertise into new markets around the world. We see great things ahead for radient360.”

Now in its seventh year, radient360 has created a mobile application that helps oil and gas personnel – both in the field and in offices – improve a range of processes. It helps people locate assets, report on tasks and receive data reports in real-time.

The company’s website says that its solutions have been used in Newfoundland and Labrador for more than five years, and its clients are using radient360 software to track more than 17,000 assets.

2016 Was a Record Year for Atlantic Canadian Startup Funding

In its statement, the company said it plans to use the funds to expand its sales operations, including the opening of a Calgary office, and to enhance its development team. The company is now pursuing the first international deployment of its technology.

“As a young company, we have made great progress to reach this point in our development,” said CEO Steve Taylor. “With this round of funding and the support of the bright minds at Build Ventures and Killick Capital, we expect to continue that success as we expand our operations.”

Added Halifax-based Build Ventures Partner Patrick Keefe: “Radient360 is a company on the move. Its proven products and strong track record of performance have earned it a loyal following.” Radient360 is the second Newfoundland and Labrador company in Build’s portfolio, which also includes Celtx.

The radient360 funding is the latest in a chain of funding announcements for Killick, which announced two exits in 2014-2015 that replenished its capital base. The fund exited its investment in anti-fraud software maker Verafin in 2014, when that company attracted a $60 million private equity investment. And Killick sold four of six divisions of Texas-based  Killick Aerospace for about US$229 million in 2015.

Since then, Killick has made at least nine investments in seven St. John’s companies. Here are some of the larger funding deals:

Celtx Raises $3.3M from Build, Killick

Venture NL, Killick back Clockwork Fox, Sentinel, HerOrca

Sequence Bio Announces US$3M Funding

Empowered Homes Lands $600K

HeyOrca Unveils $2M Funding Round

CEOs Tout US Biotech Ecosystem

Kevin Sullivan and Mohamed Abdolell

Kevin Sullivan and Mohamed Abdolell

Atlantic Canadian biotech entrepreneurs have to look beyond the region to exploit the benefits of other ecosystems, two leading East Coast life sciences CEOs said Monday.

Kevin Sullivan, CEO of Appili Theraputics, an anti-infective drug discovery company, and Mohamed Abdolell, the CEO of Densitas Inc, a medical software company, spoke at Get the Scoop: JLABS Canada. Their discussion at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax followed a presentation by Johnson & Johnson Innovation on JLABS.

The discussion, moderated by Innovacorp CEO Malcolm Fraser, contextualized the region’s role within the life sciences sector and focused on the differences between the Canadian and American ecosystems.

“There are certain advantages to American culture in that they’re extremely direct,” said Abdolell, reflecting on his time at the Canada-Chicago Mentoring Program. “They’ll tell you, ‘It’s crap,’ and it’s really good to hear that. People being nice over time is a killer.”

The blunt, risk-taking culture is popular in the U.S. because Americans have access to higher investment opportunities. The panelists said Atlantic Canada has the resources to help entrepreneurs raise their initial seed rounds but can’t offer them follow-on cash like they do in the U.S.  

“The runway is longer for medical software companies, like Densitas, to get to market,” said Abdolell, “There isn’t that kind of pool of money here as there is in the U.S.”

Densitas is best known for its product DM-Density, which enhances breast screening by assessing breast density. Breast density is a key determinant in a patient’s risk of contracting breast cancer, so Densitas helps doctors understand a patient’s risk profile.

MyMem Plans to Roll Out App for Dementia Sufferers

The panelists stressed the importance of leaving the region since the market and expertise for med-tech innovation are highly concentrated in the States and parts of southern Ontario. Traveling outside of the region is a must for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs.

“There is a good ecosystem here for that early first million or half-million,” said Sullivan, referring to equity funding. “But, you have to understand, as an entrepreneur you’re going to have to leave and look elsewhere once you get that [second] million.” 

Appili is working on two drug candidates: a compound designed to mask the bitter taste in Metronidazole, a drug used to treat infections among children; and a compound to battle gram-negative bacteria, which have two protective cellular walls making them resistant to existing antibiotics.

Both CEOs agreed networks like JLABS made growing their companies outside of the region much easier and affordable. They offer other avenues to accessing larger investments, said the CEOs.

Appili and Densitas both rent space at the Toronto location of JLABS, a network of incubators for the life science sector. JLABS provides office space and laboratories, stocked with top-of-the-line equipment and tools to build products.

Densitas currently rents office space from JLABS while Appili, which took advantage of JLABS’ laboratory space, will “graduate” from the space to its new office in Mississauga. 

Truman To Speak at Planet Hatch

Rosemarie Truman

Rosemarie Truman

Ignite Fredericton will host an Engage Talk Nov 30 at Planet Hatch to highlight how the commercialization of research and business startups can drive disruptive social impact.

Rosemarie Truman, CEO of the Bethesda, Maryland-based Center for Advancing Innovation, will present the keynote. In it, she will share her organization's approach to fostering the development of startups that commercialize government and university patents through a challenge-based accelerator.

She will also present and invite people to take part in the Freedom from Cancer Startup Challenge, which aims to help startups that make inventions for cancer treatment get to market. 

You can register for the event here

2016 a Record Year for Equity Funding

The year 2016 was a tremendous year for the funding of startups in Atlantic Canada – maybe the best ever.

According to data collected by Entrevestor, Atlantic Canadian startups raised $73.3 million in 2016 from venture capital, strategic and angel investors.  That’s up by about one-third from $55.5 million in 2015.

And the great thing was that the deals came in a broad range of shapes and sizes – a few investors (note the plural) from Silicon Valley, investments by super angels, and a swath of funding by local institutions.

Each year, Entrevestor collects and analyzes data on the startup community across Atlantic Canada, and equity funding is one of the closely studied portions of the study. Startup entrepreneurs and their supporters love funding data as it’s considered – rightly or wrongly – a barometer for the health of the startup community. And the data from 2016 suggest the East Coast community is healthy indeed.

What was exceptional about 2016 was that there were so many companies bringing in $3 million in funding, especially from outside the region.

“The recent participation of ‘super angels’ like John Risley in the local start-up scene, along with deeper funding commitments by well-capitalized VCs like Build Ventures, have contributed to the increasing average deal size,” said Gregg Phipps, Managing Director of Investment at Innovacorp.  “It’s a positive development, for certain.”

The main reason for the higher funding levels is a handful of large deals, led by three deals worth more than $8 million each. Halifax’s TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture announced an $8.5 million equity financing from a group of angels. Kinduct Technologies of Halifax raised US$9 million, led by Intel Capital. And Fredericton-based Resson raised US$11 million in a funding round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures. They headed a list of 16 companies in the region that announced they raised C$1 million or more in 2016.

Entrevestor counted a total of 47 equity funding deals in 2016, of which 29 were worth less than $1 million. These smaller deals are vitally important. While founders in the rest of the country complain about a lack of seed funding, the Atlantic region is a hotbed of seed funding. According to data collected by Canada’s Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, Atlantic Canada accounted for 10 percent of the VC deals in the country, though it had no deals in the top 10 in terms of value.

Patrick Keefe of Build Ventures also explains that seed rounds are essential to the ecosystem because the follow-on funding rounds are impossible without the small rounds. He said there tends to be a 30 percent attrition rate between rounds of funding. So, if 10 companies raise a seed round, only seven will survive to raise an A round. And of those, about five will be able to raise a B round, and so on. The A rounds financed by Build and the groups from outside the region can only happen if there is a broad range of seed rounds.

In all, Entrevestor counted 55 companies that received funding in 2016. That means more than 13 percent of the startups in the region received some funding last year. The main reason for the number of deals is the continued activity of the government-backed funds. In all, 35 companies in 2016 received money from these organizations (including Build Ventures). 

Planting Seed$ Plans Jan. 16 Event

Stefanie MacDonald and Allyson England

Stefanie MacDonald and Allyson England

The folks who started 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$, an annual pitching competition that awards one young entrepreneur $10,000, have registered the organization as a non-profit called 100 Seeds Atlantic.

Halifax-based 100 Seed$ has a more solid structure now, with a new website and advanced ticket sales for its pitching event, said Allyson England, owner of Nova Box and one of the co-founders of Seed$.

England said in an interview she’s excited about “the future potential of the organization and its ability to have an impact on more youth, both in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.”

Seed$ also formed an advisory board, that includes Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and leading business people, to help better understand and foster youth entrepreneurship. Don Mills, the chairman and founder of Corporate Research Associates, said he joined the board because it’s important to foster the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“In fact, Nova Scotia and the entire Atlantic Canadian region need to rekindle the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that existed in the region prior to Confederation,” said Mills. “Our future prosperity depends upon it.”

The next Seed$ pitching competition is scheduled for Jan. 16 at the Halifax Public Library and you can buy your ticket here. Each ticket costs $100, and the organizers aim for 100 attendees to provide a $10,000 prize package for the winner.  All the contestants are young people developing a business in the region.

England said the advanced sales will streamline the operations on the day of the event because they previously had to collect 100 different cheques at or after the pitching event.   

MyMem To Roll Out App To Help People With Dementia

The first Planting Seed$ event was held in 2015 as a response to Ray Ivany’s report on Nova Scotia’s future, which said only 12 percent of youth between 16 and 24 in Atlantic Canada aspired to start their own business. Planting Seed$ aims to raise that percentage and encourage more youth to become entrepreneurs.

“My mission was to simply encourage young Nova Scotians to have courage, and to roll up their sleeves and test out their ideas right here at home,” said Stefanie MacDonald, the owner and designer of Halifax Paper Hearts and co-founder of Seed$.

“I am so inspired by the drive and determination of our past finalists, and continue to follow their stories of success and growth.”

The past winners of Seed$ competitions were Canada Cold Press Juices in 2015, and renewable energy company Aurea in 2016. 

MyMem Plans To Roll Out App in 2018

Aishwarya Ravichandran, second for right, poses with other Volta Cohort.

Aishwarya Ravichandran, second for right, poses with other Volta Cohort.

Armed with $25,000 in initial funding, Halifax startup MyMem plans to spend 2018 rolling out its Software-as-a-Service product that helps people with dementia remember key aspects of their lives.

The company is developing a smart phone or tablet app that uses voice-enabled technology to help people with cognitive challenges remember their life stories, or even simple matters like their grandchildren’s names. In the next year, it hopes to work with seniors’ facilities to test MyMem with dementia sufferers and assess the market for the product.

The company is funding its go-to-market strategy with a $25,000 investment that it won at the Volta Cohort pitching event last week. MyMem was one of five early-stage startups that divided $125,000 in equity financing at the event hosted by Volta Labs.

“We are in a good position with the funds we have from Volta Cohort,” said Co-Founder Aishwarya Ravichandran in an interview after the event. “We can achieve all those objectives with the funding we have at the moment.”

The story of MyMem’s goal to bring a digital “life story book” to dementia sufferers began when Ravichandran and others attended the Hacking Health Hackathon. The event in March aimed to bring entrepreneurs together to create digital health products.

Ravichandran was inspired by one participant, Luc Sirios, sharing the story of how his mother was suffering from memory loss. This reminded Ravichandran of her grandmother in India who also was losing her memory.

“Taking this inspiration to mind and believing that this app might be useful for people like my grandmother and many other older adults, we formed a team there and built a demo of the mobile app within 24 hours of the event,” said Ravichandran.

MyMem follows a Business-to-Business SaaS model, targeting home care and retirement facilities. Ravichandran said getting MyMem to market will happen in three different phases over the course of 2018.

PhotoDynamic Set for Clinical Trials

The first step will be launching the beta version of their app in January. To get there, MyMem is looking for an app designer as well as a marketing professional.

In the second phase, the app will be available for both Android and iOS devices in Canada and the US. At this stage, MyMem will test the app at different retirement and care facilities, and has begun discussions with a few organizations in Atlantic Canada about testing the device.

“Once we’re in the stage to actually launch the beta we will get back to them and see if they’d like to do a pilot study or beta test our app in their residencies,” said Ravichandran, who says they have all the resources they need to complete the first two phases.

MyMem’s third phase will involve adding a brain games feature to the app. To make this happen, Ravichandran plans to apply for funding from BDC’s Women in Tech investment program, which recently added an additional $20 million to its fund.

This feature would allow users to engage with games that can help improve their cognitive function as well as provide data to track how much the user is able to remember.

“Over a period of time when you start using the app and start playing the games part we will collect the data and analyze it,” said Ravichandran. “We can give that information to the family members and caregivers to help the user.”

MyMem functions with voice recognition technology that is simple to use, a priority for the elderly or those who struggle with technology. Ravichandran plans to offer a desktop version of the app once the mobile and tablet versions have been launched.

The MyMem team includes Ravichandran, Harish Gopinath, Arun Athisamy and Eric Fisher. 

Five Startup Press Release Fails

One of the key tools that founders have to get their message out beyond their immediate circle is a press release. But it amazes me how often common mistakes make their way into these important documents. 

Press releases may seem like trifles, but they demonstrate an entrepreneur’s ability to communicate important messages about a company. If media releases are posted in sequence on your website, they can tell the story of your company for potential investors, mentors and customers. And of course, a good PR can get you media attention.

In the next few weeks, I’m holding a series of communications seminars with Propel ICT cohorts, and one message I want to stress is how not to screw up a press release. Here’s what makes a bad media release.

Fuzzy Message – Anyone reading a company statement needs to know this: who is doing what? When, where, how and why are they doing it. And if “it” involves money, how much is involved. That should all be in the first sentence or two.

Here’s what you can leave out of the first paragraph: the company’s commitment to social justice and a clean environment; the founders’ charity work; the benefits of growing the middle class. It’s all laudable. But your press release should precisely and concisely tell the reader the important bits and very little more.

Jargon – Even if your audience comprises people in your technical community, don’t assume your readers will understand reams of technical bafflegab strung together. As a founder, you have to be able to describe your product in terms that can be understood by a range of people. If you litter your statements with jargon, a broad swath of your readership won’t understand it. Not that you’ll hear about it. People who don’t understand jargon rarely admit it. They’ll just ignore you.

On a related point, keep legalese out of your press releases. Your lawyer should sign off on your statement, not write it. No need to put (“the Company”) after the name of your company. We get it. Honest. Those TM marks after the name of your product – they look really dumb.

Not Explaining Why Your Statement Is Important – This mistake occurs in most press releases. People don’t automatically understand the significance of your announcement. Explain it to them. If you’ve raised capital, tell the reader what you’ll do with the money. If you’ve landed a customer, explain why that customer is important. If you’re launching a product, say what gap it fills in the market and why it will improve the industry or have a social impact.

No Contact Details – If you’re sending a media release to journalists, give a phone number and email address where the media can reach the CEO. If reporters phone a startup, they don’t want to talk to anyone other than the CEO. And they don’t want to talk to the CEO at 5 p.m. If your announcement is important, make the CEO available to chat with journalists in the few hours after the statement goes out. When you post the statement on your website, make sure you include contact details, even if it’s just an info-at email address.

Boring quotes – This isn’t a big deal. But if you’re looking for good press, give the journalist something to work with. Say something more than that you’re honoured or excited by the announcement. A quote is an opportunity to add some life to your statement. Don’t make it sound like it was written by a low-level functionary.

With the decline of traditional media, it’s harder than ever to get the notice of journalists. By crafting a concise, precise press release, you increase your chances of getting your message out – to journalists and their readers or viewers.

Jobs: Scientific Analyst at Appili

Appili Therapeutics is seeking a scientific analyst in our Jobs of the Week column today.

This contract position with the Halifax-based biotech company will work with drug development and business development and review its sources of information and identify promising new programs in infectious disease to report to the VP of Business Development.

The company is working on two drug candidates: a compound designed to mask the bitter taste in Metronidazole, a drug used to treat infections among children; and a compound to battle gram-negative bacteria, which has two protective cellular walls making it resistant to existing antibiotics.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here is an expert from the posting:

Halifax

Appili Therapeutics

Scientific Analyst (contract)

Key responsibilities:

Sourcing, review, and management of scientific, clinical, regulatory, commercial/sales, patent, financial and other data pertaining to the life science and healthcare industry;
Summarize information and results via preparation of reports, presentations to identify promising new drug development programs that align with Appili’s corporate strategy;
Prepare and develop presentations on findings for dissemination to internal teams and external advisors;
Work in a team based environment;
Support Drug Development and Business Development projects as needed.

Qualifications:

Advanced degree in a life science or related field of study, preferably a M.Sc. or Ph.D. in microbiology, pharmacology, or toxicology;
Demonstrated proficiency with literature searching;
Effective written and oral communication skills;
Familiarity with the commercial biotechnology / pharmaceutical industry, work experience in healthcare, biotechnology, or pharmaceutical industry preferred;
Strong ability to approach new areas of science, learn key concepts, and synthesize ideas;

Read more about the job here

PhotoDynamic Set for Clinical Trials

Halifax-based PhotoDynamic Inc. will put its plaque-killing oral health product through clinical trials in the next month, the outcome of which will shape its strategy for the next few years.

The company will test its product with 20 patients at the Forsyth Institute in Boston, one of the world’s most prestigious research facilities in the field of oral health. If it gets good results from these tests, the company plans to work closely with a Fortune 100 consumer products company to bring the product to market.

That product — called PD Foam and PD Tray — is a system that kills plaque buildup on teeth through a combination of light and an extract from a plant that grows wild in Nova Scotia. Because the plant is known to be safe for human consumption, the product has a relatively simple regulatory path. Its initial target market is the one-fifth of the population who suffer from excessive plaque buildup on their teeth regardless of how much they brush.

“We’ll start in a few weeks and have the results by January,” said CEO Martin Greenwood in an interview. “If the results are good, it will be easy to raise our next round (of financing) and then we’ll be moving on to a larger trial.”

In the spring of 2016, PhotoDynamic raised $250,000 in equity funding through the First Angel Network, and supplemented that capital with money from government programs. The company, which grew out of research by Acadia University professor Sherri McFarland, has remained lean with four employees and used the FAN money to build a working prototype.

PhotoDynamic has developed foam made from the plant extract, which the user places in the top and bottom trays of a special mouthpiece, like a mouthguard a hockey player would wear and which contains LED lights. Users turn on the lights, place the device in their mouth for one minute, and the plaque is gone.

TruLeaf To Use Data, AI in Vertical Farming

So far the system has killed plaque successfully in a petri dish and in animal tests, but surprises can crop up in human trials, Greenwood said. For example, 10 subjects will be given the PhotoDynamic device and the other 10 a placebo, to establish a clear gap between plaque buildup in the two groups. If a few of the 10 placebo-takers obsessively brush their teeth all day, it could skew the results.

Greenwood feels confident in the PD Foam and Tray and believes the company has positioned itself to proceed promptly with its commercialization. It has built up a strong working relationship with its multinational partner (whom Greenwood declines to name publicly), and that could help bring the product to market.

PhotoDynamic has also strengthened its board, recently adding former Johnson & Johnson consumer products CTO Neal Matheson and Barry Turner, a former vice-president of global complementary medicines with Warner-Lambert.

Assuming the trials are successful, Greenwood plans to raise about $1.5 million to take the company through the next two years. In that period he hopes to fine-tune the engineering of the product and carry out more thorough clinical trials, involving about 75-125 people over six months.

Then Greenwood plans to sell the oral health product to a large company that can develop it, and PhotoDynamic will use the proceeds to work on other applications for the plant extract.

“The way to really grow this company is to say, ‘We’re the people that can really take this technology to its potential,’” he said. “Let us be the R&D hub. . . . What we want to do is hit a home run and take the funds and reinvest them into the next one.”

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