Bringing VR to the Eye Doctor

Ryan Cameron, the CEO of Electric Puppets, testing out the Evrisia system.

Ryan Cameron, the CEO of Electric Puppets, testing out the Evrisia system.

Virtual reality and augmented experiences have revolutionized entertainment and gaming industries but Halifax entrepreneur Ryan Cameron is figuring out how to bring this technology into a clinical setting.

His company Electric Puppets uses VR and eye-tracking technology to improve on the basic tests we take at the eye doctor.

“The idea is to replace the ‘gold standard’”, said Cameron in an interview. “In current cases, they’re using tests that are over 100 years old. It’s a combination of lenses, physical equipment, dials and whatnot.”

The company operates out of Innovacorp’s Summer Street offices and was a recipient of $50,000 through its Spark Innovation Challenge in 2017.

Electric Puppet’s system, called Evrisia, uses VR to simulate two standardized eye tests – the Bagolini striated lens test and the worth 4 dot test. They examine a patient's binocular functions, meaning, it looks at how the eyes work together to see clearly.

To use the Evrisua system, patients wear the same device that goes over player's eyes in VR gaming. Depending on the settings, they are transported to a virtual room with leather chairs and a carpet, or a cartoon jungle, or in the middle of a lake.

Then, just like at the eye doctor, patients are shown different objects and illusions and are asked to describe what they see while the Evrisia system tracks and records data on their eye movement.

“We’re still contemplating whether or not this is a valid research tool,” said Cameron. “For now, we’re just collecting data that has never been collected before.”

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Cameron said breakthroughs in VR video rendering have made it possible to accurately track the user’s eye movement and collect new data.

Earlier generations of VR would have produced images more slowly than the what the eye can see, creating a disorientating and often nauseating experience. Now, developers have found a way for the tech to track the user’s fovea, a part of the eye behind the pupil with the highest concentration of rods, and rapidly generate video from those specific movements.

“So the theory is, if you can track a person's eye movement with enough precision, you can send their eye movement to the video card and the video card would render, with great precision, just the bit you are looking directly at,” said Cameron.

Electric Puppets is harnessing this high-precision eye-tracking tech to better understand ophthalmology and along the way, has scooped up investments to the tune of $87,000.

Cameron plans to get the Evrisia system to market through another venture of his.

He is the CTO of Unified Health, which helps people create customizable healthcare solutions. This company is setting up wellness clinics that merge traditional and alternative care practices.

Cameron said he plans to test the efficacy of VR as a tool in these clinics. He’s also working with the Children’s Centre for Pain Research as an early adopter to test more applications of VR in the medical space.

“We’re in preliminary talks to use VR for therapy to work with kids and help pain.”

Easy Golf Aligns with Association

Pat Laderoute, left, and CEO Todd Chant are rolling out Easy Golf Tour's product.

Pat Laderoute, left, and CEO Todd Chant are rolling out Easy Golf Tour's product.

When Todd Chant was developing his software for golf tournaments, he was worried about the narrow path to market. But he’s come up with a strategy that broadened his path to the width of the friendliest fairway.

Chant is the Co-Founder and CEO of Sydney-based Easy Golf Tour, whose software helps golf courses administer the tournaments they hold several times each season. The strength of the sales strategy is its partnership with the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada (NGCOA), which has 1,300 members across the country.

In an interview, Chant said the company is now working with three paid customers and making sure all the kinks are ironed out. It is also marketing the product through the NGCOA, which is allowing it to reach more customers with greater ease than it could through individual sales calls.

“In the next six weeks or so, we’re hoping for 40 to 60 golf courses to sign on,” said Chant, who was in Halifax after meeting course owners and managers at an event at Chester Golf Club. He added the company is looking for steady, not hasty, progress as “we want to make sure the roll-out is smooth.”

Chant has a long history of developing software for the golf industry. For 18 years, he has operated an IT company that carries out projects for golf courses. Clients kept coming back so he began to canvas them on what they wanted in a software product.

“We worked with the courses to build something they wanted – not only did I ask them what they wanted but I also asked them what they didn’t want,” he said.

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The result is an integrated platform that simplifies the whole process of staging a tournament. The system lets course members sign up for a tournament, and arranges and announces the draw, so all golfers know when they’re teeing off. It posts scores online, and notifies players of special messages. It can even send the media the results of a tournament.

The software is a white label product, meaning it can be used on any club’s website without members knowing outside software is being used. As well as tournaments, the product can be used to organize golf leagues, which have become popular among golf club members.

“We try to automate all the tasks that take up their [golf course employees’] time,” said Chant. “It’s all about making it easier for the golf courses so their staff do what they’re supposed to do – spend more time looking after their members.”

The system will be used this weekend at the Lingan Golf Course’s Spring Thaw tournament and will be rolled out at other tournaments throughout the summer.

Easy Golf Tour, which won $50,000 at last year’s Spark Innovation Challenge, now has eight employees, including Chief Marketing Officer Pat Laderoute, a member of the Professional Golf Association of Canada.

Chant and his brother Kevin have so far been bootstrapping the company and are working on raising $300,000 in equity funding.

Inboundli’s New Home in Halifax

Gene Sobolev moved his company, Inboundli, to Halifax from Berlin.

Gene Sobolev moved his company, Inboundli, to Halifax from Berlin.

Gene Sobolev, the CEO of Innovacorp’s newest resident company Inboundli, was torn between three Canadian cities when deciding where to relocate from Berlin, Germany. The Start-Up Visa program put Halifax on top, and Sobolev moved his content curation platform to the East Coast.

Inboundli specializes in inbound marketing and social engagement, generating content for its clients via data and machine learning. The Inboundli platform, which works with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, is able to automate social media posts for small to medium sized companies, or SMEs.

Before coming to Halifax, Sobolev established a clientele of around 130 SMEs throughout North America. He ran Inboundli remotely with his co-founder in Tel Aviv, Israel.

With a solid customer foundation already established, Sobolev is now focused on growing the company, aiming for a 50 percent increase in revenue each month before looking for any Atlantic investors.

“I’m looking for signs that it [the business] is going to be scalable and trying to understand how big it can be,” said Sobolev during an interview.  “When taking other people’s money, from my perspective, it only makes sense when you know you’ll do something positive with it.”

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He said that in Germany, investors are risk averse.

"They invest in proven ventures so maybe that’s where attitudes come from,” he said.

He is assessing whether Halifax is a good base for a scaling company. It's an interesting time in Nova Scotia as the province is focusing on growing its innovation community. 

A potential obstacle to Inboundli's growth is the distrust that has arisen between the public and the data-mining industry since the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. The affair highlighted issues of data-privacy, and companies like Inboundli are having a hard time regaining the trust of the public.  

“People get anxious,” said Sobolev. “And social media networks have now changed their policies regarding social media automation so it makes things difficult and harder. It didn’t change anything profoundly but it made some people get a bit scared, but I see this trend reversing.”

He said Twitter wants to avoid that kind of scandal and has taken preemptive steps by changing its anti-spam policies. "So sharing content recurrently, with the same post is now impossible,” said Sobolev.

The problem is, when the same content is shared multiple times, it interferes with the online traffic from real users. This becomes an even bigger problem when the process is automated and the software is left to its own devices, generating spam. 

Sobolev said social media networks are also changing their policies to prevent AI aggregating data from all over the internet and using personal information without consent. 

“More things are being taken away, you cannot publish the same content to multiple profiles, This is going to be a very decisive time,” he said.

For now, Sobolev is settling into Inboundli’s new base at Innovacorp’s Summer Street offices. Like most newcomers, he's already picked up on a classic Maritime stereotype.

“Everyone is so friendly,” he said. “It’s so easy to approach people here. Literally every day someone has approached me on the street to talk to me.”


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

BDC Lends $140M on East Coast

Over the last 12 months, Atlantic Canadian businesses, including high-growth ventures like TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, have received over $140 million in financing from the Business Development Bank of Canada.

The money is part of the bank’s two-year financing package for the region’s small and mid-sized businesses.  The program has led to over 449 transactions since it was announced in May 2017, BDC said yesterday in a press release.

The bank plans to provide $280 million in financing over two years in order to assist companies that work in four industries: ICT; agri-food; ocean technology and tourism.

“This package supports the Atlantic Growth Strategy and is just one of the ways we are creating opportunities for innovation and growth in Atlantic Canada’s economy,” said Gina Gale, Senior Vice President, Atlantic at BDC.

The release said BDC’s Atlantic Growth Envelope has helped SMEs in all four Atlantic provinces. Some of the companies helped include:

* Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites: BDC gave the hotel financing to increase its number of rooms in order to take advantage of an increase in tourism in Twillingate, the iceberg capital of Newfoundland.

* TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture: BDC provided the Halifax-based vertical farming company with financing to expand their operations into Ontario through the construction of a new facility in Guelph.

* Mrs. Dunster's: BDC provided Mrs. Dunster’s bakery, based in Sussex, NB, with financing to support continued expansion.

BDC’s $280-million financing commitment for Atlantic Canada represented a $100-million increase in the bank’s normal lending volume for the targeted industries, the bank’s release stated.

The initiative is focused on supporting growing companies, including those pursuing acquisitions, change of ownership transactions and investment in export strategies.


Disclosure: BDC Capital is a client of Entrevestor.

5 Teams Split $125K at Volta Cohort

Innovacorp's Andrew Ray, left, congratulates Paul Travis and Matthew Kay of Talem.

Innovacorp's Andrew Ray, left, congratulates Paul Travis and Matthew Kay of Talem.

Volta Labs on Wednesday night awarded $125,000 to five startups – including two from outside the Halifax area – in the second Volta Cohort pitching competition.

Backed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, BDC Capital and Innovacorp, the Volta Cohort is an early-stage investment program designed to provide about 10 young companies a year with initial funding. The program awarded the full amount of $125,000 in its first pitching competition in November, and handed out the same amount Wednesday.

Some 48 companies applied for the second Volta Cohort and 16 of them pitched.The winners included Sydney's Talem Health Analytics and UAV Control Tower of St. John's, showing that the Volta Cohort program is extending its reach beyond Halifax. 

“The quality of applicants to this program is very high,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “Selecting only five of the pitching companies was tough given each founder’s potential. Together with our partners, we look forward to helping these early-stage companies grow and succeed from their home base in Atlantic Canada.”

The five winners are:

Talem Health Analytics, Sydney – Talem uses machine learning and data analysis to predict how someone who has been in an accident will recover. Drawing on data from physiotherapy clinics, it can help insurers assess how the patient will rehab. CEO Paul Travis said it can save as much as 10 to 20 percent on the cost of each claim.

Grey Lit, Halifax – Founded by Cora Cola, Grey Lit has developed a platform that provides researchers with a targeted audience for research that has not yet been reviewed by peers. Only 10 percent of scientific research ends up in peer-reviewed academic journals, and Grey Lit helps the other 90 percent progress into the development of useful products.

ColourSmith Labs, Halifax – This company is creating North America’s first direct-to-consumer contact lenses that restore a full spectrum of colour in red-green colour blind people. Founder Gabrielle Masone has self-funded the project so far and is now in the process of raising $100,000 to accelerate research and development.

UAV Control Tower, St. John’s – The team of experienced commercial drone operators has developed a drone-monitoring system used by air traffic controllers to approve, manage and record drone flights. CEO Duncan Wallace said the digital product will disrupt a cumbersome paper-based process now in use.

Speakr, Halifax – Headed by Lee Babin, Speakr is developing digital tools that help people improve their public speaking. Its software can analyze data on such facets as the speaker’s voice, facial expressions and body language and make constructive feedback.

Before the pitching began, Halifax MP Andy Fillmore announced the government would provide Volta with $200,000 through ACOA to more fully develop the Volta Cohort program. This will include hiring a full-time program manager as well as the costs of events, meetings and outreach.

Highline Relaunches Female Funders

Highline BETA of Toronto has announced the relaunch of Female Funders Angel Academy, a national program that will help women become angel investors.

Highline, which supports and invests in new ventures, last year bought Female Funders and is now working with the National Angel Capital Organization to roll the program out across the country.

"There are a handful of incredibly talented women investors today—but we need more," Lauren Robinson, Executive Director of Female Funders and COO of Highline BETA, said in a release.  "We talk a lot about the growth of female entrepreneurship, and we see the tides starting to shift. But without representation on both sides of the table — among both entrepreneurs and investors — we won't see real change.”

Only 6 percent of deal-making venture capitalists and 20 percent of angel investors are women, Highline said in the statement. The revamped Female Funders program will focus on three key areas to help women make their first investments: blended education; investment opportunities, supported by expert and peer guidance; and a curated network of women executives, investors and innovators.

Members of Angel Academy's first cohort will undertake an eight-week self-paced training program that covers the fundamentals of angel investing. These include the mechanics of a successful deal; sourcing high-potential startups; and creating an investment thesis and portfolio strategy.

In the year following the training program, Angel Academy members will have the opportunity to initiate their own deals or join deals through the Female Funders syndicate, and to co-invest alongside Highline BETA. The Highline BETA executive team (which has made 42 pre-seed investments) and Female Funders advisors will provide cohort members with guidance and support throughout the investment process.

"Women executives have the networks and industry expertise to become exceptional angel investors and to help entrepreneurs at the most critical stages of a company's development," said NACO Executive Director Yuri Navarro NACO.

Angel Academy members will also have access to a curated deal flow of early-stage, high-growth startups through Highline BETA accelerator programs, said the statement.

“Women corporate and technology executives have the networks and expertise to impact startups and to source great investment opportunities that others may overlook,” said Robinson. “We're relaunching Angel Academy to give women the edge they need to become standout angel investors."

Spring Loaded Shows its Impact

The Levitation Knee Brace

The Levitation Knee Brace

Spring Loaded Technology on Tuesday used a press conference to show what its Levitation knee brace means to the people who use it --especially to users who suffer from osteoarthritis.

The manufacturer held the media event at its Dartmouth headquarters to announce a $460,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program, and the launch of a new add-on product for the Levitation.

But the highlight was a video and speech by Jane Grover of the Annapolis Valley, who explained what the knee brace – which not only stabilizes the joint but adds to its power – has meant to herself and her granddaughter.

Grover, 64, said the Levitation knee brace has helped her granddaughter Kelsie, who has muscular dystrophy, continue to enjoy exercise and outdoor life in spite of her disease. So, when Grover found out she herself needed a second knee replacement, she opted for a Levitation knee brace instead.

“I was offered surgery within a month but I declined because of my faith in the Levitation knee brace that my granddaughter Kelsie was wearing,” said Grover, who mounted the stage wearing one of the devices. [Watch the video here.]

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Spring Loaded began six years ago when Chris Cowper-Smith (now the CEO) and two co-founders set out to design a knee brace that would store energy when the knee joint is bent and release it when the leg is straightened. The company launched its Levitation knee last June, and its sales have risen steadily, especially among osteoarthritis patients.

“It’s the most attractive market to us because it’s the market where we actually got pull,” said COO Dawn Umlah in an interview. She added that the 14 million people in Canada and the U.S. living with osteoarthritis have no other suitable alternatives.

On Tuesday, the company unveiled its new Levitation Offloader, an add-on to the knee brace that improves performance for osteoarthritis patients.

“With the launch of the Levitation Offloader, we’re able to offer customized relief to further reduce pressure on the worst-affected compartment of the knee,” said Cowper-Smith in a statement. “This allows us to better support a wider range of osteoarthritis patients, to reduce wear and tear and provide the pain relief they need.”

The statement said conventional knee braces only address a narrow range of arthritis cases--uni-compartment tibiofemoral arthritis--which account for less than 4 percent of knee arthritis cases. Spring Loaded said its knee brace is the only one capable of reducing forces in all three compartments of the knee.

The company will use the ACOA funding to expand its manufacturing capacity and increase its output. It has increased its staff 40 percent year-on-year and now employs 35 people, said Umlah. She added Spring Loaded is now raising equity capital, though she declined to say how much.

Spring Loaded is one of three Nova Scotia life sciences companies to announce loans from ACOA’s Business Development Program this week.

Adaptiiv, formerly 3DBolus, announced it has received funding of $328,943. The company has developed software that works with 3D printers to produce a personalized bolus — a plastic fitting used in radiation therapy. The company recently announced a distribution deal with CIVCO Radiotherapy.

And Sona Nanotech announced a $500,000 BDP loan. Sona, which produces gold nanorods for medical markets, is going through the process of gaining a listing on the TSX Venture exchange. 

Sayle Awarded BCIP Contract

CEO Stephen Sayle (second left) aims to start a

CEO Stephen Sayle (second left) aims to start a "culture of safety" in Canadian workplaces.

The Halifax company devoted to fostering a culture of safety in the workplace has been awarded a $551,770 contract through the Government of Canada’s Build in Canada Innovation Program.

SayleSafety, a Software-as-a-Service company based in Hammonds Plains, received the funds for its app that digitizes and manages risk assessments for job sites.

“The vast majority of site safety is paper-based. And paperwork is inefficient, often gets damaged or lost and makes sharing the practices difficult,” said Stephen Sayle, company CEO. “A strong safety culture results in strong businesses, great jobs and a growing economy.”

MP Andy Fillmore announced the contract at a press conference in Halifax yesterday.

The BCIP is a federal program that helps Canadian innovators get their products to market faster by securing sales with early adopters.

Sayle’s app will be tested by Public Services and Procurement Canada with the Halifax Port Authority and the Nova Scotia Community College serving as early adopters.

The SayleSafety app eliminates the need for paper, making it easier for those working in the field to keep safety records. It is customizable to each worksite, factoring in physical hazards and weather conditions, and highlights trends and challenges that require attention.

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In addition to its app, the company offers affordable online courses that describe ideal “safety culture” for companies of all sizes, as well as consulting for risk management.

The venture was initially headed by Stephen and and his brother Bryan, who has left the company after accepting a new position in Washington. Stephen’s wife, Heidi, is a chartered accountant and is company CFO.

SayleSafety currently employs six people and is taking on two new employees as a result of its new funding.

So far, in its eight-year history, the BCIP has supported over 27 companies in Nova Scotia with contracts worth more than $13 million. Yesterday’s funding announcement was the program's 300th contract.

“One of the toughest aspects of growing a business is developing new products to take to market and often the hardest hurdle is the final testing, tweaking and commercializing of the product. And the Build in Canada Innovation Program focuses on this very challenging stage,” said Sayle.

The company recieved recognition last year when it won the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s New Business of the Year award. It was also named the Most Promising Startup by the Atlantic Canadian Aerospace and Defense Association.

Said Sayle during the conference: “I have worked in high-risk jobs in dangerous areas in over a dozen countries. I started my career as a commercial diver but I can tell you being an entrepreneur is the scariest job I’ve ever had.”

Cribcut Expands to Toronto

Cribcut, a SaaS company for mobile hair stylists, has launched in Toronto.

Cribcut, a SaaS company for mobile hair stylists, has launched in Toronto.

When Entrevestor featured Cribcut last spring, founder David Howe was deciding how and where to expand his company, which provides a software-enabled marketplace for mobile hairstylists. Almost a year later, Cribcut is expanding into Toronto.

“Launching in Toronto means a lot for us. It proves our model works in a city outside of Halifax, it gives us access to an estimated 35,000 stylists in the GTA, and it allows us to increase our velocity significantly,” said Howe in an email.  

“Our early success here is one reason why we're considering a seed round, to help keep up with the demand and increase our speed to market.”

Cribcut is a Software-as-a-Service marketing company for mobile hair stylists who travel to clients instead of working out of bricks-and-mortar spaces.

By charging a monthly fee for its software and marketing, Cribcut allows stylists to bring in their cwn clients through its platform and keep 100 per cent of their revenue and product sales.

"Even though clients are loyal to a particular stylist—not a salon or brand—stylists still typically work under a 50/50 commission split," Howe said. "Only half of the revenue from their work actually goes to them, the rest goes to the salon owner." 

Howe’s initial idea was for Cribcut to take a cut of each styling transaction, but the company pivoted in 2017 to focus more on SaaS after its successful beta in Halifax where it booked around 500 appointments over a six-month period.

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Since that beta, Cribcut has gone on to book over 1,000 appointments. It has 15 stylists signed up and hundreds more inquiring.

Howe said the company has about an 80 percent retention rate for stylist clients who make the switch to mobile hairstyling. To make the booking process simpler, the company plans to launch a mobile app for iOS and Android this summer.

Howe grew the company quickly by catching the eyes of Halifax entrepreneurs and obtaining investments of $150,000. Investors included Kyle Racki and Kevin Springer of Proposify, Ron Lovett, who founded the Atlantic Chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization, and Bill Wilson, CEO of Mindsea.

Explaining his decision to invest, Lovett said: "David is a gritty entrepreneur who has developed an innovative business model with Cribcut. His ability to put a strong team together, get traction and move fast are just a few of the reasons I decided to invest. I'm excited for what's to come at Cribcut—they have the chance to do something special.”

With a strong investment and advisory team that includes Blair Ryan from The Rounds as well as Racki and Springer of Proposify, which is currently valued at over $30 million, Howe anticipates launching Cribcut in more cities. He will have to decide whether to raise a seed round to further amplify growth.

CyberSmart 2018 Starts Today

Melissa Hathaway

Melissa Hathaway

CyberNB today will open CyberSmart 2018, a conference that features presentations by cybersecurity experts from around the world.

The conference will develop themes that were brought out at the inaugural  event last year, CyberSmart is the only cybersecurity skills and workforce development event of its kind in North America, said a statement from one if its sponsors, Saint John-based Mariner. It will take place in Fredericton today and Wedneday.

Last year’s event drew more than 300 delegates from across Canada and the United States. Attendees included industry leaders and influencers, all three levels of Canadian government, private and public post-secondary institutions and university and high school students.

“Finding and fostering talented information security professionals is critical for Mariner as we continue to grow our business,” Mariner Innovations President Paul Eisner said in a statement. “The CyberSmart Summit brings together key stakeholders essential to developing the cybersecurity workforce, and provides the perfect forum to exchange valuable learnings.”

The keynote address – International Cyber Readiness: Lessons for Canada – will be delivered by Melissa Hathaway, President of Washington, D.C.-based Hathaway Global Strategies. She spearheaded the Cyberspace Policy Review for President Barack Obama after leading the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative for President George W. Bush.

The schedule includes a session on cybercrime, chaired by Mariner’s Vice-President of Security Solutions Anthony English, as well as seminars on trends in cyber workforce development, building cyber and digital literacy in youth and an international cyber warriors program.

The event will also feature Canada’s first country-wide youth summit for cybersecurity. The CyberSmart Youth Summit will be attended by students from across Canada. It will feature hands-on sessions and an interactive career-path-focused trade show. A number of industry leaders, including Fredericton-based Blue Spurs, will speak at the youth event.

This youth summit is the first of its kind in Canada, organizers said. It aims to be the first step in building a stronger IT-skilled workforce in New Brunswick and establishing the province as the key centre of cybersecurity in Canada.

CyberNB is a division of Opportunities NB that aims to foster the cybersecurity community in New Brunswick.

Skyline Rebrands to RetailDeep

The RetailDeep team in 2015

The RetailDeep team in 2015

RetailDeep, the Halifax-startup that used to be known as Skyline, is currently in the running for some big prizes and was shortlisted to the Top 20 at the XRC Labs innovation accelerator in New York City.

XRC runs two cohorts annually and RetailDeep will travel to the Big Apple next week to participate in the final round of the application process, which had over 500 applicants. The applicants will be whittled down to five.

If accepted, RetailDeep will win US$100,000 and spend 12 weeks working out of XRC office space in Manhattan.

In addition to being XRC finalists, the company is also developing a pitch for the RBC Innovation Fund, Borealis AI, and will be among the first pitchers vying for the $1 million Salesforce Trailblazers Canada Fund. 

“This is exciting,” said company COO Michael Himmelman in an interview. “We chased XRC but [other partners including Salesforce] came to us.”

RetailDeep equips retailers with sensors that uses facial recognition from partner companies like Microsoft, Google, Kairos and Face++ to help bricks and mortar stores offer a more tailored in-store experience.

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Recently, RetailDeep rebranded to better reflect the company's vision. 

“Skyline didn’t really mean anything so we wanted to find something that was reflective of the fact that we’re in retail and use deep learning and AI,”  said Himmelman.

The company, which started in Shanghai, China, is expanding its eight-store pilot with Chinese retailer, Pocket Noir, to include 100 locations across China. It is also piloting locally, testing its AI at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market and several other businesses in the city.

“We came a long way, but have stayed true to our original vision of helping retailers deliver on a promise of personalized customer experience,” said CEO and Co-Founder Hai Hu in a statement yesterday.

Co-founders, Hu and Changhai Jiang initially started the business in Shanghai with a fully automated shop. Through Innovacorp’s Start-up Visa Program, the team came to Halifax to bring its type of retail expience to North American markets.

“We looked at the automated store (in China) and thought what could be easily deployed. We took the best part of that technology and refined it and put it out in the NA market,” said Himmelman.

Since then, RetailDeep has landed a residency at Volta Labs, worked with Nova Scotia Business Inc. on export development, and recently inked an agreement with its first US-based customer, which operates pop-up stores.

“Our growth and success in Canada wouldn’t be possible without the continued support of our partners,” said Hu. “There are many organizations, programs and people who have been instrumental in helping us develop our business from the moment we came to Canada.”

Mastering the Art of the Pivot

Dash Hudson's ever-growing team.

Dash Hudson's ever-growing team.

How Dash Hudson launched (and killed) four products in two years and lived to tell the tale.

If you’re an early-stage startup founder, a successful pivot story is much like a modern-day fairytale. It’s got all the right elements—heroism, suspense, and near-death encounters.

Most companies that attempt a pivot will die on the battlefield. They’ll put up a good fight, but eventually, their time runs out and they’re quickly forgotten.

Yet, every so often, a legend is born…

Twitter started as Odeo—a podcast network.

Instagram started as Burbn—a check-in app for gamers.

Groupon started as The Point—a crowdfunding platform for social causes.

And, then there’s Dash Hudson. Granted… their fairytale ending is still in the works, but they’ve been on one helluva journey.

Dash Hudson started as Pathmata—a location-based marketing analytics tool for big retailers.

That was in early 2013.

By late 2015, the Halifax-based Dash Hudson team had launched and killed four products.

They’d gone from a B2B analytics platform for retailers (Pathmata)… to a B2C shopping app for menswear, (Dash Hudson 1.0)… to an Instagram shopping app for everyone (Dash Hudson 2.0)… to a two-sided marketplace where brands could hire Instagram influencers (Dash Hudson 3.0).

By late 2015, they had four months of runway in the bank, a shiny new product ready to sell, and just ONE more chance to get it right.

Well, as the legend goes, they did it.

Dash Hudson pivoted one last time, becoming an analytics and insight platform for brands that sell through Instagram. It was a runaway success.

Today, Dash Hudson is trusted by the world’s top brands and publishers like Glossier, Vanity Fair, and GQ. They’re hailed as one of the fastest growing tech companies in Canada, and they’re hiring new talent as quickly as they can find it.

I sat down with Thomas Rankin, co-founder and CEO of Dash Hudson, to hear their story.

I wanted to understand how they were able to launch four products in two years and live to tell the tale.

Thomas opened up about the ups and the downs of their journey. He shared lots of golden nuggets and behind-the-scenes details that few people know.

Several dominant themes emerged from my conversation with Thomas. If you’re considering a pivot, below are a few hard-learned lessons from Thomas Rankin.

Lesson 1: Run a good business from day one

“In the really early days, we kept it super lean and we leveraged everything we could.” ~ Thomas Rankin

As a CPA and former venture capitalist, Thomas understood the importance of managing cash flow. He’d watched other startups burn through their investment money too quickly and was determined not to make the same mistake.

“We tried to run a good business from the very beginning,” says Thomas. “I think a lot of startups don’t start off as good businesses.”

For Thomas and his cofounder Tomek Niewiarowski, running a good business meant running lean.

“We’re always conscious of economics in terms of how much of we get out of our investments,” explained Thomas. “It doesn’t mean being cheap. It means being focused on value and strong economics.”

Running a good business also meant full accountability from day one.

“From the very beginning, we always had a board, even when it was just me and Tomek,” says Thomas.

“We always kept that cadence even if we didn’t meet [in person]. There was a board deck and record of accountability.”

Because Thomas knew what a ‘good business’ looked like and was carefully tracking their progress, he also knew when Dash Hudson’s early business models weren’t working, which is a nice segway to the next lesson…

Lesson 2: Own your numbers

“Good or bad, own your numbers. Have them on a dashboard even if they’re depressing. Even if it’s all zeros, it better be on a dashboard.” ~ Thomas Rankin

Few teams survive a pivot. It takes guts to kill a product that’s gaining traction in favour of an unknown, potentially better future.

Dash Hudson was able to sustain several pivots because they partnered with investors who believed that Thomas and Tomek would make it work (and ponied up capital when needed.) That kind of trust is hard-earned.

“I believe in full transparency,” says Thomas.

“The data is always out front. It’s always real, and we always speak to the good and the bad in the data. That just buys you a ton of credibility from your investors because they know that you’re trying to do the right thing.”

Thomas knew what numbers they needed to hit because he’d done his homework. He studied the top performing companies in their category and benchmarked their growth goals against those businesses.

“I just look for best practices—like I’d read blogs, and see what the best companies measure—and those are the things we measure ourselves against. Even if you can’t necessarily always reach best in class, at least you know where the best companies are.”

Because they had clear targets, Thomas also knew when things weren’t working and he was quick to react.

Lesson 3: Move really fast, but move smart

“We just always believed in moving really, really quickly and learning as much as we could. When it wasn’t working we had the data to support the decision, we just really quickly shut it.” ~ Thomas Rankin

Dash Hudson moved fast, but they were also highly strategic.

“Each pivot was backed by some insight,” Thomas explains.

“You always need to be experimenting and trying new things. Being able to operate at speed is critical, and if you don’t have that, you’re at a serious disadvantage.”

By carefully following the data and market trends, Thomas was able to identify new opportunities—from using YouTube to fuel their early growth, to becoming one of the first Instagram shopping apps, to connecting brands with micro-influencers, Thomas and his team were always ahead of the trend.

When Thomas identified a gap in the market and decided to pivot, he didn’t waste time crying over their failed products.

According to Thomas, “You’ve got to put best efforts into trying to make something work. But, you’ve got to cut the cord really quick whenever you feel like it’s not going in the right direction because you only have so much life.”

Thomas knew where his market was going: brands understood the value of visual media, but they wanted to get more out of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Despite making a lot of the right moves, it still took a few tries for Dash Hudson to figure out where they fit in the visual media landscape. Luckily, their early B2B customers were quick to tell them what they needed—better analytics—and Thomas was listening.

Lesson 4: Talk to your customers

“Long story short, we raced to product/market fit, by talking to as many customers as we could.” ~ Thomas Rankin

By early 2015, Dash Hudson had pivoted to a B2B marketplace to manage Instagram influencer campaigns. They hustled to build a great product and started partnering with some powerful brands and big-name influencers.

Thomas rustled up lots of media attention and Dash Hudson began steadily growing. But Thomas knew that the product needed something special if it was going to be sticky. That’s where the idea came from to build out a custom analytics dashboard for Instagram.

In the beginning, the analytics dashboard was just one feature of the product. But, it didn’t take long for Thomas to recognize that they’d hit on an even bigger opportunity.

“The more we put it out there, the more we realized that people didn’t want the influencer marketplace, or they were just ‘blah’ on it,” Thomas explains.

“But as soon as they saw the analytics, they were like, ‘Oh, my God.’ It became very clear that we were selling analytics and insights.”

Thomas and his team had finally zeroed in on their sweet spot, but success was still far from guaranteed. They needed to act extremely fast because their runway was getting shorter.

Thomas emailed a few of the smartest brand managers he knew with a simple question: what are the top five things you would want in an Instagram analytics dashboard?

He collected their responses and those features became the specifications for Dash Hudson’s analytics dashboard.

“The product was really built by three or four people,” Thomas explains.

Their team finally knew what they were building, but getting the business model right was another story.

Thomas knew they needed to talk to as many customers as possible if they were to reach product/market fit before their funding ran out. He took a big gamble and decided to hire two new team members. Having grown to a six-person team, Dash Hudson spent the next few months interviewing customers and rapidly refining their product and sales pitch.

“We had to speak to two or three hundred customers before we got pricing right,” says Thomas.

The bet paid off. It was working… finally.

After four death-defying pivots, Dash Hudson now firmly owned their place as one of the world’s leading analytics and insights platforms for visual media.

From startup to scale up

Today Dash Hudson is one of the fastest growing startups in Canada. They’ve tripled or quadrupled year after year, and they show zero signs of slowing down.

Dash Hudson recently announced their new product, Vision. Vision is a visual intelligence platform that analyzes a brand’s photos and makes real-time recommendations on how to increase ROI.

“We’ve signed up to grow this company,” says Thomas.

“In the early stages you can’t wait too long to kill a product. And now it’s more like you can’t wait too long to launch a new product so you can maintain your growth.”

In closing, I asked Thomas what advice he’d give to a team that’s considering a pivot. His answer is an important reminder for every startup founder…

“Trust yourself,” says Thomas.

“Trust that you can do something that’s different from what you’re doing today. Nobody’s going to care that the thing you did before sucks. It’s totally fine. You can make that part of your story.”

Author Bio

Katelyn Bourgoin is a 3X founder turned growth geek. With experience spanning the marketing, tech and hospitality sectors, Katelyn’s entrepreneurial journey has been a rollercoaster, to say the least…

She was named as one of Nova Scotia’s top 10 young entrepreneurs in 2012, she sold her first business in 2013, she was named an influential entrepreneur by Forbes Magazine in 2016, and, in 2017 she made the difficult decision to close down her venture-backed tech startup after 3 years in operation.

With vast experience as a marketer and product designer, today Katelyn works as a growth strategist. The majority of her clients are early-stage tech companies.

Follow Katelyn’s adventures at and @katebour on Twitter.

Editor's note: This blog first appeared on the website of Build Ventures. Build is a client of Entrevestor. 

Dal Seeks $100K Contest Entries

Applications must be submitted by May 23.

Applications must be submitted by May 23.

Applications are open for Dalhousie University’s $100K Competition.

The competition, now in its fifth year, assists teams of early-stage ventures in harnessing their talent, resources, and technological know-how to build high-growth companies.

The ten finalists will receive $10,000 in non-dilutive funding and automatic entry into Dal’s 10-week LaunchPad Accelerator, which is part of the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship’s Launch Dal program.

"These start-up ventures are proportionately more likely to launch successful businesses here in Nova Scotia, generating economic impacts for the province and for the region," said Mary Kilfoil who teaches entrepreneurship at Dal in an email.

Kilfoil said that in 2017, a high number of start-up ventures that emerged from LaunchPad programming successfully competed in regional and national accelerator programs.

The accelerator will teach ten teams about founding skills, network building, venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurship and prototyping.  

Previous graduates of Dal’s LaunchPad accelerator are Rovault AI, which is bringing visual recognition to the seafood industry, and UpFront, which uses blockchain technology to avoid ticket scalpers.

To apply for the competition, applicants must prepare an eight-minute video explaining how the business model canvas has been used within their startup.

Applications are due Wednesday, May 23. Click here to apply. 

Disclosure: Dalhousie University is a client of Entrevestor. 

Jobs: NBIF, Aycoutay, DH, Soma

NBIF is seeking a Director of Research in our jobs of the week column.

NBIF is seeking a Director of Research in our jobs of the week column.

We have quite the list for our Jobs of the Week column today with six positions ranging from COO with Aycoutay in Halifax, to a Director of Research with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in Fredericton.

Aycoutay is an early-stage startup that is building software to measure and track your body’s well-being. Its technology allows users to capture and analyze data about digestive, neurological, cardiovascular and hormonal health. Today, it seeks a COO to assist with its commercialization process.

Also in Halifax is Dash Hudson. Known for its software product Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. Today, it seeks to fill two positions, an Executive/Admin Assistant and an Account Executive.

In New Brunswick, the NBIF, a non-profit dedicated to building the province’s capacity for innovation, is seeking a new Director of Research. This person would manage its growing portfolio of investments.

Finally, also in Fredericton, is SomaDetect. This company collects agricultural data that analyzes cows milk to monitor health and milk quality. In March, the company expanded its offices to Buffalo and today, it seeks to add a Dairy Equipment Specialist and a Full Stack Web Developer to its team in Fredericton.

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 experts from this week’s postings:


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

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. The most important thing we need from you is this: You want the challenge and opportunity to sell a leading product in a rapidly growing market.You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out ...


  • 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…

Apply for the job here.


Dash Hudson

Executive/Admin Assistant

You want the challenge and opportunity to help Dash Hudson sell a leading product in a rapidly growing market.

You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out. Must be hyper-organized. In short, you have the skills, and want to work in a fast-paced environment. You are detail-oriented and diligent, but have the flexibility and drive to take on new challenges as they arise.


  • Facilitate the daily operations of the office, including: Facilities management, Ordering and stocking office supplies, Ordering catering, Managing vendors (coffee, plant care, etc)
  • Draft and update policies and procedures as needed
  • Organize and support events
  • Administer software tools
  • Document control and management for the corporate and sales drives... 

Apply for the job here.




As COO you will be instrumental in the commercialization process, building teams, and supporting the overall vision and strategy of the company.

Reporting to the CEO, you will be responsible for the overall forward movement of the company as it commercializes its products, and on-going management and company growth going forward.


  • Overseeing all areas of the company including finance, sales, marketing, product development, quality, and compliance
  • supporting the CEO and Chief Innovation Officer on the company vision including product and technology
  • supporting functional department leads on strategic planning and overseeing implementation
  • establishing and implementing strategy for company performance, growth, while maintaining alignment with company vision
  • leading technology projects from concept to commercialization...

Apply for that position here.



Director of Research

We are looking for a Director of Research to join our organization. This individual will play a leading role in managing our ever-growing portfolio of research investments, managing our various funding programs in support of applied research and talent development, managing and developing our research team, and realizing sustainable results and outcomes.


  • Develop and implement strategy for the NBIF’s research investment activities in support of the organization’s mandate and shared vision
  • Actively manage and support NBIF’s research and talent development funding programs and oversee its portfolio of research investments with a focus on results and outcomes
  • Manage the evaluation process for research funding applications, including preparing and presenting recommendations as well as organizing and assisting evaluation committees
  • Develop and maintain trusted relationships with key stakeholders within the research community
  • Proactively work with researchers to assist with commercializing their research outcomes... 

Apply for the position here.



Dairy Equipment Specialist

We are looking for a motivated individual with excellent communication skills for a position as Dairy Equipment Specialist. This individual will have the opportunity to work with breakthrough technology and will lead the full installation and integration of our innovative sensor with dairy equipment. Appropriate follow-through will be needed to ensure the installation is optimized and running smoothly...


  • Leads and supports the installation and integration of SomaDetect’s sensor with existing on-farm/dairy equipment
  • Troubleshoots, repairs, and maintains the equipment, hardware, and software
  • Ensures that all IT applications are updated, optimized, and functioning properly
  • Ensures quality and reliability of dairy equipment to meet customer needs and expectations
  • Builds and maintains effective relationships with dairy equipment distributors, manufacturers, and key internal and external stakeholders... 

Apply for the job here.



Full Stack Web Developer

SomaDetect is looking for a Full Stack Web Developer to design and redefine the web interface of our analytics solutions, website and other applications. We are building a data visualization and analytics platform for our sensor system that requires simplified and refined design to help dairy farmers understand milk quality…


  • Design and implement web-based software to analyse and display information from our sensor system and from other IoT devices for dairy farms.
  • Work with hardware and product development team to develop new product designs and lead the development of software solutions for deployment.
  • Design and implement software solution for our cloud platform and data processing infrastructure.

Apply for the job here.

Manifold Makes 2018 Narwhal List

Jevon MacDonald

Jevon MacDonald

Halifax-based Manifold has been named to the 2018 Narwhal List, a group of Canadian high-growth companies that have raised a lot of capital quickly.

The Halifax startup, founded two years ago by GoInstant Co-Founder Jevon MacDonald, was actually placed on the list earlier in the year. But it only came to my attention Thursday when TechVibes published the updated list.

Compiled by the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre, the Narwhal List assesses what it calls the “financial velocity” of high-growth companies. It divides the amount a company has raised by the number of years it has been in existence, indicating the firm’s momentum in building up its capital structure.

Manifold, which helps software developers access services, placed No. 28 on the list of 49 companies. It makes the list because of its US$15 million (C$18.5 million) funding round led by OMERS Ventures last September.

Founded in 2016, Manifold is one of the youngest companies on the list – a group more notable for the speed with which they’ve raised money than the amounts they've raised. The Halifax company joins five others on the list that were founded in 2016 or later. Of that group, only one has raised more money than Manifold – Toronto-based Platterz, which was founded in 2016 and has raised US$20 million.

Resson Raises $14M for the 2nd Time in Two Years

Working out of Volta Labs in Halifax, Manifold 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.

Manifold allows developers to easily find, buy, and manage their favourite services without being locked into a single cloud platform. With Manifold, developers are no longer restricted by the confines of any particular cloud, allowing them to create stacks tailored to their project needs.

The Narwhal List – a Narwhal is the Canadian equivalent of a unicorn, a high-growth company worth at least $1 billion – is dominated by larger, older companies that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Vancouver-based Hootsuite, a decade-old company that has raised US$230 million, heads the list.

Why does it matter that Manifold is on the Narwhal List? It’s important because Canadian venture capital in the past two or three years has been dominated by large funding rounds, those worth $50 million or more. But no Atlantic Canadian company has breached that threshold yet. East Coast startups are active in the national discussion about small companies, and the next step in the region's evolution is to appear in the lists of large companies. Manifold’s strong “financial velocity” is likely the first step.

One final note about this list is that, as of this week, another Atlantic Canadian company has almost made the grade. Fredericton-based Resson just closed a $14 million funding round, meaning that it has raised a total of $31 million in its five-year history. At current exchange rates, that is equal to about US$24.4 million. By my calculation, that placed Resson just outside the current Narwhal List.

SucSeed Tackles Food Security

Project SucSeed execs Laura Campbell, left, and Emily Bland.

Project SucSeed execs Laura Campbell, left, and Emily Bland.

What began as a student-run project at the Memorial University of Newfoundland has scaled into a successful business that is addressing key social issues, like youth employment and food security.

Project SucSeed builds small-scale hydroponic gardening systems that allow people to grow fresh herbs and vegetables at home. CEO Emily Bland started SucSeed two years ago during MUN’s Enactus program. The venture won first place at the Enactus World Cup in 2016 and then second place in 2017.

“Food security is at the heart of what we do,” said Bland, 23, during an interview. “I think we’ve lost touch with our food over the past couple of decades. We need to get people excited about growing food again.”

SucSeed’s initial goal was to build 15 systems to donate across Newfoundland and Northern Canada, bootstrapping all the resources.

“And we thought if we could do that, it would be incredible and it would have been something we would have been proud of,” said Bland, who studied accounting at MUN.

But after local media spread the word of SucSeed's hydroponic garden, Bland said she and her team received about 100 enquiries from around the world.

“I thought I had my whole life figured out. But SucSeed grew a lot quicker than any of us ever expected so we reached a point where we’ve outgrown being run by a volunteer group of students," said Bland.

NL Innovation Week Starts Monday

By partnering with Choices for Youth, a Canadian organization that aids at-risk youth, SucSeed hired eight employees to build the gardening systems.

Said Bland: “It’s been our mission to show people you can run a business and have a social heart and it doesn’t always have to have a financial bottom line. You have to make sure things are financially stable but there is such an impact you can have on the social side of things.”  

SucSeed’s business team was chosen as one of seven top ventures by SheEO, a global network of high-growth female-led ventures. The team is also travelling to Toronto in a few weeks to take part in the Next36 accelerator.

With funds from SheEO, SucSeed plans to design a new iteration of its system to make it more efficient and reflect its social impact through the design.

Today, there are over 200 SucSeed hydroponic systems in Northern Canada. Bland says the company is moving around $10,000 worth of merchandise a month and is maintaining a 30 to 40 per cent profit margin.

Big corporations like McCain Foods and Tim Hortons have also partnered with SucSeed and helped it get its systems into soup kitchens, classrooms, community centres and even into ships all across the country.

“We’ve seen photos pop up on our Facebook and social media feeds of people in the middle of Northern Labrador in minus 20 degree weather holding fresh kale, and that’s the most rewarding thing,” said Bland.

“It reaches so many different groups and brings so many people together but it’s something as simple as a rubbermaid container.”

WEnTech Plans 2 Launches in 2018

WEnTech Solutions, the Fredericton software company that aids waste-to-energy projects, is planning to launch two new products by the end of the year.

In an interview in the company’s Knowledge Park office, Founder and CEO Amir Akbari said WEnTech in August will have the full launch of its initial product, which helps engineering firms and others choose the right waste-to-energy system for a given situation. Then two months later, it plans to launch a related product, which helps to improve the efficient operation of the waste-to-energy system over its lifetime.

“Cleantech is really wide-ranging,” said Amir. “We are in the green energy side of it. And using software like ours helps to make sure your clean energy project is successful because we consider not just the early stages of the project but also the next five, 10, 20 years of the facility.”

The company gained attention last year when it placed second in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, capturing $176,000 in money and in-kind services. The company grew out of a realization that there are now a range of products on the market that can convert garbage into energy. But these products are not one-size-fits-all propositions. Different systems perform best based on where they’re located and what sort of waste they’re accepting – household, commercial, agricultural or forestry refuse.

WEnTech has developed a Software-as-a-Service solution that helps consulting engineers and project developers assess the needs of a waste-to-energy project and pick the right system. It takes into account such variables as the regulations in the jurisdiction, the environmental concerns, the materials being converted and the desired product.

Since its strong showing at Breakthru two years ago, the company has come up with its minimum viable product, taken it through a few pilot projects and continued to refine its features. Chief Product Officer Kenneth Kent said the upgrades have involved improvements in the user experience and bringing in new algorithms so the system can accommodate more content in its databanks.

Akbari said the company has carried out a small number of pilot projects and its target market is mainly consulting companies that work on behalf of municipalities or other project developers to help install waste-to-energy systems. Akbari added that the company – which has five full-time and five part-time staff – is now getting more traction with the project developers themselves.

He said one consulting company has been so impressed with the software that it has opened the door to gaining contracts in international markets in the Middle East and Asia.

“This customer had this project that was almost dead,” said Akbari. “By using our product . . . it went from being a dead project to being a project worth almost $50 million for them.”

Akbari also said WEnTech, which intends to build up its business development team in the coming year, is looking at the U.S. market.  As well as funding itself through its Breakthru winnings and grants, WEnTech had a small equity raise in 2017. (Akbari declined to say how much.) WEnTech is now raising more capital with a target for the coming round of $1 million.

NL Innovation Week Starts Monday

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technologies Industries, in partnership with other Newfoundland organizations, is holding a series of workshops, seminars and classes across the province for its Innovation Week, which starts Monday.

Innovation Week welcomes the province's business community, youth and public and private partners to take part in over 20 events happening across the province. The week aims to promote and celebrate the province’s technology sector.

“These events will celebrate and showcase innovative advances in information and ocean technology, oil and gas, the environment, health care, and social enterprises,” said Julie Rickward the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at NATI.

Seminars on innovation in rural Canada and workshops on robotics and coding are just some of the ares that will be explored next week. 

On Wednesday, NATI is hosting a knowledge summit on corporate innovation. Keynote speakers include John Weigelt, the CTO of  Microsoft Canada, and Jim Harris, a disruptive innovation speaker and best-selling author.

NATI is a non-profit organization that represents the province's advanced technology sector.

“Together we will inspire participants to create opportunities to accelerate innovation and make new connections,” said Rickward.  

“An innovative and collaborative business culture is a key factor in the province’s future prosperity.”

You can read the full schedule, as well as register for the events here.

Resson Raises $14M; Mahindra Leads

Jeff Grammer: ' For us, it's an opportunity to get closer to some of the hardware vendors.'

Jeff Grammer: ' For us, it's an opportunity to get closer to some of the hardware vendors.'

Resson has raised a $14 million round of funding led by Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra. This is the Fredericton AgTech company’s second eight-figure funding round in two years.

Resson issued a statement today saying Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra, which employs more than 200,000 people in over 100 countries, will invest in the company for the first time.

The other investors in the current round are return investors, who previously contributed in the company's last round, a US$11 million (C$14 million) fundraising in June 2016. They are: Monsanto Growth Ventures; McCain Foods Ltd.; Build Ventures; Rho Canada Ventures; New Brunswick Innovation Foundation; BDC Capital; and East Valley Ventures. (Though the last round was raised in US dollars, the current round is priced in Canadian dollars.)

“Each of our strategic partners has offered us something different,” said Executive Chairman Jeff Grammer in an interview. “In the case of McCains and Monsanto, it was a strong agricultural background. In the case of Mahindra & Mahindra, they are the world’s No. 1 supplier of tractors. For us, it’s an opportunity to get closer to some of the hardware vendors and see new developments in technology.”

Said Rajesh Jejurikar, President of Mahindra's Farm Equipment division, in a statement: “Agriculture is an increasingly technology-intensive business, and Resson’s precision farming solutions will help growers get more yield from every acre. We are delighted to join McCain Foods Limited and Monsanto Growth Ventures as a strategic partner of Resson.”

With this funding, Entrevestor estimates Atlantic Canadian startups have raised close to $50 million already in 2018. The major fundings this year include McCain Foods (a member of the Resson investment group) putting money into TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture of Halifax, as well as substantial rounds by Proposify, Appili Therapeutics and others. To put that in perspective, Atlantic Canadian startups raised a total of $66 million in equity funding in all of 2015, just three years ago.

Co-Founders Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl established Resson five years ago to create software that would assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system that gathers data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in fields, and aerial drones flying over fields. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in the field and what actions need to be taken.

Proposify Raises, Says ARR Roses 121% Last Year

Resson’s breakthrough came when they signed McCain as their first customer and were able to improve the yield of the company’s potato crop. Resson booked revenues of $1.4 million in 2017, according to a recent regulatory filing by Mahindra & Mahindra. The filing also said the company may buy as much as 10 percent of Resson for up to $6.8 million.

Grammer said the Indian company has identified “precision ag” as a key strategic market and has been developing a relationship with Resson for some time. Resson still had cash left from its last funding round but sees the current fundraising as an “opportunistic round.”

Resson still has not had a full commercial launch though it has been working on pilot projects with partners in four different countries and cultivating several different crops.

“Certainly, we’ve done a lot of work on potatoes with McCain and they’ve been a tremendous partner,” said Grammer. “We’re furthest along with potatoes, and the reason is the support we’ve received from McCains. … They’ve been the ideal early partner.”

Resson has also been working in such crops as spinach, table grapes, tomatoes, cotton and lettuce. Grammer said the company’s focus in the coming year will be on these crops, and it may add new specialty crops and new geographies.

“McCain has a proud history of advancing agricultural practices in potato growing and we remain committed to this approach," said McCain President and CEO Max Koeune in a statement. "Our desire for continual improvement fuels our ongoing drive to partner with leading-edge technology companies such as Resson, to create breakthrough innovation in agricultural technologies and set new standards for efficient crop production.”

Resson now has 50 employees, most of them in Fredericton, and the new funding will mean it will be adding staff, said Grammer.

Bereda Training Raises $250,000

Dennis Cottreau

Dennis Cottreau

Having booked hundreds of customers for its athletic training platform, Bereda Training of Halifax has closed an initial funding round worth $250,000.

CEO Dennis Cottreau said in an interview last week the company has raised $100,000 from Innovacorp, and the remaining $150,000 from three angel investors it met through the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic. They are Halifax businessmen Wade Dawe, Tom Hickey and George Armoyan, all of whom are fellows at CDL-Atlantic.

Just as the funding closed, Cottreau and his co-founder Blake Pucsek learned that they had graduated from CDL-Atlantic -- no mean feat, as a significant proportion of the participants are weeded out during the half-year program. Bereda will attend the CDL Super Session in Toronto in June, which will feature graduates from across the country. 

The funding round came about, Cottreau said, largely because the company was able to demonstrate that even its initial product has attracted an unexpectedly large number of customers.  The number of customers is now “in the hundreds”, he said. 

“We launched a significant product update at the start of October and we started running more Facebook ads, and the result we were getting really exceeded our expectations,” he said. “Our product really is quite minimal . . . This was the first product on the way to what we envisage.”

Given that customers paid even for the MVP, Cottreau concluded: “It’s that traction that showed there is a problem to be solved here.”

Bereda Training, which has been a resident in Volta Labs since last summer, has developed an online training platform that automates the training plans that coaches prepare for endurance athletes (runners, cyclists, triathletes, etc.). It greatly reduces the time it takes for coaches or self-coached athletes to customize the training schedule over the course of a year. It allows them to build highly customized training strategies that can take into account hectic schedules and things like injuries or holidays.

Read About Harbr Landing Funding from CDL-Atlantic Fellows, Innovacorp

The company grew out of the frustration its founders (both elite athletes) felt with the inflexibility of existing platforms. Cottreau was a semi-professional cyclist for two years and CTO Pucsek was the captain of the Harvard University rowing team.

The reason Cottreau describes the current product as a minimal tool is it only tracks weekly performance. What he and Pucsek are working toward is a platform that allows athletes and coaches to track each workout, then apply that daily data to assess weekly or monthly analyses.

With the money they have now raised, they plan to increase the size of their development team and produce the next-generation product. The goal is to have it out in the autumn.

Meanwhile, Cottreau also wants to expand the marketing channels the company uses. The main channel so far has been ads on Facebook, and he is increasing the business development role to reach customers through other channels.

One interesting facet of the fundraising is that Bereda met its angel investors through CDL-Atlantic. The East Coast offshoot of the University of Toronto startup program is nearing the end of its first cohort. (The last meeting between companies and their mentors in Halifax will be held Thursday, after which the top companies will be selected for a national event in Toronto.)

One goal of the program has been to position its fellows to invest in startups they mentor. That’s starting to bear fruit. Bereda Training and Halifax-based Harbr, which works in predictive analytics for the construction industry, have both announced funding rounds that included investment from CDL-Atlantic fellows.

Cottreau also said the cohort has been a great experience, and he’s glad it was a demanding course that frequently challenged participants.

“In the first round, I think it could have gone a lot better, but it was great because I got to hear all these great mentors and business people,” He said. “Going from Session 1 to Session 2, I got to answer a lot of the fellows’ questions and learned a lot. . . . For that sprint I worked with [investor and mentor] Patrick Hankinson, who continues to provide fantastic mentorship to Bereda.”


Disclosure: Innovacorp and CDL-Atlantic are clients of Entrevestor.

Orenda’s FinTech Pitch Sparks Leads

Tanya Seajay: 'We've been moving quite aggressively to keep our momentum going.'

Tanya Seajay: 'We've been moving quite aggressively to keep our momentum going.'

When the Boston-based FinTech Sandbox held its Demo Day for Wall Street bigwigs in New York last month, there was only one Canadian company presenting, and it hailed from Sydney.

Tanya Seajay, CEO of Orenda Software Solutions, made the presentation before the crowd that included 300 executives from major American financial institutions. [Check out the video.] Within a day, she was fielding inquiries from people in the audience.

“It led to 30 very strong leads and other leads that filled up our pipeline and we’ve been moving quite aggressively to keep our momentum going,” said Seajay in an interview last week.

Orenda set out three years ago to develop a reputation analysis technology that analyzes in real-time the public perception of an organization. As would be expected, it monitors social media but it also looks at such other sources of opinion as traditional media, comment sections, and blogs. Orenda’s technology can place words in their social or cultural context to filter out the ambiguity in online content and get a more accurate understanding of what people are posting.

The technology applies numerical metrics to emotions, connections and associations with the brand, allowing the corporation to understand in real time its reputation with the general public or specific niches.

Sydney's Bid Tasker Plans To Launch Soon.

After winning the Cape Breton region in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition in 2016, Seajay moved to Toronto, where the company was enrolled in the IBM Innovation Centre. She says the move allowed her to be closer to corporate customers, and the company now has operations in both Toronto and Sydney. It is also now working with the MaRS Discovery District to develop its business, and it was accepted into the FinTech Sandbox in Boston.

“What that [the move to Toronto] gave us was greater access to the market, which gave us a greater understanding of the market,” said Seajay. “The market has shifted and we were able to have an understanding of that shift.”

The company is now using its emotion analysis to assess perceptions of publicly traded companies, and other tradable goods like cryptocurrencies. Using this data, Orenda can be used to predict whether the value of stocks or cyptocurrencies will rise or fall. It can cover 12,000 to 15,000 equities and Seajay said the movement of its ratings system is strongly aligned with stock price movements.

The system is also effective in determining how the values of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will move because so much of their fluctuation is based on sentiment. At the Paris Fintech Forum last year, Seajay met a European institution interested in cryptocurrencies, which led to a pilot in the blockchain-based money.

With eight employees based in Sydney and Toronto, Orenda now has more than 12 customers and is working at signing the companies in its pipeline after the New York event.

As for raising capital, Seajay seems lukewarm on the idea.

“We have not raised funds yet,” she said. “It’s something we were considering as we scaled up. But it’s quite an effort and we are more interested in getting sales from our customers.”

EhEye’s Crowdfunding Goal: $200K

EhEye aims to raise $200,000 through its crowdfunding campaign

EhEye aims to raise $200,000 through its crowdfunding campaign

There have been a couple of setbacks at EhEye, the Fredericton company that has built a gun detection software to enhance public safety.

After a significant loan fell through, the company is hustling to raise $200,000 through a crowdfunding campaign.

“We’ve got 21 months in innovating and are in the right exact place we need to be in to protect people and we cannot get the support we need,” said James Stewart, the CEO of EhEye.

EhEye’s software is able to detect people and weapons through visual recognition technology and alert security teams to potential threats, saving valuable time during a crisis.

In its second round of funding, EhEye raised $800,000 in investments from organizations like the National Research Council. However, in order to fully access the $800,000, the company needs to drum up $200,000 in equity financing.

“The equity funding for us is difficult because we’re a different type of innovation,” said Stewart.

“The investors want to know how are you going to make or save people money, and public safety is different. How do you quantify public safety? The province invested $53 million into innovation but because that follows equity, a company like ours cannot access it.”

When it comes to product validation, EhEye has piqued the interest of globally recognized security brands and was selected as one of six startups to travel to Vienna, Austria for a tech startup conference. Recently EhEye set up a booth at a trade show in Toronto and attracted quite a crowd, according to Stewart.

“People were blown away in Toronto, they said our tech was like something out of a movie,” said Stewart. “We see the validation and the pull we’re having in different public safety organizations. The organizations that are looking at us are household brands, they are recognizing the need.”

Stewart says he is having trouble catching the eyes of investors in Atlantic Canada.

“I think our problem is we’re in a location that doesn’t have a public safety problem. We’re knocking on everyone's door but everybody says we're not going in unless you have equity investors and we’re getting there but we’ve kind of had the wheels blown off the bus with the bridge loan collapse.”

You can donate to EhEye’s GoFundMe page here.

16 Startups To Pitch at Volta Cohort

The judges and winners of the first Volta Cohort in November.

The judges and winners of the first Volta Cohort in November.

Volta Labs has announced the 16 companies that will pitch for a chance to win $25,000 in investment at the second Volta Cohort Pitch Event on May 16.

As many as five companies will receive $25,000 in investment, mentorship and resources. The Halifax startup house launched the pitching event late last year to help provide promising startups with initial funding. Five companies received funding at the first event.

“When we launched Volta Cohort, the goal was to accelerate the growth and success of startups in Atlantic Canada,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “It’s been exciting to watch the current Cohort companies progress. The program proves that, when given the opportunity and resources, founders can fast-track growth and increase their likelihood of success from right here in Atlantic Canada.”

The second pitching competition will take place May 16 at 5:30 at the Kenneth C. Rowe Hall at Pier 21. Tickets are available here.

Volta received 58 submissions for the event. Applicants were narrowed down to a shortlist of 25 companies and 16 were selected to pitch – one more than the initially planned 15 finalists. As well as finalists from the Halifax area, two are from Cape Breton and one is from St. John’s. In a sign of how the Halifax startup community is moving, one quarter of the companies are in the OceanTech sphere. 

The selected companies are:

Talem Health Analytics, Sydney – Talem Health Analytics is a healthcare technology company that uses machine learning to predict outcomes in musculoskeletal rehabilitation, providing financial and rehabilitation insights for private sector insurance.

Hydrotroniks, Chéticamp – Hydrotroniks is designing electric drives for commercial fishing vessels and leisure boats to provide those involved in the commercial fisheries, from harvesters, to processors, to consumers, with more sustainable economies and environments.

Grey Lit, Halifax – Grey Lit is a knowledge mobilization platform that increases access to grey literature by allowing members to publish and share their research while nearly instantaneously searching for and reviewing the research of their “True Peers” around the world.

Tranquility Online, Halifax – Tranquility Online is a Software-as-a-Service solution that uses the gold standard therapy approach for anxiety: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Quantum Link, Halifax – Quantum Link is developing an app to link community members with local providers of goods and services.

ColourSmith Labs Inc., Halifax – ColourSmith Labs is creating North America’s first direct-to-consumer contact lenses that restore a full spectrum of colour in red-green colour blind individuals.

Marine Footprint Solutions Inc., Halifax – Marine Footprint Solutions partners with existing clean tech firms to adapt their innovative emission reduction products for marine use.

Commlet Technologies, Sydney – Commlet Technologies uses GPS tracking bracelets and an innovative app to offer a user-friendly solution for real-time positioning tailored to the education and child care industries.

National Digital Solutions, Halifax – National Digital Solutions, described as the Kayak for the financial services industry, provides software solutions for the financial services industry and Independent financial advisers.

eOceans Research and Consulting Inc., Dartmouth – eOceans Research and Consulting Inc. aims to be the Fitbit/Strava for the more than 100 million passionate global ocean explorers, including divers, sailors, boaters, surfers, and fishers.

Knack, Halifax – Knack is on a mission to save retailers money by increasing new hire speed to proficiency, employee retention and overall employee performance by streamlining the employee on-boarding and training experience.

NovaSpectrum Analytics Inc., Dartmouth – NovaSpectrum is creating a suite of tools using vision-based platforms and machine learning with the goal of becoming a leader in real-time automated marine animal identification for commercial applications in aquaculture, seafood processing, marine resource management and research, and tourism.

UAV Control Tower, St. John’s – UAV Control Tower has developed a drone monitoring system used by air traffic controllers to approve, manage and record drone flights., Halifax – allows NGOs to fundraise through the power of the internet to reach a broader audience by providing them with an online platform to sell e-tickets for a raffle-based fundraising event.

Speakr, Halifax – Speakr develops digital tools that provide constructive feedback for verbal and non-verbal communication by allowing users to analyze data on their voice and body language and see how it compares to others (through data sets only, in a confidential fashion), to help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses and provide a means of training over time.

Neothermal Energy Storage Inc, Halifax – Neothermal Energy Storage is addressing the high cost of indoor heating with an innovative electric thermal storage heater for residential supplemental heating. This new appliance, best suited for oil and electrically heated homes, uses Time-of-Day electricity rates to lower heating costs by up to 50 percent.

Jobs: CSR at Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson, a Halifax Software-as-a-Service company, is searching for a Customer Success Representative in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Its platform, Vision, provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the online traffic of their photos and videos. The CSR would help train potential customers during a trial period with its software.

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 posting:


Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

As a Customer Success Representative, you will be one of the founding members of our Customer Success team who will work to help our customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the lifetime value of Dash Hudson customers. As with all other roles, we marry automation and smart tools with a high touch human component to deliver great service. Providing customers with a great experience is at the root of everything that we do.


  • Work closely with the sales team to support, train, and engage with potential customers during trial periods.
  • Deliver training content to potential customers.
  • Work with Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times.
  • Assist with the setup of new accounts, and specific requests.
  • Engage with customers to nurture existing relationships and gather feedback and intelligence.
  • Answer customer questions via Intercom and/or email in a timely manner.
  • Provide customers with solutions and advice by leveraging insights tools and features within the Dash Hudson platform. . . .

Apply for the job here.

4 Groups Take Home Kira Awards

Fredericton's SomaDetect Captured the Most Innovative Startup award

Fredericton's SomaDetect Captured the Most Innovative Startup award

Four companies or organizations were recognized for their leadership in innovation in New Brunswick on Thursday, receiving Kira awards at the 20th annual presentation of the awards.

The Kiras, which recognize success in New Brunswick’s knowledge industry, were held as planned even though the St. John River was rising to record levels within sight of the Fredericton Convention Centre. New Brunswickers this week are talking of little else, but it did little to dampen the enthusiasm at the gala.

The organizers also announced that Ignite Fredericton, which has organized the awards for the past two decades, will hand the oversight of the Kiras over to the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in future years. NBIF already hosts major celebrations of innovation on alternating years: R3 recognizes leading researchers; and Breakthru is a competition for the leading new startups in the province.

NBIF Chair Cathy Simpson said after the dinner that her organization still has to decide whether the Kira galas from on will be blended with the R3 or Breakthru events, or whether there will continue to be two innovation events each year.

Here are the 2018 Kira Winners:

Innovation Champion Award:


The Fredericton-based group is the association of life sciences innovation in New Brunswick and now works with more than 40 companies. In accepting the award, Executive Director Meaghan Seagrave said biotech grows out of the province’s traditional industries and called for greater cooperation among the various sectors in innovation. “Life Sciences can’t exist without IT,” she said. “And IT can’t exist without our traditional industries.”

Most Innovative Product or Service:

Blue Roof Distillers Ltd.

Based in Malden in South-Eastern New Brunswick, Blue Roof makes premium vodka using potatoes that would otherwise be discarded as waste. The company grew at a farm that has belonged to six generations of the Strang family, dating back to 1855. Head distiller Devon Strang said Blue Roof produces vodka – and more recently gin – of the highest quality and purity, and provides a locally made and superior product compared with the mass-market “water mixers”.

Most Innovative Startup:


Fredericton’s SomaDetect has developed hardware and software for dairy farmers. Its technology scans raw milk with a laser beam, scanning the fat content and somatic cell count as each cow is milked. This provides data that can point to the presence of mastitis, an udder disease, as well as measure the quality of the milk. In accepting the award, Director of Deep Learning Bharath Sudarsan thanked a range of supporters and partners, singling out New Brunswick’s farmers. “They have taught us everything we know,” he said.

Premier’s Award for Innovation:

Treasury Board, Government of New Brunswick

The Treasury Board is overseeing the provincial government’s efforts to digitize all government services. The government recently unveiled a five-year digital strategy that would allow residents to access information and government services from mobile devices. The province aims to provide New Brunswickers with digital ID cards, consolidating information from such documents as their drivers’ licenses, Medicare and hunting or fishing permits.

The winner of the People’s Choice Award, voted on by people attending the dinner, was Family Medicine New Brunswick.

Students Aim To Aid Stroke Rehab

Manar Alamri, left, Hayam Mahmoud-Ahmed and Batlah Alnemer are finding new ways to help stroke patients. (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

Manar Alamri, left, Hayam Mahmoud-Ahmed and Batlah Alnemer are finding new ways to help stroke patients. (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

A team of three Dalhousie University neuroscience students is planning to conduct clinical trials in Saudi Arabia for the device they’ve built in a robotics course at the university.

Hayam Mahmoud-Ahmed, Manar Alamri and Batlah Alnemer completed Dal’s Creator Series, an entrepreneurship program for students to design and build hardware. The three women have built a sleeve wired with electrodes to help victims of strokes regain motor skills in their arms.

“Some electrodes will detect muscle activity, and the other ones will administer electrical stimulation,” said Mahmoud-Ahmed.

By harnessing electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) and electromyography (EMG) technology, the team hopes to build a finished prototype for stroke rehab by the end of the summer.

“Often, stroke patients can’t get their arms back to 100 percent,” said Mahmoud-Ahmed. “They can get their legs working, get them walking and running back to 100 percent. But their arms, with stroke patients, it’s very slow progress and usually patients can’t get back full function.”

Alnemer said this project is very close to her heart. She watched her own father suffer from two strokes and, for years, saw his struggle to regain motor function in his hands.

Though they call their product Saied, which translates to ‘help’ in Arabic, the women aren’t set on a business name yet. But they plan to incorporate into a business this month and start clinical trials in Saudi Arabia in December.

“There is a lot more red tape here. Even trying to get patients from physiotherapists is hard,” said Mahmoud-Ahmed.  

Alamri and Alnemer are both natives to Saudi Arabia and plan to travel back home to test the product with physiotherapists and occupational therapists, with whom Alamri has leveraged personal connections.

Through the Creator Series, the team received initial funding of $1000 to start the project then an additional $1500 at the end of Dal’s RADIANT (Rehabilitative and Diagnostic Innovation in Applied NeuroTechnology) program, which is where the group came together four months ago.

At the end of the program, each group of students presented their products to the class, the Saied team ended up winning for ‘most outstanding pitch’ and will have their names engraved on a trophy.

The women were also quick to add that they received an A+ for their final grade in the course.

Their prototype is still very rudimentary in its design, so the team is looking to bring on an electrical engineer this summer to help hone what they already have built in school.

"With the stroke patients we’ve interviewed, we found that they don’t want the world to know,” said Mahmoud-Ahmed. “We want to have a very sleek design and have all summer to mess around with the prototype.”

In a time when so many people in the community are encouraging women in tech entrepreneurship, it’s worth noting that the Creator Series at Dal was led by two women, Mary Kilfoil and Cat Adalay, and at the demo day two weeks ago more than 70 per cent of the presenters were female.


Disclosure: Launch Dal is a client of Entrevestor and Cat Adalay is the daughter of Entrevestor's owners. 

6 Startups Join COVE’s Startup Yard

The Start-Up Yard at COVE is welcoming its first cohort.

The Start-Up Yard at COVE is welcoming its first cohort.

Six companies will be joining the inaugural cohort of Start-Up Yard at COVE, the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurshipin Dartmouth.

The early-state ocean companies, whose businesses range from rescuing endangered marine life to advancements in underwater communications, will receive $25,000 in non-dilutive funding and access to mentoring, workspaces, workshops and experts through the incubator.

Overseen by the provincial innovation and venture capital agency Innovacorp, Start-Up Yard is an incubation facility and accelerator that provides resources to companies in energy, marine and fisheries industries. The program will run for six to nine months, hosting workshops and bootcamps on customer discovery, intellectual property and product development.

The companies in the cohort are:


Having previously received funding through Dalhousie’s Launch Oceans and Launch Dal’s Collide programs, Aaron Stevenson, Maxwell Poole and Ross Arsenault have created a solution that can not only help fishermen, but also help prevent death of an endangered species. By equipping crab and lobster traps with geo-tracking and underwater buoys to collect data, fishermen can locate lost or stolen traps and eliminates entanglement of right whales. “When you look at what we have for resources, it’s no contest,” said Stevenson. “Our oceans and our harbour – that’s something we can’t take for granted. It’s something we have an advantage of over anywhere else in the world.”

Atlantian Acoustics

Specializing in underwater communications, Colin Ross and Tejinder Sandhu are looking to improve signal transmissions between Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, which tend to be sporadic and unreliable since they’re often operating in harsh environments. “Being able to connect and communicate between submerged assets is going to be a critical component for the expansion of effective AUV operations,” said Ross.


Louis Beaubien, Grant Wells and Mike Smit are developing a technology solution to improve supply chain efficiency in the ocean sector. With organizations drowning in mass amounts of data, the goal is to help them tap into the value that data holds, which organizations may find difficult to retrieve. “We would like to have something in place in terms of a prototype by the time we finish with our engagement with COVE and the Start-Up Yard,” said Beaubien.

Happy Fish Technologies 

St. Francis Xavier University alumni Sheamus MacDonald and Aleksandr Stabenow are collaborating on a traceability system for the seafood and fisheries industry, targeting the live lobster industry. By eliminating waste and decreasing mortality through real-time condition monitoring, it allows harvesters to take better care of their catch and provide a higher quality product to the public. “Through our experience in commercial fishing, we know where some of the fragmentation is, so that’s what we’re looking to correct,” said MacDonald.


Ulaş Güntürkün is using his research on fifth-generation cellular communication technology and physics to create an underwater communication system that will deliver information, even in the harshest conditions. Said Güntürkün:  “The big advantage of our communication system is that it will be truly eco-friendly since we are reducing the transmission power to 10 per cent of what is currently the industry standard. In other words, we are making a lot less noise underwater.”

Maritime bioLoggers 

Co-founders Franziska Broell and Andre Bezanson developed a tagging device to monitor and track the movement of marine life while working with Dalhousie University’s Ocean Tracking Network. Once a tag is attached, it collects and stores data that can be used to measure an animal’s activity and underwater behaviour. Broell brings a high level of expertise to her product and believes Nova Scotia is the best place to expand her startup. “There are so many great resources here. There’s really no other place in Canada like this,” said Broell.


Disclosure: Innovacorp and Dalhouse are clients of Entrevestor.

Innovacorp’s 2018 Spark Competition

Submissions are now open for the 2018 Spark Innovation Challenge

Submissions are now open for the 2018 Spark Innovation Challenge

Applications are now open for the 2018 Spark Innovation Challenge, a Nova Scotia-wide competition for early-stage technologies companies.

Last year, Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency awarded up to $800,000 to 18 different companies across four regions in Nova Scotia. The goal of the competition is to support high-potential, innovative solutions in the province.

Companies can receive up to $50,000 in non-dilutive funding as well as workshops and one-on-one sessions with seasoned professionals. In last year’s competition, each of the winning companies received no less than $25,000.

Last year’s winners included FinLeaf Technologies and Axem Tech, which have since gone on to grow into bona fide companies.

FinLeaf is the research development partner of Aqualitas, a hydroponic grow company and the third licensed producer of cannabis in Nova Scotia. Axem, a tech company in Halifax, recently travelled to China to build its beta prototype.

Innovacorp first began the Spark competition in Cape Breton years ago, and gradually it grew into a provincial competition, replacing the biennial I-3 Startup Technology Competition.

To apply, entrants must submit a 5 to 8 page business summary online by May 22.

You can read more about and apply for the competition here.


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Surround Shower Wins Retail Contest

When the New Product Design Competition was held in Halifax in April, the winning prize of $11,000 went to Surround Shower, a team that aims to add comfort and enjoyment to showering.

Founded by St. Mary’s University commerce students Logan Inglis and Evan Higgins, Surround Shower is a dual-head shower fitting that lets you enjoy streams of hot water from two directions. The product has a standard head that fits on to a shower outlet, and a second head that uses an industrial-strength suction cup to mount on the facing wall. (Check it out on this video.)

“We split the water flow to two shower heads, bringing the luxury of multiple shower heads to the everyday consumer without having to redo plumbing,” said Higgins last week. “Surround shower does not use any excess water and it does not have less water pressure compared to a modern shower head.”

In early April, Surround Shower was one of 32 teams to enter the New Product Design Competition offered by The Spark Zone, the sandbox (or entrepreneurial education facility) shared by six Halifax educational institutions. The student teams are charged with producing a consumer product, and the winners receive some money to help with the launch.

As the month progressed, the number of competitors fell until there were four teams competing for the top prizes. Surround Shower captured the top spot, which meant they received $10,000 plus $500 for each team member. The runner-up was a team called Go Sonik, which has come up with a chemical-free product that keeps fleas and ticks off pets.

Bid Tasker Plans To Help Homeowners Find Workers for Odd Jobs

Now the Surround Shower team has set its sights on trying to bring their product to market. They are working on a business model in which the product would have a retail price of $79.99. However, they want to ensure the product features a really strong and durable suction cup, so the overall price could rise if they find the cost of suction cups exceeds their expectations.

Their plans are fluid but Higgins said the duo is considering producing 250 units and selling them in the Halifax market through August. That would prepare the ground for a launch at the Montreal Fall Home Expo in October.

Another option they are considering is crowdfunding Surround Shower to bring in more development capital and increase the product’s profile. The team is due to meet with Michael Sanderson of SMU’s Business Development Centre, who has been encouraging them to consider a Kickstarter campaign.

One issue they have to tackle is how to protect their intellectual property, and Higgins said some of their prize money would be used to consult a lawyer on IP protection.

Meanwhile, Higgins and Inglis are also focusing on their academics. Inglis is graduating this month with a degree in commerce, major in finance. He now works at Dartmouth Dodge in a marketing position. Higgins is due to graduate in December with a bachelor of commerce, major in marketing. Part of their education was learning to start a business through the New Product competition.

“It provided some sort of a skeletal model on how to get a business going,” said Higgins, reflecting on the competition. “Usually you have a lot of ideas that don’t go anywhere and it was really cool to take a business idea and see how far we could run with it.”


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

Side Door’s Successful First Year

Dan Mangan plays at a house concert (Photo: Scott Munn)

Dan Mangan plays at a house concert (Photo: Scott Munn)

Side Door Access, a Halifax company that's building a network of hosts for private house concerts, is celebrating its growth by moving into spanking new offices in the expanded Volta Labs on Barrington Street.

CEO Laura Simpson's home in the North End has been the venture's home during its first year.

The company's first-year milestones include hiring more staff, making strides in developing its technology and organizing more than 130 house shows across Canada, including for Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta!

In terms of funding, the company raised around $200,000 from friends, family, angel investors and Innovacorp, and an additional $100,000 through the Creative Industries Fund and a non-profit called FACTOR.

With over 400 artists signed up for its services, Side Door is building its technology to manage customer growth. The next phase of product development is a software that would automatically match a host to an artist.

“Our sort of ‘secret sauce’ is to match a host with an artist like a Tinder-style match,” said Simpson. “Someone can say, ‘I really dig jazz music and have a space for seated concerts, have a dog and can only do afternoon events,’ and we’d go out and send you options that meets that criteria.”

Side Door took on a full-time developer in February to build the automatic booking portal and, according to Simpson, he’s been burning through the “scaffolding” of the software, simplifying the matching and booking process.  

Simpson also runs The Syrup Factory, a Halifax house concert venue, from her home. She said it’s Side Door’s mission to ensure that intimate concerts at small venues benefit the performer.  

The company generates revenue through ticket sales, which hosts set at a $15 dollar minimum. Side Door ensures that 80 to 90 percent of the revenue goes back to the artist.

“Usually the artist is the last to get paid,” said Simpson. “They’ll pay out the merch person, the door person, the venue gets a cut, the sound guy gets a cut, you have to pay gas and by the end of the day the artist is the last.”

Simpson said she wants to start bringing in acts outside of music, like stand up comedy or theatre performances. She said Side Door is hosting a live podcast tour for the Polaris Music Prize in Hamilton, Ontario.

She said the industry is changing and artists rely on making money through live shows. She hopes her business can help offset those overhead costs.

“The money isn’t there in the industry anymore, artists can’t make money off of record sales like they used to.”

5th Cohort for UNB Summer Institute

The 2018 Summer Institute

The 2018 Summer Institute

Seven ventures ranging in scope from the fashion, food and automobile industries have been accepted into the University of New Brunswick’s Summer Institute.

The three-month startup accelerator is run out of the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship.

“Narrowing the businesses down from 106 applications was an incredible amount of work” said Joe Allen, Managing Director of Accelerator Programs for TME in a statement. “But we are thrilled with the results and feel each business has great potential.”

TME’s new accelerator team consisting of Joe Allen, Program Manager Melissa O’Rourke, and Operations Coordinator Luke Robertson, will be leading the program this year. 

“The Summer Institute has risen the bar each year with its programming and this year will be no different” said O’Rourke. “The program has expanded into a new space in downtown Fredericton and we are excited to host participants from around the region and the world.”

Dr. Dhirendra Shukla will continue in his role as Chair of the TME Centre. Shukla is focused on finding new ways to grow the centre. He is considering a possible PhD program in entrepreneurship, as well as additional programs for more mature companies or expanding the Energia accelerator

Previous Summer Institute participants include Wear Your Label, a clothing company that has received international media attention over the past year and even appeared at New York Fashion Week. 

The accelerator kicked off on April 28th and will conclude on July 20, with a final demo day on July 19. The ventures accepted into the 2018 program are:

Potential Motors- Fredericton, New Brunswick

Engineering students, Nick Dowling, Issac Barkhouse, Sam Poirier, and Mike Barnhill are developing  a method that quickly and cheaply converts gasoline-guzzling vehicles into electric-powered ones. The team, which retrofits car engines with different modules to reduce fuel consumption, sees market potential in Europe.

D.A.S Concrete Countertops -Moncton, New Brunswick

Founders Emma Theriault and Yannick Theriault are building Atlantic Canada’s first large-scale concrete countertop manufacturer.

Eggcitables -Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Hannah Chisholm has concocted a chickpea vegan egg replacement that can be used to make omelettes, scrambles, and other egg-based meals. In January the company won $10,000 cash at the third annual 100 Seeds Atlantic pitching competition.

Educated Beards- Fredericton, New Brunswick

Alicia Philips and Kevin Lebouef  will grow their business that offers natural and organic beard-grooming products. 

Modern Maternity Boutique - Fredericton, New Brunswick

Founder Keshia Matthews, is creating an online shop to provide functional, comfortable, affordable, yet stylish clothes for women who are expecting.

Wildland Organics-  Los Angeles, California

Daane Griffeth and Marisa Griffeth are travelling to New Brunswick to grow their company that sells natural skincare and haircare products

Tücy -  Truro, Nova Scotia

Chris Cameron is starting an east-coast inspired, streetwear fashion brand. He is designing unisex outerwear for young folks in the Maritimes.

NB Adds $5M to NBIF Funding

The government of New Brunswick announced today that it is investing a fresh $5 million this year to support research and graduate students with its New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) funding

The statement released today announced a $11.4 million investment. A government official said that $6.4M had been announced last year.

“This boost in investment is incredibly welcomed and promising,” said NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury in the statement.

“Research does the often-unseen legwork required before any innovative product or service can launch. These funds are critical for the recruitment and retention of the brightest minds in Canada and help us build the capacity to do world-class research.”

Today’s announcement means that NBIF gets a $5 million per year increase in the budget from the previous fiscal year.

“RIA funding afforded me the opportunity to stay in New Brunswick to pursue a Masters degree in electrical engineering,” said Katie Wilson, a UNB alumni in today's release.

“Because of that, I got a job here as a project officer at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering. The funding allowed me to do research in an area I'm passionate about - myoelectric prostheses - and I was able to see the real-life impacts that my research was having on the amputees that came into the clinic.”

Today’s release follows a string of funding announcements from New Brunswick. Last week, it announced it will spend $53.5 million to boost innovation, research and development in the province.  


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

Bid Tasker Plans To Launch Soon

Bid Tasker links homeowners and workers who do odd jobs

Bid Tasker links homeowners and workers who do odd jobs

A Cape Breton entrepreneurial team with an exit under its belt plans to launch a new online product that helps homeowners find people to perform odd jobs.

The company, Bid Tasker Mobile Applications, features entrepreneurs Donald Hanson, his cousin Darren Hanson and Chief Technical Officer Todd Chant. The two Hansons previously headlined a company called Coretech, which they sold in 2015.

Now they hope to launch Bid Tasker in the next few months, first in Atlantic Canada and then across Canada. In an interview, Donald Hanson said the team is buoyed knowing that they have already been through the complete startup cycle with Coretech, which they sold in 2015.

“The very first thing that it does is it gives us the confidence that we can do it successfully,” said Hanson. “We can move forward with the confidence that we have a product that is the right one and we can take it to market.”

He admitted that the two projects are markedly different. Coretech developed a software tool that helped oil and gas companies record the findings of core samples produced in exploration. It was a business-to-business play, with a narrow market. With Bid Tasker, they will have to capture clients among two populations – homeowners, and the workers that perform jobs.

Full Plate To Help Seniors Eat Well

As well as receiving support from the Cape Breton startup community, Donald Hanson also noted the support he personally has received as a Mi’kmaw entrepreneur and a member of the Membertou First Nation.

The genesis of Bid Tasker dates back to a time when Darren Hanson – the ideas guy in the partnership – was working in the oil patch out West and needed jobs done back home in Cape Breton. He wished he had an online or mobile tool that could help him find handymen or trades people at home.

The resulting product is similar to online tools found in other markets, like Task Rabbit in the U.S. and Air Tasker in Australia. Donald Hanson said there is only one competitor now in Canada, a Western Canadian business, and Bid Tasker is a more open system, allowing the participation of all forms of workers.

What Bid Tasker will do is allow homeowners to post the jobs they want performed – say, a window repaired or the lawn mowed – and suggest a price. A range of workers can bid for the task, providing a quote. Once the site has been going for a while, the homeowners will be able to see ratings of the workers, allowing them to make an informed decision on who to pick.

“Think of it as a hybrid between Kijiji and eBay,” said Donald Hanson. “You just log in and can post any sort of job.”

He admitted that the team faces a challenge in getting word out to both sides of the market. The solution will involve a combination of word of mouth (essential in the early stages), traditional and social media. He’s even preparing to go through the local Yellow Pages and call workers to tell them of the new service.

“We see it as a very busy year for us,” he said. “For the first quarter of the launch, we’re going to stay with Atlantic Canada and make sure it works perfectly. Then we’ll hit some of the larger centres across the country and continue to develop.”

Stockport Shareholders OK Sona Deal

Darren Rowles

Darren Rowles

The shareholders of Halifax-based Stockport Exploration have approved the company’s merger with Sona Nanotech, completing another step in the merged company’s path to a stock market listing.

The companies on Friday released a statement saying the Stockport shareholders voted 99 percent in favour of the merger last Thursday. The meeting was attended by 18 Stockport investors, as well as employees and board members from both companies.

Halifax-based Sona Nanotech, which produces gold nanorods, agreed last year to merge with publicly listed mining concern Stockport Exploration and raise about $700,000 in a private placement. The merged company will focus solely on Sona’s core business of producing gold nanorods. If the deal passes all the relevant regulatory requirements, the parties say it should close within the next few weeks, paving the way for the listing on the TSX Venture exchange.

“We see the vote as also being a vote of confidence in our ambitious plans for Sona,” said Sona CEO Darren Rowles in the statement. “This merger will give Sona a strong and stable financial foundation from which to build our brand in the life sciences market.”

Sona was formed by St. F.X. University profs Gerrard Marangoni, Michael McAlduff and Kulbir Singh to commercialize their research in nanotechnology, which includes health-care applications such as cancer treatment. The founders discovered a way to produce gold nanoparticles free of a toxic substance called cetrimonium bromide, or CTAB.

The rod-shaped nanoparticles are known to have uses in several tasks associated with medicine, such as diagnostics, but traditional methods of making the microscopic particle create toxic substances in the process. The company’s founders believe absence of the toxic substance makes Sona’s nanoparticles ideal for a range of medical applications.

Having recently recruited Rowles from Wales, Sona also recruited a new nanotechnology scientist and is recruiting a new business development manager. It plans to hire up to five new members of staff in total by the end of 2018.

It now plans to relocate its facilities and team to the Halifax-Dartmouth area from Antigonish, and is actively looking for new premises.

Talking startups with Katelyn Bourgoin

Katelyn Bourgoin discusses why her last venture failed and mental health

Katelyn Bourgoin discusses why her last venture failed and mental health

It’s been just over a year since Katelyn Bourgoin folded her company Vendeve, a skill-swapping platform for female entrepreneurs similar to LinkedIn. She sat down with Entrevestor to discuss her latest venture, founder burnout and why her company failed.

“I think my glasses were a bit rose-coloured about how easy it would be to raise those funds,” said the Halifax-based serial entrepreneur and growth marketer.

“That was a big lesson learned.”

Bourgoin fell into the pit many founders wind up in--building a product with no real market demand.

“There were too many best guesses rather than validating and talking to customers. Customer research often gets pushed to the side because it takes a lot of time. And for a lot of (founders), time is their most valuable resource,” Bourgoin said.

As a marketer, Bourgoin is obsessed with customer research. She now works for herself as a growth strategist and trains her clients in the importance of customer discovery, helping them avoid her past mistakes.

She said the questions founders ask their customers are often riddled with personal bias and false assumptions.

“I did 400 interviews before starting Vendeve,” she said. “I felt very confident that I checked all the boxes and asked all the questions but I realized, after the fact, I was unintentionally biasing those interviews.”

To help other founders avoid that bias, Bourgoin has teamed up with Colin Deacon to offer a series of workshops for early-stage companies on customer growth. Through Digital Nova Scotia, Deacon and Bourgoin are presenting a two-part series on leveraging customer data. One of the workshops has already occurred, the next is scheduled for May 15.

Bourgoin also spoke about the challenges of being an entrepreneur, specifically challenges with mental health and burnout. She said there are high expectations in startup culture.

“In a high growth company the expectation is that you’re going to grow extremely quickly and the only way you can sustain that growth is building the right product the first time, which rarely happens, or by being gifted in raising venture capital. It’s a ton of pressure.”

While she ran Vendeve, Bourgoin was working 100-hour weeks and rarely took a break.

“Even when you’re not working your brain is always trying to solve that problem, and that’s celebrated in startup culture and I don’t think it should be,” she said. “I think it makes people sick and for a while I thought I was the one that was failing because I wasn’t able to maintain that hustle but now I recognize it’s a problem.”

It’s been said that one in three entrepreneurs suffers from mental health issues. Bourgoin said that, even within the community where the stress is festering, she found a world of support.

“I wasn’t afraid to ask for help and say I was struggling and I think a lot of people are afraid to admit that, and they shouldn’t be. Every time that I would put it out there to advisors or stakeholders or just friends from the startup community, I was greeted with nothing but support.”

NB Outlines 5-Year Digital Strategy

N.B. making residents' information accessible

N.B. making residents' information accessible

MONCTON – The government of New Brunswick announced Friday a five-year digital strategy that would allow residents to access their information and government services from “any device, anywhere, at any time.”

Treasury Board President Roger Melanson said the province aims to be the first jurisdiction in North America to provide government services digitally. The strategy is a piece of a larger plan announced Wednesday, ahead of Innovation Week April 29 to May 5.

“The digital strategy is a piece of the entire strategy for innovation,” Melanson said. “By embracing a digital platform, New Brunswickers will have direct access to personal health information and will be able to use technologies that will improve communications between patients and their caregivers.”

The province aims to move New Brunswickers to one digital ID card, consolidating information from documents like their drivers’ license, Medicare and hunting or fishing permits. Other services could also be digitized. . . . 

Read the full article on Huddle. 

AVSS To Be OEM for Drone Makers

When the 2018 Fundica Roadshow kicks off in Montreal on Tuesday, one presenter will be a one-year-old New Brunswick company that is quickly making a name for itself for safety standards in the drone industry.

Founded by Josh Ogden of Rothesay, NB, and Josh Boudreau of Ottawa, AVSS is developing hardware and software to improve the safety of autonomous aircraft. The company’s main product so far is the Connected Recovery System, which is like a black box for drones connected to a parachute, which can deploy if the system senses trouble. AVSS is already working with a major Canadian drone operator, which has a fleet of several hundred drones across the country.

“This company started with the question of what happens when a UAV drone crashes,” said CEO Josh Ogden in an interview, using the trade name for an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle. “We’re putting all these devices in the air, but there are no safety standards yet. … The industry is moving so fast that regulators are having trouble keeping up with performance standards.”

Pitching at the Fundica Roadshow is just the latest badge of honour for a company that got going only a year ago. Ogden was best known in the New Brunswick startup community as one of the founders of Castaway Golf, the company that won the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition in 2015. He moved on from Castaway and teamed up with Boudreau. They spent “two years looking at various ideas with Steve Blank methodology” before deciding that drone safety was the market to be in.

Kognitive Spark Attends Plug and Play in the Valley

It’s no secret that the use of drones is growing strongly, but what the two Joshes discovered is that the industry and its regulators have had trouble developing standards for safety, tracking and other issues. It's a problem. The Ontario Provincial Police were using a $130,000 drone in a search and rescue operation last year when it vanished, never to be seen again. Six people in Japan were recently hospitalized when a drone crashed in a crowded area.

AVSS’s Connected Recovery System uses data to sense when a drone is having problems and deploys a parachute if the machine is going down. The founders are working on new products to improve safety and tracking of the machines, and want to become an original equipment manufacturer that will supply drone makers. They hope for a full launch in the fourth quarter of 2018. The company now employs the two co-founders, who are aided by contractors and advisers. It plans to raise full-time staffing to 12 by year-end. 

The plan is gaining attention. In January, AVSS partnered with the Institute of Drone Technology in Australia to design, build and distribute the system.

“This is a key development in the drone technology space,” said Institute CEO Joel Spence in a statement. “For governments, the safety system gives comfort against the inevitability of mechanical failure in built-up areas. [And] the ability to independently verify the locations of drones opens up a huge number of possibilities for governments being able to safely and effectively manage their airspace.”

Earlier this year, AVSS closed a small funding round with local angels in New Brunswick. The company also participated late last year in the Investment Opportunities Program offered by Springboard Atlantic and Invest Atlantic. The program took Atlantic Canadian companies to Toronto to meet investors, and Ogden said some Toronto investors have committed to the next funding round, which it hopes to close soon.


[Editor's note: I boobed last Thursday in writing that BluelLight Analytics of Halifax is the only Atlantic Canadian competitor in Fundica this year. AVSS, a new company I wasn’t familiar with, was also on the list. The organizers on Friday also added ProcedureFlow of Saint John, which we’ll profile later in the week.]

Jobs of the Week: NBIF, CAA

The two postings in our Jobs of the Week Column today both come out of New Brunswick from widely recognized organizations. One in Fredericton is with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the other is in Saint John with the Canadian Automobile Association’s Atlantic division, CAA Atlantic.

The NBIF is an independent nonprofit that fosters innovation and research in the region. Since 2003, the organization has invested over $85 million into innovative New Brunswick companies. Last week it announced the province's commitment to invest $53.5 million into New Brunswick innovation. Today, it is seeking a Marketing Administrative Assistant.

CAA Atlantic, which serves 236,000 customers across the region, is looking to hire a Director of Innovation to report directly to the President and CEO of the division and help lead new opportunities to keep CAA Atlantic relevant in a changing world. CAA provides Canadians with a range of auto services, like roadside assistance.

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 postings.


New Brunswick Innovation Foundation

Marketing Administrative Assistant

We are looking for a Marketing & Administrative Assistant to join our organization. You will play an integral role in fulfilling the mandate of NBIF by ensuring exceptional customer service delivery and actively supporting our marketing and communications activities.


  • Support the management team in the delivery of exceptional customer service
  • Serve full cycle reception functions and operate as first point of contact for guests including the answering/filtering of all incoming inquiries
  • Represent the firm professionally in written and verbal communications
  • Assist in the content creation and management relating to the corporate website and marketing materials, including social media (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) and other marketing automation tools (e.g. MailChimp, Hootsuite, Survey Monkey)
  • Assist with promotional activities

Apply for the job here.

Saint John

CAA Atlantic

Director of Innovation

In this newly-created role, you will be the thought leader who will research, validate, and introduce multiple new innovative solutions to CAA Atlantic.

As Director of Innovation, you will provide insight and lead strategic opportunities to ensure that CAA Atlantic continues to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world. Your work will allow the organization to provide value to its current, as well as, future members and customers, with an innovation mindset at the core of all offerings…


  • Maintaining an idea management platform that facilitates the submission, evaluation, and development of a pipeline of innovative new idea submissions from various organizational sources.
  • Initiating and facilitating periodic ideation/brainstorming sessions for ongoing concepts development to fill CAA Atlantic’s funnel of product innovation opportunities.
  • Leveraging existing, as well as, emerging product development methodologies and frameworks (e.g. Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Six Sigma) to ensure CAA Atlantic’s innovation model is optimized for best-possible performance organizationally.
  • Finally, you will act as the champion for an Innovation mindset. Collaborating with a diverse group of internal stakeholders, your leadership will be key to evolving our culture to ensure CAA Atlantic is a place where innovation is identified and embraced as essential for the continued long-term success of our business.

Apply for the job here.

Nicole LeBlanc Joins Sidewalk Labs

Nicole LeBlanc

Nicole LeBlanc

Nicole LeBlanc is moving on from BDC Capital.

The New Brunswick native sent out an email Thursday night saying she would be joining the investment team at Sidewalk Labs. That’s the Alphabet Inc. unit that's conducting a huge experiment in urban development in Toronto.

LeBlanc, who previously worked for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and First Angel Network, will begin her new position on Monday.

“My focus will be on the Toronto project and I will continue to stay connected into the tech community, with a focus on sustainability, mobility, connectivity, energy, and other related fields,” said LeBlanc in the email.

Based in New York City, Sidewalk Labs is an urban innovation company owned by Alphabet Inc., the company that owns Google. Since last year, it has been working with Waterfront Toronto to develop a “live-and-work district” on 12 acres of former industrial land on the eastern end of the city’s lakefront. The goal is to combine design, technology and input from citizens to create a new exemplar of urban living.

LeBlanc joined BDC in Toronto as Associate Director of Strategic Investments and Partnerships. Last year, she became director of Director of Strategic Investments and Women in Tech. She was a force behind BDC’s investment in several Atlantic Canadian companies, including Swept, Eigen Innovations and HeyOrca. For the past two years, LeBlanc has served on the board of Propel ICT

Before leaving the Maritimes, she had been the Director of Investment at NBIF. She also spent time working as an investment analyst with FAN while her husband Philip LeBlanc attended NSCAD University in Halifax.

In her email, LeBlanc bid adieu to her boss Michelle Scarborough and the team at BDC Capital, saying they will continue to help improve the startup ecosystem.

“Michelle and the team are building out a number of interesting new initiatives that will be implemented over the next few years that will continue to support and build not only great companies, but the ecosystem as well.”

NB To Spend $53.5M on Innovation

The province of New Brunswick will invest over $50 million to boost innovation

The province of New Brunswick will invest over $50 million to boost innovation

The Government of New Brunswick announced on Wednesday it’s spending $53.5 million to foster innovation and boost research and development in the province.

“This investment is a big boost for innovation and will enable NBIF to support and nurture even more research and startup ventures in New Brunswick”. said Calvin Milbury, President and CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in a statement.

“Continued investment like this is essential to enable our innovators to turn their ideas into enterprises that impact and grow our economy.”

In December, Premier Brian Gallant announced New Brunswick would up its funding to the NBIF by $10 million over the next five years, which represented about a 20 percent increase in funding.

NBIF is a private, not-for-profit corporation that supports startups in New Brunswick and fosters research and development. In the previous year, NBIF spent close to $14 million to help boost the province’s innovators.

This week’s announcement was paired with the release of the New Brunswick’s Innovation Agenda and kicked off Innovation Week, a celebration of New Brunswick innovation, which starts this Sunday.

The agenda identifies six main points that need attention in order to grow innovation and research and development. The six goals are: grow innovators, boost R&D capacity, commercialize, start and scale enterprises, foster innovation spaces, lead the cybersecurity agenda in Canada and to become a smart province.  

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor. 

KRS Wins Dutch Safety Contest

Josh and Angus Poulain (Photo by Jennifer Lee)

Josh and Angus Poulain (Photo by Jennifer Lee)

Keeping Roads Safe, the company that is designing a software to keep drivers off their phones while behind the wheel, won first place during a pitching competition at Intertraffic Amsterdam, a worldwide annual exhibition for the traffic and mobile safety industry in March.

This win has led to the Halifax company forming significant partnerships in European markets and piloting its product with key industry partners.

Angus and Josh Poulain, the father and son duo behind Keeping Roads Safe, took part in the first-ever Intertraffic Startups Pavilion (ITSUP) competition, where they beat out four other startups in the automotive safety industry.

“Part of the show is about technology and how technology can improve safety, so we took part in the challenge” said Angus Poulain. “By winning that we won a partnership with the Dutch government and they agreed to do a pilot project in the Netherlands to figure out how they can roll out the product for its citizens.”

The product, called DriveCare, is a mobile app that disables users' phones while they’re driving. The app also tracks routes, times and whether or not a driver is trying to access their phone while on the move.

Sensys Gatso, a worldwide provider of traffic safety and management solutions sponsored the exhibition. It will also be piloting DriveCare.

“And if they like what they see over the next three months they’ll roll it out to the rest of their customers,” said Poulain.  “We’re on a good road. This gives us confidence that our product works and we’re getting to where we want to be.”

A Peek Inside Volta's New Digs

As a result of all its success in Europe, Keeping Roads Safe plans to expand its offices to the Netherlands and do a hiring spree that will triple its staff in the coming months. Poulain said he wants to do more business development in Europe, while developing the software in Canada.

“We’re going to have a European focus and we’ve been courted by the Dutch government to open an office as a European centre base, so we’re pretty excited about that,” said Poulain.

He said the market for traffic safety innovation is more progressive in Europe, pointing to connected cars, vehicles that interact with city infrastructure like street lights, road lanes and speed limits, as examples. 

“The thinking there is more advanced and they’re very progressive with road safety and their citizens,” said Poulain. “We’ve been in the Netherlands three times now and the only accident we saw was two cyclists colliding.”

The DriveCare solution is now patent-protected in 150 countries and has evolved from a hardware solution to a software. The product works via an app on your phone and connects to the bluetooth in your car. The company still has its hardware component for older vehicles, without bluetooth.

Poulain has plans to go back to the Netherlands in two weeks to “put ink to paper” regarding the pilot projects. In the meantime, Keeping Roads Safe has some big deals on the table as it nears a close to its first round of funding here in Halifax.

Full Plate To Help Seniors Eat Well

Jay McNeil:

Jay McNeil: "The opportunity is for us to assist the home care agency."

Many seniors wish to age in their own homes but struggle to buy and prepare the food they enjoy. To address this, a new grocery delivery service, Full Plate Care, will soon be piloted in Cape Breton.

Full Plate Care will begin an eight-week pilot in May in partnership with Loblaws and two home care agencies: The Cape Breton Homemaker Association and VON Cape Breton

The pilot will source 100 families from its home care partners and use Loblaws' click and collect program so patients, families or helpers can place their grocery orders online through the Full Plate app and have a member deliver the groceries and put them away.

“For those aging in place with minimum homecare supports our service could be as basic as ensuring difficult packaging is removed, freshness seals popped, and everything stored away where they like,” said founder Jay McNeil. 

“For most home care clients though, the opportunity is for us to assist the home care agency in delivering on their meal preparation commitments to their client families.” 

McNeil said at-home caretakers and VONs normally prepare at least a meal a day for clients but they are not responsible for ensuring food is in the residence. Full Plate Care would eliminate the worry of not having favourite staples in the pantry.

Peachy To Help Seniors Live at Home

“Those are the low-level barriers that the medical field identifies as healthy indicators of aging at home, nothing else changes and that’s super important,” he said.

“It’s also about more than just food and meals, it’s about personal hygiene and pharmacy products, household cleaning supplies, and everything that’s needed to support the client as they age in place at home.” 

McNeil said it’s important that seniors continue to eat the foods they enjoy. 

“You look at services that deliver a healthy meal to your door, and as the son who lived away from an aging parent, I was super excited about that until I realized my mother still wants instant mashed potatoes and fried bologna and not asparagus with a blue cheese vinaigrette reduction. In her aging in place she’s not going to change her consumer patterns.”

After winning $31,250 through Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation Challenge in November, Full Plate conducted a mini pilot and narrowed its customer demographic from a personalized grocery service open to all, to deliveries for people who are aging in place.  The long-term goal is to build an app that would inventory and manage grocery orders.

McNeil said that if he had started programming on day one, he would have built a solution that wouldn’t fit what the market now appears to need.

McNeil previously worked at Newcap Radio in Fredericton, where he was a morning host and sales and marketing manager.  He knew his own venture would take careful time and planning to address customer needs.

“Because of my marketing background, I’m obsessed with the customer,” said McNeil. “When I got into sales I watched a ton of businesses build the store they wanted to work in rather than the one customers wanted to shop in, so I just came into this with a stubbornness to rigorously test all of the assumptions.”

McNeil said the Atlantic provinces need to better serve their aging populations. He said Cape Breton is the perfect sandbox for anyone who is testing a product or service for this growing demographic.

BlueLight To Attend Fundica Event

BlueLight Analytics, the Halifax company that helps dentists cure fillings properly, appears to be the lone Atlantic Canadian competitor in the Fundica Roadshow this year.

The organizers on Wednesday announced the 18 companies that will pitch at its event in Montreal on May 1. The list includes BlueLight.

The Fundica Roadshow is an annual competition open to startups from across the country, with a cash prize being given to the winner from all the roadshows. The prize this year is a maximum of $500,000 in cash.

The organizers this year have announced pitching events only in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and offered to cover the travel costs of three companies not based in those cities. Atlantic Canadian companies could apply for one of these packages to attend the Montreal event, and BlueLight was the only company accepted.

Growing out of research at Dalhousie University, BlueLight began about eight years ago to solve a problem with the lights dentists use to cure resin. These lights vary greatly, and each model has to be used for just the right amount of time to cure the resin properly.

BlueLight developed the checkMARC system, which can test and identify the efficacy of a dental office’s curing lights. It has partnered with industrial giant 3M Corp. to greatly expand the startup’s sales power in the U.S.

Last year, the Fundica Roadshow brought together over 150 startups, 2000 attendees, 132 funders, and 125 partners, making it the largest pitch competition across Canada. The 2017 competition included a stop in Halifax, at which the regional winner was Halifax-based Grey Lit Matters.

This year, the pitching competitions will be head in Montreal on May 1, Vancouver on May 31 and Toronto on June 28. As many as 20 entrepreneurs will be selected to pitch in each city. The top pitchers in each city will win prizes and an invitation to the Finale in Montreal on July 12. The winner of the Finale will have a chance for investment of up to $500,000 from Panache Ventures.

NouLAB Tackles Immigration Issue

With New Brunswick facing the double threat of an aging and shrinking population, the NouLAB project is working to devise new strategies to attract and retain immigrants.

NouLAB is a social lab overseen by the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick and New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network. It is owned and driven by citizens and aims to tackle the big problems the province is facing. NouLAB has helped teams working on issues ranging from aging to rural revitalization and to housing for people with complex needs. Now it is working on immigration.

“New Brunswick is facing a crisis. By 2032, there will be one retiree for every person earning income in New Brunswick,” Karina LeBlanc, executive director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre at UNB, said in a news release.

“We need a new path,” added Leblanc, who is also interim acting director of the Social Policy Research Network. “The province is looking to immigration to attract new people to live, work and contribute to the community. But how do we do that in ways that help ensure success?” 

NouLAB launched the first cycle of its Economic immigration Lab last fall. More than 30 participants representing government, private sector, non-profit and citizens provided input on eight projects. A summary report can be found on the website.

The group recently began the second cycle.

“Participants from the first cycle on economic immigration formed strong, lasting partnerships leading to actionable solutions,” said NouLAB director Amanda Hachey. “In this second cycle, participants will be working to answer the following questions: How might we shorten processing times for international recruits for New Brunswick employers? How might we fill pending nursing shortages with newcomers? How might we improve community infrastructure to be more welcoming to newcomers?”

A social lab consists of a series of workshops designed to fully understand an issue and then develop innovative, actionable solutions that are tested right away. By bringing together the knowledge from diverse groups into one room, all perspectives are shared and more holistic responses to complex challenges can be achieved.

In addition to the NouLAB work, New Brunswick will host the Atlantic Immigration Summit in Moncton May 23 and 24.  

AVF Begins To Unveil Speakers

The Atlantic Venture Forum, which will be held in just over two months, is rolling out its list of speakers for the conference in Halifax.

The speakers include financing expert David Brennan, innovation leader Jim A. Gibson, SkipTheDishes Co-Founder and CEO Josh Simair, and Techstars Vice-President of Network John Hill.

The sixth annual AVF, which will take place June 28 and 29 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian founders and investors from inside and outside the region. The organizers are still looking for applications from startups interested in presenting at the event. Early- and growth-stage companies can apply here by Friday.

Each AVF includes a range of speakers, and so far Critical Path Group, which stages the event, has lined up the following to speak:

David Brennan

With more than 30 years of experience in accounting, finance and investor relations in several industries, Brennan is an expert in raising significant capital and attracting talent. As the current Chief Financial Officer at Ecobee, he has recently completed a capital raise of $50 million, for a total of over $130 million in financing. 

Jim A. Gibson

After 30 years in technology, Gibson is an advocate of “paying attention” to what’s coming and providing concrete examples of how we can all be leaders and role models for change. The author of Tip of the Spear will challenge the audience to understand and respond to a new world that sees infinite possibilities meeting serious global problems head on.

Josh Simair

After leaving a career in banking, Simair went on to co-found the largest restaurant delivery network in Canada, SkipTheDishes. Founded in 2012, SkipTheDishes ranked fifth on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list in 2017 and reporting 10,969.6% revenue growth from 2013-2016. Now in over 30 markets across Canada and the U.S., the on-demand food delivery network was recently acquired by Just-Eat in 2016 for more than $200 million.

John Hill

The VP of Network at Techstars is charged with supporting and growing a global network of tech entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. In his career, Hill left Michigan State University to become the Higher Education Evangelist at LinkedIn. Then he moved on to Techstars. Hill believes “changing the world” can be more than hyperbole.

Bay Area Talent Mulls Canada Move

A trip to San Francisco last week included a few meetings with startup entrepreneurs and the discussions inevitably turned to one topic — immigration.

This subject is never far from the minds of senior teams in growth-stage companies in Atlantic Canada. But it isn’t limited to the East Coast of Canada. It’s woven into the fabric of startup life everywhere. If you run a high-growth company, you’ve educated yourself in the ways to attract the best possible expertise.

Innovative companies live on two things — capital and talent. The need for capital can be eased over time by increasing cash flow, but the need for specialized talent is insatiable. And the people with specialization, especially in high-demand fields like blockchain, robotics and artificial intelligence, show a willingness or eagerness to go where they can find the best opportunity.

For our lifetime and the foreseeable future, those opportunities are concentrated most heavily in Northern California. (According to Angel List, there are about 33,000 startups just in Silicon Valley, compared with 13,000 in all of Canada.) The Bay Area is something akin to Rome in the ancient world. It’s the place all ambitious tech people, including Canadians, long to be. This is a global yearning as brainy people from every country in the world have at least considered trying to get to Silicon Valley.

Kognitiv Spark Attending Plug an Play in the Valley

But things began to change 17 months ago. Donald Trump was elected president and the whole dynamic started to shift. Northern California is still the promised land but more and more people are questioning whether to move there, or anywhere else in the U.S. Some are worried about tighter immigration policies and some just don’t want to be part, however tangentially, of contributing to a country whose current administration they dislike.

Canada, it seems, is becoming an attractive alternative.

“Canadian companies are not only staying in Canada, but using new high-skill immigration programs to compete for talent on the global stage, and compete successfully,” said Sean Lynch, one of the Canadian-born entrepreneurs I met last week. “There’s an opportunity for Canadian companies now to pull the great talent, that would have historically migrated to the U.S., to Canada instead. We’re seeing it with tech startups; we’re seeing it with research.”

A Saskatoon native and U Waterloo grad, Lynch is the founder of The Eh List, a support network for Canadian founders in the Bay Area. The group has regular events and in the last month it did something for the first time: it had a briefing co-hosted with the Canadian Consulate in San Francisco on immigrating to Canada. The event was well attended, including entrepreneurs and tech specialists from the U.S. and — most important — other countries. Expats from around the world are arriving in Silicon Valley and showing an interest in moving on to Canada.

It’s an opportunity for Canadian companies, including those on the East Coast. Word on the street is people are most interested in moving to Vancouver or Toronto, but many are considering the opportunity more than the city. Atlantic Canada has growing companies that can compete in this race for talent.

Digital NS To Host Creativity Seminar

Anne Stieger

Anne Stieger

Facilitator and design expert Anne Stieger will conduct a two-session seminar on Fostering Creativity and Effective Ideation in Halifax starting May 16.

The seminar, hosted by Digital Nova Scotia, will show participants how to increase and harness the creativity of their staffs with the goal of developing better innovation.

The organizers note that a recent Ipsos Canada found 88 percent of Canadian executives said empowering staff to be more creative was a crucial factor in creating a prosperous work environment.

“By using creativity techniques, playfulness, and good facilitation in everyday meetings, any team can increase their creativity, lead effective brainstorming sessions, and push the envelope with truly innovative solutions,” said the notice.

With a master’s degree in education, Stieger has worked as a facilitator and trainer in Nova Scotia and Europe and teaches at Acadia University. She has facilitated design thinking sessions for social innovation and led brainstorming sessions for creative projects at Cool Ideas Society Germany.

The DNS sessions comprise a training day from 9 am to 3:30 pm on May 16, and a check-in and feedback session from 1 to 3 pm on June 15.   

The cost to Digital Nova Scotia members is $118 per participant or $228 for a team of three co-workers. For non-DNS members, the price is $598. You can register here.

A Peek Inside Volta’s New Digs

The Volta staff is jumping for joy over the new space.

The Volta staff is jumping for joy over the new space.

Last weekend, a team of movers descended upon Volta Labs in Halifax to start moving the tech hub into its new 60,000 square foot home in the Maritime Centre. Its resident companies are now settled into their new offices, while construction continues on the other wings.

"This is an exciting time for Volta," said Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta. "Our new space, which is the largest innovation hub outside the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, allows Volta to be the growth catalyst for Halifax’s technology community."

The new Volta offices take over the ground, mezzanine and second floors of the 19-storey office building, tripling in size from its old space. This huge expansion is the result of more than $4 million in funding from the Canadian and provincial governments and the rise of the Atlantic startup region.

“Volta’s growth is a result of the growth in the Halifax entrepreneur ecosystem that continues to build momentum, making this province a great place to build a globally competitive company,” said Rodgers.  “We are looking forward to providing more resources to innovators across Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada,”

The funding will also support operational costs related to the expansion over the next three years.

The lobby, located right on the Barrington street level, will serve as a reception and an open co-working space that will encourage residents and new founders to collaborate. The mezzanine level hosts the cohort companies as well as smaller-stage residents. Manifold and Swept, two of Volta’s bigger companies, take over most of the second floor.

“You would literally be moving up,” said Sahil Ahuja, Volta’s Events Coordinator. “Founders can bounce their ideas off people in the lobby level, then join the cohorts on the floor above that, and then if they grow even more, there is space in our larger offices on the second floor.”

“We should all get fitbits,” said Krista White, the Programs Director at Volta, during a tour of the new facility.

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.

The grand opening of the new facility will be in September. Said White: “We need to make sure all the artwork is on the wall first.”

Jobs: Dash Hudson and Remsoft

There are three postings each from Dash Hudson in Halifax and Remsoft in Fredericton in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing company for content creators. Its AI-powered software, Vision, helps its corporate clients grow brands on Instagram by finding its best images and receiving real-time recommendations for future posts. Dash Hudson has three postings this week: it’s looking to hire a Sales Analyst, Sales Development Representative, and an Account Executive to its growing team.

Remsoft, a predictive analytics software company, has openings for a Data Architect, a Business Analyst and a Web Developer. Remsoft’s solution helps its clients in the forest industry increase land value by analyzing forests' age, growth, and the market value of the lumber. This company has been providing land optimization software to businesses since the early 1900s.

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 experts from this week’s postings:


Dash Hudson

Sales Analyst

As a Sales Analyst, you love working with numbers and are capable of recognizing patterns in data sets. You’re integral to the success of our sales team as you will proactively identify trends in our processes and work to optimize them. Forecasting, analyzing, and tracking are words you live for...


  • Track the data and numbers throughout our sales process, ensuring that our metrics are always up to date.
  • Provide opportunity and threat analysis reports to identify obstacles in the sales process, as well as recommendations for how to overcome them.
  • Work with HubSpot to implement and manage sales reports and dashboards.
  • Prepare presentations and reports that analyze our sales performance. Be ready and willing to discuss your findings with the team.
  • Provide weekly, monthly & quarterly reports on team performance…

Apply for the job here.

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

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…


  • 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…

Apply for the job here.

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

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. The most important thing we need from you is this: You want the challenge and opportunity to sell a leading product in a rapidly growing market.You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out ...


  • 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…

Apply for the job here.



Data Architect

The successful candidate will provide data architecture expertise in support of Remsoft Solution implementations and participate in the development of application systems and technical solutions, focusing on new/enhanced data structures. This includes database logical and physical design, BI design, design and overview of data requirements…


  • Designing and developing the data architecture for a project, in the context of the client's overall system architecture.
  • Provide technical data analysis, database, and BI expertise and advice on projects and technological initiatives.
  • Working with clients to design and develop a data integration approach between on premise data systems and Remsoft Cloud-based product offerings.
  • Monitoring and supporting the development of the system's data to ensure it is compliant with the data architecture, and refine the data architecture as required…

Apply for the job here.


Business Analyst

Remsoft is seeking an enthusiastic, positive and self-motivated Business Analyst to join its Product Innovation Team. We are currently in the early design stages of a multi- phased development program that will see the release of a series of cloud-based products over the coming years. Working closely with product and engineering teams during early SDLC phases, the successful candidate will play a key role in helping to define the business requirements for these products…


  • Develop and document statements of requirements for considered alternatives
  • Perform business analyses of functional requirements to identify information, procedures, and decision flows
  • Evaluate existing procedures and methods, identify and document items such as database content, structure, application subsystems
  • Define and document interfaces of manual to automated operations within application subsystems, to external systems, and between new and existing systems
  • Translate business requirements into systems design and specifications…

Apply for the job here.


Web Developer

The Full Stack ASP.Net Developer will have the opportunity to grow, learn and expand their career, while making an immediate positive impact on the business and its offerings to Remsoft's global clients. We are currently seeking a highly enthusiastic, positive and self-motivated individual who cares deeply about delivering high-quality software in a tightly knit team environment in our Fredericton, NB office…


  • Develop, test and support custom web applications
  • Resolve and troubleshoot problems and complex issues
  • Participate in sprint planning sessions
  • Remain up-to-date on developments and enhancements in web development tools and technologies
  • Share expertise and knowledge with other Remsoft team members to assist them in their client facing efforts…

Apply for the job here.

Kognitiv Spark in Plug and Play

Having booked sales of more than $1 million in less that a year, Fredericton-based virtual reality company Kognitiv Spark has now entered the Plug and Play accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Kognitiv Spark offers an augmented reality solution to help the military and industries with training or instructing remote workers using complex equipment. The company released its RemoteSpark product last August, and in just eight months the team has made sales in such markets as: aerospace and defence; manufacturing; engineering and construction; and oil and gas.

Its new updated product is expected to be out in a couple of weeks, and CEO Yan Simard said the sales process is fairly smooth because clients need a device that can instruct workers in remote locations.

“The market is already looking for a solution that offers what we do,” Simard said in an interview from Silicon Valley, where he is attending Plug and Play. “We don’t really have too much trouble explaining the product to people.”

Founded by Ryan Groom and Duncan McSporran, Kognitiv Spark lets the trainee or remote worker use an augmented reality headset as a training aid or instructional guide.

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For example, if a soldier or worker in a remote location encounters a problem with heavy equipment and has to fix it himself, he can contact an expert back at home base. Donning the headset, he can still see the real equipment but he can also see a holographic image of the piece of gear floating beside it. The expert at home, also wearing a headset, can use the holographic image to show the remote staff member how to fix the equipment. He can draw arrows on the image to show the worker precisely what part he is talking about.

In selling the product, Kognitiv Spark has been working in partnership with Microsoft, whose HoloLens holographic visualization headset is the hardware. With the sales effort accelerating, the company is growing. It recently hired two more people, bringing its total staff to 11. Simard expects the staffing numbers to double in the next 12 months.

Kognitiv Spark recently closed a round of funding from angel investors and is hoping to raise a larger round in the near future. In the year ending March 2017 (the most recent data available), the company received $200,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The company’s time in the Plug and Play accelerator is helping its sales and funding efforts as Simard is getting to hobnob with potential funders and customers he wouldn’t normally meet. There are 156 companies in the current three-month Plug and Play cohort, which focuses on business development, and the organizers say they accepted only two per cent of the companies that applied.

Of course, Simard is meeting California-based companies, institutions and angels, but Plug and Play is big enough that it also attracts guests from places like Asia and Europe, some of whom could aid the company.

“I’m networking with prospective customers and investors who go through the place all the time,” said Simard. “It’s a non-stop show.”

IP Workshop by Emergence, BioNova

Charlottetown's bioscience incubator Emergence and Halifax’s BioNova have partnered to host an intellectual property workshop in Halifax for bio-sector innovators and entrepreneurs.

The seminar, scheduled for May 8, is presented by Canadian IP law firm Bereskin & Parr LLP Intellectual Property Law and will discuss different types of IP rights, including trademarks, copyright, trade secrets and patents.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A session and the opportunity to chat with the presenters.

"In today’s increasingly hyper-competitive and global knowledge-based economy, having an IP strategy is critical to protect a venture's value proposition, help define a company's key points of differentiation, and offer protection to a startup's competitive advantage," said Emergence Director Martin Yuill.

The talk starts at 9 a.m. at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax. You can register for the event here.  

Adaptiiv, CIVCO Ink Distribution Deal

The executive team of Halifax-based Adaptiiv, fresh with a recent round of financing, is attending an international radiotherapy conference in Barcelona this week to announce a new distribution partnership.

Formerly known as 3DBolus, Adaptiiv is a company that has been gaining notice in Halifax biotech circles for a couple of years, even though it just released its first public statement this week. The company has developed software that works with 3D printers to produce a personalized bolus — a plastic fitting used in radiation therapy.

Adaptiiv has launched three different products, booked sales in six countries and raised almost $3 million in equity funding. Last week Adaptiiv announced it had signed a distribution agreement with Iowa-based CIVCO Radiotherapy, which will give it sales representatives in all main districts of North America.

“This is a special company,” CEO Peter Hickey said in an interview Tuesday before jetting off to the Estro Conference in Spain. “When I was first approached by the team I initially thought, ‘This isn’t for me,’ because I was in IT. But the team, especially (board member) Bruce Ross, kept driving home the point that this is a software play. It was one of those cases where I fell in love with the company.”

Hickey is best known in the community as a serial entrepreneur in the IT space, most recently for being the CEO of Oris4, which shut down two years ago. In Adaptiiv, he’s teamed up with James Robar, chief of medical physics at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and director of medical physics graduate programs at Dalhousie University, and serial tech entrepreneur Alex Dunphy.

What Adaptiiv does is revolutionize the use of a bolus in radiation therapy. A bolus is a piece of plastic placed over the cancerous area, assuming the tumours are close to or in the skin. The radiation hits the bolus, builds up and then is transferred into the tumour.

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There can be no air pockets between the bolus and the skin, which complicates matters given that every body is unique. Hospitals using the Adaptiiv product buy a system that includes 3D printers with special filaments, so unique boluses customized to each patient can be printed within seconds. They can be reused as the patient receives repeated radiation dosages. Or if the patient’s body shape changes over the course of multiple treatments, the medical staff can print off another bolus quickly.

The company has received its CE Mark certification, meaning it can sell into several countries including members of the European Union. It already has clients in the U.K., Ireland, Israel, Australia and Canada. It has applied for its 510k approval in the U.S. and Hickey said it hopes to receive approval “soon.”

Adaptiiv recently closed a round of funding which included investment from Alexander Capital in New York, an investment boutique that makes direct investments and rounds up angel investors to back companies. Hickey said Adaptiiv has now raised almost $3 million and is planning a larger raise once it receives its 510k approval.

Adaptiiv has three products in the market, including one that helps to prevent healthy organs from being damaged during radiation therapy. With nine employees (soon to be 12), the company continues to develop new products.

“We have a pipeline with some really great innovation,” said Hickey. “That’s what we are. We’re a Nova Scotian-based innovation company that’s producing solutions to problems that people haven’t solved yet.”

GIT Mulls New Graphene Products

Marciel Gaier, left,  and Mo Algermozi are testing new markets with their pilot program

Marciel Gaier, left, and Mo Algermozi are testing new markets with their pilot program

Graphite Innovation and Technologies has launched a pilot program to beta-test its innovative graphene coating with the aim of extending its reach into different marine-related products.

The Halifax company known as GIT has developed a marine coating out of graphene, a carbon-based material that is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity. Co-Founders Mo Algermozi and Marciel Gaier had been planning to use the coating on the hulls of boats and ships, but during a recent trip to San Diego realized it could have other applications.

“We realized that this paint doesn’t just go on ships and boats,” said Algermozi during an interview. “It goes on everything, We are now targeting any marine application where corrosion and marine growth is an issue.”

The duo conducted extensive market research and validation while on the Pacific coast and discovered that their coating, called GrapheneCoat, has multiple market applications.

“It also works for buoys, unmanned vessels or fishing traps,” said Gaier.

GrapheneCoat undercoats ships, buoys or unmanned marine exploration vessels with a hard coating that prevents corrosion and buildup and in turn, extends the life and efficiency of what it’s coating. The coating is also environmentally friendly since it doesn’t leach into the water, and reduces CO2 emissions by easing the drag of long-haul ships.   

The specifics of GIT’s revolutionary concoction are now patented. Protecting the IP of GrapheneCoat is an important business move for Gaier and Algermozi.

“That was one of the biggest milestones we needed to reach,” said Algermozi. “We have to be very selective with who we pilot with because a lot of people contact us as clients and then they want to know more about the coating itself.”

Since launching the pilot program, the duo say they are receiving a steady stream of emails and have already lined up several clients for the first month of the beta-test.  Algermozi and Gaier have also added to their team, growing their staff by about 60 percent.

GIT has received no new funding since racking up wins in programs offered by Innovacorp and COVE but it has had assistance from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program. As the pilot program continues, the company will start a pre-seed round of funding, next month.

“We already have a private investor interested; they are just waiting for us to open the pre-seed round,” said Algermozi.

The company is also currently enrolled in the Creative Destruction Lab at Dalhousie University, where the company is currently based. The team has plans to move outside of Dalhousie for the end of the summer, but still plans to keep an office at the university.

Currently, GIT is able to produce around a 55-gallon barrel of GrapheneCoat per week but the founders hope to produce seven to eight barrels per week by the end of this year.

Through a partnership with The Boat Shop in St. Margaret’s Bay, GIT is conducting its first live test on an actual boat and has recently coated its second test vessel. Though GIT started with long-haul ships in mind, the team has pivoted slightly to test the waters in other industries.

“We’re exploring what other markets and industries we can get into.”

Endiku: A SaaS Platform for Inclusion

Mike Wright

Mike Wright

In a time when all organizations face pressure to be more inclusive, Endiku has developed software that helps companies create a culture in which people of all backgrounds can thrive.

Based in Toronto and New Brunswick, the company has developed a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps organizations and their staff or members develop an inclusive culture. That can mean changing personal behaviour to ensure all team members feel comfortable and poised to succeed. It can also mean adjusting a company’s hiring process to welcome people who will work well with a diverse workforce and show the flexibility needed to change culture.

The methodology used in the platform is based on the work of Co-Founder Leeno Karumanchery, who’s worked for more than 25 years as a consultant in the diversity and inclusion space. Endiku – named for a character in Mesopotamian mythology who rid the demigod Gilgamesh of his arrogance – has adapted Karumanchery’s theories into a digital format. It means that as individuals use the platform, they develop insights into their own behaviour. When those individuals all make up a company or organization, it can lead to cultural change.

Sounds good, says the wary startup enthusiast, but can it make money? Sure can. Since it began selling the platform in March 2017, Endiku has taken on about a dozen companies or organizations as paying customers. And with that traction, the company is having discussions about raising its first round of equity financing.

“Our client base spans verticals and size because diversity right now is a subject that is very important to a lot of people,” said CEO Mike Wright in an interview last week. “We have about a dozen clients and they range from non-profits to healthcare to finance to software.”

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The kernel of the methodology is found in a passage from Karumanchery’s writing: “We are the only ones who judge ourselves based on our intent – everyone else judges us based on our impact.”

In other words, in a diverse workforce we have to be aware of the impact of our behaviour regardless of what we intend by it. By using the platform, people come to understand the impact of what they do.

When all– or at least most – members of an organization understand their impact, a positive culture can evolve, which allows the company to attract and retain better workers and improve productivity, said Wright.

Endiku now comprises five employees divided between Toronto and New Brunswick so it can develop technology on the East Coast and be close to customers in a large centre.

Wright himself has made a career out of being a Toronto-based business development executive for New Brunswick-based companies. That includes almost five years as Senior Vice-President of Operations with Bravada, the Rothesay, NB-based company that provided integration software for the insurance industry. It was purchased by Towers Watson for $15 million in 2015.

Wright and his four co-founders are experienced business people, but he is quick to credit the regional ecosystem – groups like Propel ICT and the Wallace McCain Institute – with helping them to launch a tech product.

“We’re a mature founder group,” said Wright. “We’ve all held executive-level positions, but having the opportunity to go through Propel showed us things that we haven’t seen in our other jobs.”

Ordermotive Aids Car Dealer Leads

Ryan Hartigan

Ryan Hartigan

Careful and particular are some of the words that can describe Ryan Hartigan’s approach to business.

The 27-year-old Dartmouth native founded his company Ordermotive, an automotive marketing company, while working as a market consultant at a local dealership. It was there that he saw flaws in the automotive industry, particularly with how dealerships generate customer leads.

In the automotive industry, car dealerships often generate clients and sales through third-party lead generators. This process, according to Hartigan, does not have the customer's best financial interest at heart, so four months ago Hartigan started offering market training for car dealerships.

“I wanted to change the process of car sales by basically cutting out the lead providers, who are wreaking havoc on this space,” said Hartigan during an interview. “They tell the consumer that they can avoid the dealership, but customer information is just randomly sold. I think they’re destroying the economy and creating another housing bubble in the automotive space.”

He says because so much of the leads are automated and marketing information is sold to the highest bidder, customers don't receive best deal, and dealerships sign on to riskier payback agreements.

“A finance manager can work the system and find approval for someone who should not be approved.”

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Hartigan, whose family is also in the automotive industry, says this can be avoided by bringing marketing back in-house and using the digital marketing space. With Ordermotive, Hartigan gives the dealerships back the ability to generate leads and eliminates the need for third party providers.

Like many in the startup community, this is not Hartigan’s first business venture. His past venture, BackDrop, was a software platform for DJs. After that company sank, Hartigan began doing business in a way that goes against some of the conventions in the startup community.

He sought no external funding and is generating profit from his service, all on his own. Of course, Hartigan has plans to grow his team but for now, Ordermotive is a one-man show.

“I’m in a good position to scale,” said Hartigan. “I’ve been very strategic about this.”

Hartigan’s journey through the startup world has left him critical of some aspects of the community. He says the mentality around pitching can create business ideas that often lead nowhere.

“There’s something wrong with pitching culture,” said Hartigan. “A lot of companies build a product before they can actually sell it.”

Since offering Ordermotive’s marketing service to dealerships across Canada, Hartigan says he has taken on around two clients a month.

Hartigan plans to hire a developer for a software component of the company but for now, he is focused on ensuring the satisfaction of his clients and maintaining sales. Currently, Ordermotive serves dealerships in Halifax, Calgary and Toronto.

“The dealer partners I have right now are having great results. One client generated 100 leads last month because they took Facebook leads in-house.”

Green Power Labs Receives Funding

Bedford-based Green Power Labs Inc. said this week it has attracted external investment for the first time and will use the funding to accelerate sales of its new Predictive Building Control product.

The company, which uses data to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, issued a press release saying it has received funding from Ron Omessi, though it did not reveal the amount of the investment. Omessi, who has held business development positions with a number of engineering and technological companies, has now joined Green Power Labs as Vice-President of Strategy and Business Development.

“We are delighted to welcome Ron Omessi as our first external investor,” said Green Power Labs President and CEO Alexandre Pavlovski in the statement. “His extensive global background in the energy space will be a valuable asset in defining and implementing our go-to-market strategy.  . . . His 20 years of hands-on experience with leading international companies in the renewable energy management and engineering sectors specifically in complex international operations and business development perfectly fills a gap in our team.” 

Founded in 2004, Green Power Labs has developed an international clientele for its predictive analytics product SolarSatData for Utilities, which helps power suppliers determine future patterns of energy supply based on expected changes in heat from the sun. In 2013, the company received a $2.4 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund to develop technology that can optimize energy consumption in commercial buildings.

Last year, the company launched its artificial intelligence platform Predictive Building Control, or PBC. Green Power Labs says this technology is capable of saving up to 40 percent on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning costs in large commercial buildings and that it targets a market consuming 36 percent of the world's energy.

The company also said it has hired Brent Strader, a former GE Energy Services leader responsible for its global substation automation product line, as Chief Operating Officer. He will also support the planned aggressive strategy to market and deliver the PBC product, said the company.

“Brent’s contribution is to develop and implement processes to deliver PBC to a market with 130 trillion square feet of commercial office space,” said Pavlovski. “His world-class experience in project execution and product line management at GE gives us real bench strength in achieving our objectives.”

Pavlovski also said the company will follow up on the initial investment with a subsequent round of funding. He said: “A second round of investment now in progress will accelerate our penetration in this market and allow us to become a leader in predictive energy management.”

Nanuk Markets VR to Condo Builders

The Nanuk team: CTO Diogo Farinho, left, CEO Jake Moore and COO Mike Cyr.

The Nanuk team: CTO Diogo Farinho, left, CEO Jake Moore and COO Mike Cyr.

With condo booms booming in major cities around the world, three young Halifax entrepreneurs have created a company that uses virtual reality to show prospective condo buyers when their yet-to-be-built units will look like.

The company is Nanuk Technologies and its VR system gives condo developers a cutting-edge marketing tool. Prospective buyers coming into a sales office or show suite can strap on a headset and view a condo even before it’s built.

The trio of co-founders have developed the technology and have been piloting it with a few Halifax real estate developers. They anticipate a full launch within about four months.

“We started with the most advanced virtual reality solution on the market really,” said CEO Jake Moore in an interview. “We’ve been heavily involved with virtual reality and at the moment, the solution we offer is the most cutting edge on the market.”

The co-founders of the company are gamers and current university students or recent graduates. Moore is studying computer science administration at Dalhousie University. CTO Diogo Farinho is studying computer science at St. Mary’s University. And COO Mike Cyr graduated last year with a business degree from SMU. (Cyr also launched the Nova Scotia Startup Community Facebook group.)

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As gamers, they understood the possibilities of virtual reality and have set out to build a company that aims to be the global leader in using the technology for marketing in the real estate space.

The way it works is a developer invests about $3500 in a virtual reality headset, and then contracts Nanuk to provide the VR programing. The condo developer has to supply floor plans and renderings to Nanuk, and the company can have a virtual reality presentation of a condo unit within a week.

A view can be a major selling point for a condominium, and Nanuk can even work the view into the VR presentation. The team can take a drone to a construction site, send the unmanned craft up to the position of the condo and take photos of the landscape. With these images, the viewers can get the virtual sensation of stepping on to the condo’s balcony and enjoying the view.

“One of the reasons we started doing this is we used to be virtual game developers and we saw this as the next step for this technology,” said Moore. “We love virtual reality and we wanted to see the true potential of it. We wanted to see more ways for the using it . . . rather than just playing games.”

The system helps condo developers make early sales, and that can help in getting financing to build their project. It also affords the developer a cool device to impress a prospective buyer – which never hurts in a marketing program.

The Nanuk co-founders so far have not taken on board any investment, though they’re interested in talking to real estate developers about investing. The plan for the coming year is to do a full launch in the burgeoning Halifax then move on to a larger market.

“Toronto is on the list of places to go,” said Moore. “Once the market here in Halifax has been properly displayed and opens up, then Toronto would be an attractive market for us.”

Fundica Seeks East Coast Entries

The Fundica Roadshow is looking for Atlantic Canadian applicants for its $500,000 pitching event, even though it will not make a stop in the region this year.

The organizers this year have announced pitching events only in Toronto, Montreal and Toronto, and are offering to cover the travel costs of three companies not based in those cities. Atlantic Canadian companies can apply to receive one of the travel packages to Montreal, though they will be competing against companies from other cities.

You can find applications here. The deadline for applications for the Montreal pitching session is Friday, April 20.

The Fundica Roadshow is an annual competition open to startups from across the country, with a cash prize being given to the winner from all the roadshows. The prize this year is a maximum of $500,000 in cash.

Last year, the Fundica Roadshow brought together over 150 startups, 2000 attendees, 132 funders, and 125 partners, making it the largest pitch competition across Canada. The 2017 competition included a stop in Halifax, at which the regional winner was Halifax-based Grey Lit Matters.

This year, the pitching competitions will be head in Montreal on May 1, Vancouver on May 31 and Toronto on June 28. As many as 20 entrepreneurs will be selected to pitch in each city. The top pitchers in each city will win prizes and an invitation to the Finale in Montreal on July 12. The winner of the Finale will have a chance for investment of up to $500,000 from Panache Ventures.

RovaultAI Wins China Program Event

Ehsan Lavasani

Ehsan Lavasani

RovaultAI, the Halifax company developing technology to reduce waste in shellfish processing, was the big winner Thursday night at the China Program pitching session organized by Launch Dal.

The program is designed to improve the local ecosystem by training several companies, awarding prizes to the best of them, and increasing links with the huge market in China. Eight companies were selected to pitch at an event at Dalhousie University last week.

RovaultAI, which has designed a marine camera solution that could potentially save seafood plants $2 million per year, took the first prize. It includes $2500 in cash and $2000 in in-kind consulting services.

The company’s algorithm-based visual recognition software identifies species of shellfish based on size, growth and health and helps to find meat that would otherwise be discarded. 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 last year raised $25,000 in non-dilutive funding through Innovacorp’s Blue Solutions Startup Challenge and $10,000 through Dal’s LaunchPad competition. In November, the company also received a $25,000 equity investment from the Volta Cohort pitching competition.

The second-place prize in the China Program event went to Knit, which is developing a social network for seniors. It allows them to share their daily experiences with old friends, family, and other seniors through a highly interactive video journal feature.

Graphite Innovation & Technologies Inc. captured the third prize. The company has developed a revolutionary way to produce graphene and used it to develop a marine coating for vessels. Graphene is an unusual pattern of carbon atoms aligned in hexagonal hives to produce a light, durable material. It is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity.

Jobs: Jaza, DH, Eyesover, Cribcut

There’s a diverse mix of postings for our Jobs of the Week column today.

Jaza Energy, Dash Hudson and Cribcut have openings in Halifax and Eyesover Technologies is looking to hire in Fredericton.

Jaza hopes to hire a software engineer. This comapny supplies rural Africa with electricity with its integrated energy solutions by building solar hubs and providing locals with portable battery packs.

Cribcut has developed a software-enabled marketplace to help hair stylists to run independent hair businesses. It is looking for a head of operations.

Dash Hudson, a visual marketing company is hiring a Customer Success Representative. Known for its software product Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos.

Eyesover Technologies, a software development company devoted to real-time market and public opinion data, is hiring a sales executive for its Fredericton office. Its platform analyzes online discussion for its customers, allowing them to make decisions based on accurate customer opinion. 

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.


Jaza Energy

Software Engineer

Jaza is building the future of infrastructure in Africa. We are on the lookout for well rounded software engineers to join our engineering team in Halifax. We need people that enjoy learning new technologies and tackling big challenges. We are a small and fast moving engineering team in Halifax that supports a much bigger (and rapidly growing) operation in Africa...


Design scalable data models and build well structured databases

Solve complex performance problems and architectural challenges

Evaluate new technologies to help evolve our technology stack

Help support and maintain our existing infrastructure*... 

Apply for the job here.


Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

You will be one of the founding members of our Customer Success team who will work to help our customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the lifetime value of Dash Hudson customers.


Work closely with the sales team to support, train, and engage with potential customers during trial periods.

Deliver training content to potential customers.

Work with Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times.

Assist with the setup of new accounts, and specific requests…

Apply for the position here.



Head of Operations

As Head of Operations at Cribcut, you will be responsible for a geographical roll-out of the Cribcut marketplace, researching and implementing a customer wide insurance policy, overseeing and managing the companies legal and financial foundations…


With the CEO and CFO, the head of operations builds the corporate budget and financial forecasts to support our growth and fundraising goals, maintaining an intimate understanding of current and future cash flow needs.

Apply for the job here.


Eyesover Technologies

Sales Executive

We are looking for an individual with significant software sales and marketing experience to help us continue our growth. Our ideal candidate has a creative focus capable of generating new ideas and concepts that will elevate our presence in the market, and who possesses the following skills and attributes: well-organized; detail-oriented; a clear and persuasive writer... 


Responsible for sales activities including:

Development and implementation of marketing and sales action plans;

Analyze market trends and results, pricing strategies, and competition;

Apply for this job here.

McCain Invests in Bedford’s TruLeaf

Gregg Curwin: 'The best part is it’s such a great East Coast story.'

Gregg Curwin: 'The best part is it’s such a great East Coast story.'

McCain Foods has invested in TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, with the goal of helping the Bedford-based vertical farm company to accelerate its farm development and reach global markets.

The Florenceville, N.B.-based food giant issued a press release on Thursday announcing the investment, though it did not reveal the dollar amount. McCain was the only investor in the funding round.

The deal is significant for both the companies. For McCain, it is another step in its strategy of investing in startups that use leading technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics in the food industry. For TruLeaf, it brings in capital and a major corporate relationship as it is poised to enter the Toronto market this year with the opening of a major farm in Guelph, Ont.

“It’s a strategic move on many fronts,” said TruLeaf Founder and CEO Gregg Curwin in an interview. “We’re partnering with a major food company so it’s really about scaling intelligently, and their brand is truly global, which is very appealing.”

TruLeaf aims to be a leader in sustainable agriculture through the use of vertical farming — which combines hydroponic technology with advancements in LED lighting and reclaimed rainwater to allow year-round production of plants indoors. Vertical farming is nearly 30 times more efficient than traditional agriculture, uses as much as 95 per cent less water, and takes up less land.

The company sells greens in Atlantic Canada under the GoodLeaf brand and has been working with Loblaw Companies, the parent of Atlantic Superstores. It will open the production facility in Guelph in the autumn, which means it will sell into Toronto. What Curwin has been speaking about more frequently in recent years is using artificial intelligence and data analytics to improve growing metrics and the nutritional content of the produce.

CarbonCure Makes US$20M Carbon XPRIZE Finals

That use of smart technologies meshes well with recent moves by McCain. Under the stewardship of startup and entrepreneurship program lead, Nestor Gomez, the company has been assembling a stable of startups that use digital technologies to improve food production and distribution. McCain has already invested in Fredericton-based Resson, which gathers and analyzes data from outdoor farms, and Moncton-based Fiddlehead Technology, which uses data to predict consumer demand for food. McCain has also worked with Fredericton-based internet-of-things company, Eigen Innovations, and now can add an indoor farming operation to its portfolio.

“We have worked closely with many research institutions, technology partners and of course, our global network of growers,” said McCain president and CEO Max Koeunein in the statement. “We remain committed to this approach and as such are always looking to partner with innovative businesses like TruLeaf to continue to set new standards for environmental care and efficient crop production, through advancing agricultural technology.”

TruLeaf, which last raised capital in an $8.5-million financing round in December 2016, will not seek more financing in the near future, said Curwin. The company now has 40 employees, which will rise to as many as 65 in the autumn with the opening of the Guelph farm. And Curwin said the partnership with McCain will accelerate the build out of its farms.

“This is really a pivotal move for us and the best part is it’s such a great East Coast story.”

3 Researchers Split $165K in R3

And the winners are . . . Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard, left, Clive Baldwin and Carole Goodine.

And the winners are . . . Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard, left, Clive Baldwin and Carole Goodine.

Three New Brunswick researchers have been awarded $50,000 each from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, as part of the 2018 R3 competition, which recognizes leading researchers in the province.

The winners, announced Thursday evening at a gala in the Fredericton Convention Centre, are:

Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard (Université de Moncton) 
Nursing Homes Without Walls: A Model for Aging in Place
With the majority of seniors wanting to age at home, we require an efficient model of service delivery to ensure they are getting the services they need. Dupuis-Blanchard’s research explores the notion of nursing home personnel providing services to older adults living at home.

 Clive Baldwin (St. Thomas University)
Enhancing Well-Being in Later Life through Innovations in Narrative Care
Narrative care is an approach to health and healing that uses people's life experience (i.e., their life stories or narratives) to address the many challenges facing older adults that can result in feelings of loneliness, meaninglessness, anxiety, depression, and despair.  Research in the field of "narrative gerontology" has shown that approaches to care that involve some form of life story work (e.g., life review, life-writing, reminiscence) have a significant and positive impact in terms of health outcomes with this population.

Carole Goodine (University of New Brunswick)
Polypharmacy App to Improve Health Outcomes in Older Adults
Goodine’s work is developing a Polypharmacy App that aims to solve the simultaneous use of multiple drugs - which has become a major issue in the aging population. The App will result in a more efficient and accurate medication safety review - which will save hundreds of clinician hours and decrease high risk medication use and adverse effects.

“All five of our finalists are doing important work here in New Brunswick,” said NBIF Director of Research Lindsay Bowman in a statement. “We were thrilled to be able to profile them and their projects. The funding awarded tonight is an investment that will improve the quality of life for all New Brunswickers as they age.”

The gala included a keynote speech by ageism expert Ashton Applewhite, who said ageism is the last accepted form of prejudice and this has to change. 

All five research finalists were profiled on social media, and each had the opportunity to showcase their research video at the gala event.

Goodine also received the CBC Viewers Choice Award, receiving the most likes on social media. She received $15,000 in research funding from NBIF.

The R3 gala was the conclusion of three days of talks, keynote speakers, workshops and other activities focused on Innovations in Aging.

Women Founders Split Poker Pot

The Genesis Centre on Thursday divvied up the proceeds of a poker extravaganza with the goal of helping six female entrepreneurs develop their companies.

The St. John’s-based startup incubator kicked off its Pitch and Pick event by dividing more than $40,000 between six female founders. The money was raised through a charity poker tournament titled the Big Raise All-In for Women hosted in January by Genesis, the YMCA and the Big Raise.

Roshell Industries was awarded $10,000 as its founder Donna Paddon was the big poker winner of the event. 

More than 100 female business leaders came together at the sold-out event to play poker in support of female technology entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador. All money raised throughout the evening was divided between these six female entrepreneurs:

  • Emily Bland, Sucseed – Sucseed makes hydroponic units designed to provide a low-cost, high-yield solution so people can grow their own leafy greens.
  • Ivana Drcec, Zero Worx – Zero Worx is a software development company that makes products to fit a range of business needs. Its Linxpot product is a cloud platform that connects customers’ business world and makes daily activities more accurate, efficient and faster.
  • Stefana Egli, Intelligent Materials and Monitoring Inc. – This company is a Memorial University spin-off company that provides a cleantech portable water sampling device for analysis and monitoring of particular compounds of interest in water.
  • Chrissy Rossiter, Peachy – Peachy has developed an online platform for home-care providers to simplify their job and optimize their time.
  • Kelly Strickland, HashtagTutors – This startup offers an administration platform designed for tutoring businesses. From matching students to managing sessions, HashtagTutors aims to simplify all administrative tasks.
  • And Donna Paddon, Roshell Industries --.Labrador-based Roshell is developing an individual outdoor transport system that combines skis and a gas-powered engine, The Skizee “Woodsrunner” provides access to harsh Arctic backcountry, which is in demand by individuals and organizations such as the Military.

Read Our Recent Profile of Peachy's Chrissy Rossiter

The cheque presentation took place at the Genesis Centre’s Pitch and Pick event, which is the culmination of eight weeks of intensive Genesis Centre Evolution workshops.

The Evolution program for early stage technology-based startups is designed to help entrepreneurs identify their markets and validate their ideas. The top eight teams from the program pitched Thursday afternoon to a full house of local stakeholders at the Bier Markt, and the audience picked the winners.

The three winners, whose prizes ranged between $200 and $500, were Fufilament, VitalMIST and BreatheSuite.

Feds Lend BioVectra $5M for NS Plant

The federal government has announced a loan of $5 million to Charlottetown pharmaceutical manufacturer BioVectra to help it expand operations, including upgrading a plant in Nova Scotia.

Treasury Board Secretary Scott Brison made the announcement Thursday in Windsor, where the facility is being renovated, creating 28 jobs in the near term. Once the plant is operational in 2020, the company expects to employ twice that number at the site.

The government made the loan through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

Founded in 1970 by J. Regis Duffy, then Dean of Science at the University of Prince Edward Island, BioVectra manufactures ingredients for drugmakers around the world. The company was purchased in 2013 by Questcor Pharmaceuticals of Anaheim, Calif., for $100 million, and since then has been expanding rapidly.

“As an integral part and leader within the vibrant Atlantic Canadian BioScience cluster, we consider ourselves fortunate to operate in a supportive ecosystem where substantial emphasis is placed on talent, skills and innovation,” said BioVectra President Oliver Technow in the statement. “The contribution from ACOA’s Business Development Program will enable BioVectra to continue to thrive, create highly skilled jobs in Atlantic Canada, and help solidify Canadian leadership within the very competitive global markets we participate in.”

BioVectra will use the money to complete major renovations at its Windsor facility and to purchase new equipment, all of which will help it make and sell more pharmaceutical products, said the statement. The changes to the 50,000-square-foot facility will increase the company’s capacity by about 40 percent.

A pillar of the P.E.I. life sciences community, BioVectra has more than 300 employees, and will initially add another 28 jobs in Windsor. The company’s four facilities – three in Charlottetown and one in Windsor – total about 110,000 square feet.

The company has been growing strongly. In September, it opened a new 21,000-square-foot flagship warehouse and process development suites, and in December it signed a manufacturing agreement with Boston-based Keryx Biopharmaceuticals.

Oberland Finds Market for Fly Larvae

Obie the Gecko

Obie the Gecko

A young Halifax company that includes a NASA scientist and a gecko called Obie has announced that your supply of black soldier fly larvae is just a click away.

The company is a one-year-old enterprise called Oberland Agriscience, which has just launched an e-commerce site called It allows anyone to order live black soldier fly larvae, or BSFL, the things that grow in your green bins in the summertime.

It turns out that BSFL are a superb source of protein for such markets as pets, agriculture and aquaculture, and Oberland has launched a unit called Obie’s Worms to sell the live larvae to the owners of pet reptiles. The company even has an official mascot, a gecko called Obie, which survives on the company’s produce.

Oberland was founded by Greg Wanger, a NASA scientist who lives in Halifax and commutes to work at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. His goal was to develop a business that took advantage of all the organic waste collected in Halifax.

“My goal for Oberland is to build a sustainable company to close the food loop here in Nova Scotia,” said Wanger in an email. “It’s exciting to see the opportunity to transform green cart waste into nutrient-rich protein products.”

Mitacs Recognizes Chinova's Huq

The Oberland team, which includes vice-president of commercialization, Barbara Campbell, has spent the last year developing a BSFL production site at the Ragged Lake waste management facility near Halifax.

This insect farm uses green cart waste as food for the larvae, which are a high-quality, nutrient-rich form of protein with several markets. People who have pet reptiles and amphibians feed them live BSFL. Dried BSFL are a nutritious food supplement for poultry. And ground and dried BSFL are an excellent protein ingredient in aquaculture feed.

The initial market is direct sales to pet owners through the website. Campbell said e-commerce in worms is “a fast, convenient way to service the live feeder market, one that all the major insect live feeder farms in the U.S. use.” These larvae have a shelf life of two to three weeks, making them a convenient product for shipping.

Company officials say Oberland is rooted in Atlantic Canada and does not plan to establish processing facilities outside the region. However, its products, whether live grubs for insectivore pets or manufactured products for poultry or aquaculture feed, will all be marketed across Canada.

Oberland Agriscience has raised more than $500,000 in equity capital from private investors, and received additional funding from such sources as Efficiency Nova Scotia, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Learnsphere CCM and others. The company has received Nova Scotia environment approvals as a waste receiver and is scaling up larvae production with the full life-cycle of flies, eggs and larvae on site.

Oberland now employs four full-time employees and will hire one more technician in the spring. It also plans to raise more capital later this year.

“Our pilot facility is just the first step,” said Wanger. “We are excited to develop partnerships with breweries, organic waste generators, aquaponics and aquaculture facilities that can benefit from Oberland’s technologies.”

Finalists Named for NB’s Kira Awards

The organizers of the 19th annual Kira Awards have announced the finalists for the awards, which recognize success in New Brunswick’s knowledge industry.

The awards committee said in a statement the winners will be named at a gala in Fredericton on May 3. Tickets are available here.

Here are the finalists:

Innovation Champion Award Finalists:


East Valley Ventures

Les productions Fusion Productions

Most Innovative Product or Service Finalists:

Beauceron Security

Blue Roof Distillers Ltd.

Stash Energy Inc.

Most Innovative Startup Finalists:

Chinova Bioworks

Knalysis Technologies


Premier’s Award for Innovation Finalists:


Family Medicine New Brunswick

Treasury Board, Government of New Brunswick

V4C Lands $4.4M for 505 Interns

The federal government on Wednesday announced $4.4 million in funding for Venture for Canada, which will allow 505 graduates to intern at innovative Atlantic Canadian companies.

The government issued a statement saying that it will provide funding for the organization that helps graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions land positions at startups and innovative companies. The funding is part of the government’s $73 million Student Work Placements Program, which aims to create more than 10,000 paid student work placements in STEM and business fields over the next four years.

Venture for Canada founder Scott Stirrett said the funding will finance 505 internships over three years. The companies will include startups and some small and medium-sized enterprises that develop innovative products.

"Through the Government of Canada's support, Venture for Canada will provide Atlantic Canadian post-secondary students with the work integrated learning opportunities needed to learn skills, gain work experience, share knowledge and build resilience, all the while contributing to the growth of innovative small and medium sized enterprises in the region," said the Halifax-born Stirrett in a statement.   

Since it began four years ago V4C, has been training some of the top grads from Canadian colleges and universities for positions at startups. Its fellows spend two years working at partner startups, where they gain the skills, network and experience necessary to launch their own firms. For the 2016 fellowship class, the organization received nearly 1,700 applications from across the country.

The government’s statement said the V4C funding is in addition to funding provided to Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that provides research internships with a goal of creating 10,000 work placements per year. With these combined programs, more than 60,000 post-secondary students will have paid work placements over the next five years.

Jobs Analysis Reveals R&D Problem

An analysis of the 299 first-quarter job postings for Atlantic Canadian tech developers shows early-stage companies – not larger corporations -- are using most of the cutting-edge technology in the region.

Our survey of three job boards in the region between December and mid-March 2018 found 299 technology jobs open in the region. Our research also revealed only 23 percent of the postings are for leading technologies. (These include technology using languages like Python, JSON or R and methods like RESTful, which are used in artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain.) The remainder of the postings were for such skillsets as project management, senior management and operational work within IT.

What we found interesting is that 64 percent of the companies advertising for leading technologies were in the startup or early-stage category. Given that these startups comprise a slim fragment of the region’s economy, this data suggests a fundamental weakness in the East Coast economy: a reluctance on the part of established companies to develop truly innovative technologies that could increase their growth. It is the startups that, for the most part, are looking for newer skills with emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and python or java languages.

 Types of Companies Using Leading Technology 

This is the first time we have conducted this research, and we hope this study will provide a baseline for further studies. The headline number for the study is about 300 openings in the first quarter, and we hope subsequent studies will establish whether demand for developers is growing in the region. As mentioned above, we found that almost three quarters these jobs are in traditional technology applications.


So what else are employers looking for? More than half of the openings are for senior developers, and more than 60 percent of the openings are in Nova Scotia. Here are a few charts that showcase job postings in both leading and traditional technology categories.




When we looked at the types of companies that are looking for developers, we found that only 21 percent were in the startup or early-stage categories. The remainder were jobs with larger technology services companies and a very few with provincial governments.


All of this might suggest that regionally, Atlantic Canadian companies are not innovating with newer technologies. It doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t innovating at all. There is, for example, a high demand for engineering skills from electrical to industrial, especially in the oceans sector.

About two-thirds of the openings are for private corporations, while more than one-fifth of the postings were by public organisations, such as non-profits and public companies.

This is an initial study that we intend to return to in the next few months to look at trends. What’s interesting is the skills the market is looking for and who’s looking for them. For the larger employers, they’re seeking what we might call legacy technology skills for enterprise clients. These would include network administration, cyber security and platforms such as Microsoft, SAP and Cisco.

We need more data, and over a longer period of time to start drawing full conclusions. For now, the data is suggesting we need to think about these questions in Atlantic Canada and understand better if companies are innovative with technologies. Demand for certain technology skills across various sectors is a good indicator of what industry sectors are more digitally advanced than others.


We analysed almost 300 jobs posted online in Atlantic Canada from December 2017 to March 24, 2018. These were all coded based on various criteria we determined, in a Google Spreadsheet, which is publicly accessible. We collected data through manual coding by visiting publicly available information on:

- CareerBeacon

- Workopolis

- Indeed

In addition, we reviewed job postings from the websites of members of Digital Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Association of Technology Industries, where member companies indicated current openings.

Information was coded in the Google Spreadsheet and refined in Excel with final graphs being designed in Numbers. The data is believed to be accurate at the time of analysis. Some job postings may have expired or been removed by the employer or operator of a website or online job posting board.

Dovico Lands NB, ACOA Funding

Moncton-based Dovico Software Inc., which makes time-management software, plans to hire as many as 13 people full-time with about $460,000 of funding from the provincial and federal governments.

The governments said this week they would provide funding for the company, which has been selling its software for more than 25 years and now has about 30 employees. Its flagship product Dovico Timesheet is sold worldwide to such companies as Xerox, HedgeServ and Ryan.

“When people invest in your dream, it is the best compliment you can get,” said director, president and CEO Yves Doucet in a statement. “It does come with a responsibility, but, after 25 years in business, it presents even better opportunities for providing world-class business services to all our customers.”

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is lending the company $332,250 through its Business Development Program.

Opportunities New Brunswick is providing up to $110,069 to support the new positions and fund market development activities.

The New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour is contributing $20,800 through the One-Job Pledge program.

Ayles’ Allergy App Wins UNB Contest

Holly Ayles won the ideas category at the RBC Student Pitch Competition at UNB. Photo by Cameron Fitch/Photo UNB.

Holly Ayles won the ideas category at the RBC Student Pitch Competition at UNB. Photo by Cameron Fitch/Photo UNB.

A University of New Brunswick student has been recognized for her smartphone app that allows people with food allergies to find safe places to eat.

Holly Ayles, a third-year UNB business administration student from Fredericton, captured first place in the ideas category of the 12th annual RBC Student Pitch Competition hosted by UNB’s Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program.

She came up with the idea for her Have Food app after a frightening personal experience. Two years ago, at the age of 19, Ayles had an anaphylactic reaction from eating tree nuts during dinner in a restaurant. It was the first time she learned she had any allergies.

A keen traveller, it became hard for Ayles to find places to eat.

“It’s really difficult to find a safe place to eat when you aren’t familiar with the restaurants or their allergy policies,” she said.  “You end up calling or visiting dozens of restaurants just to find one place at which you can eat. It’s tiring.”   

Her solution is a universal app that would allow users to select their dietary restrictions and then be provided with safe restaurants in major cities and tourist destinations across Canada. 

Ayles first presented her idea in the fall at another pitch competition, placing third. She then refined the idea.

“So many people reached out to me to say that this would benefit them or someone they know –  it inspired me to keep moving forward with this idea,” she said.  

Potential Motors Converts Cars to Electric Power 

Ayles doesn’t have a concrete timeline for full development of the app but will be taking courses through UNB’s Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program to further her knowledge of entrepreneurship and further refine her idea. 

At the RBC competition late last month, students competed in both the ideas and growth categories with cash prizes of $1000, $750 and $500 being given to first-, second-, and third-place winners and smaller cash prizes for teams that earned honorable mentions.

In the ideas category, OnTrack Coding and BrainWave took second and third place, respectively. The communication award was given to Fruit and Vegetable Vending Machine, the innovation award went to GeoDetect and Box of Babylon received the impact award.

In the growth category, first place went to Potential Motors, second place to Pi Security and third to Adventure Pack.

Farmers Online received the social innovation award and Bar PSIence was given the award for technical innovation.

Awards were given to individuals that have helped others or shown achievement in their field. David Coleman, a professor with TME, received an award for leadership in education and Curtis Kennedy was given the student leadership award.  

Adam Harris, managing director of Fredericton’s C-Therm, was given the award for entrepreneur of the year.

Replies to My Rural Startups Column

My opinion piece last week on policies on rural startups drew a range of responses, many of them disagreeing with my premise.

You can read my arguments here for policies that encourage startups in population centres, rather than rural areas. I want to highlight a few of the responses on social media.

Here’s what Bob Pelley, Innovacorp’s regional manager for Cape Breton and Northern Nova Scotia, said:

“I will respectfully disagree with you on this one, Peter. Yes, there are more startups in urban area, but I believe that is simply related to population. Suggesting that government only support start-up activity in urban areas is akin to suggesting they only support fires departments in urban areas because that’s where the biggest and most active fires occur.

“I believe that what’s more important than population to start-ups, is community. While that community might be easily found in population centres, it can also be found in small communities and in today’s connected world, online.

“We have an ease, and freedom of travel like no other time in history and start-ups are using that to find communities of support and build relationships that have meaning for their growth and development.

“A number of start-ups I work with use remote workers and remote contractors to help them build and grow. We live in a connected world and it’s never been easier to do this. It allows the founders, like Chad Munro, to choose where they want to live, whether that be Mabou or Montreal.”

Added Permjot Valia, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Momentum Cape Breton:

“And to be fair.... at a North American level, Halifax wouldn’t pass the ‘urban’ test. So it is arbitrary -- and I don’t think it’s a healthy development to think of only one place in a province as urban.”

I was also asked how I’d define “population centres”. I’d say they are the four provincial capitals, Sydney, Saint John and Moncton, and I’d draw a wide radius around each of these cities. Let me repeat that Sydney and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality comprise one of the region’s municipalities with about 100,000 people – almost as big as Greater Fredericton. CBRM definitely should be nurtured as a startup centre.

Charlottetown has a population of only 36,000 but more people live a short drive away. 

The column did receive some positive feedback from people who agreed with it, mainly through private correspondence.

CarbonCure in US$20M XPRIZE Finals

Robert Niven

Robert Niven

CarbonCure Technologies is a finalist for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE Challenge and has a shot at winning a total of US$8 million in the next two years.

The organizers of the competition announced the 10 finalists for the prize this morning. Each finalist will receive US$500,000 and spend the next two years testing its product in one of two tracks. At the end, one winner from each track will receive a cash prize of US$7.5 million, or about C$9.6 million.

Halifax-based CarbonCure, whose technology cures concrete by injecting carbon into it, assembled a team two years ago comprising companies involved in all stages of the concrete supply chain. It was one of more than 2,000 entrants in the competition.

The Carbon XPRIZE is a competition that challenges teams to develop breakthrough technologies that convert CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value. Co-sponsored by NRG and COSIA, the multi-year competition is designed to encourage industry to make useful products from CO2 rather than emitting it into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.

The philosophy behind the XPRIZE competitions is to offer a lucrative cash award. The money should help the winners grow their company, and be alluring enough that even the losers develop world-changing technologies.

“It’s an honour to be recognized as one of the finalists in the global Carbon XPRIZE Challenge,” CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven said in a statement. “The XPRIZE competition challenges the world to reimagine CO2 as a valuable commodity and drives innovators to scale solutions faster to realize the potential $1 trillion market and seven gigatonne CO2 reduction opportunity by 2030.”

As Sales Grow, SimpTek Lands Capital

CarbonCure has grown into a profitable company by developing a process of hardening concrete by injecting it with carbon dioxide. This process saves concrete-makers money and makes their operations consumers of – rather than producers of – carbon. CarbonCure licenses its technology to concrete producers and will have its 100th installation this year.

In the XPRIZE Challenge, CarbonCure will be one of five finalists in Track A, which will demonstrate technologies at a coal power plant in Wyoming.  Five other finalists will compete in Track B at a natural gas power plant in Alberta.

The statement said Canada leads all nations in the competition with four teams in the final round. Three finalists are from the United States, while the remaining teams represent India, China and the United Kingdom.

CarbonCure’s XPRIZE team is led by Executive Vice President Jennifer Wagner – the only female team lead in the competition. The other partners in the CarbonCure team are cement and concrete producer Cementos Argos S.A., concrete producers Thomas Concrete and BURNCO Rock Products, industrial gas company Praxair, Inc., carbon capture innovator Sustainable Energy Solutions, engineering specialists Kline Consulting LLC. The team includes such design and construction companies as LS3P Architects, RJC Engineers, DIALOG, Uzun + Case Structural Engineering, and Walter P. Moore Structural Engineers.

CarbonCure was recently recognized for its CO2 utilization solution by McKinsey Consulting and the Global CO2 Initiative, and for three years straight has been named to the Top 100 Global Cleantech companies by the Cleantech Group.

Earlier this year, CarbonCure hit a significant milestone by taking the carbon dioxide produced from cement production and using it to cure concrete with the CarbonCure technology. Many companies in the industry produce both cement and concrete and using excess carbon from one to cure the other further reduces industrial carbon emissions.

The other Canadian finalists in the Carbon XPRIZE are:

  • Carbicrete, Montreal -- Carbicrete has devised a way to make concrete without using cement, replacing it in the mix with steel slag, which is industrial waste.
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, Calgary – CUT uses CO2 emissions to cultivate nanoparticles that enhance materials like concrete, plastics, and batteries.
  • Cert, Toronto – Cert’s system provides the electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 into value-added fuels and feedstocks using novel, high efficiency catalysts.

Chicago Group Cites Squiggle Park

Leah Skerry, left, and Julia Rivard.

Leah Skerry, left, and Julia Rivard.

As its traction accelerates, Dartmouth-based Squiggle Park has received validation from a panel of education experts by being one of 12 EdTech programs selected this year by LEAP Innovations in Chicago.

LEAP issued a statement last week saying that its Leap Pilot Network had selected a dozen IT programs that help children, teachers and parents improve educational outcomes, and one was Squiggle Park. Some 32 organizations applied to the competition, which features a rigorous selection process that lasts several months.

 “This announcement is important because Chicago Public Schools is a district that leads nationally in regards to their vetting and selection of the best EdTech products,” said Squiggle Park Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Julia Rivard. She added that being selected by the CPS-affiliated Leap Innovation is a key validation because the program is recognized by other districts all over the U.S.

“The vetting done by Leap to be on this list was significant and happened over several months with critical reviews by top researchers, educators and EdTech professionals,” she added.

Itavio Gains Funds, Enters Hearst Labs

Squiggle Park has developed a series of games that helps users -- especially children from preschool to Grades 3 or 4 -- learn to read. The company says children using the games learn to read in one-fifth of the time of traditional lessons, and it is especially helpful in teaching children who lag their peers. In its home base of Nova Scotia, the software is supporting several hundred classrooms and is accessible through the Halifax Public Libraries.

“Technology is not a prerequisite for personalized learning, but it can be a powerful tool in support of great teaching,” said LEAP Innovations CEO Phyllis Lockett in the statement. “Over the last five years, we’ve tapped the expertise of learning scientists and researchers, working alongside educators, to create a framework that is both rigorous and respectful of the real-world challenges of classroom teachers.”

Rivard and her Co-Founder, CEO Leah Skerry, offered Squiggle Park to users just over a year ago and as of last week it has been used by 80,914 users, both children and adults.

The users – mainly in Canada and the U.S. but also in schools in Oman, Mexico, India, Germany and China – have answered 33 million questions and logged a total of 70,372 hours of playing time, or roughly eight years.

Rivard also said the company is in the middle of a large pilot with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to help newcomers to Canada master English reading skills. This pilot is taking place with 11 organizations from coast to coast and thousands of players. “It is the largest EdTech study with English Language Learning ever done,” she said.

Jobs: NB Government, Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column is highlighting two internships with the province of New Brunswick and two openings with Halifax-based Dash Hudson.

As part of its new Public Innovation Internship Program, the New Brunswick government is looking to fill two internship positions, one for a summer term, the other for a full year. The program aims to identify and grow the province's innovation talent pool. 

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing, software-as-a-service company that helps corporate clients optimize and manage visual marketing strategies. Its platform, Vision, provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. The company is looking to add an Account Executive and a Performance Marketing Manager to 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 experts from the postings.


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

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.


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. . . .

Apply for the job here.

Performance Marketing Manager

The Performance Marketing Manager, reporting to the Senior Director of Marketing, will support the marketing team and overall goals of Dash Hudson...


Plan, execute and optimize all web, SEO/SEM, PPC, marketing database, email, social media and retargeting campaigns, and CRM activity.

Managing, measuring and optimizing the performance and effectiveness of all marketing programs and lead generation campaigns including lead scoring and lead nurturing programs.

Continuously measure and report performance of all digital marketing campaigns, and assess against goals (ROI and KPIs)...

Apply for the job here.


Government of New Brunswick

Innovation Internship -- Full Year

Innovation Internship -- Summer Term


The Public Innovation Internship Program is designed to identify top talent and grow GNBs Innovation Talent Pool. Join a dynamic team of public servants who are passionate about improving the lives of New Brunswickers…


During orientation, you will participate in an initial series of workshops to learn about how the government works, how to foster an inclusive work culture and innovative tools for problem-solving. You will be assigned a mentor in your department, who will help guide you through the projects you will be working on. Your workload will be project based, and you’ll need to be eager to manage your deliverables while balancing your priorities…

Apply for the summer position here, and the full year here.

Startups Are an Urban Phenomenon

After surveying startups across the region recently, I’ve come to believe more than ever that public policy should encourage startups in cities rather than rural areas.

Successful startups need two primary components — human and financial capital — and no matter how much of the second is available for young companies, the first will always be a challenge.

Rather than trying to fabricate conditions for startups in rural areas, public policy should encourage other forms of entrepreneurship in smaller locations — small businesses, contract workers, co-operatives.

In saying this, I draw a clear distinction between startups and small businesses, admitting there are overlaps.

A startup commercializes new technology with the goal of disrupting established business practices. It will rework and adjust its product until it finds a product that customers will pay for, then it grows quickly, often doubling or tripling in size annually over several years.

A small business is an enterprise with a small number of employees — let’s say fewer than 100. Such businesses are essential to any economy, and the people who run them have all the business acumen of startup founders.

The difference between the two is the talent they have to hire. As a startup grows, it will constantly improve its product, or use its technology to launch complementary products. To do this, the startup has to bring on a range of highly specialized personnel.

Let’s say the company is developing a medical device. It will need medical specialists. It will also need experts in manufacturing, electronics, and software engineering, and probably contract workers in regulatory affairs and design. Given that artificial intelligence is becoming standard in new technologies, the company will need a few artificial intelligence programmers — a rare breed indeed.

A startup can’t find this sort of talent easily in Halifax, let alone the other cities in the region, let alone rural communities.

One hallmark I’ve noticed of startup entrepreneurs in the region is their knowledge of immigration regulations, because they have to bring in specialists who simply aren’t found locally.

At Entrevestor, we’re now analyzing about 480 startups across the region, and two trends are becoming clear. First, size matters. The number of successful companies is disproportionate in the larger cities, with Halifax atop the heap. I believe the prime reason is the availability of talent. The second trend is the growing number of zombie companies — those that haven’t quite died but aren’t quite active. They appear to be more prevalent in smaller areas.

The startup ecosystem should support companies in each province, but I think policies to seed startups in rural areas need to be reviewed. There are startups in rural areas that have beaten the odds and done magnificent things (Halifax Biomedical of Mabou, Cape Breton, springs to mind). And yes, AgTech startups and oceans companies will need rural operations. The emphasis in rural areas should be entrepreneurship — the building of small businesses. Succession is a huge issue in small businesses in the region, and training more young people to take over businesses with existing income streams would be invaluable.

There should also be support for the legion of independent experts, the contract workers who have clients all over the globe. They are scattered around the region and would benefit from formalized support networks. The Hub South Shore in Mahone Bay would be a great model to emulate.

Startups are an urban phenomenon. Entrepreneurship is universal, and policy should reflect that reality.

NACO Roadshow Begins April 30

NACO will host workshops throughout the region.

NACO will host workshops throughout the region.

The National Angel Capital Organization will start touring the Atlantic provinces on April 30, to deliver a series of workshops for investors and entrepreneurs.

The NACO Academy Roadshow, as the series is known, aims to build better engagement between investors and entrepreneurs to improve on investment outcomes.

Charlottetown-based life science incubatorEmergence is one of the community partners for NACO’s roadshow.

“Angel investment is an important asset class for early-stage companies and plays a critical role in the life of most startup and scale-up ventures,” said Martin Yuill, the Director at Emergence.

“These workshops are designed to help local entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to raise private capital to support their growth, and investors increase their knowledge about structuring great deals.”

The roadshow will kick-off on Monday, April 30 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and continue on with workshops in in the following cities:

  • Tuesday, May 1st: Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • Wednesday, May 2nd: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
  • Thursday, May 3rd: Moncton, New Brunswick.
  • Friday, May 4th: Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Sessions called “Structuring Deals & Term Sheets” and “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Angels” will address key issues for both investors and entrepreneurs.

The Guide to Angels workshop will help entrepreneurs improve their ability to attract angel investment, and build a positive ongoing relationship with their angels. Structuring Deals and Term Sheets will show participants how to structure investment deals to maximize the value created and protect returns from adverse events. Click here to register for the workshops.

The sessions in St. John’s, Halifax and Charlottetown include post-workshop cocktail reception and the workshops in Moncton and Fredericton will provide lunch.  

The roadshow is meant to meant to be a prelude to the Atlantic Regional Angel Summit, scheduled for May 28 and 29. The second annual summit will bring local angel investors together with angels from the rest of Canada and parts of the US.

As Sales Grow, SimpTek Lands Capital

SimpTek CEO Asif Hasan, right, with his Co-Founder Keelen Gagnon

SimpTek CEO Asif Hasan, right, with his Co-Founder Keelen Gagnon

After changing the direction of its business last year, Fredericton’s SimpTek Technologies is accelerating its growth, having booked almost $1 million in sales and on the cusp of raising $1.9 million in capital.

The company was founded in 2014 by a trio of University of New Brunswick students to help homeowners and utilities identify where households use the most electricity.

In the last two years, two things have happened that changed the business model: the team realized the best way to make money is to work with a broader range of clients indirectly helping them reduce electricity consumption. And it brought on Halifax-based cleantech maven Megan McCarthy, and is in the process of buying her company PowerWHYS.

As a result, SimpTek is now dedicated to helping a range of electricity purchasers measure their consumption, analyze how it might be reduced and helping them to make the changes that reduce consumption. The company is working not only with the consumers of energy but also with vendors who sell products that can help lower energy use. The team learned that US$133 billion was spent last year on energy efficiency and it wanted to attack that market.

“Everyone is shifting focus to make energy use smarter — they want to make more smarter energy decisions,” said co-founder and CEO Asif Hasan in an interview. “There have to be more energy efficient products to achieve it. And we realized that utilities want to sell more than just energy. We realized there are two sides of the market.”

UNB Team Makes CanInfra Top 20

For the last couple of years, SimpTek has been developing a digital platform that would allow retail and large energy consumers to measure and analyze electricity use, and find products that will reduce consumption. For that last part, the company works with vendors in making sure consumers find the latest products for energy efficiency.

Hasan said the platform uses artificial intelligence to identify how customers can reduce energy costs, thereby avoiding the need of expensive energy consultants. He added it is “hardware-agnostic” meaning it can be used on a range of electrical meters and products.

The company began beta-testing the platform last February, and as of March 31, the product has generated almost $1 million in revenue.

SimpTek plans to release the latest generation of its platform, which is called Building360, in about a month.

With growing sales, the company has just closed $1 million in equity funding (including an investment from a SimpTek customer in the Middle East), and is now complementing that equity round by raising $900,000 through government grants. The company last raised equity capital in 2016 in a $700,000-plus round led by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

McCarthy, who has worked on a range of cleantech companies for the past several years, has become the company's Chief Business Development Officer and heads up SimpTek’s business development efforts in the company’s Halifax office.

And business development is now a key effort for this nine-employee company. Hasan said the main effort right now is to grow into international markets, and he highlighted the fact that the company has clients in the Middle East a sign that it can grow beyond Canada.

“It’s all about scaling up and growing,” he said. “We’re launching this powerful platform in the global market and helping the industry to grow faster than it would have if people didn’t use SimpTek.”

PLATO Wins Jedi Pitch Competition

PLATO Testing of Fredericton won the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) pitch competition last week at aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin Canada’s IMPACT Centre. It was one of six Indigenous businesses from New Brunswick in the competition.

The Indigenous-staffed software testing firm affiliated with PQA Testing won a $5,000 cash prize for taking first place at the 2018 JEDI Indigenous Business Pitch Competition.

Chelsea Griffith, a team lead and software tester at PLATO, said in an interview prior to the announcement that the company will focus on expanding.

“The main thing that PLATO’s looking to do is to keep expanding because we’re looking to have 1,000 software testers. So we’re looking for opportunities and partnerships to expand and bring more aboriginal people into IT and to STEM,” she said.

Griffith said the company, which already has around 65 employees across Canada, also wants to explore opportunities with companies like Lockheed Martin. . . .


Read the full story on Huddle.

MUN Awards $40K in Woodward Cup

Three Memorial University of Newfoundland engineering students have won $10,000 each at the 2018 Mel Woodward Cup for their innovations in health care and energy efficiency.

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted the business idea competition last Wednesday, which awarded $40,000 in seed funding and other supports to student entrepreneurs.

“Through the Mel Woodward Cup, we’re supporting entrepreneurial students in their business development journeys, providing them with much-needed funding so they can take their business ideas to the next level,” said MCE Director, Florian Villaumé in a press release.

“By supporting these student entrepreneurs, we’re also providing a pathway for young people to stay in (Newfoundland and Labrador) as the province’s future business leaders.”

BreatheSuite, VitalMIST and WARPAR Corp were the top three winners among the eight finalists.

BreatheSuite, headed by mechanical engineering student Brett Vokey, aims to build an add-on device for inhalers that allows people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to receive optimal dosages of medication.

Read our Reports on Last Year's Winners:

Peachy To Help Seniors Live at Home

Hyperloop Success Leads to CoLab

VitalMIST, founded by Anna Gosine, another mechanical engineering student, offers a nasal optimizer that allows physicians to administer liquid medication effectively.

WARPAR, founded by fifth-year electrical engineering student Warren Parsons, is building a product called Enzo, a light dimmer that can monitor power, and is compatible with most lightbulbs on the market.

The winning students also received up to $1,500 in marketing and legal expenses and will have access to MCE’s co-working space as well as enrolment in the Genesis Centre’s Evolution Program, and a free seminar from the Gardiner Centre.

Two other companies, Delta Innovations and BlueBrick Design & Development, received honourable mention and prizes of $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.

Chrissy Rossiter, who founded Peachy, a software company that helps seniors, and Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews from CoLab, a company creating collaboration software for 3D design, won last year’s competition.

The Mel Woodward Cup was created in November after a $1.13-million donation from the family of the late Mel Woodward, a well-known entrepreneur who founded the Woodward Group of Companies.

Parsons Takes New Post in Toronto

Having worked at a startup, a support organization and a student investment group in Atlantic Canada, Dana Parsons has joined Toronto-based Highline BETA, one of Canada’s most innovative companies in the venture capital sphere.

Parsons, formerly the CEO of St. John’s-based loyalty program startup Brownie Points, started at Highline BETA earlier this month as new venture director. In this new position, she is working closely with Founding Partner Marcus Daniels in the portion of the business that works with established corporations to form external accelerators.

Highline BETA is not a customary VC firm, as shown by its tagline, “Transforming industries from the inside out.” Founded by Daniels and startup specialist Ben Yoskovitz (who spent time in Halifax with the team that launched GoInstant), Highline Beta aims to work with established corporations to develop innovation that solves their problems.

“Highline and Marcus come from a VC background but it’s not my focus,” said Parsons in an interview this week. “Right now, I’m really focusing on our accelerator programs. I’m really working on building those up.”

Parsons says she ended up at Highline BETA after “doing the full circle” in Atlantic Canada. In 2014, she joined Brownie Points, first as CEO, then as COO when she moved on to other opportunities. She worked as the Venture Lead at the St. John’s startup incubator Genesis Centre, and in management with Venture Grade, a student-led VC fund operating out of St. Mary’s University.

Talking to people about opportunities, she was steered toward Highline BETA by two people: BDC Capital director Nicole LeBlanc; and Jeanette Stock, a Highline associate who Parsons met when they both attended the G20 Youth Summit in Berlin last summer. Soon, Parsons met Daniels and was hired.

“They kind of had to create the position once we started talking,” Parsons said. “It certainly has the feel of a startup here in that we’re learning as we grow. I started March 1 and they’ve added three or four people since then.”

In her new role, Parsons is learning what pain corporations feel in their operations and trying to find and work with startups that could solve those problems. She hopes these will include startups she knows on the East Coast.

“From a startup point of view I see a lot of opportunities, so that I’ve already shortlisted some startups for different corporations,” she said. “There is right now a company located in St. John’s that we’re potentially going to work with.”

Parsons believes that some startups don’t fully understand the scope of innovation taking place at corporations of all size. She hopes Highline BETA can act as a bridge to these younger companies.

“My mind is going 100 miles an hour thinking about (this) because in Toronto there are all these introductions I can make.”

Neothermal To Test Heat Storage Unit

Louis Desgrosseilliers and Jill Johnson

Louis Desgrosseilliers and Jill Johnson

After a few years of development, Neothermal Energy Storage of Halifax is beginning two demonstration projects for its electric thermal storage unit, or ETS, which helps homeowners manage their energy consumption.

Led by Co-Founders Louis Desgrosseilliers and Jill Johnson, Neothermal has developed an electrical unit about the size of a trunk that stores heat in homes that use electrical or oil heating. It works in a similar way to a rechargeable hand warmer, with the same salt mixture inside.

The idea is that the homeowner can charge the heater at night when electrical rates are lower, then release the heat during the day. By not using electricity during the high-priced daytime periods, the device can lower heating costs by as much as half, say the co-founders.

The team is now testing the product in a private home (Desgrosseilliers’ parents’ place in Timberlea) and at a Pilikan House, a cleantech lab at the Nova Scotia Community College campus in Middleton.

“These demonstrations will lead to our early adopter pilot, which will come out this fall,” said Johnson in an interview.

As is often the case with physical products, the development of the Neothermal ETS took a few years of experimentation and adjustment. Desgrosseilliers developed the technology — which now has patent pending — during his PhD studies at Dalhousie University.

Axem Developing Headsets at Chinese Accelerator

The team won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s cleantech competition in 2015 and then received $20,000 for entering Innvoacorp’s cleantech accelerator a year later.

With that money and investment by the founders, friends and family, the team has developed the ETS with a goal of maximizing the functionality of the device. For example, the unit now has the ability to heat two rooms, so it can function in a smaller space that’s not big enough for a dedicated unit.

As a cleantech device, the Neothermal ETS could eventually reduce energy consumption at the community level if not reducing the consumption of individual households. Utilities everywhere are trying to solve the problem that peak consumption periods (early morning and evening) don’t coincide with the times that renewable power sources operate at peak output (daytime for solar; nighttime and stormy periods for wind). Once storage units are mainstream devices, utilities should be able to increase renewable power production, which would in turn reduce fossil fuel-based generation.

“We manage energy better and that’s designed to make the grid system more efficient,” said Johnson.

Johnson and Desgrosseilliers said that about half of the energy in the ETS can be stored long-term, giving more choice to the customer and better response to weather fluctuations. They added the ETS can be an effective tool for storing energy if people are worried about a power disruption because of a major storm.

The company’s near-term plan is to conduct a pilot product in Nova Scotia this autumn with a target of about 25 to 50 participants. Eventually, Johnson and Desgrosseilliers hope to take their ETS to larger markets, especially in the U.S. They said there are now six million oil-heated homes in that market, along with 42 million homes heated by electricity.

AVF Seeks 12 Founders to Pitch

The Atlantic Venture Forum is looking for a dozen startups to present at its two-day conference in late June in Halifax.

The sixth annual AVF, which will take place June 28 and 29 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian founders and investors from inside and outside the region. Each year there are presentations by both early- and growth-stage companies.

This year’s agenda will call for 12 companies to present at the event.

Early-stage entrepreneurs will get six minutes to pitch to a panel of early-stage investors for the opportunity to receive immediate feedback. Growth-stage companies will have nine minutes to present and can be pitching for investment.

Any company interested in pitching can apply here, and the deadline for applications is April 27.

All selected companies will have their registration fee waived to attend the full forum.

Critical Path Group, which stages the event, has begun to announce speakers for the event. The list so far includes: entrepreneur, author and innovation leader, Jim Gibson; Techstars Boston VP of Network, John Hill; and Josh Simair, co-founder of SkipTheDishes, a $200 Million exit story.

Job of the Week: Opening at Masitek

MASITEK Instruments’ opening for a Production Electronics Technologist is the headline posting in our Job of the Week column today.

In seven years, Masitek has grown from a small outfit that prevented damage in potatoes during the harvesting process into a predominantly industrial concern. Its main product now is a pressure-sensitive decoy that goes through a production line with regular containers to warn of logjams and gather data on where problems occur. These decoys test for shock and pressure that can damage containers, and the vertical pressure to ensure the process of capping bottles is working well.

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 excerpt from the job posting:


MASITEK Instruments

Production Electronics Technologist

MASITEK Instruments is a leading, global manufacturer of Smart in-line sensor solutions for packaging and agriculture. Our products are trusted by some of the world’s most recognized Fortune 500 companies.

MASITEK is looking for a Production Electronics Technologist to work in a fast-paced work environment that is continually growing with the ability to learn and excel in in custom assembly projects involving technology, electronics, mechanical design and assembly and the ability to interpret customer drawings. You will assemble and test custom components and a range of systems including both mechanical and electrical components. It is also necessary to have excellent soldering skills and some experience with SMD soldering. This position will also have involvement in leading activities such as process development/optimization, problem-solving/continuous-improvement activities, and communicate/request information necessary in order to complete “build-to package” production.


•Ensure product quality and timeliness of work and resolve problems to meet objectives.

•Execute key production processes such as CAD drawings, software/firmware setup and product assembly

•Evaluate and propose acquisition of new tools, equipment and processes to aid in production efficiency and safety

•Interprets customer drawings to develop specifications for customer assemblies

•Communicate design, drawing, and interpretation issues for customer projects as necessary

•Assemble custom sensors from the design team

•Perform analysis of production performance metrics for reporting

•Performs special assignments relative to product engineering

•Perform troubleshooting of hardware with issues

•Test new technology including new releases of software and firmware

•Assist team with internal computer and technology issues

•Actively contribute to our Agile Community and the self-improvement of our teams and members.

•Analyze problems and help create innovative solutions involving technology, methodology, tool and solution components.

•Help develop new and refine existing processes to enhance quality and productivity . . .

Read the full job description here.

Peachy To Help Seniors Live at Home

Chrissy Rossiter: 'I asked myself, what do I care about?'

Chrissy Rossiter: 'I asked myself, what do I care about?'

New entrepreneurs are advised to find a problem, or pain, to solve, and consult with prospective clients before proceeding. Chrissy Rossiter did so and is now helping companies that care for seniors in their own homes streamline and improve care.

Rossiter, the CEO of software company Peachy, and her co-founder Diego Zuluaga, initially founded their venture to help seniors with health-related tasks such as remembering to take medication and check blood pressure.

The idea was for the product to be used by seniors at home. But after consulting with seniors, their families and doctors, the founders changed course.

“We realized the concept of frequent text alerts was not necessarily part of seniors’ daily routine,” Rossiter said from Peachy’s base in St. John ‘s.

“We then looked at working with retirement homes, but we didn’t want to do that. We didn’t feel the same pain problem.”

The pair decided that, as most seniors want to live at home for as long as possible, they would make it easier for them to do so.

Working with the managers of home care agencies seemed a good idea, as the agencies oversee the home support workers who provide the care.

“Managers at the agencies deal with many issues. They manage hundreds of staff working remotely. They are run ragged, adjusting work and other schedules on paper or on complicated software,” Rossiter said.

“By automatically updating employee hours with shift information we remove the need for managers to manually make changes at the end of the pay period, which can take more than six days a month.

“And by automating the flow of information, we improve payroll and invoicing accuracy.”

She said Peachy has many competitors, but Peachy’s advantage is it’s simple and easy to use.

“Some other products can take 20 hours of training to use,” she said.

“A lot of software offers many features for a price. We are for the small to medium companies that can afford our product.”

She said the Peachy software is more affordable because it has fewer features.

“We’re currently running a beta test with early adopters,” she said. “We will be increasing the number of features but will continue to focus on simplicity and ease of use.”

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Peachy evolved from Rossiter’s experience of working in a retirement home.

“I’d always wanted to start a business. I asked myself, what do I care about? What problem do I want to solve? In the home, I served food and felt I had an impact. I’m also really close to my grandparents.

“By helping the companies that help the seniors, we allow the companies to improve the quality of care they provide.”

Peachy has got off to a promising start. The Peachy founders are both students at Memorial University and they won the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship Startup Cup in April 2017.

The contest, which is funded by the local business community, gave them $10,000 with which to operate.

Peachy was recently one of five Atlantic Canadian companies to take part in the prestigious Fierce Founders bootcamp for female entrepreneurs run at the Communitech technology hub in Kitchener, Ontario.

Rossiter said the experience allowed her to see the big picture of running a business and make connections with other women, which is especially valuable in a male-dominated sector.

“I spend most of my day talking to guys at the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship. There’s nothing wrong with that, but together we women can have conversations we wouldn’t have with the men.”

Rossiter and Zuluaga will both soon graduate from Memorial — Rossiter with a business degree, Zuluaga with computer science. Then they will be able to focus on Peachy.

They plan to target the U.S. market, which has a huge number of care providers. They also aim to develop an app for the workers who deliver the care to seniors.

UNB Team Makes CanInfra Top 20

These UNB students have proposed an idea for a smart highway design. (Photo: Joy Cummings)

These UNB students have proposed an idea for a smart highway design. (Photo: Joy Cummings)

A team of four students from the University of New Brunswick has made it to the top 20 of the CanInfra Challenge, a nationwide contest that crowdsources pitches to solve Canada’s infrastructure problems.

The team, called Smart Roads, is pitching a concept for an intelligent highway system with an open databank that feeds vital road, traffic and weather data to drivers.

“We’re possibly the only student team from Atlantic Canada and definitely the youngest team in the competition,” Nakul Gupta, a first-year business student and leader of the project, said in a statement.

Gupta is joined by second-year science student Blake Constable and first-year business students Prajain Raj Maskey and Peter Hopper.

To get to the next round in the competition, Smart Roads has to gain support through online voting over the next 10 days. The three teams with the most votes automatically advance to the top 10 while the remaining seven will be chosen by judges.

Mitacs Recognizes Chinova CTO Tanzina Huq.

In a release, Gupta said he and his team were taken aback to make it to the top 20.

“We didn’t expect it,” said Gupta. "It is definitely an honour and it makes me sort of nervous. All of these other teams are filled with people who are established and have much more experience in infrastructure proposals. One of the other teams has more than 100 years of combined experience in infrastructure.”

Smart Roads' original idea was to develop a highway that feeds data to self-driving vehicles. That idea evolved to a plan for an open, peer-to-peer data network that funnels information required for both drivers and self-driving vehicles, like road hazards, and traffic and weather conditions.

The team is working to refine the idea further with help from the Boston Consulting Group, a sponsoring company for the competition.

The CanInfra Challenge is a six-month contest open to teams across Canada. The top 10 teams each win $5,000 to further develop proposals and travel to Toronto to present their ideas in May. The top winner in the final round receives $50,000 and a pitch session with senior government and private-sector leaders. The runner-up and people’s choice award winner each receive $25,000.

SimplyCast Adheres to EU Data Rules

SimplyCast announces it’s in accord with new General Data Protection Regulation

Dartmouth-based communication automation company SimplyCast has announced its compliance with the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation.

The regulation, to be implemented May 25, requires stricter handling and processing of personal data belonging to E.U. citizens.

After completing an audit of its processes and infrastructure and making changes, SimplyCast can comply with the regulation, which requires any entities that store or process personal data from E.U. residents to allow for residents’ additional rights over their data.

“We worked hard to be able to meet the requirements of this regulation and will work to continue to safeguard the data of not only our E.U. clients, but of our clients around the world.” said Data Protection and Privacy Officer Ryan Ernst in a statement.

SimplyCast is launching an email course to help prepare its clients for the changes. The email course will educate participants about individuals’ new rights regarding their access to and control of personal data and what will happen if compliance is not met.

The weekly email course will begin on April 4. If you would like to register, fill out the sign-up form, which can be found here.

Spritely Unveils Web Application

Akram Al-Otumi is the founder of Spritely (Photo Sofia Ortega)

Akram Al-Otumi is the founder of Spritely (Photo Sofia Ortega)

Spritely, a Halifax company that aims to show newcomers around their new cities, showcased its web platform at its soft launch Tuesday night in Bedford.

“This launch is just a taste, and will give users an idea of what the platform will look like,” said Akram Al-Otumi, the founder and CEO of Spritely, during an interview. The complete platform will include the website and a mobile app. Attendees Tuesday night were able to test out the platform and listen to a short presentation on Spritely.

Spritely’s platform is part of the sharing economy model, similar to companies like Airbnb and Uber. The company has a network of "local experts" who can be hired to show newcomers the best retail outlets, entertainment sites, health facilities and the like. Users specify their needs and Spritely's city experts take them on a tour.

“Locals can show people around the city,” said Al-Otumi. “They can show it off and have a meaningful job where you’re showing a newcomer around a new city.”

Al-Otumi says that 75 percent of the revenue is used to pay the city experts, who set their own hours and specialties. City experts must be over 21 and have no criminal record.

So far Al-Otumi has built a network of over 20 city experts and plans to have 100 registered by the end of April in Nova Scotia alone. For the time being, Spritely is testing its platform in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

India's Space O Sets Up In Charlottetown

Ten years ago, Al-Otumi was a Halifax newcomer himself. He moved to Canada when he was 19 years old from Yemen to learn English and attend university.

“I went from having all my family and friends that I was raised with, to a place where it’s a totally different culture, different country, different systems,” said Al-Otumi. “And when you can’t speak the language, it’s quite an experience. I learned so much from a lot of the challenges I faced.”

In his second year of his undergrad, Al-Otumi started a business called Azal Agency, which helped international students settle in Halifax. In doing this, he saw how his model worked and how much it helps newcomers to the city.

“I was a city expert myself,” he said. “I know that this will help newcomers.”

The number of newcomers in Nova Scotia is growing. The most recent data says immigrants make up about 6.1 percent of Nova Scotia’s population, which is about 55,000 people. More than 20 percent of the province’s immigrant population arrived within the last six years.

Spritely can also be a tool for tourists. Said Al-Otumi: “You find a local expert to show you around who can save you a lot of time and money.”

Last summer Spritely completed the 2017 Project Incubation Bootcamp in Halifax, a 12-week incubator at ShiftKey Labs at Dalhousie University, where Spritely is now a resident company.

Al-Otumi says the product will fully launch once the app is built and more market testing is conducted.

“It’s a meaningful business and that’s what really drives me,” said Al-Otumi. “It supports the economy and has a social impact. I want to exist to support people.”

Axem Builds Headset at China’s HAX

Chris Friesen, left, and Tony Ingram at the HAX Accelerator in China.

Chris Friesen, left, and Tony Ingram at the HAX Accelerator in China.

Halifax-based Axem Neurotechnology is attending the HAX Accelerator in Shenzhen, China, where it plans to complete the prototype of its device, which enhances mental training for athletes.

The company’s co-founders, Tony Ingram and Chris Friesen, are now at Hax, the world’s largest hardware accelerator, as they prepare to begin beta-testing in Canada.

The two PhD students in neuroscience from Dalhousie University are building a wearable device that measures brain activity to help athletes improve the mental aspects of their game.

“We’re also exploring the rehabilitation market,” Ingram, the CEO of Axem, said in an interview. “We think it would provide a lot of value, like for stroke rehab and many other types of rehab, mostly neurological because we measure the brain.”

Axem’s device sits on top of your head, almost like a headband, and records brain activity and function. Its purpose is to allow users to “mentally train” for physical tasks and improve motor function. The device will also connect to a mobile app, which is being built at HAX.

It will still be a while before Axem has its device ready for manufacture but the 14-week accelerator is helping it rapidly develop the prototype.

“In Canada, when we were working on our prototype it would take a couple of weeks to get something like a circuit board,” said Ingram. “It was just a bottleneck. We’d try to fill our time with other stuff, but here it’s just better for rapid prototyping and iteration. You get through more tests and get answers quicker.”

Fredericton's Chinova Has Attended 4 Accelerators in 3 Countries

For companies developing complex hardware and software, like Axem, China is the ideal place.

“If you need a part, you don’t need to order it. You basically just go downstairs and find it. There are vendors all over the place.”

HAX is backed by SOSV, a global venture capital firm with $300 million under management. The accelerator offers up to $100,000 in seed funding, mentorship and office and lab space for its participants.

Taking part in HAX builds on the momentum Axem gained in 2017. Late last year the startup was awarded $50,000 as winners of Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation and also became a resident company with Volta Labs in September. Ingram also said Axem received funds from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, or IRAP.

Ingram says Axem will tackle markets in sports training and is penning letters of intent with professional sports teams, though he declined to name them. In the fall, Ingram and Friesen plan to be more focused on raising investment.

“We got our working prototype running before we got here,” said Ingram. “The Halifax ecosystem was instrumental in that, and has been so supportive of us.”

“While we’re here in China, we’re not just doing product development; we’re meeting people and doing business development.”

Ingram said Axem is looking into the clinical applications of the technology and the subsequent regulatory requirements they would have to meet in the medical device market.

Eight Companies Enter Startup Zone

Startup Zone has taken on eight new resident companies after seven clients graduated this month.

The startup house in downtown Charlottetown said in a press release on Monday that seven members have graduated and joined its alumni network: Kim Roach Design; Mighty Pebble Games; Onset Communication; TopFeed; Open Air UAV Training; Becka Viau; and Lift Media. With the departure of these companies, Startup Zone welcomed eight new companies into the residency program.

“It’s an exciting time in the Startup Zone,” said Interim CEO Shannon Pratt in the release. “We look forward to working with our new resident companies and we are happy to offer them the support and resources they need to start and grow their businesses here on P.E.I. and beyond.”

Island Capital Backs Onset Communication with $230,000

These are the new tenants:

  • AGAMA specializes in augmented reality and virtual reality experiences, 3D audio, interactive spaces and custom electronic devices. Sergio Fernandez, co-founder and CTO of AGAMA, recently moved to P.E.I. from Colombia through the Startup Visa program.
  • Gocanna, founded by Shaman Ferraro and Annie MacEachern, is Canada’s cannabis tourism guide. They are working to connect medical cannabis patients and (impending) recreational consumers with responsible product and service providers.
  • Island AquaTech was founded by three engineering students from the University of Prince Edward Island, Jordan Sampson, Dylan MacIsaac and Brett McDermott, who invented a cage flipper for the oyster farming industry. Read Our Recent Profile of Island AquaTech.
  • Letter Board Company, founded by Diane Sankar, is Canada’s first premium felt letter board company dedicated to providing quality letter boards for your home.
  • Smart Catch Systems, founded by Pierre Bassaler-Merpillat, is working to create a unique traceability solution for P.E.I. seafood.
  • Salts of the Earth, founded by Darren Blanchard, is a social enterprise that provides organic salt products from all over the world to raise funds and awareness for charitable groups.
  • Maritime Heritage Meats, founded by Jordan Liantzakis, is aiming to start P.E.I.’s first Gourmet Meat Distribution Company focusing on quality, ethically sourced and produced products.
  • The Maker Factory, founded by Kevin Brooks, will be a 3D printing storefront, offering pre-printed 3D objects, customizable designs, educational classes, and concierge services to help clients design and create custom items.
  • PEI Cider Co. (working name), founded by Robert Van Waarden, is looking to tap into the potential of craft apple cider. The company will aim to fill this gap by creating a cidery on Prince Edward Island.

Startup Zone offers its resident companies workspace, advice in such professional services as accounting and law, free information sessions and other supports.


Disclosure: Startup Zone is a client of Entrevestor.

Mitacs Recognizes Chinova’s Huq

Tanzina Huq: 'Chinova's mission is to replace artificial preservatives with our natural clean label products.'

Tanzina Huq: 'Chinova's mission is to replace artificial preservatives with our natural clean label products.'

When the national research organization Mitacs named 150 leading Canadian researchers in December, one name on the list was Tanzina Huq, the CTO of Fredericton natural preservative company Chinova Bioworks.

Huq is a postdoctoral fellow in Chemical Engineering at University of New Brunswick. Her research into drawing the multi-purpose compound chitosan from mushrooms is the foundation for Chinova, one of the region’s leading new biotech companies.

Having participated in at least four accelerators in three countries, Chinova is using chitosan in an anti-microbial agent, which it will employ in a natural preservative in such foods as juices. Chinova has developed three off-the-shelf formulations, which will launch later this spring. It is also working with producers to develop customized formulations for specific food and beverage applications.

Huq, a biomaterials and polymer scientist originally from Bangladesh, said consumers want more transparency in food ingredients and Chinova is working with producers on natural preservatives that satisfy health concerns and prevent food from spoiling too quickly.

“Producers have to ensure food safety, shelf-life and maintain the overall quality of the product while giving consumers natural, healthy, transparent ingredients,” said Huq. “However, natural preservatives in the marketplace are not able to deliver. This is what drives Chinova's research.”

Huq is working with her Chinova Co-Founders Natasha Dhayagude and David Brown to get these preservatives to market. But she is also continuing her research at UNB. Mitacs, which supports research and commercialization at universities across the country, named her to its list of 150 notable researchers across the country, which it produced to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. (Last year, Brown was also recognized nationally when he was one of six recipients of the 2017 Governor General’s Innovation Awards.)

Picomole is Back and Conducting Tests

Huq’s work focuses on chitosan, a compound with a range of medical and industrial applications that is traditionally extracted from the discarded shells of shellfish. Mycodev Group – the company Chinova was spun out of two years ago – has worked for years at producing chitosan from fungal sources, and now Chinova is using the substance in food production.

“Our product can either be broad-spectrum or customized to fit the needs of each individual food and beverage producers microbial issues,” said Huq. “Chinova's mission is to replace artificial preservatives with our natural clean label products across many different industries and get as many companies to join us in the clean label movement.” 

Chinova has received funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation ($100,000 as of March 2017) and from the First Angel Network. The company recently joined the Fierce Founders Bootcamp, a program for Canadian female-led startups at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont. And it has participated in three international programs – RebelBio in Ireland, Terra in San Francisco and Plug and Play in Sunnyvale, Calif. These last three programs are specific to the foodtech/biotech industry that Chinova fits into.

“These programs offer a lot of support to startups, like their extensive network, amazing mentors very specific to our industry, access to potential clients and investors,” said Huq. “All these factors help create a very strong support system for Chinova to continue to expand and scale.”

Jobs: Community Manager at Propel

A position as a Community Manager with PropelICT is our lone posting in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Propel is the main IT accelerator in Atlantic Canada, known for its Launch and Build accelerator programs. The Community Manager will report directly to Propel’s CEO and help educate potential and current accelerator participants and stakeholders. The group is advertising to hire someone in Halifax, but Propel Entrepreneur-in-Residence Trevor MacAusland said on Facebook this week the applicant "can be located anywhere as we are a virtual organization."

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’s an excerpt from the posting:


Community Manager

The Community Manager will lead and participate in industry conversations and help to educate potential and current accelerator participants and stakeholders. We’re looking for someone to build our online and offline brand and position Propel ICT as a subject matter expert and trusted resource when it comes to early stage startups and startup accelerators...


Developing and maintaining a communications plan including online and offline elements.

Planning, leading and hosting events offline and online on industry topics

Planning and implementing social media strategies aimed at growing our social following and furthering our brand recognition

Continued industry education and research to keep up with market trends and maintain a competitive edge.

Engaging in online and in person conversations with prospective and existing clients about our industry, products, and brand... 

Apply for the job here.

Quber Unveils FinTech Savings App

Jen Leger: 'Every five minutes, we'd be getting emails from customers.'

Jen Leger: 'Every five minutes, we'd be getting emails from customers.'

After a summer of intense mentorship in Singapore and a 100-member beta test, Moncton-based fintech company Quber has just launched its product, which helps people manage their spending and savings.

The product — an app that helps people visualize the money they’re saving — was launched this month in the two major outlets for mobile apps, Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Before the launch, Co-Founder Jen Leger had spent a few months taking about 100 clients through a closed beta test, working out kinks and getting feedback from users.

“The big news this week is that we launched about a week ago,” said Leger in a phone interview Thursday. “It’s a full product launch . . . We continue to receive feedback from customers. There was a time during the launch that every five minutes we’d be getting emails from customers.”

A finalist in last year’s Breakthru competition in New Brunswick, Quber has developed a mobile app that lets people set goals for their savings and channel the saved money toward something important. As well as a data-based analysis of individual spending habits, the app features a picture of a savings jar, and the more money you save by cutting out little purchases, the more that jar fills up with coins. The goal is to save enough that you can move the full jar toward something bigger, like a vacation, a car or long-term savings.

Quber operates with accounts from most of the largest Canadian banks and financial institutions, and the company plans to add more institutions in the coming months. The app does not store information on clients’ bank accounts on its system; it merely tells the users how their money is moving in and out, and provides a graphic illustration of their savings goals.

Moncton's Picomole Is Back, Conducting Tests

The company emerged from the Breakthru competition last spring and applied to the FinLab, an accelerator for global fintech companies based in Singapore. Quber was one of eight companies accepted from a pool of 400 applicants. Leger spent last summer in the Asian financial hub, working with a range of mentors, especially those from its dedicated mentoring group, United Overseas Bank.

“They had a lot of their senior management that would mentor us, help us with the idea, and help us to make sure it would work in Singapore and in places like Malaysia and Thailand,” said Leger. “We had sales training and pitching as part of it. What came out of it for us is that we want to go back.”

Growth in Singapore and the Pacific Rim is in the distant future. For now the company is looking at developing a base of customers across Canada. It recently raised some money in New Brunswick, though Leger declined to provide specifics on the raise. She said the team is now working on another funding round with a target of about $800,000. The money will be used for marketing to help it spread the word about the app across Canada.

“We need to do a big marketing push,” said Leger. “We haven’t done any marketing yet — it’s mainly been a great organic growth. We need to build up traction across Canada.”

EhEye Now Detects Guns in Video

EhEye CEO James Stewart demonstrates the weapon screening and alert process.

EhEye CEO James Stewart demonstrates the weapon screening and alert process.

EhEye, a New Brunswick startup that aims to make security cameras more effective, has completed its “MVP 2.0”, which is able to detect guns and quickly alert security teams to potential threats.

The software is able to recognize people and, more important, weapons. The photo above shows what a security camera, outfitted with EhEye’s system, would record. The green outlines indicate that the camera sees a person, and if someone has a weapon, it can accurately detect that, as shown in the red outline.

James Stewart, the CEO and co-founder of EhEye, says this tech could save valuable time during an active shooting, which on average lasts only seven minutes.

“With everything that is happening today, we are so frustrated,” said Stewart, who is a former cop himself. “When you consider that our solution can save seconds during an incident, that becomes powerful when you start breaking down the numbers.”

The company's tech can be hooked up to instant security procedures, like auto-locking doors and trigger code-red lockdowns, saving precious time in an emergency.

In the recent case of Stoneman Douglas in Florida, where 17 high school students were murdered in February, authorities learned of the crisis only after the first shots were fired.

“Those procedures are only good if they have the time to actually put them in place,” said Stewart. “That’s what our software is for, to save lives.”

Itavio Lands Funding, Enters HearstLabs in NYC

The consistent wave of gun violence in the U.S. resonates in EhEye’s small Fredericton office. Its team of nine is working hard to get the product in front of more industry players and currently hoping to raise $1 million through local angel investors. Stewart says the company is about $250,000 away from that goal. In January, the company said it had closed a $500,000 round, led by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. EhEye, which has offices in Saint John and Fredericton, said earlier this month that Saint John Airport Inc. had signed up to be an early adopter of its product. 

“We are making good progress but we are also under the gun, no pun intended, because of our financials,” said Stewart. "We need to make this work or this fantastic tech could, I don’t want say flame out, but we’re a small startup so that’s always a possibility."

Stewart said $1 million would give the company another 12 months, which is plenty of time to get this screening feature in front of investors, specifically those in the U.S. market. But proving this tech to investors has its challenges.

“There’s a challenge because we’re from little ol' New Brunswick and because investors have this notion that computer recognition is a single-use case,” said Stewart.

“There is an idea that since there are self-driving cars, there must be the ability to detect a gun and that’s not the case. And, let’s be frank, there is no such thing as artificial intelligence, each case is so different from each other.”

What Stewart means is AI technology is not a one-stop solution for all the world’s problems. Each solution takes a lot of time and coding to build since there are so many variables. Computer recognition technology has been around for years but Stewart says investors need to be shown that the technology is still developing. There are still lots of things it cannot detect.

Said Stewart:  “Show me this technology exists. Show me where Stoneman Douglas had this. Show me where Sandy Hook had this. We’re passionate about it to begin with and now we’re frustrated and passionate.”

Itavio Gains Funds, Joins HearstLabs

Itavio, a startup that helps gaming companies increase revenues and retain customers, has received several hundred thousand dollars in funding, and is expanding its marketing efforts as it joins a New York accelerator.

The company – which has offices in Moncton, New York and Montreal – has issued two press releases this month, saying it’s taken on funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and HearstLabs of New York. Itavio did not reveal the size of the funding. An NBIF official said the foundation’s contribution in this round amounted to $317,375, which suggests the term sheet was priced in US dollars, and NBIF’s contribution was US$250,000. NBIF has now invested in the company in three rounds for a total of $517,375.

Itavio said it will use the money to expand its marketing efforts, and that it has taken office space in the Manhattan-based HearstLabs, which is an accelerator for female-led startups in the media space.

“We’ve worked hard to build a product that solves a huge problem in the marketplace and with the help of NBIF, we’re establishing ourselves in the innovation and media capital of the world,” said CEO and Co-Founder Melani Flanagan in a statement. “This will enable us to broaden our reach and create partnerships with other innovators in the space.”

Founded in 2014 by Flanagan and CTO Matt Pichette, Itavio brands itself as a specialist in “game economics”. It provides gaming companies with pricing tools and analytics that can help them increase revenues, strategize, retain customers and engage with new companies.

The company also says it aims to “empower parents”. It helps parents set limits for their children’s spending on games, almost like giving them a digital allowance.

Proposify Raises Funds, ARR Rises 121%

Flanagan and Pichette tend to work quietly away from media attention, but there have been a few public announcements over the years. They went through the Propel ICT accelerator and in 2016 attended the Matter accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Now Itavio has joined HearstLab and will take up space in Hearst Tower in New York City. HearstLab backs women-led media and information-based startups with seed investment, office space and access to other resources. This includes subject matter expertise available at Hearst, whose media titles include such brands as Cosmopolitan, GoodHouseKeeping, Elle, Marie Claire and Oprah magazines.

In the NBIF announcement, Flanagan touched on a subject that’s dear to her heart – the difficulties female founders have in raising capital. Such problems are well documented. Several American women who run startups went public with stories of sexual harassment and discrimination last year, and VC database PitchBook said all-female teams received just $1.9 billion of the $85 billion total invested by venture capitalists last year.

Flanagan stressed that as a female founder, she has had constant support from NBIF.

“It’s not easy to raise capital and certainly the news is full of reports about gender disparity or bad actors in the space,” she said. “Our relationship with NBIF has been a completely stellar opposite. Their team and leadership have maintained their support throughout and we are very lucky to have them with us on this journey.”

Said NBIF President and Chief Executive Calvin Milbury in a statement: “We like to back founders with a big vision and the entrepreneurial drive to realize that dream. Itavio has honed in on an exciting, growing market, one that the company’s founders intimately understand. The timing was perfect for us at NBIF to invest additional capital to fuel continued growth.”


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

UNB Displays Electric Car Conversion

The Potential Motors team: Michael Barnhill, left, Nick Dowling, Samuel Poirier and Isaac Barkhouse. (Photo by Rob Blanchard)

The Potential Motors team: Michael Barnhill, left, Nick Dowling, Samuel Poirier and Isaac Barkhouse. (Photo by Rob Blanchard)

A team of New Brunswick students on April 5 will showcase a simple process to convert gas-guzzling vehicles to electric power -- a process that is the basis for their new startup. 

The engineering students at University of New Brunswick will park a demo car at the front entrance of the Fredericton Convention Centre as part of the fourth annual UNB Engineering Design Symposium.

The one-day event allows final-year UNB engineering students to showcase hundreds of designs and prototypes to the community.

“We want to share the experience of what it’s like to be in an electric vehicle,” Michael Barnhill, one of the students behind the conversion technology, said in a release.

The four final-year engineering students – Barnhill, Nick Dowling, Isaac Barkhouse and Samuel Poirier – are planning to commercialize their work through their new startup, Potential Motors.

They see potential and a big market for their work, especially in Europe.

UNB's Vertiball Wins $15,000 at CBMC

“There are laws coming into play over the next 10 years to ban internal combustion engine vehicles,” Dowling said. “In Germany, they just passed regulations that allow cities to ban diesel and high-emitting vehicles. That affects 13 million vehicles in Germany right now.

“We don’t think that it’s environmentally or economically savvy to send these vehicles to the scrapyard. We want to convert them, but we want to start in New Brunswick first.”

The retrofit essentially replaces the fossil fuel-powered engine with three new components made up of modules – a motor, batteries and an electronic control unit. The motor is a universal electric motor system, specifically designed to replace the regular motor.

The system is built in a modular style to allow components to be added or taken away to make the car faster or slower; to give it more or less range; or allow it to charge faster.

The students, who developed the technology for their senior engineering design class, say they can convert a vehicle in a fraction of the time and cost of other conversion kits. They say they can convert a vehicle in under a day for an affordable price.

They are looking at the commercial vehicle market first and are receiving startup mentoring through UNB’s Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program,  which allows students to create, design and launch their own businesses.

The public is invited to attend the free symposium, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the convention centre.

LifeRaft partners with PlanetRisk

LifeRaft, a Halifax Software-as-a-Service company that detects safety threats through social media, said Tuesday its technology will be integrated into the leading security product at PlanetRisk, a security and risk analytics firm in Virginia.

The cross-boarder partnership will combine LifeRaft’s open source intelligence analytics platform with PlanetRisk’s existing global security operations through its Corporate Security Risk, CSX, platform. The technology is designed to help professionals protect assets, offices, products, and people when attacks are imminent domestically, and globally.

“We always align ourselves with the most forward thinking, experienced, and well-respected companies,” said LifeRaft CEO John Gallinaugh in a statement. “This integration demonstrates our commitment to only the best partnerships for our customers and for our company.”

In addition to its new partnership, LifeRaft has also been working with the Canadian Trade Commissioners office in the U.S. The CTC chose LifeRaft to take part in the Canadian Technology Accelerator, which helps companies penetrate US markets, in New York City as well as its current Boston cohort. In October, LifeRaft said noted investor Mike Durland had invested $1.45 million in the company, buying out existing investors. 

Harbr Raises $1.75M Funding Round

LifeRaft's flagship product, Navigator, tracks and collects data on potential threats to public safety by analyzing social media for key words like “kill” or “gun”. By integrating with PlanetRisk's CSX product, it will allow teams to use data points to understand the context surrounding these threats.

“Our technology has always been designed to deliver a single source of easily accessible and accurate information,” said Matt Tirman, the Chief Commercial Officer at PlanetRisk. “With this integration, we’re providing more intelligence to do just that – giving you immediate insight into threats and risks specific to your organization’s requirements.”

The statement said this partnership with LifeRaft will make PlanetRisk a trusted service provider for companies that need increased environmental awareness but lack the internal resources to do so.

Mariners Are Kinduct’s 9th MLB Client

Halifax health-technology company Kinduct Technologies said Tuesday the Seattle Mariners have become the ninth Major League Baseball team to subscribe to the company’s athlete management system, or AMS.

With this new partnership, the Mariners will be able to obtain a deeper understanding of their players’ data resulting in intuitive decision-making within their organization, said Kinduct in a statement. AMS will help the Mariners improve athlete performance, mitigate injuries and improve recovery.

“The need for data collection and analytics was apparent – Kinduct’s AMS bridged that gap for us,” said Lorena Martin, Director of High Performance for the Seattle Mariners. “It goes without saying that we’re all busy and our time is precious; having our data pulled into a centralized platform allows for more time spent on actionable measures to improve our player performance and well-being.”

Kinduct’s AMS product is already helping well over 100 professional and elite sports organizations find information on the human body and specific athletes. The software helps these organizations collect, organize, share and analyze data in one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions. It draws from about 500 data sources and includes the world’s largest library of medical animation. The company last raised funding in a US$9 million round led by Intel Capital in October, 2016.

Kinduct's website notes that its clients range from the San Francisco 49ers to the Boston Bruins, and includes such pro baseball teams as the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals.

“The penetration in the MLB is unbelievable,” said Kinduct CEO Travis McDonough. “It’s great to see the Mariners become part of the Kinduct team.”

India’s Space O Sets Up in PEI

When Space O Technologies moved into Launchpad PEI in Charlottetown last fall, it became one of the biggest startups in the region in terms of total headcount.

There’s some irony, then, that the greatest challenge founder and CEO Rakesh Patel faces is finding the right staff for his P.E.I. operation.

Space O is an eight-year-old mobile app development company that Patel founded in Ahmedebad in Western India. He has grown the company to include offices in Russia, Phoenix and (as of last year) Charlottetown. The company now has 254 employees, of which 180 are in India.

Space O has an impressive global clientele. For example, it’s produced the No. 1 business app in Saudi Arabia. But Patel needed a base from which he could target the North American market. After considering a few choices, he and his family opted to set up shop in Charlottetown. He applied for and was accepted into the Canadian government’s Startup Visa program, with Innovation PEI as his sponsor.

“It was more like a personal lifestyle question,” he said. “My daughter wanted to study computer science at University of PEI and my wife saw the culture of the city and it made sense for us. There were no traffic issues. All in all, it’s nice.”

IWT Lands $500K, Joins Imagine H20

The story of Space O began in 2010 when Patel saw an opportunity for remote mobile app development. With a $1,000 investment, he and a business partner started the company and demand from foreign clients drove the hiring of other developers at a rapid clip.

Space-O now specializes in app development for Apple Watch, iPhone and Android operating systems, even augmented reality apps compatible with iOS 11, the world’s most advanced operating system. The company has developed more than 2,500 iOS and Android mobile apps, taking clients from the conceptualization stage to the finished product. Its clients include such blue chip companies as athletic equipment maker Nike and cybersecurity giant McAfee, and its apps have been downloaded more than 20 million times.

The company has its own app on the Apple App store, which on any given day can rate in the top 100 in such categories as photos and videos or productivity.

In Charlottetown, Space O has a prime space in the new LaunchPad facility on Great George Street, which is also home to such Charlottetown tech luminaries as Onset Communication and RevIQ. The company now has one employee and contractor working in P.E.I., and Patel would like to increase the staffing on the Island to six to eight people this year. But finding the right people has proven difficult. Space O tried to hire a digital marketing specialist locally, but had to hire in Montreal. It is now looking for a content writer, marketing manager and a product manager, and maybe a sales and marketing executive.

“Hiring people is one of the challenges to growing,” said Patel. “We are looking for some really good talent that can really kick ass and challenge our process and systems.”

The goal is for the overall Space O organization to grow, and for the P.E.I. office to be a key ingredient to expanding in the valuable markets in the U.S. and Canada.

“With limited resources, it’s hard to grow,” said Patel. “We want to make sure we’re a business with 300 to 500 people in the next few years. We’ve been using our own knowledge to build the company but need some new employees who can challenge our own model.”

NS Contributes $11M to SMU Facility

The Province of Nova Scotia will contribute about $11 million to a new facility for entrepreneurship and innovation at St. Mary’s University.

On Thursday, the provincial government made the announcement as part of a $244 million wave of funding that came from a one-time windfall from offshore oil revenue. While most of the media attention was dedicated to funding for rural internet, the spending plans included several initiatives to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

A statement from the government said the funding for SMU aims “to create a physical location that will allow for the development of creativity, innovation and commercialization, and to put students and faculty in contact with entrepreneurs, businesses and the external community.”

The university is planning to build a new Entrepreneurship, Discovery and Innovation Hub on the campus in the South End of Halifax. It advances the ‘Discovery and Innovation’ and ‘Intercultural Learning’ components of the Saint Mary’s University 2017-2022 Strategic Plan.

“Since I became president, we’ve made entrepreneurship a strategic direction for the university and we’ve been working and investing in this field,” said SMU President Robert Summerby-Murray in a statement.

The other innovation-related funding initiatives that the government announced last week include:

  • Research Nova Scotia Trust: $20 million to fund post-secondary research in oceans and ocean technologies, life sciences, information technology and other areas.
  • Offshore Growth Strategy: $ 11.8 million to extend offshore activities in the earth and oil sciences for another four years.
  • DeepSense: $5 million to support the creation of a platform for ocean data analysis to contribute to the growth of the regional marine economy.
  • Innovation Team: $1.5 million to support a new suite of projects that will help post-secondary institutions contribute to the growth of the provincial economy, attract students and provide more research and development opportunities.
  • Sandbox: $850,000 to create a ninth sandbox in the Southwestern Nova Scotia region to bring together students from Nova Scotia Community College and Université Sainte-Anne.

Disclosure: SMU and the Province of Nova Scotia are clients of Entrevestor.

NBIF Names Five Finalists for R3

NBIF will award $50,000 to three New Brunswick researchers at this year's R3 Gala.

NBIF will award $50,000 to three New Brunswick researchers at this year's R3 Gala.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation on Monday announced five Research Innovation Awards finalists for this year’s R3 Innovations in Aging Gala, which is set for April 12 in Fredericton.

The awards will be presented to three of the finalists for their research in technology and its impact for our aging population. Each winner will reveive $50,000 in NBIF research funding. On top of these awards, one CBC Viewers Choice recipient will be awarded $15,000.

“We’re so excited that for our 10-year anniversary, we’re offering $50,000 each in NBIF research funding for such a critical action area,” said NBIF’s Director of Research Lindsay Bowman in a statement.

"These finalists have shown tremendous potential for impact on healthy aging in New Brunswick, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the list. Research is the often unseen foundation that’s critical to any innovative product or service, and we want to make sure it’s appropriately recognized and celebrated.”

This year, NBIF is expanding its biennial event, the R3 Gala, into three full days of talks, conferences and seminars that will centre around the main theme: innovations in aging. Ashton Applewhite, the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and an expert of ageism will present a keynote address during the awards ceremony.

The conference starts on April 10 at the Fredericton Convention Centre

The five finalists are:

Suzanne Depuis-Blanchard, Université de Moncton

Her research explores the benefits of at-home care for seniors, and is examining a model of this type of delivery service where nursing home staff actually travel to patients’ homes.  

Clive Baldwin, St. Thomas University

His research on “narrative gerontology”, a practice in which healthcare providers use the patient's life story or personal narrative, is being recognized for its capacity to help older adults combat feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.

Carole Goodine, University of New Brunswick

Goodine is developing a polypharmacy app that aims to solve a major issue among the aging population -- simultaneously taking high amounts of medication. Older adults on multiple prescriptions often take their daily meds all at once, which can lead to more health issues.

Erik Scheme, University of New Brunswick

He has developed a program called, PITCH which stands for Proactive Integrated Technology-Enabled Patient-Centric Healthcare, a screening program designed to enable regular health monitoring and intervention.

Trevor Hanson, University of New Brunswick

His research addresses issues facing rural seniors who no longer drive and looks at the different challenges that limit mobility.  His research aims to start new conversations on how we can help older adults who have lost their mobility freedoms, rather than just  limiting driving because of aging.

You can vote for the CBC Viewers Choice Award by watching the finalists' videos on CBC New Brunswick's Facebook page and 'liking' your favourite. Click here to to buy tickets to the gala.


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

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